Alessandro Farnese (5 October 1520 – 2 March 1589), an Italian cardinal and diplomat and a great collector and patron of the arts, was the grandson of Pope Paul III (who also bore the name Alessandro Farnese), and the son of Pier Luigi Farnese, Duke of Parma, who was murdered in 1547. He should not be confused with his nephew Alessandro Farnese, Governor of the Spanish Netherlands, (illegitimate) grandson of Emperor Charles V and great-grandson of Pope Paul III.
The Gran Cardinale received many other offices and benefices, becoming Vice-Chancellor of the Holy Roman Church, Governor of Tivoli, Archpriest of St. Mary Major Basilica, Archpriest of St. Peter's Basilica, Administrator of Jaen, Spain, of Vizeu, Portugal, of Würzburg, Germany and of Avignon, France. In 1536 he became Bishop of Monreale, Sicily.
He also became a Papal Legate, arranging peace between the perpetually warring Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and Francis I of France. In 1546 he accompanied the troops sent by the pope to the aid of Charles V against the Schmalkaldic League. In 1580, he was an unsuccessful candidate for the papacy. Among the buildings that Cardinal Farnese built or restored are the Church of the Gesù in Rome, the Villa Farnese at Caprarola, and the Farnese palace near Lake Bracciano, and the monastery Tre Fontane.
Alessandro Farnese is remembered for gathering the greatest collection of Roman sculpture assembled in private hands since Antiquity, now mostly in Naples, after passing by inheritance to the Bourbon-Parma kings. His generosity towards artists made a virtual academy at the power house he built at Caprarola and in his lodgings at Palazzo della Cancellaria and, after his brother Cardinal Ranuccio Farnese died in 1565, at the Palazzo Farnese. In the Palazzo Farnese the best sculptors worked under his eye, to restore fragments of antiquities as complete sculptures, with great scholarly care. He was also a great patron of living artists. Under the direction of his curator and librarian, the antiquarian iconographer Fulvio Orsini, the Farnese collections were enlarged and systematised. Farnese collected ancient coins and commissioned modern medals. He had paintings by Titian, Michelangelo, and Raphael, and an important collection of drawings. He commissioned the masterpiece of Giulio Clovio, arguably the last major illuminated manuscript, the Farnese Hours, which was completed in 1546 after being nine years in the making (now Morgan Library, New York). The studiolo built to house this collection appears to be the one re-erected at the Musée de la Renaissance, Écouen.
In 1550, Farnese acquired a northern portion of Palatine hill in Rome and had Roman ruins from the time of Tiberius at the northwest end filled in, and converted to a summer home and formal gardens. The Farnese Gardens became one of the first botanical gardens in Europe. From these gardens are derived the names of Acacia farnesiana and from its floral essence, the important biochemical farnesol.
Farnese was buried before the high altar in the Church of Gesù.
- Solari, Giovanna R.; Tuten, Frederic (1968). The House of Farnese. New York: Doubleday.
- Robertson, Clare (1992). ‘Il Gran Cardinale’: Alessandro Farnese, Patron of the Arts. New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 0300050453.
- It ranked with the papal collections, in the Cortile del Belvedere and the city's collection housed at the Campidoglio.
- Riebesell, Christina (1989). Die Sammlung des Kardinal Farnese: Ein ‘Studio’ für Künstler und Gelehrte. Weinheim: VCH, Acta Humaniora. ISBN 352717656X.
- The identification was convincingly made by Riebesell 1989.
- http://www.aviewoncities.com/rome/palatinehill.htm History of Palatine Hill.
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