Celebrating art historian Stephanie Leone FAAR’00 at the Palazzo Pamphilj in Piazza Navona


The magnificent Galleria Cortona of the Brazilian Embassy in Rome’s Piazza Navona was the setting Thursday 8 October for a presentation and panel discussion of the recent book of Stephanie Leone FAAR’00, The Palazzo Pamphili in Piazza Navona:  Constructing Identity in Early Modern Rome (Harvey Miller/ Brepols, 2008).

Stephanie Leone, a 2001 Ph.D. in Art History from Rutgers University, is associate professor in the Fine Arts department of Boston College. Aurimar Jacobino de Barros Nunes, Primo Segretario at the Embassy of Brazil in Rome, organized the event in collaboration with Anne Coulson from the Programs Department of the American Academy in Rome.

Brazilian2Stephanie Leone FAAR’00 with Ministro Tarcísio Costa (Brazilian Embassy to Italy)

Leone’s book is in many ways the first full-length treatment of the Piazza’s remarkable transformation from a medieval field to a magnificent Baroque urban space. As Leone shows in her clear and well-written volume, it was the ambitions of a single family, the Pamphilj, that brought about this stunning change.

Pope Innocent X (1644-55) sought to aggrandize his family’s identity through an ambitious building program, including the monumental Palazzo Pamphilj (now housing the Brazilian Embassy), the church of S. Agnese in Agone, the Collegio Innocenziano, and Gianlorenzo Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers and Fountain of the Moor.

Brazilian3Panelists at the book presentation, from left: Patrizia Cavazzini, Corey Brennan, Tarcísio Costa, Stephanie Leone, Francesca Cappelletti

What is particularly original about Leone’s book is that she argues in favor of a collaborative process of execution of the Palazzo, in two distinct phases (1634-38, 1645-50), involving three architects (Francesco Peperelli, Girolamo Rainaldi, Francesco Borromini), two patrons (Innocent X and his sister-in-law Olimpia Maidalchini), and an architectural revisor (Virgilio Spada).

Leone presents the history of the palace as inextricably linked to the social milieu of the early modern papal court, to the development of Piazza Navona—and to that of the city itself.

Brazilian7Reception following the presentation in the Galleria Cortona

The SOF Weblog had a brief chat with Stephanie Leone at the Palazzo Pamphilj book presentation.

In a few words, what have you been doing since your two years as a pre-doctoral Fellow at the AAR?
“Since I left Rome in 2001, I have been a faculty member of the Fine Arts Department at Boston College where I teach various classes on  Renaissance and Baroque art and architectural history. In 2007 I received tenure and promotion to Associate Professor.”

You were in Rome this past summer, were you not?
“Yes, this past summer I initiated a summer course for BC students in Rome, which I will be teaching every other year.”

What’s next?
“My current research project builds upon my research on the Palazzo Pamphilj. It focuses on the Pamphilj’s art collection and, in particular, the collecting activities of the understudied Benedetto Cardinal Pamphilj [1653-1730], who was a major patron of the visual arts, music, and literature in Rome in the period that fostered the Grand Tour.”

How major a patron was this Pamphilj?
“Well, for instance, he assembled a collection of 1,400 paintings during his lifetime and was George Frideric Handel’s first patron in Rome.”

Studying the Pamphilj as a family sounds like a massive project…
“My research stems from a collaborative project on Pamphilj patronage, which began as the theme of an exhibition for the McMullen Museum of Art at Boston College. Although the exhibition project currently is on hold, I’m organizing a conference to be held at Boston College next year, which will allow the project participants and me to disseminate our research. After the conference, we we’ll publish a collection of essays. If you are in the Boston area and interested in attending, please send me your contact information.”



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