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Prospero Farinacci returns to Rome

From the United States to Italy

Donation of the bust of Prospero Farinacci

attributed to Gianlorenzo Bernini

Presentation to the press

Museo Nazionale di Castel Sant’Angelo | National Museum of Castel Sant’Angelo

20 March 2023

Cappella dei Condannati

From the United States to Italy: this was the journey recently taken by the portrait bust of Prospero Farinacci, donated to the National Museum of Castel Sant’Angelo by the non-profit organization American Friends of LoveItaly. The sculpture was previously donated to AFLI by Marilyn Aronberg Lavin in honor of her husband Irving Lavin, professor emeritus of the Institute for Advanced Study and Grand Officer of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic (2019).

Attributed to Bernini by Professor Lavin himself, the commemorative bust depicts the Roman jurist and intellectual Prospero Farinacci (1544-1618), Papal Datario, Uditore Generale of the Apostolic Chamber and Councilor of the Sacra Consulta under Popes Clement VIII and Paul V. An active jurist, his extensive literary notations are considered to have made a major contribution to the advancement of legal practice.

Farinacci is perhaps best known as the defender of the young Roman aristocrat, Beatrice Cenci, whose unfortunate life events are intertwined with the history of Castel Sant’Angelo. Accused of patricide, she was imprisoned and interrogated here, later executed on 11 September 1599 with other members of her family in Piazza di Ponte outside the monument. Due to this historical event, the National Museum of Castel Sant’Angelo was considered to be the most appropriate location for the bust.

The Museum already displays a portrait of Prospero Farinacci, painted by Giuseppe Cesari, known as Cavalier D’Arpino, which is dated 1607 and currently exhibited in the Gabinetto del Defino e della Salamandra in the so-called “Cagliostra”.

The marble bust is a later representation of the jurist, perhaps commissioned as a memorial to be placed in the Library of San Silvestro al Quirinale, of which Farinacci was a patron. According to the attribution, it was made by Gianlorenzo Bernini in 1619 and is composed of various materials: the head in Carrara marble, the torso in Belgian marble and the base in gray marble. The addition of the sculpture to the collection of the National Museum of Castel Sant’Angelo provides a further element to the story of one of the protagonists of its sixteenth-century history on display to the public.

The bust is now positioned in the Museum Library Room, where it will remain until the end of the donation process, which will be finalized after three years, following American legislation. The presentation will take place, in the form of a press conference, on Monday 20 March at 3.00 pm in the “Cappella dei Condannati” which has recently been restored for use as a multifunctional space for events, conferences, video projections and teaching.

I am delighted that the bust of Farinacci will be displayed at the place where he practiced his profession. It has always been my desire to return a major work of art to Italy to honor my husband Irving Lavin and the history of art, to which he dedicated his entire life. I hope that this donation will encourage others who have benefitted from Italy’s artistic abundance, like us, to follow suit”, said the donor, Marilyn Aronberg Lavin.

According to Richard Hodges, President of American Friends of LoveItaly and of LoveItaly: “This donation is the perfect example of the mission of American Friends of LoveItaly and the work that LoveItaly does in Italy, which is to encourage people from all over the world to express their love and appreciation for the country’s treasures through patronage. The great generosity of the Professors Lavin is testament to the power of Italy’s artistic and cultural heritage with which they had a lifetime connection, renowned for their expertise and understanding. We are honored to be involved in the project, certain that this artwork will be appreciated by visitors to Castel Sant’Angelo for many decades to come. We are also deeply grateful to Dr. Charles Scribner III, who facilitated the bust’s long journey from Princeton, USA, to Rome, as a sign of deep friendship and professional esteem towards the Lavins”.

Mariastella Margozzi, Director of the State Museums of the City of Rome, concluded: “The bust of Prospero Farinacci that the American Friends of LoveItaly intends to donate to the National Museum of Castel Sant’Angelo to respect the will of its previous owner, Prof. Marilyn Aronberg Lavin, is an event of great cultural caliber for a number of reasons: first of all, it was attributed to the great Gianlorenzo Bernini by Prof. Irving Lavin and, therefore, is the acquisition of an important sculptural work of the Roman Baroque. Secondly, the valuable work of art has returned to Italy after more than a century and a half since its legal sale on the antique market to American collectors at the end of the 19th century. Lastly, the portrait of Prospero Farinacci represents an important piece of a long and complex story that unfolded at Castel Sant’Angelo towards the end of the 16th century: a young woman, Beatrice Cenci, was tried for patricide and imprisoned here, defended by Prospero Farinacci who was not, however, able to save her from the death sentence.  And so, these intertwing stories – those of Bernini, Farinacci, Beatrice Cenci – now unfold in the light of a passion, that of the Lavins, and a journey back “to the origins” that makes us proud and grateful for the spirit of US patronage. The National Museum of Castel Sant’Angelo is deeply grateful to the Director of the Borghese Gallery, Prof. Francesca Cappelletti, for the precious personal contribution made to start the donation process”.

Directorate of State Museums of the city of Rome – National Museum of Castel Sant’Angelo

Office of Promotion and Communication:

The speakers – Dr. Sylvia Lavin, Dr. Mariastella Margozzi, Dr. Francesca Cappelletti, Dr. Lorenza Mocchi Onori – at the presentation of the bust of Prospero Farinacci attributed to Gianlorenzo Bernini
Bust of Prospero Farinacci attributed to Gianlorenzo Bernini
Follow the bust’s journey to Castel Sant’Angelo

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