This book explores the principles of the display of art in the magnificent Roman palaces of the early modern period, focusing attention on how the parts function to convey multiple artistic, social, and political messages, all within a splendid environment that provided a model for aristocratic residences throughout Europe. Many of the objects exhibited in museums today once graced the interior of a Roman Baroque palazzo or a setting inspired by one. In fact, the very convention of a paintings gallery—the mainstay of museums—traces its ancestry to prototypes in the palaces of Rome.
Inside Roman palaces, the display of art was calibrated to an increasingly accentuated dynamism of social and official life, activated by the moving bodies and the attention of residents and visitors. Display unfolded in space in a purposeful narrative that reflected rank, honor, privilege, and intimacy.
With a contextual approach that encompasses the full range of media, from textiles to stucco, this study traces the influential emerging concept of a unified interior. It argues that art history—even the emergence of the modern category of fine art—was worked out as much in the rooms of palaces as in the printed pages of Vasari and other early writers on art.
Gail Feigenbaum is associate director of the Getty Research Institute. She has published widely on early modern art and is coeditor of Provenance: An Alternate History of Art (Getty Publications, 2012) and Sacred Possessions: Collecting Italian Religious Art, 1500–1900 (Getty Publications, 2011).