Cardinal Alessandro Albani: collecting, dealing and diplomacy in Grand Tour Europe

On December 11th-13th, 2019 The British School at Rome and the Centro di Studi sulla Cultura e l’Immagine di Roma are presenting an international conference entitled Cardinal Alessandro Albani: collecting, dealing and diplomacy in Grand Tour Europe. The opening evening and first day will be at the BSR with the second and final day hosted by our partners the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Roma, where the Centro Studi Roma has its base.

This conference had its origins in conversations between myself – formerly assistant director at BSR, now Research Fellow – and Dr Jonny Yarker, former Paul Mellon Rome Fellow and now a prominent London-based dealer in the art market. We had worked together on the 2010 book published by Yale University Press Digging and Dealing in Eighteenth Century Rome which dealt with the excavation and trade in antiquities and Cardinal Albani (1692-1779) was at the heart of that world. The conclusion of our discussion was that it was time to focus on the figure who is mentioned everywhere in contemporary correspondence and by modern scholars but who has remained somewhat in the shadow, both of his librarian Johann Joachim Winckelmann and of his magnificent collections of antiquities. We approached the Centro Studi Roma through its director Mario Bevilacqua – architectural historian and Piranesi specialist – and the conference collaboration was born. Thanks to a generous grant from the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, whose Deputy Director Martin Postle is our special guest at the conference, we have been able to proceed with our planning.


Alessandro Albani as a young man, on his elevation to the rank of Cardinal (1721)

The Keynote lectures on Wednesday 11 December at the BSR at 6 pm will be given by noted senior scholars of classical sculpture and ancient Rome Carlo Gasparri and Salvatore Settis. They are curators of the spring 2020 exhibition at the Capitoline Museums showing antique sculpture from the famed collections of the Torlonia family in Rome who own both the Villa Albani-Torlonia and the antiquities collected there.

The conference will feature groups of papers on different themes relating to Albani’s life and career including his private life, his association with scholars and artists – particularly Winckelmann and Giovanni Battista Piranesi, his diplomatic and political associations, his dealing and networking in the European art market and of course his antiquities collections – both the two he sold and his third collection which remains largely intact. His commission to the architect Carlo Marchionni for the new villa outside the northern walls of Rome to house his collection and as a location to host parties for foreign dignitaries is also examined.

His particular connection with the British – both as Grand Tourists in Rome and politically as allies of the papacy – is a focus of this conference, notably the sale of his vast drawings collection including the Cassiano del Pozzo ‘Paper Museum’ to the English King George III through the dealing efforts of the architect brothers Robert and James Adam; we are delighted to have the partnership of the Royal Collection Trust through its Director Tim Knox; the Cassiano del Pozzo project director Rea Alexandratos, who works at the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle where the Albani drawings are kept, is one of our speakers.


Giovanni Battista Piranesi, View of Villa Albani (1769)

Our third partner is the Fondazione Torlonia and we are grateful to them for engaging with us in the planning of a private visit for the speakers to the Villa Albani-Torlonia. The timing of the conference is serendipitous, coming only a few months before the long-awaited exhibition of the Torlonia collection at the Musei Capitolini – a collection where many Albani objects have been kept. No doubt this gathering of researchers including both established and younger scholars from a variety of disciplines and international backgrounds will provide a valuable focus for discussion of the future directions for study and research on this most important figure of the Roman 18th century.

During the first full day Thursday 12 December at the BSR there will also be a presentation by Adriano Aymonino from the University of Buckingham & Colin Thom from the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London, introducing the Adam letters digital publication project they are launching. A display of Albani-related rare books and early photographs of Villa Albani from the BSR collections will be held in the Seminar Room, prepared with the kind assistance of Valerie Scott, BSR Librarian and Alessandra Giovenco, BSR Archivist. They will be shown alongside the volumes of The Paper Museum of Cassiano del Pozzo: A Catalogue Raisonné , recently published by the Royal Collection Trust, a series that is nearly complete with a total of 20 volumes across three series.

The conference is open to all without charge; registration is welcome though not obligatory and a volume of essays based on the conference papers is planned.

Dr Clare Hornsby is a Research Fellow at the BSR.

Conference coordination
Mario Bevilacqua, Direttore, Centro di Studi sulla Cultura e Immagine di Roma
Clare Hornsby, Research Fellow, British School at Rome

Honorary Committee
Elisa Debenedetti, Andrea De Pasquale, Marcello Fagiolo, Carlo Gasparri, Barbara Jatta,
Tim Knox, Maria Vittoria Marini Clarelli, Stephen Milner, Martin Postle.

Scientific Committee
Mario Bevilacqua, Amanda Claridge, Clare Hornsby, Ian Jenkins, Harriet O’Neill,
Susanna Pasquali, Jonny Yarker

Conference schedule

Wednesday 11 December at the BSR at 18.00

Carlo Gasparri – La collezione di sculture antiche in Villa Albani a Roma: una storia ancora da scrivere
Salvatore Settis – Lo specchio dei principi: fra Villa Albani e il Museo Torlonia

Thursday 12 December at the BSR at 9.30

Angela Cipriani Il cardinale Alessandro Albani nei manoscritti del Diario di Roma nella Biblioteca Casanatense (1762-1773)
Heather Hyde MinorWinckelmann and Albani: text and pretext
Ginevra OdoneRivalità e gelosie tra antiquari. Il Conte di Caylus, il cardinale Alessandro Albani e i loro intermediari
Brigitte Kuhn-ForteAlessandro Albani e Winckelmann
Maëlig ChauvinIl cardinale Alessandro Albani e i regali diplomatici : l’arte al servizio della politica
Susanne Mueller-Bechtel Il principe ereditario di Sassonia Federico Cristiano, Alessandro Albani e le arti
Matteo BorchiaI vantaggi della diplomazia: Alessandro Albani protettore di artisti tra Roma e l’Europa
Lisa BeavenFashioning a new classical aesthetic: Camillo Massimo, Alessandro Albani and the palace at the Quattro Fontane
Francesca FavaroIl privilegio di copiare: apprendere l’architettura nella biblioteca di Alessandro Albani. Le copie prodotte da B.A. Vittone (1704-1770)
Rea AlexandratosAlbani drawings and prints in the British Royal Collection: George III’s purchase of 1762
Robin SimonThe significance of Alessandro Albani’s patronage of Richard Wilson 
Steffi Roettgen“Noi non siamo venuti che per vedere il Parnasso di Mengs” – note sul complesso rapporto del pittore sassone al cardinal Albani.

Friday 13 December at BNC at 9.30

Andrea De Pasquale Introduzione
Alviera BussottiAlessandro Albani mecenate delle lettere
Brunella PaoliniAlessandro Albani nell’archivio di famiglia di Villa Imperiale a Pesaro
Antonio BecchiBibliotheca Albana Romana: documenti inediti e prospettive di ricerca
Susanna PasqualiPhases of construction at Villa Albani: what we know so far
Patricia Baker and Giacomo Savani‘Contriv’d according to the strictest Rules of Art’: The Reception of Roman Baths and Gardens at Villa Albani 
Elisa DebenedettiVilla Albani nei Taccuini di Carlo Marchionni
Alessandro SpilaCarlo Marchionni a villa Albani: una possibile evoluzione progettuale
Eloisa DoderoDa Palazzo Albani alle Quattro Fontane al Museo Capitolino: la nuova vita della collezione del cardinale Alessandro 
Caroline BarronThe Epigraphic Collection of Cardinal Alessandro Albani
Elizabeth BartmanAlessandro Albani as restorer
Christoph FrankDrawing the Albani Collection: Giovanni Battista Piranesi and some of his Contemporaries