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Mothers and Sons: Two Paintings for San Bonaventura in Early Modern Rome.

Portia dell'Anguillara Cesi and Margherita della Somaglia Peretti were both wealthy heiresses in late sixteenth-century Rome, and each was the patron of a fine altarpiece for the Capuchin church of San Bonaventura. Although women were widely recognized as patrons in the period, the patronage of these two paintings, which show the Virgin, saints, and the portrait of a young boy, has always been assigned to their husbands, Paolo Emilio Cesi and Michele Peretti, because the works have been related to the patrilinear, agnatic image of the early modern family, i.e., fathers and sons. Instead, the works express a bilinear, cognatic image of the family, indicating legal, economic, and affective ties between mothers and sons. Portia dell' Anguillara's will of 1587 further elucidates aspects of the bilinear family structure.

The commissioning of art and architecture has long been understood as a legitimate means for patrons to make public statements. Patronage is an outward expression of ideas, motives, taste, and wealth, and women have been as adept as men in using art as their public voice in a long tradition of matron as patron which can be documented from the Hellenistic era to early modern Eurpoe. [1] Nowhere can this tradition be seen more clearly than in early modern Rome, where both secular and religious women used their own wealth to commission art and architecture to communicate their ideas about family and religion. [2] Their patronage was neither surprising nor exceptional to their contemporaries who recorded it in a variety of printed works and painted images, and saw it as part of a continuum which stretched back to women in the early Christian church in Rome. [3] In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Rome was a city in which women patrons flourished and were widely recognized.

In spite of this favorable patronage ambience, two women did not receive their proper recognition for two large altarpieces which once hung in the Capuchin church of San Bonaventura in Rome (figs. 1, 2). [4] An investigation into the reasons for this peculiar blackout will tell us something about the discrepancy between Renaissance rhetoric about the role of women in the family and the actual legal and economic status available to women in early modern Rome. Furthermore, it will allow us to recover the voice of two women who wished to speak, via patronage, about inheritance and the relationship of mother and son.

Tracing the patronage of the two paintings is complicated by the fact that they are no longer in their intended location, the modest Capuchin church of San Bonaventura, located between Palazzo Colonna and the Trevi Fountain, which was given to the newly-founded and highly reformed order in 1536 by two Colonna women (fig. 3). When the Capuchins abandoned San Bonaventura in 1631 and took up residence in their new church, SS. Concezione near Piazza Barberini, all their paintings were also moved. The Immaculate Conception (fig. 1), painted by Scipione Pulzone in the early 1580s, was sent to its present location in the Capuchin church of San Francesco in Ronciglione (fig. 4), and the Madonna in Glory (fig. 2), by Terenzio d'Urbino, dating from the first decade of the seventeenth century; was placed by the Capuchins over the altar in their new retrochoir at SS. Concezione, where it still resides. [5]

Fortunately, the two paintings are still in their fine original frames which exhibit the patrons' coats of arms in the lower left and right corners, closest to the altar tables (figs. 5, 6). Each is the stem ma of a married woman, an impaled coat of arms, or scudo accollato, that is, a coat of arms split lengthwise, with the arms of the woman's father to the left (sinister), and of her husband to the right (dexter). The scudo accollato, which became popular in the fifteenth century, is the best heraldic expression of the married state of a woman. [6]

The arms on the altarpiece of the Immaculate Conception (fig. 5) belong to Portia dell'Anguillara, Duchess of Cere, a great heiress and the last of her father's line of the Orsini of Anguillara, whose stemma consisted of crossed eels or anguille, shown on the left half of the arms. [7] Because there were no male heirs to inherit from her father, Giampaolo da Cere, Portia received all his lands including the rich duchy of Cere (near Cerveteri), Bassano Romano, and Magliano Romano Pecorareccio. In 1553, her family, in an attempt to keep this patrimony within the Orsini sphere, married her at the age of thirteen to her cousin, Giovanni Orsini, Count of Lamentana. [8] This ploy failed, however, because Giovanni died young and their only child was a daughter, Olimpia Orsini, born in 1562. Portia, who was praised by her contemporaries for her goodness and prudence, [9] must have felt the pressure of family tradition weighing heavily upon her; and in her hope of producing a son to inherit her fortune, she married P aolo Emilio Cesi, Marchese of Piano, in 1572 when she was thirty-two years old. His family arms, a bushy tree, is shown on the right of her stemma. [10]

Margherita Cavazzi della Somaglia Peretti was the patron of the Madonna in Glory, as attested by her coat of arms on the frame (fig. 6). The Cavazzi of Somaglia and Milan had the right to use the Visconti vipers on their arms, as shown to the left of her stemma, while the right side shows her husband's Peretti arms, invented for Sixtus V. [11] Like Portia dell'Anguillara, Margherita was an heiress, the only child of the Lombard count, Alfonso della Somaglia, [12] and thus she, too, wished for an heir to receive her inherited fortune. She married Michele Peretti (1577-1631), who owed his prestige to his great-uncle, Sixtus V, and his wealth to Camilla, the pope's sister, who would bequeath him her lands of Celano, Mentana, and Venafro at her death in 1605. [13] However, at the time of his marriage, Michele owned none of these properties, and the Peretti, who had come from humble beginnings, must have been pleased with this match with a wealthy Milanese heiress, even though she was some years older than Michel e. [14]

Both Portia dell'Anguillara and Margherita della Somaglia belonged to the proper class of early modern matrons whose patronage was widely acknowledged in Rome. Other patronage by the women was publicly recognized, both in Rome and Milan (see below). Yet from the beginning, their names were not attached to these two large altarpieces which bear their coats of arms. Instead their husbands, Paolo Emilio Cesi and Michele Peretti, were credited with commissioning the works.

Raffaello Borghini, the first writer to mention Pulzone's work in Il riposo of 1584, described it as a painting of the Virgin and angels among clouds; below are some saints and a young boy -- a portrait taken from life of the son of the Marchese of Riano, patron of the painting. [15] Although Borghini did not give a date for the work, it must fall between 1584, his date of publication, and 1580, when the old Capuchin church of San Nicola de'Portiis was reconsecrated as San Bonaventura after having been rebuilt and enlarged with six new chapels between 1575-1580, thanks to the patronage of Gregory XIII and several Roman families and prelates. This dating also corresponds to the age of the young boy, Andrea Cesi, who was born soon after Cesi's marriage to Portia in 1572 and appears to have been seven or eight years old (fig. 7). [16]

Giovanni Baglione, in his Lives of the Artists published in 1642, mentioned both paintings (53 and 158). He was more complete than Borghini about Pulzone's work, describing the Madonna standing on the moon, and naming the four saints below: Andrew, Catherine of Alexandria, Clare, and Francis. St. Francis places his hand on the shoulder of the young boy, who, Baglione writes, is the son of the patron, the Marchese of Riano, a portrait taken from life. Baglione was the first to write about Terenzio d'Urbino's altarpiece, which, he says, was done for the Prince Peretti and included a portrait of the patron's son. He gives no exact date for the work, but it must date to around 1608-1610, based on the apparent age of the boy, Francesco Peretti, who was born in 1600. It is not clear if either Borghini or Baglione ever saw the two paintings in situ with frames and coats of arms. Baglione, in fact, admitted to being unsure of the location of the two works at the time of his writing; both paintings would by then have been moved from San Bonaventura.

To both Borghini and Baglione the two altarpieces spoke about patrilinear family relationships. Fathers sired sons in order to pass on their family names and wealth, and it was not surprising to either writer that some fathers wished to place their heirs under the protection of important saints. There is much to support this patriarchal rhetoric in early modern Italy: the teachings of the church, civil laws which restricted women's access to wealth, and the image of the family presented by Alberti and others, all works traditionally written by men. However, as David Herlihy has pointed out, we need to go beyond this rhetoric in order to peneterate the less visible forms of family organization in the Renaissance. [17] Giulia Calvi, in her recent book II contratto morale. Madri e figli nella Toscana moderna, has developed this idea, arguing that the typical agnatic, patrilinear, vertical genealogies of the Renaissance need to be expanded horizontally to construct a bilinear, cognatic picture of the family, one which will allow us access to the legal and affective ties between mothers and children in the early modern period. [18]

This bilinear model is particularly useful in sixteenth-century Rome where the wealth of the aristocracy was still largely land-based. Protection, status, and wealth could be inherited from either the maternal or paternal line, which is one reason why the careful construction of marriage alliances was so important. Women did not lose access to their wealth and status upon marriage: a long legal tradition stretching back to ancient Rome protected them, or at least their family line. [19] Fathers did not give away their daughters without recourse to legal protection for the recovery of the dowry and inherited family wealth and property. This was particularly true for heiresses like Portia dell' Auguillara and Margherita della Somaglia who, because of the failure of the male line, had inherited the bulk of the family fortune. In a bilinear (rather than patrilinear) family structure, these two women were as eager for male heirs as their husbands, and, regardless of patriarchal rhetoric, both made elaborate econo mic plans for their young sons whom they placed under the maternal protection of Mary when they commissioned the altarpieces for San Bonaventura.

Approximately six years after Portia dell' Anguillara "spoke" about her heir through her artistic patronage, she left a much more explicit statement about her view of the relationship between mother and son within the bilinear family structure. On 25 January 1587, three years before her death, she signed her last will and testament in the presence of seven witnesses, priests of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, in their rooms located at Sant'Agata in Trastevere. This will, written by the notary Quintillian Gargarius de Mogentia of Terracina, supplanted six earlier ones. [20] The document opens and closes with the proper legal phrases and Latin formulae, but between them, in eighteen pages (recto and verso) we can hear clearly the voice (in Italian) of the testatrice.

Portia's will can be divided into three main parts: personal bequests totaling more than 10,000 scudi (1v-3r); [21] the disposition of the bulk of her fortune to her son, Andrea, and her daughter, Olimpia (3v-13r); and a bitter polemic against her husband, Paolo Emilio Cesi, whom she accuses of repeated fraud, lies, and the use of physical violence to gain control of her wealth during their fifteen years of marriage (13r-19r). [22] The final pages (19v-22v) deal with naming three executors of the will (her first choices were the Confraternities of the Gonfalone, SS. Crocifisso di San Marcello, and SS. Trinit[grave{a}] dei Convalescenti), and with a codicil dated 7 November 1587.

In the will Portia develops at length two issues which clearly obsessed her: her wish to divide her wealth equitably between her son ("suo universale herede") and her daughter ("suo herede particolare"); and her insistence on the total exclusion of her husband from the administration or use of any part of her inheritance ("esclude il Signor Paolo Emilio Cesi suo consorte tanto della amministratione et usufrutto de' beni di questa heredit[grave{a}] . . . quanto anco dell' usufrutto della dote data a detto Signor Paolo Emilio"). [23] It will be useful to examine in some detail what motivated Portia to insist on these points at the end of her life.

To some extent Portia's desire to deny her husband any access to her wealth is explained in her anguished description of his repeated attempts to defraud her and his use of physical violence against her. She begins her catalogue of his misdeeds by saying that "when she took him as husband," she had no debts, but now on his account, she has debts of 126,000 scudi. [24] She then describes in detail three property transactions forced upon her against her will, deeds of donation which she was forced to sign, but now revokes, because, she says, the law prohibits the transfer of property by means of threats and violence. [25]

The first of these transactions, which took place in May 1580, was related to her husband's purchase of a holding called La Carlotta for 12,000 scudi, a sum which he forced her to give him ("she could do nothing else under his threats"). However, she recounts, Cesi promised to put the deed for the land in her name and in the name of their young son, Andrea, so it would still be in her power to dispose of it in her will. However, in the same month, Cesi drew up another document putting the land in the name of the son only (Andrea would have been six or seven in 1580), and in case of the boy's death, the land would revert to his father. Paolo Emilio's intentions were clear: to keep control of the land. Not only was Portia defrauded by this change, but so was her daughter from her first marriage, Olimpia, because the 12,000 scudi used to buy the land was meant to be part of the daughter's inheritance. [26] The iniquity of her husband's act caused an outburst from the testatrice, who ridicules the idea that Paol o Emilio ever had 12,000 scudi,

because the truth is that the land was bought with her money, and she wishes to make it clear by saying Signor Paolo Emilio never had any money, in fact in the fifteen years of their marriage he never had anything from the Cesi, not even living expenses, he always lived off her wealth, even though the now dead Cardinal Cesi had promised to give his nephew 3000 scudi a year when the marriage contract was drawn up, but they never received the money, which was always tied up in the Cardinal's palace in the Borgo or in Riano. [27]

Paolo Emilio's next attempt to steal his wife's wealth was even more outrageous. In 1582 a well-placed rumor surfaced about a public will of an earlier unspecified "Signor di Casa Anguillara" which prohibited the inheritance of lands and goods by females of the line. A certain Averso Anguillara then claimed to be the true heir to Portia's fortune, including the Duchy of Cere, and threatened to sue her for it. Although Portia believed these claims to be false, her husband said he had consulted various lawyers, and to protect her from losing her wealth, he said she must transfer all her holdings to their son, Andrea. Portia, "finding herself in this terrible situation, and having no [male] relatives to advise her," signed over the Duchy of Cere to her young son for the price of 250,000 scudi, even though it was worth 500,000 scudi. This sale was carried out under false pretenses, she maintains, motivated by her husband's desire to gain control of her lands, and she revokes the document, first, because of his li es about the validity of her inheritance claim, and second, because she never received the sale money; and in any case, she continues, the conditions of the sale were damaging to her because the total sum was to be paid over a twenty-four year period during which time the income would have exceeded the sale price. Since she has been cheated in this way, she insists that the Duchy of Cere remain within her control so it can be disposed of by her in the future. She carried her fight to the Camera Apostolica which, on 5 June 1585, upheld her claim and severely reprimanded Averso Anguillara and his sons and nephews for trying to pass off a false testament dated 14 April 1321 which they claimed restricted inheritance to the male line. [28]

Finally, Portia addresses the issue of the family palace in Rome. This palace, in which she was then living, was located between the Fountain of Trevi and Santa Maria in Via, and had been left to her by her uncle, Lelio da Cere (fig. 3). It was brought by her into her second marriage and "in order to please her husband, she spent many thousands of her own scudi to renovate the palace, bringing it to its present form." She even bought the adjoining house in 1582, so her palace could be enlarged. However, her husband, she says, spread the false story that he had spent his money for rebuilding the palace, "which is absolutely untrue, because he spent not one cent of his own, but all the money came from her purse." Furthermore, her husband claimed that the money had come from his uncle, Monsignor Ludovico Cesi, which, she insists, was also not true. As in the case of the Duchy of Cere, Portia was physically coerced into signing over the palace to her son Andrea ("per forza et violenza grandissime usate da detto Signor Paolo Emilio a far donatione tra vivi"). [29] This document of donation, dated 3 December 1583, was not only obtained by force, but also by lies, she continues. Cesi gave his word that should his young son die, the palace would pass to the novices of Santa Maria sopra Minerva or to some other pious group, according to Portia's wishes, and when she pointed out this stipulation to him, he replied "that he would have it no other way." In spite of this promise "from his own mouth," no such stipulation was put in the document. He knew, she says, "that wives cannot argue or contradict husbands." Furthermore, she, having no male relatives to speak for her, was forced to take as her curatore a courtier from her husband's household, and the witnesses were also from his entourage, men who had to please Cesi in order to keep their positions. Could they not have found at least one person from her own household to help her, she asks plaintively. [30] Because of all the illegal manipulations by her husband, Portia r evoked all three of the signed donation deeds, because all were false ("sono tutti tre finti, simulati, con false narrative"), and all were acquired through physical force, signed against her will. [31]

Paolo Emilio Cesi's ruthless behavior might have been enough to cause Portia to write a will which excluded him completely. However, his behavior was not unique, and other wives had suffered similar treatment without taking recourse to a legal document to retrieve their wealth. [32] Perhaps this is because the property and money of both mother and father usually passed to their children, and thus many women may have felt it was futile to distinguish between "her" and "his" inheritance. Portia, however, clearly felt the need to claim her wealth. In part, this was because she doubted that her second husband would see that her daughter from her first marriage received her just inheritance. Thus, she carefully provided land or money in addition to the dowry for Olimpia. [33] However, it is when Portia addresses the inheritance of her universal heir, Andrea, that she shows her true purpose in these legal battles with her husband.

Andrea Cesi was to inherit all Portia's remaining goods, lands, tides, and holdings, as befitted the herede universale, but she envisioned an unorthodox and particular use of this inheritance by her son. He was meant to conserve her vast wealth for his second son (secondogenito) who would inherit not only her wealth, but also her family name and coat of arms. [34] It is, in fact, Portia's determination to revive her extinct family line, the Anguillara, dukes of Cere, which is the chief motivation for her extraordinary will. She refused to accept passively her husband's tricks to defraud her because she intended to set up a second line derived from her son's second son, a line completely separate from the Cesi of Riano. [35] She had no desire to steal from the Cesi their rightful heir, her son's first son, [36] but from the second son would come the rebirth of the Anguillara, and each heir of the second son would hold the title of the Duke of Cere and carry the name and the coat of arms of the Anguillara (two crossed eels) "unmixed with any if born to it." In this way she desired to preserve and continue the name of her House of Cere. [37]

Portia's will tells us of the tribulations of wives, but also of their legal rights. She was the legal heir of her father, and could retrieve her inheritance from her husband because it was illegal to use violent coercive measures to gain a signature, and it was also illegal to force a woman to use a curatore or tutore who did not operate in her best interests. Portia was able to re-establish her own wealth and status, to be passed on first to her son, Andrea, and then to his second son, who would revive her family name of Anguillara. She carefully distinguished between what her son could receive from his father, and what he could receive from his mother. Portia, in fact, had much more to give to her son than her husband did, and the law protected her right to control that wealth.

Although Portia's will was written about six years after she commissioned the painting for San Bonaventura (fig. 1), the two "documents" speak the same language about a bilinear family structure and inheritance. When the painting was done in the early 1580s, she was engaged in fierce legal battles with her husband over the forced deeds of donation, and may have feared for her own life as well as the life of the young Andrea, whose inheritance from her would pass to his father in case of the boy's death. Thus, in a public statement made through patronage, she chose to recommend her heir to the protection of the ultimate Mother, Mary, and to powerful saints: Andrew, the boy's name saint; Francis and Clare, the "father" and "mother" of all Franciscans, including Capuchins; and Catherine of Alexandria, a saint much honored by the Cesi cardinals who dedicated churches and chapels to her in Rome. Throughout Portia's troubles with her husband she never attempted to separate her son from his rightful Cesi inheritanc e, and even in her will she was careful not to alienate the Cesi, claiming Andrea's second son to carry on her family name. Under the protection of the four saints, Mary, and the Capuchins, whose devotion focused on the Divine Maternity of Mary and her Son, Portia placed her own son, and with him her hope for the revival of her family line.

Portia had other reasons for choosing the Capuchin church for her patronage. The proximity of San Bonaventura to her palace (fig. 3) surely played a part in her choice, particularly when we recall that the so-called Palazzo Cesi was not only her residence, but also her property, inherited from her uncle. Furthermore, both she and her daughter Olimpia were devoted to the Capuchins, whose radical reforms made them models for the spiritual renewal taking place in mid-sixteenth century Rome. Both women were followers of the popular and charismatic Capuchin, Fra Felice da Cantalice, whose simple religious fervor was a great consolation to them. In the hearings for the beatification of Fra Felice, which took place soon after his death in May 1587, both mother and daughter were said to have received miraculous cures thanks to the intervention of the holy lay brother. [38] There is another personal connection: because of the immense public demonstration of devotion which erupted in Rome at the death of Fra Felice, t he Capuchins were forced to show his body to t he faithful twice, first on the main altar of San Bonaventura, and then again the following day in the Chapel of the Conception (Portia's chapel), where numerous "nobilissime Principesse" received his body with great devotion. [39] Among the noble women were surely Olimpia and Portia, whose satisfaction that her chapel had been chosen for this honor can be imagined.

The choice of subject matter for Portia's altarpiece, the Immaculate Conception, also indicates her sympathetic understanding of the Capuchins, who were among the strongest supporters of the hotly-contested dogma of Mary's conception free from original sin. [40] An expression of their commitment can be seen in the dedication, between 1540 and 1661, of sixty-nine Capuchin churches to the Jmmaculate Conception, including their new Mother Church in Rome. Like other Franciscans, they championed Mary's preservation from sin and her Divine Maternity, and their arguments were rooted in the special relationship between Mary's body and her Son's. They argued that her womb was a perfect tabernacle for the Word, and that her flesh, like her soul, was free of the corruption of sin. Some of their greatest preachers, such as Saint Lawrence of Brindisi (d. 1619) and Alessio Seg[grave{a}]la. (d. 1628) were enormously influential in orchestrating popular devotion to the Immaculata. [41] The Capuchins also made use of litanie s praising the Immaculate Conception in words taken from Song of Songs, especially chapter 4. Such litanies generally became more popular after the Council of Trent, and the visual iconography linking the tota pulchra of Songs and the Immaculate Virgin Mary also developed in the sixteenth century. [42] Portia's commission for San Bonaventura was among the first large altarpieces in Rome to express the Immaculate Conception with images taken from Songs (fig. 1). The painting's cool blue tones invoke Songs 4:6, "while the day is cool and the shadows are dispersing, I will go to the mountains of myrrh and the hills of frankincense." In the upper register floats Mary with her unbound "hair like a flock of goats streaming down Mount Gilead." Below her are the symbols of her perpetual virginity, "a garden enclosed," "a fountain sealed," "David's tower," all placed on a vertical axis above the young Andrea Cesi who is being presented by Saint Francis to the Mother of God. Portia's patronage clearly demonstrated her sensitivity to Capuchin thought and her desire to place her son in this Marian ambience. [43]

In spite of Portia's careful plans, her wish to re-establish her family line through the second son of her son, Andrea, was not to be realized. Andrea had no surviving sons, and Portia's great fortune ultimately passed to his daughters. [44] However, her son did his best to fulfill his mother's wishes in another way. In her will, Portia had left 500 scudi to decorate a Chapel of the Assumption in the Servite church of Santa Maria in Via, located in front of her palace (fig. 3). She also endowed the chapel with fifty scudi a year to pay for daily masses "of the Madonna" to be said for the souls of her family members. [45] The chapel was completed after her death by Andrea who, by then, was the Duke of Cere, having inherited her lands and titles. Although the chapel has been completely remade in recent years, it can still be identified by the coat of arms located above the entrance arch, which shows the two crossed eels of the Anguillara of Cere. In this instance alone, Andrea used her family arms unmixed with any other, perhaps because he thought that he would have sons enough to re-establish the Anguillara line. It is worth noting that Portia's patronage of this chapel was recognized in the early modern period, as was her patronage of the Chapel of Santa Maria della Strada in the Ges[grave{u}]. [46] Only her commission at San Bonaventura was rendered invisible by the historical record which reflects a patrilinear, rather than bilinear, reading of the altarpiece.

Margherita della Somaglia Peretti also wished to say something about mothers and sons at San Bonaventura; she, too, wanted an heir to her fortune inherited from her father. Her marriage to Michele Peretti probably took place in the mid 1590s, when Michele was about twenty. Shortly thereafter Margherita sought the prayers of Capuchins in both Milan and Rome for the birth of a son. When the new Capuchin convent of SS. Concezione opened in Milan in 1599, it boasted an altarpiece of the Piet[grave{a}] given by Margherita, who also provided a silver chalice and fine linens for the Chapel of the Piet[grave{a}]. [47] In Rome Margherita went to San Bonaventura to ask for the prayers of a saintly lay brother, Fra Michele da Celleno, and, according to the Capuchin chronicle, in the year 1600 the much desired son was born and named Francesco. [48] To show her gratitude, Margherita offered to enlarge the choir of San Bonaventura and to have its roof vaulted. The Capuchins refused this architectural grandeur, but did acc ept, a few years later, the new painting, Madonna in Glory, for their High Altar (fig. 2). [49]

This painting can be compared to the one commissioned by Portia in several ways, particularly in the portrait of the young boy, Francesco Peretti, being presented by Saint Francis to the Mother of God. Like the young Andrea Cesi, Francesco appears to be about seven or eight years old, thus dating the work to about 1608. It may be that both mothers waited until their sons had survived the dangerous years of infancy before giving thanks publicly for their births. Margherita, like Portia, placed her son in the care of the Blessed Mother and Franciscan saints, Francis, her son's name saint, and Bonaventure, to whom the church was dedicated. The two other saints in the painting create a kind of perpetual family to watch over the young Francesco: Michael the Archangel refers to his father's patron saint, and Margaret to his mother's.

After the birth of Francesco, Margherita was never again in good health, although she did bear two daughters, Maria Felice and Camilla. In 1610 she was near death, but recovered -- according to the Capuchin chronicle, because of the prayers of the Capuchin preacher Fra Gioseffo da Leonessa. [50] She then helped arrange a highly desirable betrothal for the young Francesco to Anna Maria Cesi, who, by a strange coincidence, was Portia dell'Anguillara's granddaughter, the daughter of Andrea Cesi. Anna Maria would inherit some of Portia's great fortune which was to be united with Francesco's inheritance from his father and mother.

Margherita's fine plans for her son were not to be realized. When she died in 1613 her husband decided to marry his son's proposed bride himself, [51] for more direct access to the fortune of the dukes of Cere. Francesco then entered the Church, probably because his father expected to produce more sons by his young second wife. This, however, was not to be, and the Peretti male line ended. Francesco, who became a cardinal in 1641, ultimately did inherit property from both his parents, including Margherita's palace in Milan, but with no direct heirs, his fortune passed to the son of his sister, Maria Felice, wife of Bernardino Savelli. [52]

The lives of Portia dell'Anguillara and Margherita della Somaglia have remarkable similarities, although the two women probably never met. Each was an heiress in need of a male heir, each married a man whose wealth if not status was inferior to her own, each desired to pass her family inheritance to her son. Furthermore, each was devoted to the Capuchins at San Bonaventura. Margherita sought Capuchin prayers to aid her in begetting an heir, probably because of their devotion to the Divine Maternity of Mary. This aspect of Capuchin spirituality must also have appealed to Portia who was thirty-two when she entered into her second marriage, which she hoped would produce a male heir to her family fortune. [53] The immediate outcome of each woman's quest was felicitous: each bore a son to inherit her fortune, and each gave thanks to Mary and to the Capuchins by commissioning a large altarpiece for San Bonaventura which placed the much-desired son and heir under the protection of the Virgin and saints. Such an ima ge may not have been out of place in a Capuchin church where Mary's motherhood endowed the relationship of mother and son with special significance, but in the larger world of early modern Italy this appropriation of patrilinear imagery was not recognized. The patriarchal rhetoric was more persuasive than the actual laws governing the economic rights of women within the family, and Portia's and Margherita's patronage was eclipsed. However, if we return their two paintings to the ambience of mothers and sons, rather than the more easily recognized realm of fathers and sons, we can understand something of the hopes each woman had for the well-being of a first-born male child, to whom the maternal fortune was meant to pass.

(1.) Valone, 1994a. The following brief selection of works will give an indication of the rich tradition of matron as patron: Ridgway, VanBremen, Berman, Bruzelius, Lowe, and several essays in Lawrence. Currently David Wilkins and Sheryl Reiss are editing a collection of essays on secular women patrons in medieval and Renaissance Italy entitled Beyond Isabella.

(2.) See works cited by Dunn and Valone.

(3.) Valone, 1994a, 141-45; Dunn, 1994, 658-59. Among the important models for patronage were women such as Marcella and Paola who befriended Saint Jerome in late fourth-century Rome.

(4.) For the church see Zuccari, 175-99; Edoardo d' Alencon.

(5.) Mariano d'Alatri, 1992, 7-17; 1988, 74; Zen, 34-35; Vichi, 31-32. The Colonna women who first supported the Capuehins in Rome were Vittoria Colonna and her sister-in-law, Giovanna d'Aragona. See Edoardo d'Alencon, 23-28. For the Capuchins, see Melchior da Pobladura, Aloislo Maria da Genova, and Isidoro de Villapadierna.

(6.) Crollalanza, 14, 427. I am indebted to Brian Ragen for sharing with me his expertise in the literature of heraldry.

(7.) Sansovino, 1609, 158. See also, Litta, 4:n. pag.

(8.) For this marriage the cousins had to be absolved of consanguinity of the third degree by the Catholic Church. See DeCupis, 210.

(9.) Sansovino, 1565, 17. Portia is described as "donna si comme prudente, cosi gentile, di grand'animo et degna di riverenza, e di gloria immortale." Such individual praise for a woman is rare in Sansovino's book.

(10.) For the Cesi, see Martinori; Litta, 2:n. pag. Paolo Emilio's uncle, Cardinal Pier Donato Cesi, had purchased Riano for his nephew for 70,000 scudi in 1570, two years before his marriage. Riano is located about thirty kilometers north of Rome, near the Via Flaminia. For the marriage arrangements see Coletti, 284.

(11.) Storia di Milano, 6:129; 8:43; 12:560-64.

(12.) Tempesti, 1:12-13.

(13.) Litta, 5:n. pag. Michele was the grandson of Camilla Peretti Mignucci, whose husband adopted her name, and the son of Maria Felice Peretti Damasceni, whose husband also took the Peretti name. Michele had one brother, Cardinal Alessandro, and two sisters, Felice Orsina and Flavia. His grandmother Camilla had purchased Celano from Costanza Piccolomini in 1590, and Mentana in Sabina from the Orsini and the city of Venafro from the Spanish Monarchy in 1594. In 1605 Michele was made the Prince of Venafro by Philip III. Other property came to him from Sixtus V.

(14.) Russo de Caro, 1988, 454. It was, of course, usual for women to marry young, so they had more child-bearing years, and for men to marry later in life when they had established themselves. Probably Margherita's wealth compensated for her age.

(15.) Borghini, 1:578, "un fanciullo, figliolo del marchese di Riano, padrone della tavola, ritratto di naturale...." Borghini's information was repeated by Francesco del Sodo in his manuscript on Roman churches, 83v, written ca. 1595-1600.

(16.) Edoardo d'Alencon 28-29. The six chapels were dedicated to Saint Bonaventure, Saint Francis, the Crucifixion, Saint Nicholas, the Immaculate Conception (Cesi), and the Annunciation. I am grateful to Antonio Vannugli in Rome for the information that the painting should be dated 1581, based on his archival research to be published in the future.

(17.) Herlihy 1985a, x; 1985b, 352-57.

(18.) See Calvi, 3-12, for a discussion and bibliography on the issues of patrilinear vs. bilinear family structures. See also Hughes.

(19.) See, for example, Gardner, Treggiari, and Guerra Medici for the inheritance rights of Roman women. For the modern period, see Ago. It was possible for a family to make a private pact forbidding women in that family to inherit, but there are few examples of this in early modern Rome, although the Colonna did make such a pact in the early sixteenth century.

(20.) Mogentia, Ir-22v. I am indebted to Dr. Enzo Matera of Rome for his help with this document. Martinori, 38, cites six earlier wills of Portia, but seems nor to be aware of this final will of 1587. Her penultimate will appears to be the one dated 23 November 1578, Archivio di Stato, Rome, Notari Cancellieri del Tribunale dell'Archivio Capitolino, Testamenti e Donazioni, notary Erasmus Ovidius, vol. 70, 1. It is a more typical will without any polemic against her husband. When Portia died on 2 August 1590, aged 50, Philip Neri was at her bedside. She had been suffering terrible pain for a month and on her last day Neri came to console her, left to visit others, but felt impelled to return to her. Seeing her barely alive, Neri took her head in his hands and commanded her soul to leave her body, and she died. Witnesses to this scene were her daughter Olimpia, Olimpia's mother-in-law, Beatrice Caetani Cesi, and other women and men who testified to this event at the first Processo for Neri's sainthood. See In cisa della Rocchetta, 1:279-80, 316; 2:147-49. Portia was buried in her chapel at Santa Maria sopra Minerva on 3 August 1590. For the inscription, see Forcella, 1:471, where, however, the date is incorrectly given as MDLXXX.

(21.) These bequests included payments for hundreds of masses for the repose of her soul and the souls of her relatives, gifts to various pious institutions including the confraternities of Christian Doctrine, SS. Crocifisso di San Marcello, SS. Apostoli, SS. Trinit[grave{a}] al Ponte Sisto, Saint' Andrea delle Frate, Santa Caterina dei Funari, the Compagnia dei Carcerati, the nuns at the Quattro Coronati, the hospital of San Giacomo degli Incurabili, and several orphanages, dowries for poor girls (zitelle), sums from 100 to 300 scudi each to six women and three men in her household, and 100 scudi to the Dominican convent of Santa Maria Maddalena a Monte Cavallo, which was founded by Maddalena Orsini, sister of Portia's first husband, Giovanni Orsini. She also provided for three architectural commissions to be carried out after her death: 4000 scudi for a convent in her town of Bassano Romano (this was revoked in the codicil of 7 November 1587, see 20v.) 1500 scudi to renovate the choir of Santa Maria in Via and to decorate a chapel there dedicated to the Assumption, and 1500 scudi for her own burial chapel in Santa Maria sopra Minerva, the Dominican church where a number of her relatives were buried. See Famiglia Anguillara, 130-31. This chapel, realized between 1596-1598 by her son and her husband, is located in the left transept of the church. It is dedicated to the young Dominican saint, Hyacinth of Poland, canonized by Clement VIII in 1594. See Palmerio, 175-76. The altarpiece, by Ottavio Leoni of Padua, shows Hyacinth's vision of the Blessed Virgin who tells him to rejoice because his prayers will be answered by her Divine Son.

(22.) Because of Portia's litagation with her husband, her will deals with a number of interesting legal issues. For example, Portia claims her right to one-tenth of her dowry, and she instructs her husband to use that 3000 scudi to make good some of her personal bequests. (3r-v). She also discusses the dowry of 28,000 scudi for her daughter Olimpia, to be paid out of Portia's own money and from the marriage gift (la donazione per le nozze) given to her by Giovanni Orsini, Portia's first husband and Olimpia's father. This gift was one-quarter of Giovanni's inheritance (4r)

(23.) BNCR, Fondo Gesuitico 1196 (1), 11r. On the same page she stipulates that her son is to have his inheritance free and clear, but until he is seventeen it should be administered by the executors, who will continue to advise him until he is twenty-two. She then repeats that at all costs Paolo Emilio Cesi must be excluded from access to income derived from her "terre, castelli, tenute, casali."

(24.) Ibid., 13r, v.

(25.) Ibid., 14v-18v for the three cases.

(26.) Ibid., 14v. The 12,000 scudi was part of Portia's first dowry of 36,000 scudi, returned to her after the death of her first husband. Olimpia married Paolo Emilio Cesi's cousin, Federico Cesi, Duke of Acquasparta, at about the time of the 1580 litigation. For Olimpia, see Schulte Van Kessel, 134-36.

(27.) BNCR, Fonda Gesuitico 1196 (1), 15v, "detto Signor Paolo Emilio non haveva danari, anzi che in quindici anni che [grave{e}] suo marito mai ha havuta cosa alcuna di casa Cesi, ne haveva del suo che potesse vivere, ma sempre [grave{e}] vissuto sopra li beni di essa Illustrissima Signora testatrice. . .."

(28.) Ibid., 15v-17v.; and Coletti, 285.

(29.) See appendix, p. 134. There has been a good deal of misunderstanding among modern scholars about the renovation and ownership of the Palazzo Cesi or Palazzo del Duca da Cere, owning to the narrativa falsa spread by Portia's husband. I am currently preparing an article on women as owners of family palaces in Rome. Sheryl Reiss's forthcoming article "Widow, Mother, Patron of Art: Alfonsina Orsini de'Medici" also touches on this issue.

(30.) BNCR, Fondo Gesuitico 1196 (1), l8r.

(31.) Ibid., 18v.

(32.) See, for example, Castiglione's discussion of battered wives in book 3 of Il libro del Cortegiano. For other women who did use their legal options, see Ferraro.

(33.) BNCR, Fondo Gesuitico 1196 (1), 3v, 4r,v. Olimpia was to inherit the tenuta of Campo di Mare, near Cere, an Orsini property; or its cash equivalent, plus 30,000 scudi from Portia's inheritance, or one of Portia's two castelli at Magliano Romano or Bassano Romano, to be decided by Portia's universal heir, Andrea. Olimpia was to have full authority and piena potest[grave{a}] over her inheritance. Portia also left her daughter gowns, jewelry, and linens, and asked that her two children act as true brother and sister to each other.

(34.) Ibid., 4v-12v.

(35.) Ibid., 6r-7v. The following exerpts make her wishes clear: "desidera un'altro ceppo et una seconda famiglia qual di Cere sia nominato ... er per levare ogni dubio et per pi[grave{u}] chiara intelligenza et demostratione della sua intentione dechiara et commanda ... che prima succedano et siano preferiti quelli maschi ... ma non siano per succedere nel Marchesato, o vero Terra di Riano ...."

(36.) Ibid., 6v.: "Dechiara ancora la sua intentione essere l'instituire et sostituire ... herede et successore universale un altra et nova primogenitura dopo quella prima della primogenie di detto Signor Andrea che succeder[grave{a}] nel Marchesato di Riano ...."

(37.) Ibid., 12r.: "conservare, riavviare et continuare ... il nome o cognome di sua Casa di Cere."

(38.) For the cure of the Marchesa di Riano (Portia), see the testimony of Fra Matteo della Pasta on 3 July 1587 in Pasta, 78v. According to the Capuchin chronicle of Fra Zaccaria da Saluzzo, "Olimpia Orsini, Duchessa Cesi d'Acquasparta," when eight months pregnant, suffered a terrible fever and flow of blood, but a visit from Fra Felice restored her to good health. See Annali dei frati minori cappuccini, 3:484 Olimpia, in her will of 3 October 1615, left instructions that if she died in Rome she was to be buried in the Chapel of St. Francis which she had built at the Ges[grave{u}] or in some Capuchin church if she died outside Rome. She wished to be buried in an old Capuchin habit, barefoot, with a white veil on her head and shoulders, conforming to the habit of Third Order Capuchins; see Lucani, 398-409. For the tendency of women to support radical religious reform in early modern Rome, see Valone, 1994a.

(39.) Annali dei frati minori cappucini, 3:499-502.

(40.) See O'Conner for a history of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.

(41.) L'Immacolata nella provincia parmense, 16-17, 24-26; Melchior da Pobladura, 1:182-85; Simbula; Lawrence of Brindisi, Marialae. For an excellent discussion of sixteenth-century Mariology see Petrocchi.

(42.) M[hat{a}]le, 43-44; Zuccari, 188-89. See also Matter. L[acute{e}]picier, 50, indicates that the visual tradition of linking Mary to the tota pulchra of Songs began with inexpensive prints in the early sixteenth century, and then moved to more monumental forms of art. Mario da Mercato Saraceno, who became Capuchin General in 1567, composed litanies of the Virgin based on Songs.

(43.) All of Portia's patronage in Rome was dedicated to the Virgin. In addition to the altarpiece at San Bonaventura, she also paid for the Chapel of the Assumption in Santa Maria in Via, and joined two of her female relatives to pay for the Chapel of Santa Maria della Strada in the Ges[grave{u}]. Paolo Emilio Cesi did not emerge as a patron until after Portia's death in 1590. When he did enter the rank of patron, his works were not dedicated to the Virgin, but to the aggrandizement of the Cesi family, a relatively nouveau riche, but prolific, clan from Umbria. Most of his commissions were given in Umbrian hill towns where members of his family held or had held power, both ecclesiastical and civil. These include Cantalupo (San Biagio), Narni (Santa Restituta), and Todi. See Martinori, 38, 52, 102; Eroli, 91-92, 335-40.

(44.) I am currently preparing an article on women and wealth in the Cesi family in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

(45.) BNCR, Fondo Gesuitico 1196 (1), 2r. She stipulated that the chapel be completed within five years of her death (by 1595). Baglione, 89-90, reports that the altarpiece of the Assumption was done by Stefano Pieri, who came to Rome shortly after 1592.

(46.) According to the Apostolic Visit during the pontificate of Alexander VII (1655-1667), the third chapel on the right (from the altar) at Santa Maria in Via was dedicated to the Assumption and was founded by "Porzia Anguillara." See Armellini, 276. For her chapel at the Ges[grave{u}], see Pecchiai, 88-92, 95-96; Valone, 1994a, 139-40.

(47.) Valdemiro Bonari da Bergamo, 1:62.

(48.) Russo de Caro, 1988, 456-58. Other Capuchin chronicles tell similar stories of childless women asking for Capuchin prayers to bring about the birth of a son. For example, in 1598 signora Altobella Roberti of Castelbuono, having no child after twenty years of marriage, sought the help of Fra Salvatore da Tufa. He predicted (correctly) that she would bear a child but also suffer a great loss: her husband died four months after the child was born. See Annali dei frati minori cappuccini, 4:249. The Peretti also had a great attachment to the Franciscans, including Capuchins, partly because Sixtus V had been a Franciscan.

(49.) Russo de Caro, 1988, 458-60. The patronage of the High Altar originally had belonged to the Colonna, but they never commissioned any works for it, and it passed to Margherita. See Edoardo d'Alencon, 31.

(50.) Annali dei frati minori cappuccini, 4:714. Margherita's daughter Camilla became a Dominican nun at Santa Caterina a Magnanapoli, and Maria Felice married Bernardino Savelli. This daughter shared Margherita's devotion to the Capuchins, and left her heart to be buried in their church of SS. Concezione. See Russo de Caro, 1988, 457-62.

(51.) Russo de Caro, 1990, 2:155-57. Michele Peretti was betrothed to the young Anna Maria on 13 November 1613, and married her in February 1614.

(52.) For Francesco's will, see Simoncellus, 3 May 1655 (n. pag.). For an inventory of his goods at his death see Archivio Capitolino, Sez. V. vol. 4, insert 69, 893-1093. He possessed numerous properties in Rome, including the Peretti Vigna on the Esquiline and a palace near San Lorenzo in Lucina. Among the hundreds of works of art which he owned were several Portraits of his mother.

(53.) It is possible that a third woman also hoped that Capuchin prayers would promote the birth of a son. Francesca Baglioni (1543-1626) of Viterbo married Francesco Orsini of Monterotondo at the age of fourteen, and thus gave up her hopes of becoming a Franciscan nun. She established two chapels in Rome, the Chapel of the Nativity of Christ at San Silvestro al Quirinale, and an unspecified chapel at San Bonaventura. The latter probably dates to the time of the renovation of the church in 1575-1580, at which time she would have been in her mid-thirties and still childless. However, no child was born to her, which may explain why there is not a third altarpiece to compare. She and her husband moved to the Florentine court of Ferdinando de'Medici, but upon her husband's death, she returned to Rome in 1593 and founded the Dominican convent of Santa Maria dell'Umilt[grave{a}], using all her wealth, including her dowry and marriage gift. See Bertucci, 9, 112-20, 179, 195-99.


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BNCR, Fondo Gesuitico 1196 (1), 17r,v, "Item essa Illustrissima Signora testatrice asserisce che essendo venuto in poter suo della heredit[grave{a}] della bona memoria Signor Lelio Cere suo zio tra l'altre cose et beni un palazza posto in Roma vicino a Fontana di Trevi con suoi membri, raggioni et pertinenze dove al presente lei habita, nel quale per compiacere a detto Signor Paolo Emilio lei ha speso del suo molte migliara di scudi, et ridottolo in questa forma che si ritrova al presente, appresso il qual Palazzo essa Illustrissima Signora ha anco comprato una casa contigua da Madonna Lavinia Bragni per prezzo di doimila et quarantacinque scudi di moneta, et baiocchi novantadoi, come dice apparerne instromento rogato da detto Messer Ovidio Erasmo a d[grave{i}] 17 settembre 1582, et essendo a essa Illustrissima Signora testatrice mossa lite sopra li suoi Castelli et Terre dal sudetto Signor Averso Anguillara sotto pretesto di detto fideicommisso falso, nella quale lite piacendo al Signor Iddio che si ritrova sse questa falsit[grave{a}], ne hebbe sentenza favorevole contra detto Signor Averso dal Signor Auditor della Camera per li atti di Messer Alessandro Curto notaro di detto Signor Auditore, dalla qual sentenza per parte di detto Averso fu appellaro et la causa discussa et ventilata in Signatura et commessa in Camera, [grave{e}] stata poi dalla Camera detta sentenza confirmata et si [grave{e}] la reiudicata, et ritrovandosi essa Illustrissima Signora testatrice dell'anno 1583 indisposta et inferma, et essendo quasi ogni giorno da detto Signor Paolo Emilio suo marito, et da altri per parte et in nome suo stimolata che volesse farli donatione di detto palazzo et casa, essa Illustrissima Signora testatrice non possendo pi[grave{u}] resistere a tante importunir[grave{a}] et violenze usateli in quel tempo che si trovava travagliata per la lite et dalla infermit[grave{a}], ne havendo alcuno parente col quale potesse conferire questi modi tenuti con lei et pigliarvi provisione o conseglio, con narrativa falsa stto pre testa che esso Signor Paolo Emilio habbia spesa nella fabrica di detto palazzo, il che [grave{e}] non vero a fatto veruno, poiche non ci ha spesa cosa alcuna del suo, ma tutto [grave{e} uscito di borsa propria di essa Illustrissima Signora si delle sue entrate come de danari pigliati a censo, se bene si dice nella narrativa di detto instromento che il detto Signor Paolo Emilio ha speso de denari venutoli dall'heredit[grave{a}] della bona memoria Monsignor Ludovico Cesi suo zio, questo non [grave{e}] vero, imperoche di quella heredit[grave{a}] detto Signor Paolo Emilio ne hebbe solo 10 mila scudi tra robbe et denari, et se ben apparesse che havesse speso cosa alcuna, non per[grave{o}] esso Signor Paolo Emilio ha speso del suo, ma delli denari et entrate praprie di essa Illustrissima Signora testatrice, qual'entrate ha pigliaro et riscosso detto Signor Paolo Emilio, et per li rispetti sudetti essa Illustrissima Signora testatrice fu ridotta per forza et violenze grandissime usate da detto Signor Paolo Emilio a far donatione tra vivi...."
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Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Geographic Code:4EUIT
Date:Mar 22, 2000
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