Caprarola's Sala della Cosmografia.

Author:Quinlan-McGrath, Mary
Date:Dec 22, 1997
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly

Il pontificato non voul esser cercato, e chi lo cerca non lo trova

- Paul III Farnese to Cardinal Allessandro Farnesse (1)

The massive Palazzo Farnese at Caprarola looms over its plain, a mute witness to the former power of the family [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 1 OMITTED]. The rocca was initiated by the first Cardinal Alessandro (Pope Paul III) and fully and magnificently developed by the second Cardinal Alessandro, his grandson. Inside, its decoration boasts of family deeds and silently eliminates family failures. Much of the decoration was minutely described by contemporaries, and documents and decoration have been carefully studied by modern scholars.(2) However one of the major halls, that which evoked the greatest contemporary admiration, the Sala della Cosmografia, can profitably be looked at again (figs. 2-4, 8, 9).

The Cosmografia was the public point of entry into what is frequently called the winter apartments, the 'westerly' side of Caprarola's piano nobile.(3) It was decorated between 1573 and 1575 by Giovanni de' Vecchi, Giovanni Antonio Vanosino da Varese, Raffaellino da Reggio, and others. The main entrance into the hall was from the inner cortile on its northern wall, and the visitor privileged to proceed through the room, passed into the remainder of the winter apartments through a door on the western wall. Across from the main entrance, the southern wall was pierced by large windows, and to the entrant's left the eastern wall was unbroken (figs. 2 and 3).

This great hall has a rich and apparently simple beauty. A map of the heavens fills the vault, while maps of the earth circumscribe the walls. But the apparent simplicity is infused with certain Farnese aspirations. Several Renaissance documents, written by Farnese courtiers who were on intimate terms with their patron, are relevant to the meaning of this decoration, but they have not been understood in this way. In addition, while modern scholars have shed light on some of the details of the astronomy and astrology of the vault and frieze [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 2-4 OMITTED], they have obscured others. A 1990 study of this hall was based on a misunderstanding of Renaissance astrological texts, and a confusion of the room's orientation.(4) Finally, a separate literature exists on the geographical maps of the walls, but they have not been integrally related to the room.(5) These separate concentrations have limited our understanding of the hall.

For clarity's sake each of the three main decorative areas will be looked at separately, but connections between them should not be lost. It will be suggested that the messages of the vault, frieze and walls coincide to transmit certain of the patron's personal and familial ambitions.


On coming into this hall, the viewer faces the southern windowed wall, and also looks up to see the brilliantly painted vault which is oriented to this entrance viewpoint [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 2-4 OMITTED]. Against a deep blue background, the forty-eight Ptolemaic constellations are shown in the vault in Renaissance pictorializations.(6) The lines of the equator, the tropics of Capricorn and Cancer, the solstices and equinoxes, and the sun's zodiacal path are also incised. The designers and painters gave the vault the look of seamless unity. But the following eccentricities of an iconographic nature have been noted in this otherwise standard star map.


In 1967 Jacob Hess pointed out that Jupiter, who is shown hurling his thunderbolts, is an unusual addition to the work [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 4, 5A, 5D OMITTED], and that the scene of Phaeton falling into the River Eridanus, while not unique to the ceiling, is exceedingly rare, existing in only one image derived from this vault.(7) As Hess noted, some of the constellations' have been shifted in position to accommodate Jupiter, and of course he is a planet, not a constellation. Although Hess knew that Paolo Giovio had designed an impresa for the cardinal with the thunderbolts of Jupiter and the motto "Hoc Uno Jupiter Ultor," he thought it improbable that Jupiter would have been included here simply as a compliment to the patron. In fact he found the inclusion of Jupiter so odd that Hess had the ceiling examined in order to see whether Jupiter was a later addition patched into the fresco. He thought Jupiter and Phaeton referred to a seventeenth-century incident in the family's history, and that the Phaeton was drawn from a model by Guido Reni. But Jupiter and Phaeton were original, not later patches.

Deborah Warner, a specialist in the history of astronomy, identified the visual source for this sky map as having been that of Francesco Dumongenet, and corrected some details of an astronomical nature which had been incorrectly described in Hess's article.(8) Kristen Lippincott, looking at the vault more recently, felt that the unusual inclusion of Jupiter could be traced to small manuscript images of the deity found in the Germanicus versions of Aratus' Phaenomena [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 5B OMITTED].(9) But this type of homely manuscript illumination is only similar to the fresco in a generic sense - they both depict Jupiter and concern the heavens. The vault Jupiter and Phaeton, however, derive from an important model within the Farnese circle of artists. They come from a famous set of drawings by Michelangelo, which were owned by the cardinal. But before looking at this visual source, it is worth considering the personal connections Cardinal Alessandro seems to have felt with Jupiter, in order to understand why he would have had it included in his vault. The visual, textual, and astronomical evidence of this time give us much information on these ties.

Looking to visual evidence first, Jupiter is prominently featured in this villa. The main frescoed hall of Caprarola's ground floor has been known as the Hall of Jupiter since Vasari, an intimate of both Cardinal Alessandro and of the painter Taddeo Zucchero, first described it.(10) In addition, Jupiter's crossed thunderbolts are displayed throughout the villa, especially in the decorative borders of the frescoed rooms. In the Sala della Cosmografia itself, Jupiter's eagle is also featured in the Libra panel of the frieze, which is found directly opposite the entrance doorway (figs. 3 and 8). The cardinal seems to have had a certain affinity for decorative arts featuring Jupiter, since the inventories of the cardinal's collection show a sizeable number of them.(11)

It seems likely, then, that Jupiter had an essential significance for the patron of the villa, and we will see that the connections were openly discussed by his familiars. Over the cardinal's lifetime, his courtiers, among whom we find the astrologer Luca Gaurico, the humanists Paolo Giovio and Annibal Caro as well as several Farnese poets, wrote on these connections. In different milieus and almost in different specialized languages, they told related stories about Jupiter and the cardinal. Contemporaries beyond this intimate circle, demonstrably Girolamo Cardano and Francesco Giuntini - and by extension the readers of Gaurico's, Cardano's, Giuntini's, and Giovio's published books - would also have known this material.

First there is the horoscope of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 6 OMITTED] which was published in 1552 by Luca Gaurico, a favorite astrologer of the cardinal's grandfather, Pope Paul.(12) In the cardinal's birth horoscope one sees that Jupiter, the most powerful of the beneficent planets, is located in Alessandro's critical tenth house, the mid-heaven or top point of his chart.(13) More important, Gaurico explains that Jupiter's position relative to the cusp of the tenth house made Alessandro a cardinal, and that his elevation on 21 December 1534, at the age of "14 years, two months, and 15 days," was predicted from the distance in degrees between the planet Jupiter and the cusp of this house at the child's birth.(14) Girolamo Cardano used the same horoscope as Gaurico, and repeated this point - that the position of the planet Jupiter relative to the cusp of his tenth house had given the young boy the cardinal's hat at the age of fourteen.(15) A modern person might well wonder what these Renaissance astrologers meant by this. Behind their information, there was both an astronomical basis and an astrological doctrine. It is worth probing both, since the fate of a fourteen year-old child was apparently determined largely by this celestial circumstance. Alessandro, because he was the eldest son of the eldest son of the family, would otherwise have been expected to marry and to carry on the family line.

The astrological doctrine was that of 'directions,' which was based on a mathematical difference in degrees and minutes of degrees between important predictors in a chart. The mathematical difference was used to determine the date of the predictable event. Every degree of difference between the two observed astronomical positions was believed to represent one year in the life of the child, while each minute of a degree was usually counted as six days in the subject's life.(16) In this case the astrologers were considering the difference in degrees between the position of the planet Jupiter and the position of the cusp of the tenth house. These astrologers were interested in Jupiter's location because Jupiter promised greatness and was especially associated with cardinals, and they were interested in the tenth house itself because it was the predictor of one's honors and preferment.(17) In addition, Gaurico's description of Alessandro's chart played on the word 'cardo, cardinis' because the cusp of the tenth house was one of the four 'cardinal' points of a chart, reinforcing the choice of cardinal for his vocation.

Subtracting Gaurico's figures, the difference is fourteen degrees, and approximately thirteen minutes.(18) Adding the fourteen years and seventy-eight days that the fourteen degrees and thirteen minutes of difference represent to the birth on 7 October 1520, one arrives at a date in late December 1534, when Gaurico tells us the young boy was made a cardinal, a circumstance confirmed in the Vatican archival sources. This date may also explain why the winter solstice is centered in the vault fresco, and its line is specially marked with the Farnese lily [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 4 OMITTED].

Pope Paul III Farnese was notorious for his dependence on astrologers, particularly for the timing of events through the astrological doctrines of 'directions' and 'elections.'(19) Odd as this dependence on astrology appears today, it is worth remembering that the greatest astronomers in the Christian, Jewish, and Moslem worlds were devoted to astrology as a natural science and saw it as a conduit to understanding the mind of the Creator. Therefore, as Gaurico and Cardano both tell us, Paul III made his fourteen-year old grandson his first appointed cardinal in late December 1534 because he looked upon this as a rendezvous with destiny - the planet Jupiter's fourteen degree 'direction' to the child's tenth cusp. Later in life Alessandro would regret this premature decision to place him in religious life, but the pope apparently felt he had read the handwriting of God in the young boy's chart.(20)

Therefore Jupiter the planet had great influence in making Alessandro Farnese a cardinal, and this would be reason enough to paint the single planet Jupiter among the stars of this vault. Alessandro Farnese amassed extraordinary wealth and power through this office. But there is probably an additional understanding behind Jupiter. Gaurico was quick to point out that Paul III, "potentior omnibus stellis supra enarratis," was another "Jupiter" who made the boy a cardinal.(21) Jupiter was a typical humanist compliment for the pope. Thus according to Gaurico, Jupiter the planet and Jupiter the pope had both promoted the young Alessandro Farnese, making him Paul's first appointee to the Sacred College.(22) We will see that over the remainder of the cardinal's life these two notions of Jupiter - as a planet and as a Renaissance epithet for the pope - continue to reappear.

When the cardinal was a young man, apparently around 1546, Jupiter again figured publicly in his life, this time in his impresa which displayed the thunderbolts of Jupiter and was designed for him by Paulo Giovio.(23) Describing the impresa, Giovio related that Pope Paul III had sent Cardinal Alessandro as papal legate into Germany with an army in order to help the Emperor Charles V combat the Lutherans and other rebels. For this Giovio created the impresa featuring Jupiter's thunderbolts with the accompanying motto, "Hoc uno Jupiter Ultor." Giovio reported that Jupiter signified the reigning Pope Paul Ill, and that the thunderbolts represented the powers of excommunication which he had granted to Alessandro. The motto referred to the retribution that Jupiter would exact, just as the god Jupiter had punished the Giants for their sacrilege in an earlier age of impiety. The twenty-six year old cardinal, holding the delegated power of "Jupiter," was thus dispatched.

At the time of the early decorations of Caprarola, in 1563, with the cardinal now in his early forties, a related story was told by Annibal Caro. Caro was one of Cardinal Alessandro's principal advisers on the villa frescoes, and he wrote a letter at this time to the cardinal's sister Vittoria Farnese, explaining the family imprese.(24) Turning specifically to this impresa used by Cardinal Alessandro, Caro discussed the thunderbolts of Jupiter. He wrote that this was the impresa carried by the cardinal from his early years in office. It was a common emblem and could indicate many things, but if carried by Cardinal Alessandro, Caro explained that the thunderbolts signified the power of governing which Pope Paul III had given to his grandson, "significasse la potesta che 'l Papa le diede del governo, per essere il fulmine dedicato a Giove, il quale significa il Papa."

A subtle but critical shift has now occurred. The meaning of the impresa is no longer linked to its original creation, that is, as a power of retribution against Lutherans and other schismatics, most clearly suggested by the motto's use of "Jupiter Ultor." In fact Caro says that he does not find a motto for the thunderbolts, "e non truovo che ci sia motto." This sounds a bit disingenuous, for Caro and Giovio were friends, and Giovio's book existed in many editions by this time. Whether the forgetfulness was purposeful or accidental however, the need for this loss of specificity is clear. Pope Paul was dead, the Lutheran situation was now long since out of control, and a general delegation of papal power was the only kind desirable. The Farnese "Jupiter" had granted Alessandro "la potesta . . . del governo."

Caro's letter must reflect the notions of the Farnese courtiers in the 1560s. An impresa was to be used when it was suitable to the life of the bearer. Because the crossed thunderbolts, without motto, are found throughout the villa decoration, it can be assumed that in Caro's more generalized understanding - the cardinal's power to govern - the thunderbolts had great currency in the cardinal's life.(25)

Moving ahead ten years to the time of this room's decoration between 1573 and 1575, a very natural development in the identity of Jupiter seems to have occurred. By the date of this fresco, Jupiter had come to be primarily associated with the cardinal himself. This can be seen from the visual evidence at the neighboring Villa Bagnaia, built by Cardinal Gianfrancesco Gambara, which was being decorated at the same time as this ceiling.(26)

Cardinal Gambara was both a relative and a close personal friend of Cardinal Alessandro. He borrowed artists from Cardinal Farnese at the time of our vault's decoration, and experts on Gambara's villa believe Cardinal Alessandro also shared iconographic ideas with his neighbor. Both the Cosmografia at Caprarola and Bagnaia's entrance loggia have astrological themes in their frescoes.(27) Gambara paid homage to his famous friends in his own entrance loggia by having his friends' estates frescoed on the walls, with frescoes above them referring to the owner of each of the pictured lands. Bagnaia's two central frescoes display the estate of Caprarola, and these are decorated with Alessandro's imprese and his cardinal's hat above the Farnese shield.

Over one of the wall murals of Caprarola one finds the fresco of Jupiter killing the Giants with his thunderbolts, a reference to the owner of the painted estate of Caprarola and to his powers over evil. In the background, the constellation Eagle is frescoed and studded with stars. This constellation, we shall see, seems to have been important in the cardinal's birth horoscope.(28) Over the other Caprarola mural is depicted the creation of the constellation Scorpio, which, like the Eagle, is picked out with stars. This is also critical. Looking back to the horoscope which Gaurico published, one sees that Scorpio was the zodiacal sign where the planet Jupiter was positioned in the cardinal's tenth house [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 6 OMITTED]. It cannot be by accident that Jupiter and Scorpio were here frescoed together with Cardinal Alessandro's territories and his insignia of office.(29) This is a reference to his birth horoscope. At Bagnaia, and exactly contemporary with our room of maps, insiders certainly knew that Jupiter in Scorpio had given Alessandro his power. In addition Jupiter now had a direct connection with the cardinal. If there was still a connection to his grandfather, it would have been secondary.

One might note, finally, that these same messages were also understood a decade after the room's decoration. In the mid-1580s the Farnese family poet Aurelio Orsi described our Cardinal Alessandro as Jupiter.(30) According to Orsi, the thunderbolts were given to Paul III to rule the earth, which he then passed on to Cardinal Alessandro, who was to use them to keep the world free from evil, lest new giants emerged to fight the gods. This poem rather concisely expresses a Farnese confidence in the divine ordination of their rulership and their earthly duties. One might therefore suspect that at least within the family circle there was the implicit flattery that the papacy itself could be legitimately passed down - Jupiter (God) to Jupiter (Paul III) to Jupiter (Cardinal Alessandro) - who would protect the world against the impious.(31) Not surprisingly, Cardinal Alessandro had avidly sought the papacy in three elections (1566, 1572, 1585) during this period.(32) Thus while the young cardinal's powers were limited, the mature cardinal seems to have thought of himself as Jupiter, with a general fiat to cleanse the earth for God.


Jupiter may also help us to understand the unusual inclusion of Phaeton in this vault. But first one needs to look at the image painted (figs. 4, 5a, 5d). At the simplest level the artist had something of a decorative problem to solve. The River Eridanus is a sprawling constellation, and this type of map projection exaggerates or stretches images at the sides. A long and empty River would have been visually bland.

In the standard mythological story, Jupiter struck Phaeton's chariot with his thunderbolts, and Phaeton plunged into the River Eridanus. Thus Phaeton makes a natural mythological embellishment for the long stretch of the constellation River. But Phaeton falling into the River in astronomical images is extraordinarily rare.(33) Even stranger is the way Phaeton is depicted. Between his feet, apparently at the point where the bolt has struck, a flash of light silhouettes a radiant crown [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 5D OMITTED].

While Hess correctly saw that the Jupiter and Phaeton were visually related, his suggestion connecting them to a Farnese incident which took place in the following century, and to a Guido Reni model, cannot be supported. But Jupiter and Phaeton do have more than the normal mythological relationship. At the simplest level the planet Jupiter was sometimes referred to as "Phaeton" in Renaissance astronomical and astrological handbooks. In fact Luca Gaurico referred to Jupiter as Phaeton in his description of the horoscope of Cardinal Alessandro.(34) In addition, the flash of Jupiter's thunderbolt in the fresco strikes the tip of the River Eridanus where the great star Acarnar, a star of the first magnitude, had the astrological nature of Jupiter. More significantly, the longitude of this great star was at approximately twenty-one degrees Aries.(35) Aries was a critical sign in several of the Farnese family horoscopes, as we shall see when looking at the focus on Aries in the frieze. This probably accounts for the highly unusual flashpoint with the corona here.(36)

But the Jupiter of the vault is also linked to Phaeton in another way. The famous presentation drawings that Michelangelo made for Tommaso Cavalieri show just such a muscular Jupiter astride his eagle, as he hurls his thunderbolts. Below him, a backward falling Phaeton drops from the sky, while a contorted team of horses also plunges. These drawings are certainly the visual source for this Farnese image [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 4, 5A-5D OMITTED]. These presentation pieces were in the possession of Pier Luigi Farnese, Cardinal Alessandro's father, and the cardinal, who was a genuine esthete and involved in all the family artistic commissions, knew them well and loved them. Later in his life the cardinal was able to acquire them.(37) One might consider, then, that when thinking of the two parts of this ceiling which were not typical of star maps of this period - Jupiter and Phaeton - these two were well chosen because they go together mythologically, astrologically, and also artistically, since they are a diagonal adaptation of a famous Michelangelo model.

Therefore, Jupiter the planet at the cardinal's cardinal point at his birth, which promoted him to the College of Cardinals at the age of fourteen, was probably critical to the cardinal's inclusion of Jupiter in this vault. Gaurico, Cardano, and the villa frescoes at Bagnaia report this understanding of Jupiter for Alessandro. Furthermore, diagonally across the vault, Jupiter's thunderbolts topple Phaeton and set off a special charge at the location of the star Acarnar, a brilliant luminary with the astrological nature of Jupiter, and at a point which we will see was important to the Farnese family astrologically.

But Jupiter the pope and Jupiter the cardinal, both wielders of thunderbolts, must also have resonated behind this vault image. Nor were the two notions of Jupiter inconsistent, for in the cosmology of this era the two meanings of Jupiter blend. The trust in astrology was based on a belief that God had given mortals important information, clues for the conduct of their lives through the natural signs of the heavens. The planet Jupiter was seen as an intermediary, just as the pope/Jupiter was, in handing down God's will and authority to Cardinal Alessandro. In Gaurico's explanation of Alessandro's horoscope, the two mighty Jupiters explicitly cohabit.

With such powerful forces on his side, it is no wonder that the cardinal's artists chose to highlight additional constellations in this vault which refer to a holy rulership, claiming them with the Farnese lilies. Thus we find the Ship (an ancient symbol of the papacy), the Altar, and the Crown, all embellished with the family fleur-de-lis [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 4 OMITTED].(38) When Alessandro looked up at the great image of Jupiter in his starry vault, he must have felt confirmed both in his family inheritance, and in his horoscopic destiny. If we are to believe his courtiers and friends, the cardinal seems to have seen himself both as initially selected by Jupiter and also as worthy to be the Jupiter who would cleanse the earth for God.


The frieze features twelve panels showing myths of the creation of the twelve zodiacal constellations (figs. 2, 3, 8, 9). These were taken from the ancient author Hyginus and their identification is not a problem, as Partridge and others have noted.(39) But the twelve zodiacal signs are disturbingly out of sequence in a way that would have been obvious to a Renaissance viewer. It would seem from the evidence presented below that the dis-ordering was necessary in order to center the four zodiacal signs most important to the cardinal and to his family.


To highlight this problem of order, one can think of the numbers one through twelve assigned to the constellations from Aries to Pisces, according to astronomical convention. Then, beginning with the southern wall opposite the entry and continuing in a clockwise direction around the frieze, one finds each of the walls has been allotted three signs in the following order: 6,7,8/12,1,2/9,10,11/5,3,4. On the southern, western, and northern walls, one can see that an internal order is preserved, even though there is no continuity from one wall to the next. But the eastern wall violates even this order. Given the general knowledge of the order of the zodiacal signs Aries through Pisces in the medieval and Renaissance worlds, this is similar to scrambling the order of the months January through December in a modern fresco cycle. Such a radical disordering would have been noticed.

In addition to being out of sequence, the signs are not given equal priority visually. The three on the southern wall opposite the entrance doorway, and the three on the northern entrance wall itself, are much larger than the six on the shorter end walls. On each of the four walls the central zodiacal panel is emphasized by a larger scale and by framing devices [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 2 OMITTED]. If the order of the twelve were normal, one might attribute the visual emphasis on the four centered pictures to simple decorative requirements. But this is not likely, given the peculiar shuffling of the order.

In an astronomical sense, the dis-ordering of the constellations renders the zodiac pointless, since astronomers used the zodiacal signs as a shorthand notation for the mathematical positions of planets and stars around the 360 consecutive degrees of the zodiacal circle. For this same reason, the frieze could not be a version of a horoscopic chart which has been flipped over, a suggestion made in the recent literature, because a chart also is based on the correct mathematical ordering of 360 consecutive degrees. There are no known 'scrambled' charts.(40)

Considering various explanations for the shuffling of the signs, there is always a remote possibility that the decorator was negligent, and that the patron or advisors either did not notice or did not care. But for anyone familiar with the extensive letter writing, planning, and care that went into most of Caprarola's decoration, this explanation is unlikely. In fact it is particularly with the planning of this room that the cardinal seems to have been unwilling to turn the decoration over to learned advisors or to allow a casual plan to proceed. Here the letters of Fulvio Orsini, spanning an eight month period from March to October of 1573, are particularly enlightening.(41) The first letter is primarily relevant to the frieze and possibly also to the vault, while the second and third letters seem essentially related to the geographical maps of the walls.

From the first letter we know that two men had been contacted, one to prepare a plan for (at least) the celestial aspects of the room, the plan having been based on a special study of antique monuments and a Hyginus text, all for the depiction of the heavenly bodies. Orsini emphasized that "la dottrina et la pratica di questo mio amico e buona e fondata su buoni autori." The second friend of Orsini was to work on the cartoons for these same "compartimenti" once the cardinal had decided whether to approve the plans. Because the plan in this first letter is specified for the "compartimenti" and concerns celestial configurations, it was probably focused on this frieze rather than on the seamless expanse of the vault.(42) The man entrusted with the plan was probably Orazio de' Marii, who had mathematical and astronomical along with astrological expertise. Such a savant would have based "learning" and "practice" on authors such as Hyginus.(43) This alone, that someone was assiduously researching the "compartimenti" zone, and seems to have had astronomical/astrological expertise, suggests that the dis-ordering of the frieze was not an accident.

Six months later, two letters, one almost a duplicate of the other, were written on the second and the sixth of September and yield further information. This time Orsini was going to Caprarola, but was unsure whether to bring Giovanni Antonio, a man identified as one who had painted the Cosmography at the Vatican in the time of Pius IV. Orsini thought it would be good to have this Giovanni Antonio [Vanosino da Varese] apportion the paintings, and it would seem from the use of the word "vani" that this was probably an apportioning that had to do with the walls, where windows, doors, and other such openings would be found. It was also stated that this Giovanni Antonio was going to use the designs done by another person, and would probably be bringing a new world map.

Four days later Orsini was still awaiting orders somewhat impatiently regarding whether Giovanni Antonio should at that time go to Caprarola. He again reminded the cardinal that this Giovanni Antonio had worked on the Cosmography of the Vatican, and this time specified that he was going to use the designs provided by Orazio de' Marii.(44)

Then, perhaps archly, Orsini added in the second letter regarding this same painter Giovanni Antonio, "et non sarebbe forse hora fuori di proposito che alia presenza di V. S. Illustrissima dessi un'occhiata al luogo et che lo compartisse per i cartoni che s'harranno da fare." It sounds as though the cardinal was unwilling to let a painter into the room even to decide how to lay out the cartoons that he was going to have to paint. Special permission and the cardinal's supervision seem to have been necessary for a seemingly routine matter. Orsini concluded the letter, relating that he was having difficulty finding another painter willing to work at Caprarola who would please the cardinal.

On the fifteenth of October Orsini wrote again. He was finally sending the painter who would do the part of the decoration that was awaiting "figure" in the Sala della Cosmografia. Again there is a slightly odd tone in the letter that suggests the cardinal was peculiarly touchy about exactly what painter would please him, and when the painter would actually set out for Caprarola. Orsini had located the artist but "non havendolo inviato prima, per aspettarne l'ordine, che mi porto poi hiersera il Gambara, da V. S. Illustrissima." Once the order was received, the artist was dispatched.(45)

When Orsini's letters are read in the context of his known correspondence with the cardinal, these particular epistles leave two impressions on the decorations: one is of fastidious care, the other is that something covert is being protected.(46) Perhaps secrecy should not cause surprise in such a courtly milieu, and a brief digression on the cardinal and reticence may be useful here. At the very simplest level this sense of extreme privacy - here concerning a public decoration, after all - often reflected a snobbery on the part of humanists. It was considered poor taste if the meaning of a courtly image was readily apparent to the uneducated.(47) But in a culture which to us seems often obsessed with secrecy, the young cardinal was in the vanguard. While Paolo Giovio had explained that personal imprese should not be overly obvious, one of those which he designed for the young Cardinal Alessandro seems to have carried this dictum to its limit: it was a blank scroll. The accompanying motto, "Votis subscribent rata secundis," was jointly decided because the cardinal explained to Giovio that he had great hopes, which he would only reveal once he had accomplished them. (The "great hopes" of a cardinal who was already vice-chancellor, or second-in-command, of the church at the time of this impresa's invention cannot be hard to imagine.)

Of course there were many serious reasons for privacy in diplomatic matters, and no one needed to explain this to a family of condottiere and politicians who had already sustained both spectacular successes and deadly failures. If this frieze zone was essentially astrological, and signified both papal and dynastic expectations, as I believe to be the case, it would have been imprudent to make this message too obvious. Several contemporaries, not the least of whom was Alessandro's own grandfather, stressed the importance of disguising ambitions. It is clear from Paul III's advice to his grandson that he was not recommending the elimination of ambition, but rather its concealment. Those who seek the papacy - at least too openly never find it.(48)

As for the impression of meticulous care, it is apparent from this correspondence between Orsini and his patron that the cardinal was extremely particular about the decoration of this hall. It would seem impossible to assume, then, that the frieze was out of order because no one cared. The cardinal's approval was necessary for every detail, and the strange order must have been very deliberately approved by him.(49)

Scholars have explained the frieze's strange order in various ways. Italo Faldi, Gerard Labrot, and Loren Partridge have suggested that each of the four walls had three constellations representing the seasons.(50) This is a possibility, since seasonal groupings of the zodiacal signs was a favorite motif in the Renaissance. But this particular grouping is not normal. Spring always begins astronomically when the Sun enters the first degree of Aries, and it continues through Taurus and Gemini; summer commences with the Sun at the first point of Cancer, and so on. These are not the groupings on the four walls. Also puzzling, even if one allowed for a slight shifting of the constellations within the seasons, is the fact that the sequence of the 'seasons' is all wrong. Spring is followed by winter, then summer, then fall.

Kristen Lippincott theorized that the frieze's lack of normal order highlighted three important signs in Alessandro Farnese's horoscope once one flipped his horoscope over.(51) The horoscope to which Lippincott drew attention was published by Francesco Giuntini in 1583. This is an interesting proposal, but probably wrong for the following reasons.

First, the horoscope which Lippincott flipped is not Alessandro Farnese's birth horoscope. The marginal tag identifies it as such, but if one reads the text and the accompanying horoscopic chart, a much different and intrinsically very interesting astrological story is told. In addition Lippincott thought the well-known and genuine birth horoscope of Alessandro Farnese which was published by Luca Gaurico in 1552, conflicted with the birth time given in the horoscope published by Giuntini in 1583. Since Gaurico thus also conflicted with her theory on the frieze, she dismissed him as unreliable.(52)

But there is no discrepancy between the dates and times of birth proposed by Francesco Giuntini and Luca Gaurico for the birth of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese. One should read Giuntini's Speculum astrologiae, 1573, a publication contemporaneous with the decoration of this hall. There Alessandro Farnese's birth is recorded as "7 octobris, 1520, 1:00 p.m." It only serves to corroborate the authenticity of Gaurico's "7 octobris, 1520 1:01 p.m."(53) The birth times are only one minute apart, and it is probable from Giuntini's context that he has rounded that minute off. The discrepancy of about four and a half hours that Lippincott pointed out is therefore actually between Giuntini (1573) and Giuntini (1583). Once one reads the text of the 1583 horoscope, it is clear why Giuntini came to adjust the facts.

Pier Luigi Farnese, father of the great Cardinal Alessandro, was a man who set no limits to his personal desires. He was a butcher, a profligate, and an occasionally competent administrator of his recently 'acquired' lands. He had many enemies, and his death was one of the more luridly spectacular in a culture that had no shortage of such. That death is described by many contemporaries. Few, however, gave the particulars of death and dismemberment with more wretched detail than Luca Gaurico. He did so in a separate horoscope on Pier Luigi in the section of his book devoted to natal horoscopes that predicted violent ends.(54) It is interesting that Gaurico, a favorite of Paul III and an astrologer, barely attempted to reflect on the astrological causes of Pier Luigi's death, so intent was he on joining in and kicking the corpse.(55)

Francesco Giuntini was more tasteful. A decade after this room was frescoed, he included Cardinal Alessandro Farnese's horoscope among several to illustrate a teaching point. Giuntini was explaining the brilliance of Ptolemy in his Tetrabiblos, book 3, chapter 4 - that the fates of fathers can be predicted from the natal horoscopes of their sons. To illustrate Ptolemy's point, he used a few famous instances. He was, as we have seen, aware of Alessandro's birth time and date which he had published earlier, but that time did not suit his exegesis of Ptolemy. In Alessandro's natal horoscope, the important planets Saturn, Mars, and the Sun, which as he was about to explain foretold Pier Luigi's death, were not in the proper houses that would predict such a finale.(56) Therefore he 'rectified' the cardinal's horoscope, changing the birth time to approximately sundown. Once rectified, the chart 'proved' Giuntini's lesson on Ptolemy. By moving the birth time several hours later, the Sun, representing the person of the Father according to Ptolemy, was now setting in the west or the seventh house, and was in harmful aspect to both of the malevolent planets Saturn and Mars. Worse yet, Mars was located in the "pars patris." Insidious deeds and a violent death followed. So ran Giuntini's commentary on Ptolemy, thanks to the now rectified horoscope of Alessandro. Pier Luigi's murder, dismemberment and degradation were only to be expected.

One understands the astrologer Giuntini's admiration for Ptolemy and his desire to illustrate Ptolemy's genius through contemporary examples. He was doubtless delighted, as any teacher of scientific proofs would be, to find that such a minor rectification produced such indisputable pedagogic results. But it is hard to believe that the richest and most powerful Renaissance cardinal, a man obsessed with his family's position, would have wanted to immortalize in fresco a rectified horoscope whose sole purpose was to demonstrate that the infamous murder of his father was due to his own ill-omened birth. The cardinal does not seem to have had such a Freudian inclination.

However there is other evidence that this rectified horoscope has nothing to do with this room. At some point Lippincott confused the orientation of the room when she speculated that Aries ascending in the rectified horoscope was the cardinal's rising sign, and thus was found in the east of the room. But Aries is actually frescoed over the western doorway, just as Capricorn - which she shows at the Medium Coeli or south line of his chart - is frescoed in the central panel of the northern wall.(57) For these reasons among others, it does not seem possible that this frieze spoke to Renaissance people in the way Lippincott proposed. One would nevertheless like to know what it meant to the patron and to contemporary visitors to this room.


The deliberate dis-ordering of the frieze and the visual emphases of centering and framing do focus the viewer on two principle panels: Capricorn, centered on the long northern wall above the entrance door and flanked by ancient astronomers, and Libra, in the prime position centered across from that door, and also flanked by two ancient astronomers. One might also look into Aries, enlarged and centered over the door on the western wall, and Gemini, enlarged and centered on the eastern wall. We will see that the two signs centered on the two main walls were critical points in the cardinal's horoscope, while the two signs centered on the shorter end walls seem to have been critical for the Farnese family.

Luca Gaurico's published birth horoscope of Cardinal Alessandro, familiar for its implications on the planet Jupiter and Phaeton, again makes a suggestive comparison with the two central panels of the two main walls, Capricorn and Libra. Considering Capricorn first, it should be noted that its image is also featured in other decorative elements in this palace. Look, for example, to the vault of the Anticamera del Concilio [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 7 OMITTED]. Circling the central vault panel are eight cameo-like images, white against a blue ground. Seven of the eight are well-known familial and personal imprese described in Caro's letter, and the eighth, in one of the two prime positions to be seen while looking at the central fresco, is Capricorn.

If we look again at Cardinal Alessandro's natal horoscope published by Gaurico, it is apparent that Capricorn was his rising sign at birth. While we may not know precisely what was most important to the cardinal in regard to his Ascendant in 1573, it was in many ways the most important point in every chart. All other houses were determined from it, and it established many essential features of the newborn.(58) For this reason Renaissance princes and princesses often drew attention to their rising signs.(59)

In addition, the planet Saturn, which is found in Capricorn in the cardinal's first house, was also the Lord of this house and particularly potent in Capricorn.(60) While generally the most powerful of the malevolent planets, properly positioned, Saturn's power for evil could be turned to strengths relating to riches in land, buildings, and navigation. It also promised a long life. Further, since Cardinal Alessandro seems to have valued references to the name Caprarola, Capricorn - coupled with Saturn's power in land holdings - may have been seen as propitious in regard to the cardinal's development of this estate.(61)

There is also the possibility that Saturn had an especially important relationship with the extra-zodiacal constellation of the Eagle, Jupiter's bird. We have seen that the constellation Eagle was picked out with stars in the fresco of the cardinal's Jupiter at Bagnaia, and that the Eagle had additional prominence in the centered Libra panel in this hall across from this fresco of Capricorn [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 8 OMITTED]. Astrologers would have found it particularly interesting that Saturn's position at Alessandro's birth was at the same longitude as the stars of Eagle.(62) Gaurico shows Saturn at twenty-six degrees fifty-two minutes of Capricorn, and Eagle's brightest stars duster from twenty four to twenty seven degrees of Capricorn. Eagle's brightest star Altair promised greatness, and the constellation had the nature of Jupiter and Mars. The constellation Eagle was thus particularly associated with rulership and military dominance. More to the point, Giuntini claimed that the Eagle joined to the Ascending house (as it was here with Alessandro's Ascendant) gave the papacy to two Renaissance popes.(63) Saturn, Lord of the Ascendant and joined by favorable aspect with the Eagle in Capricorn, was probably seen as very propitious in increasing the original powers and promise of the planet Jupiter.(64)

Directly across the room from Capricorn, Libra is the centered painting opposite the main entry. This was the most prestigious decorative position in Renaissance cycles, and Libra's pictorialization idiosyncratically focuses attention on the Eagle snatching the Scales and flying upward [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 8 OMITTED]. Looking again to the cardinal's published birth chart [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 6 OMITTED], one sees that Libra was a critical sign in it. It held two of the most important planets, the Sun and Venus. Gaurico tells us that the Sun had saved the cardinal's life, and that this luminary had been particularly enhanced by Venus, who is extremely strong, being here found in her "domicile," Libra.

Just as important as its planets, Libra fell in the cardinal's ninth house, which was the house that predicted one's religious life, clerical relations and church benefices.(65) The Sun, always a planet of regal importance, had its "delight" in the ninth house and was associated with kings, popes, and princes. This decoration was planned and executed at a time when Cardinal Alessandro was widely considered "papabile," and clearly hoped to follow in the footsteps of his namesake and grandfather, and to assume the papacy. If

there was a chance for that, it was almost certainly to be found in the ninth house, known since Ptolemy's time as the House of God, and here radiant with the Sun.

The particular visualization of Libra, drawn from a passage in Suetonius, underlines this point on the prediction of Alessandro's divine rulership.(66) Jupiter's Eagle, seemingly unique in pictorializations of Libra, apparently serves a dual purpose. In the most obvious visual sense, the Eagle has snatched Libra and is rising up with it. The Eagle was an antique symbol of triumph, frequently discussed by Renaissance mythographers, and thus the 'apotheosis' of The Scales through the agency of Jupiter's Eagle must have been part of this visual understanding.(67) But in a more particular Italian Renaissance astrological sense, the constellation Eagle brings with it its military and political power, especially in achieving the papacy. As previously noted, other indications of this holy Farnese rulership are found in the vault constellations where the Altar, the Ship and the Crown are emblazoned with Farnese lilies. These frescoes thus seem to coincide with the suggestion frequently expressed by the Farnese poets on the suitability of this office for Alessandro, and on his divine ordination to govern. These visual embodiments of the verbal idea, while obscure to us, were probably not so recondite in a courtly culture where astrological images were common.(68)

The frieze segments of the two short end walls may simply have been given the six remaining zodiacal signs, after the cardinal's Capricorn and Libra had been prominently centered on the two long walls and framed by the four ancient astronomers. But Aries and Gemini, the two centered signs, were important for the Farnese family, and contemporary astrologers spent a great deal of time studying the intersections in family horoscopes.(69) Lippincott felt that the poet Orsi had written of Aries as the point from which Fate had spun out the Farnese glory because he was alluding to Aries as the cardinal's Ascendant, but this was in studying the wrong horoscope. However if one looks to the Farnese family horoscopes published by Gaurico, there is a fascinating string of coincidences in Aries.(70) This point in Aries seems to account for the great flash of light and the corona at Phaeton's feet which are frescoed in the vault. The first magnitude star Acarnar, suggested by the flash, had a longitude of approximately twenty one degrees Aries, and its astrological "orb of influence" extended from approximately thirteen to twenty eight degrees of the Ram.(71) In Pope Paul III's chart, twenty three degrees of Aries was the location of his important Lot of Fortune. His son Pier Luigi, father of the cardinal, had his Lot of Fortune at twenty-one degrees Aries, and Aries was also Pier Luigi's Ascending sign. Furthermore, Pier Luigi's son Ottavio (who was responsible for the paternity of the Farnese dynasty once Alessandro had been placed in the Church), also had Aries as his Ascending sign. It is hard to imagine that contemporary astrologers would have overlooked such a series. This unusual string of coincidences in Aries probably explains Orsi's enthusiasm for the sign, and suggests why he felt the Farnese glory had been spun out from it. In addition, Aries's ruler was the planet Mars, not insignificant for a family which had risen to power as condottiere, and continued to think of "bellique, togaeque" as something of a family advertizement.(72)

The centered Gemini is similarly interesting in terms of family. The Gemini panel shows two chubby babes with the horses of Neptune, an obvious reference to the constellation of Gemini as Castor and Pollux [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 9 OMITTED]. But the constellation has oddly been taken out of its correct internal order (this is the wall numbered 5-3-4), enlarged, and centered for the viewer when one comes into the hall from the other doorway on the west [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 2 OMITTED].

The Farnese family was exceedingly fond of twins. In the works of the family poets, there were many allusions to twinning. When Cardinal Alessandro and his brother Ottavio went to war in Germany they were referred to as the "twin" nepotes. When Cardinal Alessandro died, his "twin" nephew, the young and famous Alessandro, was still on earth to continue the "twin" honor.(73) But most important, the Farnese dynasty literally depended on twins. When Margarita of Austria and Ottavio Farnese had twin sons, the family finally attained a real dynastic status. The first born of these twins was to become the great military hero, Alessandro Farnese, the second was Carlo. Each was named after a grandfather, Pope Paul (Alessandro) Farnese, and the Emperor Charles V. But Carlo, whom the careful astrologer Gaurico was at pains to tell us was "secundo genitus, et primo conceptus," died at an early age, while the first born, Alessandro, lived on to become a remarkable figure in European politics.(74)

If we look at Farnese letters, it seems probable that the unusual dislocation and centering of the Gemini panel was meant to remind (at least) insiders of these twins. A letter of Annibal Caro is relevant here. Caro, in answering a request of Madama Margarita, had prepared two imprese for her surviving twin Alessandro. This letter of 1557 was circulated at least within the Farnese family, and it will be shown from poetic evidence that Farnese courtiers many years later still clearly understood the reference.(75) The first impresa which Caro proposed in his letter was a derivative of his uncle Cardinal Alessandro Farnese's Pegasus, and happily it played on the name of his maternal uncle, Philip II of Spain, as well. Caro suggested that this impresa would therefore be appropriate for the young Alessandro to carry in public matters.

The second impresa, which Caro wrote should be used "ne le cose sue private," was that of an egg from which two stars emerge. He had chosen these two stars of twin birth for Alessandro because he and his twin Carlo, "of happy memory," were like Castor and Pollux. Caro drew out the analogy of the births, paralleling the inheritance of the mortal Tindarus and the divine Jupiter with the Emperor Charles and the Pope Alessandro. The living star and the star already immortal in heaven should be considered to shine on each other and reinforce each other, just as Castor and Pollux had. Caro's motto, "Ortu Digna," was chosen, he explained, since from such noble birth one would find a place among the stars, and while on earth would aid both the men of the land and the men of the sea. (Compare the fresco, [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 9 OMITTED], where the Twins in the foreground are busy on land while ships in the background set sail.)

Twenty years later, when this decoration was being created, the living twin, Alessandro, had already distinguished himself in naval and land combat, and was one of the most respected members of the Spanish court and certainly the greatest scion of any Italian family. On this third Alessandro now rested the Farnese future on earth. For the family, Carlo, who had been baptized by Ignatius of Loyola, was already in heaven and reinforcing his brother's good works, as Caro suggested.

There is supporting evidence for the hypothesis that the Gemini panel had a special and "private" Farnese meaning and had been deliberately displaced and centered for that reason, again in the poem by Aurelio Orsi describing this frieze.(76) Writing in the late 1580s, Orsi described this painting about thirty years after Caro wrote his letter on the young Alessandro's imprese. But Orsi sounds like he was copying Caro's letter rather than describing this picture. He rhapsodized over the twins born from Leda's one egg, both of one heart and one love which death could not separate. If we look at the fresco which Orsi was describing, Leda and her egg are not there [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 9 OMITTED]. But they may have been in the minds of the Farnese famiglia, thanks to Caro's private impresa designed for the young twin Alessandro. At least we can see that while Orsi was "describing" this frieze's Gemini fresco, he did so with the images of that private impresa, not with those of the painting.

A second and more general family interest may also have been behind Gemini's prominence. While pope, Paul had given important land holdings to his family to insure their dynastic future. One of these land gifts, that of the duchy of Parma and Piacenza, was about to be lost upon the murder of Pier Luigi. Cardinal Alessandro and Ottavio decided to fight to save what they considered their patrimony. The Farnese impresa invented by Caro to celebrate their victory featured the Ship of the Argonauts, two of whom were Castor and Pollux.(77) The impresa is prominently featured in the corner of the frieze near Gemini. Looking to the popular handbook of Hyginus mentioned by Fulvio Orsini, one reads that the constellation Gemini was created to honor the twin brothers Castor and Pollux who had demonstrated such love and loyalty for each other that they carried out all deeds with common counsel and united purpose - for this Jupiter raised them to the skies.(78) It was, of course, for the young Duke Alessandro and his progeny that the "twin" nepotes, Cardinal Alessandro and his brother Ottavio, knew Parma and Piacenza had to be preserved. On one level then, the frescoed infants Castor and Pollux in this Gemini panel may have referred to the twin children Alessandro and Carlo. But Gemini was also a talisman of fraternal strength which could be seen along inter-generational lines.

Cardinal Alessandro highlighted family ties throughout the fresco cycles in the other rooms of his villa, for in the family lay his own power and hope. If Aries and Gemini were centered in tribute to his gens, one can see why the frieze could not be painted in the normal order. Capricorn and Libra, the two most important signs to him personally, were featured on the main walls, centered, framed by monumental figures, and flanked by the zodiacal signs which flank them in the sky. Once that was done, it was still possible to flank Aries, the sign centered over the western doorway and the most important sign for the family's fortunes, with the signs that neighbored it in the sky. But although Gemini needed to be centered to give it prominence, it could no longer be bordered by the correct celestial signs. Leo and Cancer, the only two remaining of the twelve, were therefore frescoed on either side.

These suppositions on the four centered zodiacal signs suggest that the out-sized corner imprese of the frieze also had more than a strictly decorative role here. While the cardinal's imprese (lightning bolts, Argo, arrow in target, and Pegasus) are found throughout the frescoes of this villa, they are usually ornamentally repeated in borders or frames, and they are not described by contemporary visitors as they are in this roomy But here their large scale and elaborate framing make them hard to overlook, as they float in a transitional space between heaven and earth [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURES 2, 3 OMITTED]. The meanings of the imprese are well known, thanks to Annibal Caro's detailed letter describing them.(80) Three of the cardinal's four personal imprese reflected his competence during crisis, particularly military crises. The fourth, Pegasus, represented his learning and his patronage of the arts. Of the four personal imprese which belonged to the cardinal, one, the lightning bolts of Jupiter, had already been used with the Jupiter of the vault. Variety and novelty were important to this patron and his circle, and repetition of an image or concept within a cyde was avoided.(81) In order to fill the fourth corner, the principal Farnese family impresa, that of the Virgin with Unicorn was chosen. If the centered Aries and Gemini panels referred to important family hopes, then it is fitting that the primary family impresa was selected to complete the fourth corner of the frieze zone.


The maps of the walls are of rare beauty and have been well-studied by historians of geography for their sources, and for the accuracy of their information.(82) They were designed after the most up-to-date maps of the world, and included knowledge of northern Canada, Peru and Japan that had only just arrived in Europe. As with the vault and frieze, these maps bear witness to a great deal of attention to detail.

But apart from this concern with accurate information, it is worth considering why such a monumental wall decoration would have been chosen for a family castle out in the hinterlands.


At the simplest level these maps attest to the educated European's interest in learning.(83) One cannot look at the exquisite detail that went into them, and the careful attention to new place names in lands the cardinal and his courtiers would never see, without sensing the excitement in a new knowledge of the vastness of the earth.(84) Their wonderful particularity makes this enthusiasm palpable.

Some aspects of Renaissance education are less easily intuited, however. For example the relations drawn between astronomy and geography, and between astronomy and geography to astrology, were much different from our own. The maps of earth and heaven were seen as interrelated in the Renaissance. Geography was taught as a subset of astronomy, and the mapping of the coordinates of the earth derived from the mapping of the sky.(85) The same mathematical knowledge was used for both. Contemporaries often referred to this room as the Sala della Cosmografia, which suggests this inter-relationship of the terrestrial and celestial.(86) Astrologically the heavens and earth may also be related here, for according to astrological lore, "travel" fell to the cardinal's prominently featured ninth house occupied by Libra, and the planet Saturn's position in Alessandro's chart promised riches through navigation.(87)

We might suppose too that some of the cardinal's interest in geography was also part of a missionary impulse. His friend Giovio's discussions written at mid-century eulogized Columbus and Cortez for opening up the recently explored lands to Christianity.88 His grandfather had been particularly concerned with missionary work in Africa, Asia, and the Americas, and Paul 111, as well as Cardinal Alessandro and other family members, were special protectors of the Jesuit order.

In one of the few areas where family interests did not cloud his judgment, Pope Paul wrote papal bulls protecting the freedom and property of native peoples. He joined with Los Casas and others in believing the inhabitants of the Americas to be equal children of God. He condemned pressures to attain conversions in native populations and warned that good example and the message of Christ were sufficient, and the only means that could be used by people of conscience. Although the disobedient were to be excommunicated, the edicts were generally ignored.(89) As part of this same interest, the cardinal was kept informed on the missionary work of the Jesuits in China, Japan, and the Philippines, among other parts of the world, and he personally supported the ransom of Christian slaves from Africa.(90) Thus Alessandro can be expected to have had both a religious and diplomatic interest in such far off places.


But apart from these concerns, it seems to me there is another preoccupation inherent in the terrestrial maps. Their scale and placement in this major audience hall suggests the power of the villa owner and draws, I believe, on a tradition of maps in halls of government.

Juergen Schulz has studied this room within the tradition of Italian map cycles. Comparing it with contemporary examples, he felt that it, like the essentially coeval cosmographical room done for Cosimo de' Medici in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, showed a "secularized version of the medieval chain of being" (cf. figs. 2, 10).(91) But one might sort the contemporary tradition in a slightly different way and come to a different conclusion. Rather than equating this hall and Cosimo's room, one could argue that they impress a visitor differently and are conceptually somewhat divergent. A brief analysis of the contemporary tradition sets these differences in relief.

Cosimo de' Medici's room presents a more modest face to the world. It is explicitly part of the tradition of learning, and part of a type of decoration found in libraries and private studies. Cosimo's cosmography, begun in 1563, was designed and executed for his Guardaroba, a room where he housed his special treasures. It was described in detail by Vasari(.92) The fifty-seven cabinet doors of this treasure room were painted with fifty-three small maps of the countries of Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas. Twelve ceiling compartments were to have the forty-eight Ptolemaic constellations, and hinged central compartments could be opened so that terrestrial and celestial globes would descend. A great armillary sphere showing the workings of the heavens was to be in the center of the room. Beneath the cupboards were to be painted the flora and fauna native to each country, and over the cupboards were to be portraits of the countries' rulers. In addition, three hundred portraits of famous men were to hang above. Vasari related that the duke wished to have all this shown in his study, "per mettere insieme una volta queste cose del cielo e della terra giustissime e senza errori, eda poterie misurare e redere, eda paste e tutte insieme." As Schulz noted, Cosimo's room is less an atlas of the world than it is a room within the tradition of Renaissance studioli. I would add that one can see the terrestrial maps are small in scale [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 10 OMITTED] and that the inclination is encyclopedic, with flora, fauna, geography, biography, and cosmography all included and ordered.

While Cardinal Alessandro Farnese was decorating Caprarola's Cosmografia, his brother Ottavio sponsored a map decoration for the library of the Monastery of S. Giovanni Evangelista in Parma, which was painted in 1574-75.(93) This was again, as one might expect with a library decoration, well within Renaissance understandings of (salvation) history and geography, two concepts often linked in early cartography. The maps were collated with ancient and biblical heroes who lived in the countries portrayed. The kings of Israel, the ancestors of Christ, the Roman emperors, the popes - all were named, and history was brought gloriously up to date through the Battle of Lepanto in which the young Alessandro Farnese had participated. Again it is a decoration appropriate to a study or library, once more encyclopedic in intent.

Historians of geography have usually noted the decoration of the Vatican Palace, the "cosmografia" of Pope Pius IV begun in the early 1560s, as an inspiration to the cardinal for Caprarola.(94) Cardinal Farnese was a frequent guest at the Vatican and of course knew these frescoes well. Fulvio Orsini mentioned this decoration in his letters recommending a painter for Caprarola's hall. The decoration of the Vatican's Terza Loggia was monumental in scale, and showed all the maps of the known world. But in some essential ways, it was still part of the old mappaemundi tradition, the world and history under God.(95) The Vatican maps were combined with histories, and the whole was set within a religious context in the vault, frieze, and sode zones. Meditations on time, the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Trinity, the communion of saints, and the Last Judgment were part of the decoration.(96)

In some ways Caprarola is similar to these map decorations. But it seems that its message is not essentially studious, and while it has elements of religion, it is not obviously religious. Its visualization and impact come, I believe, from the tradition of wall maps displayed in Renaissance halls of government.

The Ducal Palace of Venice, a city with navigational hopes to rule the world, also had a cinquecento map decoration. These Venetian maps do not seem to have had either religious or encyclopedic interests behind their creation and placement. They were apparently meant to impress visitors with the city's power and outreach, and Venetian explorers were featured. Several other Italian city government halls in Siena, Perugia, Florence, and Vicenza also had monumental wall maps displaying their territories. The message in all of these halls of government was one of rule over lands.(97)

Thus although Schulz sees the Medici and Farnese room decorations as similar in the ordering of the medieval chain of being, I am more struck by their differences. Caprarola's Cosmografia is neither encyclopedic in intent, nor is it decorating a room for private study or the enjoyment of precious objects. The Farnese Sala was the principal audience hall of the western piano nobile, and was planned and used for state occasions such as the papal visit of Gregory XIII.(98) The enormous wall maps were surmounted by the cardinal's large framed imprese, and the zodiacal signs of the frieze seem to suggest his papal and dynastic hopes. The heavens were ruled by Alessandro's Jupiter, striking Phaeton with a flash of light that brings forth a glowing crown. While Schulz sees a religious undertone in the Cosmografia,99 if this hall shows the medieval chain of being, then I think one would need to argue that the Creator has been replaced by Jupiter, and Jupiter here has some fairly personal references. It seems that the only sixteenthcentury Italian wall maps of similar scale and topographical format are found in government palaces where there was a claim over the territories. Caprarola's Cosmografia seems to have been visually planned as an audience hall for a head of state, and a head of state who has muted the concepts of universal knowledge and salvation history. This seems to me more a display of world rule, although probably understood as a primarily spiritual dominion.(100)


The echoing repetition and amplification of information in Farnese letters, poems and horoscopes suggests that the extended famiglia of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese understood more in the vault's Jupiter and Phaeton, and in the frieze's Capricorn and Libra, Aries and Gemini, than we. This is not surprising for the position of astrology has been dramatically inverted in the last four hundred years. Once the province of the greatest Renaissance scientists from Regiomontanus to Kepler, and penetrating to some degree all levels of the social order, it is now a fusty oddity. But that Pope Paul followed astrological advice so closely was entirely consonant with the fact that he had one of the finest humanist educations of any Renaissance pontiff. His grandson was trained in the same milieu.

Yet I doubt that a humanist education was necessary to understand the basic ideas of this decoration. Even the greenest courtier or humblest visitor coming to Caprarola for the first time would have understood the basic point of this hall. The family's power and its history would have been familiar to all. One did not enter a court setting ignorant of such information. Gerard Labrot has demonstrated how the Farnese employment of this spectacular hillside site, its architecture, and the general nature of the palace decoration were calculated to overwhelm the visitor.(101) The main entrance into this room was from the central court where the busts of the twelve Caesars presided. This was company in which the cardinal felt at home.

Thus on entering this hall, one was already prepared to understand its implications. A sense of the cardinal's ambitions must have been felt through the sheer scale of the maps on these walls. Looking up, the visitor would have seen the cardinal's out-sized imprese dominating the earthly realm and connecting it to the heavenly. From oral tradition, whether here or at Bagnaia, the newcomer could have gleaned that the great Jupiter hurling his thunderbolts, was not a reference to the Creator, but rather to the cardinal himself. Add to this that Jupiter was a familiar epithet for the pope, and the images of this room must therefore have at least subliminally related the same hopes that were expressed in words by the family poets: it was the patron's destiny to govern.

But many courtiers probably knew even of the cardinal's horoscopes. These were a matter of printed record, and the fact that three famous contemporary astrologers analyzed and published them would suggest that their content was of interest to many. The prognostications for a cardinal's future in this culture probably generated a similar interest to predictions on presidential front-runners in our own, and for some of the same reasons. Powerful cardinals brought money and jobs to their extended families and to their regions. If a cardinal achieved the papacy, his potential to extend wealth to his friends and dependents was exponentially increased. Thus I suspect the general portents of the cardinal's Capricorn and Libra, as well as his Jupiter, were known by quite a few.

Many Renaissance popes and cardinals understood spiritual leadership in a political way. Partly because of the humanist love of ancient Rome and of its splendor, many seem closer in spirit to Roman Emperors than to the central person of the Gospels.(102) Paul III Farnese was a cardinal for almost thirty years before he ever became a priest, and made some attempt to conform his personal life to his priestly duties. As pope, he was a politician who frequently seems to have understood himself first as the earthly protector of his family, then of the Papal States, and finally of much of Italy against foreign invaders. But he also seems to have thought of himself as a spiritual leader of the known world, and in that capacity he was interested in the Church's theological role around the globe.

The second Cardinal Alessandro had an uncanny tendency to emulate the first. Like his grandfather before him, he was primarily a political person, and only in his very later years showed an interest in what a modern person would recognize as spiritual leadership. Like his grandfather, he was a cardinal for thirty years before he ever took priestly vows. Even then, his initial notion of spirituality seems to have inclined more to institutional building of a charitable sort, rather than toward devotion or prayer. Like his grandfather, he also became the special cardinal protector of the Jesuit missionary order. The first Cardinal Alessandro was sixty-six years old when he was finally elected pope. The second Cardinal Alessandro made no secret of the fact that he wanted to be pope, and was considered a serious candidate in the elections of 1566, 1572, and 1585. Perhaps it was only coincidence or fatigue, but the second Cardinal Alessandro seems to have given up that hope around the time of his own sixty-sixth birthday in 1586. The poet Gambara still proclaimed the desirability of the papacy for him. But the cardinal seems to have become less interested in that quest. He spent his remaining few years in semi-retirement, markedly increasing his already substantial charitable gifts.(103) But the decoration of the Sala della Cosmografia dates from a different era. It was painted in the early 1570s at a time when Cardinal Alessandro Farnese most clearly expected to be pope.

Comparing the Sala della Cosmografia to the two other major halls of the piano nobile, the Sala dei Fasti Farnese and the Sala d'Ercole, is informative. In contrast to their bombastic and self-serving family histories and mythologies, and their often clumsy pictorializations, this hall was beautifully painted and managed to look serenely disinterested, classically impersonal. But its essential meaning was not so different. The matching audience hall of the eastern side of this palace, the Sala dei Fasti Farnese, has an interesting allegorical figure in a central vault panel. A female figure embraces a terrestrial globe at her side and holds a celestial globe aloft [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 11 OMITTED]. Vasari vaguely identified this figure as Peace, but other visitors thought it represented Sovreignty or "Dominatio."(104) This figure is adjacent to the Farnese arms and surrounded by pictures trumpeting the family history of war and politics. Perhaps Vasari, consciously or unconsciously, was reporting a Farnese understanding of how peace could be attained. Holding the orb of the world was an antique symbol of rulership. Perhaps because the cardinal was by office a religious man, he suggested through this figure that his rulership touched both celestial and terrestrial matters. A similar concept underlies the Cosmografia. From Jupiter on high, to the maps of the world around the walls, and with the frieze zone in between, the message was really the same. Although his "great hopes" were never realized, this hall was decorated for a cardinal who saw his rulership ordained from above, and circling the globe.


This article is dedicated to Ernst Gombrich, who first interested me in astronomical and astrological cycles. I would like to thank Jozef IJsewijn, Charles Cohen, John O'Malley, John North, and Bruce Stephenson for their many valuable suggestions. My thanks to Greg Reynolds for his diagram of the room. The present study was accepted in June of 1995; in September of that year Partridge, 1995, published a detailed analysis of this cycle, complete with many excellent photographs. His interpretation is very different from my own. Nevertheless, Professor Partridge and I draw a similar general conclusion, that this decoration was an expression of Cardinal Alessandro's desire for papal power.

1 Robertson, 292, doc. 20, Paul III's 'Ricordi' to Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, 1546-49.

2 Among contemporaries are Vasari, 7:107-30; Caro, 3:13140, 143-47; Orsini in Ronchini and Poggi, 53-56; Boselli, 162-63; Arditio, 366-87; Montaigne, 412; Orsi in Baumgart, 77-179; Gambara, 163-211. Partridge published much new archival material in his Art Bulletin series, see immediately below. This list, while not exhaustive, suggests the degree of contemporary interest generated by the decoration of the palace. Other sources will be discussed in the text. For useful recent studies of the whole, see Faldi, 1962; idem, 1981; Labrot; Partridge, 1971; idem, 1972; idem, 1978; idem et al., 1988; idem, 1995; Coffin, 281-311; and Robertson, 76-124.

3 The villa is pentagonal and this room is not oriented to the four compass points. "North," "south," "east," and "west" are used in this study because most scholars have identified the walls in this way. The same four walls are also occasionally referred to as the northeastern, southwestern, southeastern, and northwestern walls.

4 Hess, 1967, 406-09; Warner, 336-37; and Lippincott, 196-207, are interested in the astronomy and astrology. For the specific reading problems in Lippincott's study, and for her misunderstanding of the orientation, see text below.

5 Almagia, 1919; idem, 1952; idem, 1956; Kish, 1953; idem, 1954; Koch; and Schulz.

6 Warner, 336-37, pointed out that the addition of the constellation Antinous suggests that the map of Francesco Dumongenet was the source behind Caprarola's.

7 Hess, 1967, 407-09. Warner, 337. See n. 33 below for the derivative.

8 Warner, 337, n. 3, the latter primarily of interest for the related Vatican vault.

9 Lippincott, 197-98.

10 Vasari, 7:108, 110.

11 The inventories are published in Robertson, 298-99, 315-16. There is also the letter written by Fulvio Orsini to the cardinal on 7 October 1586, encouraging him to acquire a special antique. It was a great cameo depicting "Alexander, and Jupiter Ammon, the father of Alexander," see Orsini in Ronchini and Poggi, 64, 89-98. Although Orsini does not state it, 7 October was the cardinal's birthday, his sixty-sixth. Such an image of Alessandro and Jupiter would certainly have made an excellent gift.

12 Gaurico, 36-37. See Pastor, 11:38-39 and n. 4, for Paul III's relations with Gaurico.

13 The tenth house was extremely important astrologically. In antiquity it was often considered of equal or greater importance to the first house, or Ascendant, see Bouche-Ledercq, 271-72.

14 The process to create Alessandro as a cardinal seems to have taken a couple of days beginning on the eighteenth of December. Cf. Eubel, 3:23, n. 1. Gaurico gives the date as 21 December "vel circiter." See also Pastor, 11:138-39.

15 Cardano, 494-95, for Cardinal Alessandro's horoscope. Cardano refers to Gaurico's text in this work. He either used Gaurico's horoscope, or one constructed with the same methods.

16 While six days multiplied by the sixty minutes of a degree gave 360, or the approximate number of days in one year, some astrologers allotted five minutes of one degree for each month of the client's life, amounting to approximately the same thing.

17 Schoener, 29-31, 32v-33; Giuntini, 1573, 67 and 81; Lilly, 63, 669-70.

18 The positions which Gaurico lists for Jupiter and the cusp of the tenth house are twenty-three degrees thirty minutes of Scorpio, and nine degrees seventeen minutes of Scorpio, respectively. These are positions of longitude and the difference would have been fourteen degrees thirteen minutes. There were slight variations in the method for finding the difference, and a subtraction of right ascensions was favored by some. This would have given the same result of fourteen degrees/fourteen years, but depending on the way the calculation was done, the number of days would have varied slightly, see Bouche-Leclercq, 418-20. Without the exact reports of Paul III's astrologer(s), one cannot be sure of the exact day chosen, particularly because the proceedings were drawn out over a couple of days. Cf. n. 14 above. N.B. that Gaurico himself added "vel circiter" to his statement of 21 December. Many variables could alter the computed results from one astronomer to another. One can find slightly different positions for Jupiter, for example, depending on what set of tables the astronomer used. There were also slightly different ways to set the cusps of the house, though Gaurico, Cardano (who here copied Gaurico's source horoscope), and later Giuntini, seem to be using the house division of 'Regiomontanus', see North, 28-29, 43, 159.

19 See Pastor, 11:38-39. The pope used astrologers to determine the propitious time to enter into treaties, begin consistories, hold important audiences, set out on journeys, and apparently, even create cardinals.

20 For Alessandro's regrets see Robertson, 9.

21 Gaurico, 36, on Paul III's power, and 21, for the horoscope of Paul III, who is conflated here and elsewhere with Jupiter: "Tertius ex alto descendit Paulus Olympo,/Ut plus hic terras, Juppiter Astra regat./Paule hominum Pastor, patriae princepsque paterque/Qui merito in terris sceptra tonantis habes,/O tibi, quem Christus voluit sun sceptra tueri/Det laetos Petri concelebrare dies,/Astra nov[e]m novies quanquam foeliciter annos/Portendant, veluti dictat Apollo meus." See also the text below for Giovio's impresa and Caro's interpretation of it, both of which use Jupiter as a complimentary reference to the pope. For an example of Julius II as Jupiter see Palladius in Quinlan-McGrath, 1990, 125, lines 151-60.

22 Gaurico, an important Renaissance astrologer, acknowledged here and throughout his text, his belief in a common theme of astrology: the stars incline the newborn, but do not determine his destiny. Free will, and human actions, are always powerful and necessary components for the proper interaction of the child with creation. Here Gaurico suggests the power of Jupiter the pope to work with the influences of Jupiter the planet.

23 Giovio, 1556, 86. The creation of this impresa apparently occurred around 1546 when the cardinal was sent as legate into Germany, see Pastor, 12:222-29, 291-301.

24 Caro, 3:143-47.

25 Not all of the cardinal's original imprese were still used by him. For example the blank scroll with the motto "Votis subscribent fata secundis," seems to have been sufficiently down-played by this time, that Caro does not discuss it. See Giovio, 1556, 85-86; for imprese changing with the fortunes of the bearer see 87.

26 Lazzaro-Bruno provides an excellent study on the whole, including the family relations between the two men, and the sharing of artists. See 11243 for the date of Bagnaia's entrance loggia, and 113-21 for the iconography.

27 Ibid., 212-14, and Coffin, 347.

28 See text below on the Eagle of Jupiter's prominence in the fresco of Libra, and its stellar conjunction with Saturn in the cardinal's chart.

29 Gambara's fresco imitated the Scorpio panel at Caprarola. Cf. Coffin, pl. 226 with Faldi, 1981, pl. 239.

30 There has been confusion over the identity of the poet Aurelio Orsi/Ameto Orti; see Hess, 1966, 27-28; and Faldi, 1981, 28, for the orthography which seems to have made Aurelio Orsi into the second poet. See also Springhetti. For the stanza on the thunderbolts see Orsi in Baumgart, 96: "Quis tibi dat fulmen Farnesi? Tertius ille/Paulus, qui tetris par Iove numen habet./Cur dedit? ut fuerat mihi quae concessa potestas/A summo posset noscier esse polo./Quem premis hac? sontem. Quo pacto? ut Juppiter ultor./Cur ita? ne dirum regnet in orbe nefas./Utere: spectabit dum te sic terra tonantem/Non ullus superis inferet arma Gygas."

31 Another example of this familial ambition can be seen in the conclusion of the poem on Caprarola written by Gambara, 205. He also suggested the papacy for the cardinal. See too Robertson, 72, citing Zapperi.

32 Robertson, 161.

33 Phaeton seems to appear only here and in the related frescoed vault in the Vatican's Sala Bolognese; see Hess, 1967, pl. 49. The ceiling at the Vatican eliminated the obvious personal references to Cardinal Farnese such as the family's fleur-de-lis, and the cardinal's Jupiter. It also eliminated the flash of light at Phaeton's feet, see below n. 36 and text. Since Phaeton was a natural ornament for the otherwise blank sweep of the River Eridanus, and since it had a recognizable artistic model behind it, the Vatican painter seems to have found the image both esthetically valuable, and sufficiently free of obvious Farnese references to use in decorating an otherwise empty stretch of the probably later vault. There is some disagreement as to whether the Vatican or the Caprarola vault came first. Cf. Hess, 1967, 406 and 409; Kish, 1953, 53; Cornelli for the documents, esp. 153-61 and 186-90; Almagia, 1955, 34-36; Redig de Campos, 170-74. Partridge, 1995, 416 and 420, considers the Vatican vault to be a year later. The Vatican vault also appears to me to be derivative in style and content. But for the arguments of this paper the dating issue is not critical. Either the Farnese painter was inspired by the Vatican model and added specific family references, or the Vatican painter used the Farnese model and eliminated all specific family references.

34 See also Hyginus, g7 verso; Reisch, 7.1.29, and Capella, 8.851.

35 For the longitude and planetary nature of Acarnar see Schoener, "De compositione globi coelestis," 123v; or Giuntini, 1573, 260v. The fixed stars, like the planets, had 'orbs of influence' that extended the degrees of their important aspects. See for example Schoener, 32v, 34v-35r, who lists the orb for first magnitude stars as seven degrees thirty minutes and demonstrates the full extension by orb in the diagram. This meant that another horoscopic point was in conjunction by orb with Acarnar from thirteen degrees thirty minutes Aries to twenty-eight degrees thirty mintues Aries. We will see that the Farnese were very attached to this region of Aries. Some astrologers added the nature of Venus to that of Jupiter for Acarnar. Jupiter and Venus were the two beneficent planets of the heavens, and both played a special role in the cardinal's chart according to Luca Gaurico and Girolamo Cardano. See Gaurico, 36; Cardano, 494-95.

36 For the astrological importance of this longitude in Farnese family horoscopes see text below. The consideration of astrological influences which derived from the most important fixed stars was found in Ptolemy, 1.9, and was amplified many times over by medieval and Renaissance astrologers. See Cardano, 50-56, and passim for his use of individual fixed stars in interpretations of contemporary charts. Giuntini, 1573, dedicated a book to the subject, "De stellarum fixarum," particularly of interest because he outlined a history of the opinions on this point from Ptolemy to his own time.

37 Robertson, 38-39. They would also have been well known from prints after them such as those by Nicolas Beatrizet.

38 For a good bibliography on the Ship and the papacy see Partridge, 1995, 420, n. 18.

39 Partridge et al., 1988, 86-87. This text was specifically mentioned in a letter by Fulvio Orsini to the cardinal on the planning of this hall in 1573.

40 Lippincott, 205-07 and plates 15b-c, apparently believed that this frieze made a convincing match-up with a flipped version of Alessandro's horoscopic chart, and thus she showed that comparison in her plates. As noted below, she is not aware of the fact that she is comparing a 'rectified' horoscope made about a decade after the vault painting. But just as problematic, 204-05, she thinks the Aries scene indicates his Ascending house and is in the east of the room, when it is actually painted in the west; and she notes that Capricorn is in the north but refers to the north of the chart as the location of the tenth house and the Medium coeli. The tenth house and Medium coeli are always the south of the chart. Therefore her conclusions that his "Ascendant and Medium coeli appear respectively in the east and north," points she supports with the flipped horoscope in her plates, are not possible. Renaissance decorators did use the signs in the ordered mathematical way (see Quinlan-McGrath, 1984; idem, 1995) but such cannot be the case here.

41 See Partridge, 1995, 416 and n. 4; and especially his appendix 442-43, for his republication of the letters. Scholars have used these letters often, but almost exclusively for issues of dating and the attribution of hands.

42 See for example the contemporary courtier Arditio, 381, who used the word "compartimenti" specifically when describing the frieze.

43 Orazio is not specifically mentioned until the letter of 6 September.

44 It would not be unusual for an astrologer or astronomer to plan the geographical maps as well. Such was a practice of mapping since Ptolemy, because both depended on the same mathematical skills and the same celestial coordinates. What little we know of De' Marii indicates he probably had the requisite skills for both types of cartography, see Danti, 58. Mari's invention of a tool for perspectival drawing suggests a knowledge of the kind of mathematical projection necessary for coordinate mapping. Danti was himself an adept cartographer, see Vasari, 7:633. See also Koch, 210-12, reporting an early source that lists De' Marii as architect, mathernatician and perspectivist. But it does not seem clear that Giovanni Antonio Vanosino, often credited by scholars with the vault as well as the walls, was trusted with much. That he had to be carefully identified for the cardinal in two letters only days apart suggests that he was not well known to the art-loving cardinal, and probably far from famous in Roman art circles, this in spite of the fact that he had been painting in Roman workshops for over ten years. In addition he is being given designs to execute, not a show of confidence since, as we will see below, the designs themselves were produced by collating contemporary map prints. What creativity was left to Vanosino may have been restricted to proper scale on the wall surfaces, careful drafting, coloring, and lettering. For a summary of the various views on attribution see Partridge, 1995, 416-18.

45 For those who were the most devoted to astrology, even the making of astrological images had to be carefully timed. It is possible that the cardinal had previously 'elected' the time to begin the painting. Actions were astrologically selected for their initiation point according to the doctrine of 'elections'. The astrologer counseled when to set out on a trip, when to start a building, when to put on new clothes, even when to have one's hair or nails cut. For the (often disparaged) custom of making astrological images according to propitious timing see Reisch, 7.2.20; or for the broader history, Thorndike, 3:345, 418-9, 609, and 4:575-82. It appears also that the message to dispatch the artist was entrusted to an important courier, il Gambara. But it is also possible that Cardinal Alessandro simply didn't want an extra artist at Caprarola.

46 They should be read in the context of Orsini's correspondence with the cardinal, cited above in n. 2. Cf. especially the very similar tone of these letters to a letter of 9 July 1576, between Orsini and the cardinal, concerning an alchemical experiment in which the cardinal was particularly interested (Orsini in Ronchini and Poggi, 57). One finds the same furtive references to unspecified friends ("la persona solita l'amico ancora . . . la quale mi dice voler scrivere a V. S. Illustrissima et darne conto minutamente di quello che si fa").

47 For example, Giovio's well-known rule for the communicative power of imprese: neither so complex that only a sibyl could fathom the meaning, nor so transparent that any rustic would see it, Giovio, 1556, 6.

48 For the advice of Paul to Alessandro, see n. 1 above, only a tiny snip of which is quoted there. See also Giovio, 1556, 11-12, who pointed out the unfortunate example of Cardinal Riario. Riario had decorated his palace with an impresa displaying the rudder and stern of a ship with a motto which all understood to indicate that he planned to steer the Ship of St. Peter. According to Giovio this was widely interpreted as "m'e di bisogno esser Papa, e governare il mondo." Naturally this assured his failure.

49 See also n. 84 below.

50 Labrot, 66, 68-69; Faldi, 1981, 241; Partridge et al., 1988, 88; and Partridge, 1995, 434-37.

51 Lippincott, 204-06. The frieze has four central zodiacal panels, Aries, Capricorn, Gemini, and Libra. Although in theory she proposed that the four centered panels were critical, Gemini apparently did not fit, and was silently omitted from her discussion.

52 "As a caution, one should admit that more concrete information concerning Alessandro's birth - such as a baptismal record - has yet to be discovered. Experience teaches one, however, that given a choice between dates proposed by Giuntini and Gaurico, Giuntini is eminently preferable," Lippincott, 204, n. 97. It would be a mistake to discount either Gaurico or Giuntini as important Renaissance sources. For the later text see Giuntini, 1583, 1:174.

53 Giuntini, 1573, 303r; and Gaurico, 36. Cardano's horoscope of Cardinal Alessandro, published in 1554, also agrees with Gaurico's.

54 Gaurico, 108v-109.

55 Cf. Gaurico, 45, for his horoscope on Ferrante Gonzaga, the man primarily responsible for Pier Luigi's assasination, whom he praises. Then see 109, his detailed description of body parts hacked off, teeth crushed, and repeated references to Pier Luigi's stinking and filthy corpse. Cardano, 481-96, focused on the astrological portents of the event as they could be detected by inter-relations of the horoscopes of Paul III, Pier Luigi, his assassins, and his son.

56 It is interesting to compare Cardano's interpretation of Pier Luigi's planetary end from Alessandro's original birth chart with this of Giuntini's rectified chart. The comparison graphically illustrates how astrologers could, after the facts were known, call forth obscure rules to explain what had previously gone unnoticed.

57 Lippincott, 204-05, and pls. 15b-c. See also n. 40. In Cardinal Farnese's (rectified) horoscope, Giuntini showed Aries ascending in the east. In support of her theory that Aries was the cardinal's birth ascendant, Lippincott interpreted a stanza in the poem by Aurelio Orsi on Aries to show that the poet understood Aries as the cardinal's rising (eastern) sign. But apart from the fact that Aries is found over the door leading into the western rooms, see below for Orsi on Aries.

58 Schoener, 32v-33.

59 See several examples in Cox-Rearick, 173-74.

60 See Ptolemy, 4.2; Cardano, 292; Schoener, 29v-32; Giuntini, 1573, 26 and 81.

61 For the puns see Vasari, 7:108, who indicated that the "Capra" in the ground level "Hall of Jupiter" was an allusion to "Caprarola"; see also Arditio, 370, for the same point.

62 Schoener, 112, for the positions of Eagle's stars; see fig. 6 for the position of Saturn.

63 For the glorious predictions on the Eagle see Giuntini, 1573, 239, 239v, 246v. For more on the influence of the fixed stars see n. 36 above. The stars of Eagle had the nature of Jupiter and Mars, thus the associations with rule and military victory. See Ptolemy, 1.9; Cardano, 52; Schoener, 12v; and Mercator.

64 Saturn was a planet astrologically friendly with Jupiter, and Saturn and Jupiter had an additionally beneficial relationship (sextile) in Alessandro's birth chart. Having the nature of Mars, the Eagle would also have helped the family's power in war. See n. 72 below.

65 See Reisch, 7.2.11; Schoener, 32v, 33v, 53, 58v, 137; Giuntini, 1573, 49-50, 56v, 80v, 81v.

66 Lippincott, 203, indicated that this image of Libra is based on a prediction of rulership found in Suetonius. This is convincing, however her interpretation - that the cardinal wished to call attention to this passage in order to compare himself with Augustus's rule - seems to me again problematic. The passage was more likely appreciated by Cardinal Alessandro because, as Suetonius noted, the augury had first occurred to predict the rulership of Alexander the Great. Alexander the Great had already figured prominently in other Farnese decorative cycles because Pope Paul, the cardinal, and the young nephew and scion of the family were all named Alexander. In Suetonius, Alexander the Great was seen to have divine ordination, a point that would have been appreciated by these three Farnese Alexanders.

67 Lazzaro-Bruno, 117, quotes Gyraldi, Conti, Valeriano, and Cartari on the Eagle as the augury of victory for Jupiter.

68 Cox-Rearick, 159-61.

69 Cardano, 481-96

70 Gaurico, 21 (Paul III), 108v (Pier Luigi), 48 (Ottavio).

71 See n. 35 above for longitude and orb of influence.

72 The Villa Caprarola's other frescoes prosaically catalogue the family military exploits. The architecture itself originally followed a military plan, see Coffin, 28385, for the original concept of a pentagonal rocca. See Orsi, 1589, 2 if., where the obligatory run-down of the family warriors is recited. "De duobus Alexandris Farnesiis," 52, continues the theme. Should anyone forget, Garnbara, 177-79, repeats the deeds as he surveys Caprarola, and summarizes the family's importance "bellique, togaeque." These themes are also reiterated in the funeral orations at Cardinal Alessandro's death. See for examples, Coattini.

73 See Gambara, 177. Or see Orsi, 1589, 69, who uses language interestingly close to that in his poem on Caprarola discussing this particular Gemini panel: "Alter et in terris florebit, et alter Olympo:/Et geminus gemino ex Principe surget honos." For more on Orsi and the Gemini fresco see n.76 and text below.

74 Astrologers were always under attack when twins met different fates. The astrological belief in both a horoscope of conception and one of birth gave the astrologer a means of explaining how one twin could die early and the other could rase to great heights. Gaurico, 48, gives a fascinating example of a conception horoscope for the twins. From the information he relates, one can check that all of the planets he cited were in those positions on 15 November 1544, doubtless the supposed date of conception, cf. Tuckerman, 790. Contemporary handbooks deal with the principles of finding this date retroactively from the birth. The twins were born on 27 August 1545. One was baptized by Ignatius of Loyola two days later. This must have been Carlo, perhaps already seen to be ailing. A second and very elaborate Baptism was held for Alessandro on 3 November, the anniversary of Paul III's coronation. See Pastor, 11:358, n.2; 12:52, n. 1, and 233. It is not clear how early Carlo died. Gaurico tells us that he died in 1549. He would have been four years old. However Petrus Magnus, 20, noted many years later that Ottavio's son Carlo "paucis mensibus vixit." Gaurico, writing only a few years after the birth, and intimate with the detain of the horoscopes of the family, is probably more likely to have had the better information on Carlo's year of death.

75 See Caro, 2:250-52, for the letter regarding the request of Madama Margarita; and 3:146, for its transmission to Vittoria Farnese.

76 Orsi in Baumgart, 131, described the fresco "Gemini": "Quos simul eduxit, quos ovo exclusit ab uno/Laeda parens Geminos una alitura Jovi./In Geminis cor unum, aut uno in corde Gemelli,/Et geminus Geminis ingeminatur amor./Ne quoque Mors Geminos disiungeret, una Gemellos/Alterna redimit Mors geminata vice."

77 Caro, 3:145.

78 Hyginus, c2.

79 Arditio, 381.

80 See Caro, 3:143-47.

81 See Robertson, 123, 157, 241, 242, and esp. 218.

82 See n. 5 above for the geographical studies, especially Kish, 1953, and Koch, 213-19. The designer of these wall maps collated the best cartographic information from the recently printed maps of Gastaldi, Forlani, and others. Kish has shown that Forlani's map of 1574 was used for the Americas, including new information on Alaska and the Hudson Bay. The fresco of Europe has the date 1574 painted in its frame.

83 See Schulz, 97 and 117. The early Renaissance ideal for the palace of a cardinal included a display of the world and its regions for "edification and learned enjoyment," as Schulz noted, citing the treatise of Paolo Cortesi.

84 In addition to the great interest in place names, the cardinal clearly wanted to get all the other details right. He instructed Fulvio Orsini to research the lives of the navigators Marco Polo, Columbus, Vespucci, Magellan, and Cortez, in order to devise inscriptions for their portraits which were frescoed above the maps of the world, see Partridge, 1995, 443, letter 5.

85 For a typical example of such instruction see Reisch, 7.1.44.

86 To understand the fuller meaning of cosmography, one might look to a popular text like Apian, part 1, chap. 1. Cosmography, as he distinguished it from geography, concerned the sun, moon and the planets, the four cardines of the world, the motion, rising, and setting of the fixed stars, the poles, meridians and parallels, and the earth which is subject to these. All was understood as mathematically interrelated. "Mlappamondo" is less frequently found in contemporary notices on this hall. The word in medieval usage carried with it a religious understanding - the whole world ruled by God. See Harley and Woodward, 283-370.

87 See n. 60 and n. 65 above. The wealth of the world is displayed by the females personifying Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas, which surround the world map of the eastern wall. The two females representing Judea and Italy on the western wall indicate the two countries most important to a Renaissance cardinal or pope. For a catalogue of goods displayed see the contemporary description by Arditio, 381.

88 The portraits of the navigators in this hall were based on Giovio's. Giovio, 1577, h2v, p2. For the portraits see Kish, 1954.

89 Pastor, 12:17, 33-35, 39, 40, 4243, 52 n.1, 70, 113-18, 513-19; O'Malley, 190-91.

90 Orbaan, 78, 85-86, 91, 100, 102, 107-08.

91 See Schulz for an excellent general study of the Renaissance tradition, esp. 99-101, 118.

92 Vasari, 7:633-36.

93 Schulz, 119-20.

94 See the geographical bibliography in n. 5 above, where this is a point of consensus.

95 See n. 86.

96 Schulz, 101, 107-08.

97 Ibid, 118, 120-22.

98 Arditio, 387.

99 Schulz, 101. As evidence of the religious theme, he cited the pairing of the Holy land maps of Judea and Italy, and the 'prophets' (more likely astronomers as other scholars have noted) that flank Libra and Capricorn.

100 Kish, 1953, 52, also felt the display of power in this decoration.

101 Labrot, 9-23.

102 The testimonies at the death of the cardinal do, however, highlight his unusual generosity to the needy. As a patriarch in the ancient Italian sense, he supported an enormous extended family.

103 Pastor, 21:241-42.

104 Vasari, 7:110. His description of this vault does not precisely match the paintings. See also Partridge, 1978, 498; and Faldi, 1981, 262.


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