The "Fasti Farnesiani"

The European wars of religion and the construction of an identity

By Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

Battle (1686-1688) by Anonymous painter of the 17th centuryMuseo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

The cycle

Once upon in Piacenza, north of Italy, in the Palazzo Farnese, a pictorial cycle dedicated to the war conducted from 1577 against the Protestants in the Flanders by Alessandro Farnese, duke of Parma, on behalf of the Catholic king of Spain Philip II.

Alessandro Farnese at the siege of Antwerp (1686-1688) by Giovanni Evangelista DraghiMuseo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

Alessandro Farnese

Alessandro Farnese was an innovator in war strategy and tactic and he was object of envy by the court, that tried to let him fall in disgrace by the king.

Alessandro Farnese and Margherita of Austria at Namur (1686-1688) by Anonymous painter of the 17th centuryMuseo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

For example in 1579 it fomented the appointment of his mother, Margherita of Austria, as governor of the Flanders, in order to flank (and limitate) him in the command. The appointment was annulled only in 1582. Ten years later, in 1592, Alessandro Farnese died at Arras.

Triumphal entry into Antwerp (1686-1688) by Giovanni Evangelista DraghiMuseo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

The wars of religion are at the origins of the birth of the modern Belgium (Catholic) and Neederlands (Protestants).

Charles III of Bourbon, Filippo Morghen (engraving) and Filippo Paderni (drawing), 1757/1757, From the collection of: Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
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In 1731 died Antonio Farnese, duke of Parma and Piacenza. The last heir of the dinasty was Charles of Bourbon, Elisabetta Farnese and Philip V of Spain firstborn.

Hall of the Sundial (1612/1820)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

From Piacenza to Napoli

Due to the troubles of those years, afflicted by the wars of religion, and Charles's rise to the throne of Napoli in 1735, the Farnesina paintings was moved first to Parma and then to Napoli, where they have been arranged in Hall of Sundial, decorated by a cycle of Flamand tapestries.

Hall of the Sundial (1612/1820)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

Some years later...

In 1957 the tapestries, along with the paintings, were moved to the museum of Capodimonte and in 1995 they have been subtitled with XIX century pictures of Neapolitan school.

Alessandro Farnese' Moral Virtues (1686-1688) by Anonymous painter of the 17th centuryMuseo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

The celebration of the leader

The anonymous painter celebrate here Alessandro Farnese as a Roman general. Proud and confident, he holds the scepter with his right hand and he is the surrounded by the moral virtues

The Prudence, with the attribute of the serpent, and the Faith, with the lion

The angels forge Alessandro Farnese's weapons (1686-1688) by Anonymous painter of the 17th centuryMuseo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

The weapons of Faith

The cycle is dedicated to wars of religion, so the painter here depicts Alessandro Farnese trying the weapons provided by the Angels: the bow and the thre-points arrows, symbol of intelligence, while the eagles are symbol of intellectual curiosity and sharpness.

Alessandro Farnese inspired by the angels (1686-1688) by Giovanni Evangelista DraghiMuseo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

Heavenly inspiration

Giovanni Evangelista Draghi presents here Alessandro Farnese as the champion of the Catholicism. The Angels inspire him to choose the Right, while the Wrong run away as a fiend.

City surrenders (1686-1688) by Sebastiano Ricci (?)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

The conqueror

This picture, probably by Sebastiano Ricci, presents Alessandro Farnese receiving the key of a city, perhaps Gent (conquered in 1584), or symbolically the surrender to Philip II of the League of Arras, gathering the Walloon provinces.

Alessandro is represented under a canopy as Alexander the Great.

Battle (1686-1688) by Anonymous painter of the 17th centuryMuseo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

War action

The painter shows here a general battle, with the troops assaulting the walls of a Flamand city.

The dead soldier surrounded by his companions could be Fabio Farnese. If so the battle could be under the walls of Maestricht. The city was defeated thanks to the construction of wooden towers higher than the fortification walls.

Alessandro Farnese carried in triumph at Maestricht (1686-1688) by Giovanni Evangelista DraghiMuseo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

Triumph

Giovanni Evangelista Draghi summarize here two episodes: the conquest of Maastricht (1579) and the triumphal procession, occurred some days later.

Solgier escaping (1686-1688) by Giovanni Evangelista DraghiMuseo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

Escape

The picture likely describe an episode occurred during the journey to Namur: Alessandro Farnese sentenced to death a soldier that insulted him, but decided in a second time to leave him escape in consideration of his courage.

Alessandro Farnese and Margherita of Austria at Namur (1686-1688) by Anonymous painter of the 17th centuryMuseo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

Mother and son

This picture probably represents Alessandro Farnese and his mother, Margherita of Austria, sent by the king Philip II in the Flanders as a governor, with the aim of restrict the duke's power and political influence.

Alessandro actually wanted to rule alone and convinced her to renounce and come back home, to her husband ottavio Farnese, represented in the mirror

Alessandro Farnese enters Tournai in triumph (1686-1688) by Giovanni Evangelista DraghiMuseo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

Triumphal procession

Giovanni Evangelista Draghi paints here the conquest of Tournai, after a long siege. Alessandro Farnese is represented as a victorious Roma general

The pages deliver standards where Alessandro Farnese is claimed as Fortissimo Generale (very gifted general) and Serenissimo Principe (very peaceful prince)

Alessandro Farnese incites his men to battle (1686-1688) by Giovanni Evangelista DraghiMuseo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

War

This is the only picture where Alessandro Farnese is represented during a war action. According to the literary description of the Flanders war, during the battle of Steemberghen, the duke was decisive in motivating the soldiers, momentarily in confusion.

Alessandro Farnese administers justice (1686-1688) by Giovanni Evangelista DraghiMuseo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

The just prince

The episode represented is probably occurred at Ostend, where Alessandro Farnese granted a pardon to three captains that deserted during the battle, because of the bravery usually demonstrated.

The duke here holds back the companions of the three soldiers, to avoid violent revenge against them

Alessandro Farnese at the siege of Antwerp (1686-1688) by Giovanni Evangelista DraghiMuseo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

The siege

Giovanni Evangelista Draghi presents here one of the most important episode of the war in the Flanders: the siege of Antwerp.

Alessandro Farnese won the resistance of the citizens thanks to a bridge of ships

Triumphal entry into Antwerp (1686-1688) by Giovanni Evangelista DraghiMuseo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

The conquest

The painting narrate the triumphal entrance of the duke in Antwerp in1585, where a girl dressed in white offer him the keys of the city.

The Angels give Alessandro Farnese a pick to demolish the walls of a city (1686-1688) by Giovanni Evangelista DraghiMuseo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

Heaven help

The painter illustrate here likely, with symbolic praise, the episode occurred at Sichem, where Alessandro Farnese took himself the hoe to demolish the walls of the city, being an example for the soldiers.

Alessandro Farnese's Triumph (1686-1688) by Anonymous painter of the 17th centuryMuseo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

Triumph

The anonymous painter shows here a general episode of triumph of the duke,

Military camp, Giovanni Evangelista Draghi?, 1686-1688, From the collection of: Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
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This picture and the following have a theatre planning, with the human figures into the foreground that introduce the scene on the background

Resting at an inn, Giovanni Evangelista Draghi?, 1686-1688, From the collection of: Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
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Wide spaces, landscapes with farmhouses and mountains

Alessandro Farnese's death (1686-1688) by Domenico PiolaMuseo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

The end

Domenico Piola represents here the death of the duke, with the iconographic style of St. Joseph's death.

The skeleton, symbol of the Death, brings a laurel crown, while the angel a mystic stars one, to mark the distance between Heaven and Earth

The flower composition is an element of attribution of the picture to Domenico Piola, popular for this genre of composition

Credits: Story

Curated by Caterina Serena Martucci

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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