The progenitor of this astonishing collection was Alessandro Farnese (1468-1549), who became the first Cardinal of the family. First he was installed as Bishop in Parma, and then he became a Cardinal in Rome. In 1534 Alessandro was elected as Pope Paul III.
Pier Luigi Farnese (1503-1547), the illegitimate son of Pope Paul III, became the first Duke of Parma and Piacenza, instigating a feud between Pope Pope Paul III and the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.
The Farnese were also warriors and condottieri. They commissioned and bought fine armors and weapons utilized for parades and ceremony.
The Pope's grandson, Cardinal Alessandro Farnese (1520-1589) - called the "Great Cardinal" by his contemporaries - was one of the major collectors and patrons of his time. He became a cardinal at the young age of fourteen by virtue of his grandfather's wishes, Pope Paul III. A prominent figure of 16th century Rome, he was known also for his diplomatic skills, which contributed to consolidating the political and economic power of the family.
Cardinal Alessandro commissioned the famous "Danae" by Titian for his own apartment in Rome. Scholars have suggested that the female figure is a portrait of the Cardinal's lover - the courtesan Angela - whose identity is hidden within the painting's mythological subject.
Cardinal Odoardo Farnese commissioned Agostino Carracci to make this triple portrait. The picture depicts the court jesters at the Farnese Court in Rome. They are Enrico Gonzales - called Hairy Harry because of his illnes of hypertrichosis; Amon the Dwarf; and Pietro Verderame called Pietro the Crazy.
Cardinal Odoardo also commissioned Annibale Carracci to create this painting for his apartment in the Palazzo Farnese, Rome. The figure of Hercules is inspired by the ancient statue of Hercules that is also in the Farnese collection, now located in the Archaeological Museum, Naples.
Bartolomeo Schedoni left this painting unfinished. It was commissioned for a cathedral of a small village, after Schedoni had been named first court painter by Duke Ranuccio I Farnese (1569-1622). Even in its rough state Ranuccio was taken with the altarpiece. The Duke purchased it from the original patron. Schedoni then completed it in Parma at the Farnese court.
Francesco Farnese (1678-1727), Duke of Parma and Piacenza, bought this artwork in 1713 as an attributed work by the master Albrecht Dürer. It is among the few 15th century paintings in the Farnese Collection and testifies to the Duke’s interest in Flemish painting.
Today, the painting is attributed to Konrad Witz or to his workshop. Witz is one of the greatest German painters active in the 15th century.
The series of five paintings at Capodimonte executed by Joachim Beuckelaer were likely purchased by Margherita of Parma (1522-1586) - Ottavio Farnese's bride. She was educated within the Flemish culture at Brussels and ruled in the Netherlands during the second half of 16th century.
The two paintings by Pieter Bruegel the Elder exhibited in the Capodimonte Museum originally belonged to the nobleman Cosimo Masi. He was a collector, and was also the secretary and close collaborator of Alessandro Farnese (1545-1592), Duke of Parma and Piacenza, during his mission in Flanders. The Masi Family was one of the victims of the Farnese confiscation.
In 1731, Duke Antonio Farnese died without an heir. The collection was thus inherited by Charles of Bourbon (1716 - 1788). Charles was born from the marriage of Philip V of Bourbon, King of Spain, and Elisabetta Farnese. When Charles became King of Naples in 1734, he gathered the most important works of art in Rome, Parma and Piacenza and brought them to Naples. This is how the marvelous Farnese Collection came to Capodimonte!
Curated by Francesca Santamaria