A View of Florence / Allegory of Maffeo Barberini's Florentine Birth
Pilaster termine panel from the Life of Urban VIII
Designed by Antonio Gherardi, Italian, 1644 - 1702. With the collaboration of Lazzaro Baldi, Italian, 1624 - 1703. Woven under the supervision of Maria Maddalena della Riviera, Italian, 1611 - 1678, director of the Barberini tapestry factory from 1653. Woven at the Barberini tapestry factory, Rome.
Made in Rome, Italy, Europe Date:
Wool and silkDimensions:
17 feet 8 1/2 inches × 47 5/16 inches (539.8 × 120.2 cm)Curatorial Department:
European Decorative Arts and SculptureObject Location:
Currently not on viewAccession Number:
Gift of Vicomte Charles de Noailles and gift (by exchange) of Mrs. Chauncey McCormick and Mrs. Richard E. Danielson, 1960
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Commissioned by Cardinal Francesco Barberini, Palazzo Barberini, Rome, 1663; series removed from the Palazzo Barberini and sold by the Barberini family, after 1891 . Altkunst Antiquitäten, Berlin, by 1928-1935 ; sale, Paul Graupe, Berlin, “Die Bestände der Berliner Firmen Galerie van Diemen & Co., GmbH, Altkunst Antiquitäten, GmbH, beide in Liquidation, II. (letzter) Teil,” April 26-27, 1935, no. 702 (illus.) . Possibly Eugene L. Garbáty (1880-1966), Berlin, Paris and Norwalk, CT, c. 1935 and before 1938, until 1939 . Sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 1940s (?) ; purchased by Charles, vicomte de Noailles (1891-1981), Paris and Grasse, France; gift to PMA, 1960; restituted to the heirs of Jakob and Rosa Oppenheimer, 2011; sold to PMA, 2011.
1. The dispersal began in 1892, when Prince Maffeo Barberini-Colonna di Sciarra sold ten of the horizontal ‘friezes’ and three of the narrative panels to the Somzée family in Brussels. See Urbano Barberini, “Gli arazzi e i cartoni della serie ‘Vita di Urbano VIII’ della arazzeria Barberini,” Bolletino d’Arte, ser. 5, vol. 53, no. 2-3 (1968), pp. 93, 95; Anna Maria de Strobel, Le arazzerie romane dal XVII al XIX secolo (Rome, 1989), p. 43; and Pascale-François Bertrand, "Un grand décor tissé à Rome au XVIIe siècle: la Vie du Pape Urbain VIII," Mélanges de l'Ecole française de Rome. Italie et Méditerranée, 106, no. 2 (1994): p. 639.
2. Heinrich Göbel, Wandteppiche, pt. II: Die Romanischen Länder, vol. 1, Leipzig, 1928, p. 421, describes the eight Life of Urban VIII pilaster tapestries, including the PMA example, as in the possession of the Berlin dealer “Altkunst” (a subsidiary of Margraf & Co.). A year later he published photographs of the pilaster tapestries, noting the owner as Margraf & Co., Berlin (“Das Leben Urbans VIII,” Der Cicerone 21 : p. 307).
3. Altkunst Antiquitäten, the Berlin art gallery that owned the tapestry, was a subsidiary of Margraf and Co., a group of art dealerships run by Jakob and Rosa Oppenheimer. In 1933, the Oppenheimers, who were Jewish, fled Germany to escape Nazi persecution and relocated to France. In their absence they were forced out of the management of Margraf and Co. and were forbidden by court order from conducting any legal transactions for the company. The Nazi regime appointed an Aryan administrator who was a close associate of Hermann Göring to dissolve the Margraf dealerships. The gallery stock, including this tapestry, was quickly sold off in a series of auctions held in Berlin in 1935 that are considered forced liquidation sales. After learning that the Jakob and Rosa Oppenheimer had involuntarily lost possession of the tapestry in the 1935 sale, the PMA contacted the Oppenheimer heirs in 2010, and a financial settlement allowing the PMA to retain the work was reached in May 2011.
4. See curatorial files of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, correspondence with Garbáty regarding the gift of four of the tapestry panels from the series to the MFA during the 1950s. On November 16, 1950, Garbáty wrote to curator Gertrude Townsend of the MFA that he had acquired six of the set of eight tapestries about 15 years previously (i.e., c. 1935) from an art dealer who was supposedly selling them on request of the owner, from Springfeld Castle, near Graz, Steiermark, Austria. When Ms. Townsend informed him of the 1929 Der Cicerone article, he stated that he was not aware that the tapestries had earlier belonged to Margraf & Co. He noted that he fled Germany for Paris in 1938 (he was Jewish), where he arranged for part of his art collection to be shipped to him, including the tapestries. He stated that he lost two of his six tapestries in France after entrusting them to Paris art dealers A. and R. Ball and Jansen [Jensen] when he emigrated to the U.S. in 1939. He provided photographs to the MFA of the entire set of eight panels, but said that he could not identify which were the two that he had lost possession of in France. The Répertoire des biens spoliés en France durant la guerre 1939-1945, 2nd suppl. to vols. 2, 3, and 4 (Berlin, 1947-1949), a publication of claims submitted to the Central Bureau of Restitutions of the Allied occupation government in Berlin, lists the two tapestries from the Pope Urban VIII series that Garbáty claimed to have lost in France, with photographs, and neither image is of the PMA panel. However, it is unclear how accurate the information regarding the claim (apparently submitted by Garbáty’s lawyer) actually was, as Garbáty commented in the above-referenced 1950 letter that he did not believe that he ever owned one of the panels, depicting the Castel Gandolfo, Rome, that was in fact illustrated in the Répertoire des biens spoliés as one of his two missing Barberini tapestries.
5. The Vicomte de Noailles gave the tapestry to the PMA through Henry P. McIlhenny, PMA curator of decorative arts, to thank him for his hospitality after a stay in McIlhenny’s Glenveagh Castle in Ireland in May 1960. In a letter to McIlhenny dated May 28, 1960 (copy in registrar file), de Noailles wrote that it had been purchased at a Hôtel Drouot sale about fifteen or twenty years previously and had been kept in storage at his Paris house ever since. He did not provide further specifics on the sale.