THE BORGHESE BOOKCASES
THE SECOND PAIR FROM THE IMPORTANT SET OF BOOKCASES COMMISSIONED IN 1814 BY PRINCESS PAULINE BORGHESE FOR HER HUSBAND PRINCE CAMILLO BORGHESE FOR THE LIBRARY AT PALAZZO BORGHESE, ROME, EXECUTED BY KARL ROOS, WITH MOUNTS BY GIUSEPPE SPAGNA, AFTER DESIGNS BY GIUSEPPE VALADIER
These magnificent bookcases with gilt-bronze mounts in the fashionable à l'Antique taste, are from a set of four commissioned by Pauline Borghese, Napoleon Bonaparte's sister, to embellish the library at the Palazzo Borghese in 1814. The other pair of bookcases from this set was sold in these Rooms, 26 October 1995, lots 220 and 221. Pauline had married Prince Camillo Borghese in Paris in 1803, in an advantageous union of the Bonaparte and Borghese families. They both had a great passion for the arts, and he immediately undertook an extensive refurbishment of the palazzo for her. Even so, she found the city provincial and boring, and Roman aristocracy stuffy and conventional in comparison to the life she had known in Paris. Throughout the unhappy marriage, she managed diverse stratagems to avoid her husband, although Napoleon had no intention of allowing her to divorce Prince Camillo. His sister's marriage to an ancient noble family was of paramount importance to his dynastic schemes. He consequently supplied her with lavish funds, a hôtel in Paris and a château at Neuilly.
At Neuilly she created a library for her husband, as she was later to do at the Palazzo Borghese. At this stage, she may well have come into contact with the cabinet-maker Karl Roos while he was working in Jacob-Desmalter's atelier on a number of Imperial commissions before he left for Rome (see M. Natoli, Palazzo del Quirinale, 1989, vol. II, p. 80). Pauline resided in Rome only intermittently at this time, but it was during one of her brief visits in 1807 that Antonio Canova sculpted one of his most famous images- Pauline nude as Venus Victorious (now in the Galleria Borghese).
After Napoleon's final defeat in 1815, Pauline settled permanently in Rome. She was separated from Camillo who had moved to Florence to his mother's residence after the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy. Though not in residence, she considered the Palazzo Borghese her own and earlier in 1814 had written to her brother, Lucien, with the intention of asking Napoleon for funds to refurbish the palazzo (see Fondazione Primoli, Rome, Scatola 26).
The bookcases were commissioned at this time, and appear in a series of bills dated 1814-1815 to Karl Roos, Giuseppe Valadier and Giuseppe Spagna in the Borghese archives in the Vatican (Archivio Segreto Vaticano Archivio Borghese [ASV], no. 8095-8096, Mandati 1815-1817).
The first payment to Karl Roos of 650 scudi on 31 October 1814 is described as follows:
Al Sigre. Carlos Roos Ebanista p millesanta pari a 200 m Romane quali sono a conto delli 650 m Romana prezzo cosi concordato della Biblioteca che sta facendo in servizio della lodata S.E. come all. Gius. qui annesso
A partial payment was evidently made at this stage, as on 21 March 1815 a further payment of 250 scudi was made as the residuali dalli 650. The first two payments to Giuseppe Spagna, both in 1815, appear as follows:
Adi il detto (aprile)
Al.sig. Gius.Spagna, Argentiere scudi trecentosessantoove
Adi 13 giugno
Al. Sig. Gius.Spagna Argentiere Scudi cento per i quali sono in conton di lavori fatti e di farsi in servizio della lodata S.E.
Further payments are made to Roos in July 1815 for other furniture supplied to the library, including a scrivania, otto tavolette and sei Sedie di ceraso (cherrywood, the same timber as the bookcases). On 2 August 1815, Giuseppe Valadier is clearly identified as the designer of the bookcases when mentioned in a further payment of 76 scudi to Roos:
Al Sig. Carlo Roos Ebanista Scudi Settantsei...quali sono in Saldo della Scrivania Segatossa a billico e di Sei Sedie di ceraso tinto mogano da Esso fatte p la Biblioteca eseguita nell'Appartmenti di Palaz di S.E. sono che p Saldo di alcuni lavori ed opere sono comprese nel disegno dalla medis come it tutto risulto ed e stato trovato nelli tre Annesse Giust. e del Sig.Architetto Valadier
The three payments to Valadier mentioned here have not been found. The bookcases were completed by October 1815 as 'Benedetto Luigi Vetraro' (a glazier) was paid 23 scudi on 13 October per li lastre messe in opera alla nuova biblioteca. The bookcases were certainly fully installed by June 1817, as Roos was paid 15 scudi then for cleaning them with spirito.
The Borghese marriage rapidly deteriorated and in 1815 Camillo gave orders to his doorman to refuse Pauline access to the Palazzo. However in the separation settlement agreement granted by the Vatican in June 1816, she was allowed the use of her apartments in the Palazzo but had to relinquish the Borghese jewels, while Camillo would pay for the Palazzo's running expenses. Tiring of life in Rome, Pauline acquired the Villa Sciara at Porta Pia in 1816 and commissioned more furniture from Roos to decorate her new home. She planned to move the Palazzo Borghese bookcases there as well, but perhaps because of their size, this was never carried out (see P. Arrizoli-Clementel, 'L'Ambassade de France près de la Saint-Siège: Villa Bonaparte', Revue de L'Art, no. 28, 1975, p. 24).
In 1832, the bookcases appear in an inventory taken after Camillo's death (ASV, no. 458, Atti di Famiglia, Inventorio di Camillio Borghese, 1832, no. 69). They are described as follows:
Appartamento detto della Libraria Nuova (secondo piano)
La detta Camera di Libreria è rivestita in tutte quattro parete di Scanzie a vari sportelli con cristalli e sui Serrature e sotto posti a queste vi sono tante credenze che servono di base alle quattro facciate ognuno delle quale e sermontate da cornice e Frontone retto da quattro colonne per Facciata, il tutto da pagono lustrato a specchio ed ornato da diverse rapporti di bronzo verde e dorato
Numero venti bustini di marmo e quattro piccoli Vasi neri di rame, che sermontano le sette scansie
Interestingly, the existing bookcases only have four marble busts each- the bustini di marmo mentioned here. It may be that the extra four were alternatives to the vases at the center of each pediment.
The bookcases are described again in the inventory drawn up in 1839 after the death of Francesco Borghese (1776-1839), Camillo's brother and heir, in the Biblioteca Antiqua, (ASV, no. 458, Atti di Famiglie, Inventorio di Francesco Borghese, 1839, no. 72). They are still listed in the library at the Palazzo in an 1860 inventory (ASV, no. 7524, Inventori Diversi, Palazzo Borghese, 1860).
They are next recorded in an 1887 inventory of the Villa Taverna-Borghese in Frascati, where they were moved by Paolo Borghese (1845-1920), Camillo's great nephew (ASV, no. 4164, Frascati, Inventario di Villa Taverna a Frascati, 1887). They are described there as follows:
Primo piano Camera della Libreria
Quattro scansie di noce a ceraso con quattro colonne e cinque sportelli con cristalli sotto poste creenze con quattro sportelli e wci luci di specchi
It seems likely that the alterations to the smaller bookcase must have taken place at this stage to accomodate them to their new setting. They were then sold by Prince Paolo Borghese with the Villa and its contents to the wealthy Parisi family in 1897. They remained in the family until the late 1960's when they were sold at auction in Rome.
H. Lee Bimm, Rome, 1995
KARL AMADEUS ROOS
Karl Roos (1775-1837), was born of an upper class family in Ludwigsburg, Bavaria. His brother, Heinrich, later became adviser to the Czar of Russia. Karl served his apprenticeship at an early age in Paris in the atelier of Jacob-Desmalter where he worked on a number of Imperial commissions. Roos moved to Rome in 1804 and opened a workshop on the via Condotti. His reputation there was firmly established when he was engaged by the architect Raffaele Stern (1774-1822) to supply furniture for the Palazzo Quirinale which was being enlarged as an Imperial residence for Napoleon, newly crowned King of Italy, c. 1811. Roos continued to supply furniture to the Quirinale after the return of Pius VII in 1815. He also worked for Pauline Borghese's stepuncle, Cardinal Fesch and continued to work for the Borghese family, as bills to them are in his estate papers of 1836 (see M. Natoli, op.cit., 1989, pp. 80, 84 and 208).
Giuseppe Valadier (1762-1839) came from the most famous family of Italian goldsmiths of their age. His father Luigi (1726-1785) supplied a number of pieces to Prince Marcantonio IV Borghese during his extensive refurnbishment of the Villa Borghese in the 1770's and 1780's, including a magnificent silver dinner service in 1784 and gilt-bronze mounts for a pair of porphyry and marble console tables, 1773 (see A. Gonzalez-Palacios, 'Luigi Valadier a Palazzo Borghese', Antologia di Belle Arti, 1993, vol. IV, p. 39, fig. 3). Giuseppe's importance resides more in his architectural works, most particularly the Piazza del Popolo and the Pincio Park in Rome, and the refurbishment of the Plazzo Braschi which he undertook for Duke Luigi Braschi Onesti. Although he did not work on any specific architectural schemes for the Borghese, he took over the family workshop in 1785 after his father's premature death. It seems natural that Pauline should turn to him for the design of the bookcases, as his father had done so much to aggrandize the Villa Borghese. It is also known that Giuseppe Valadier tried to get involved in larger scale architectural projects with the Borghese at various points (see E. Fumagalli, Palazzo Borghese, 1994, pp. 183 and 191). Documented furniture by Giuseppe Valadier is extremely rare- the only other known executed example is a pair of gilt-bronze tables in the Vatican library on which he worked with the sculptor Vincenzo Pacetti, circa 1790 (see A. Gonzalez-Palacios, Il Tempio del Gusto, Roma e il Regno delle due Sicilie, 1984, vol. I, p. 70).
Giuseppe Spagna, a specialist goldsmith, worked in the Valadier workshop from an early stage and supplied the mounts for the Vatican tables designed by Giuseppe Valadier. His close links with Valadier makes it natural that he would have collaborated with him on the Borghese bookcases. His distinctive mounts on the bookcases must have harmonized well with the newly decorated 'Egyptian' and 'Etruscan' rooms at the Palazzo. He received his license as a goldsmith in 1791 and is recorded as working for the Borghese as early as 1806. He took over the running of the Valadier workshop with his son Pietro Paolo in 1812. He eventually purchased the workshop in 1817, the same year that Valadier married Giusepppe Spagna's sister.
THE BORGHESE FAMILY AND THE PALAZZO BORGHESE
The Borghese family are one of the most illustrious in Italian history, renowned alike for their political power and artistic patronage. They originated in Siena in the 13th century, initially gaining prominence with the influential Marcantonio I Borghese (1504-1574), whose son Camillo was elected Pope Paul V in 1605. Their political influence continued throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, strengthened by marriages into families such as the Odescalchi, the Pamphili and the Aldobrandini. Their legendary art collections included important works by Gianlorenzo Bernini and a prestigious collection of antique sculpture accumulated by Marcantonio IV Borghese for the Villa Borghese in Rome.
The Palazzo Borghese was initially designed by the Bolognese architect Vignola in 1578 and bought by Camillo Borghese in 1604, and apart from a brief period at the beginning of this century, has remained in the Borghese family ever since. Successive generations embarked upon lavish programs of decoration at the Palazzo, culminating in a refurbishment in the latest neoclassical taste undertaken by the architect Antonio Asprucci (1723-1808) for Cardinal Scipione Borghese (1734-1782), and later for his brother Marcantonio IV (1730-1800) and Camillo Borghese. These interiors included gilt-bronze furniture and decorations supplied by Luigi Valadier. After Camillo's inherited the Palazzo, he and Pauline occupied separately the piano nobile and the second floors, and work there included Egyptian and Etruscan rooms designed by Asprucci, with decoration by Bernardo Landoni. The Palazzo continued to be embellished by successive generations throughout the nineteenth century, before being sold by Paolo Borghese (1845-1920), in 1891. It was subsequently reacquired by his daughter-in-law, Anna Maria de Ferrari, in 1911.
The Villa Taverna-Borghese, where the bookcases were moved some time after 1860, is situated in Frascati, a fashionable site for country villas since the sixteenth century. It was acquired by Cardinal Scipione Borghese in 1614, who commissioned Girolamo Rainaldi to refurbish it in the Palladian taste. The villa remained in the family until 1896, when Paolo Borghese, great nephew of Camillo Borghese, sold it and its contents to the wealthy Parisi family.