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1901

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2012

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2019

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Drawing, Design for Allegory of Divine Wisdom, Reception Room, Palazzo Barberini, Rome, Italy, 1629–33

This is a Drawing. It is dated 1629–33 and we acquired it in 1901. Its medium is brush and brown wash, pen and brown ink, red, black, and white chalk on off-white laid paper. It is a part of the Drawings, Prints, and Graphic Design department.

Broad swathes of brown wash block out the figures in this preliminary study for a ceiling fresco in the Palazzo Barberini, Rome. Loose lines delineate the gestures and contours of Divine Wisdom and her eleven maidens. The circle behind Divine Wisdom’s head represents the blinding light of the sun. The sweeping curve at the lower half of the page indicates the earth. In the final fresco, an enormous globe would dominate the composition. The inclusion of these two heavenly bodies can be understood as a response to Galileo’s recently published – and challenged- theories of heliocentricity.
The free exploration evident in this drawing suggest it was among the first of many preparatory drawings for the fresco; several compositional changes would occur between this and the final work. However, this is the only known drawing connected with the project. The design dispenses with all architectural framing devices typically found in illusionistic ceiling frescos. Situated in the large antechamber to the family’s private chapel, viewers are intended to contemplate the scene before entering the chapel, where they could pray for divine wisdom and guidance.

It is credited Museum purchase through gift of various donors.

  • Drawing (Italy)
  • pen and brown ink, brush and brown and gray wash, black chalk, graphite on....
  • 1938-88-3578

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Its dimensions are

31.2 x 33.3 cm (12 5/16 x 13 1/8 in.)

It is inscribed

Inscribed with point of brush and brown wash, center right: candidezza; inscribed in pen and brown ink, upper left: 277

Cite this object as

Drawing, Design for Allegory of Divine Wisdom, Reception Room, Palazzo Barberini, Rome, Italy, 1629–33; Previously owned by Giovanni Piancastelli (Italian, 1845–1926); Italy; brush and brown wash, pen and brown ink, red, black, and white chalk on off-white laid paper; 31.2 x 33.3 cm (12 5/16 x 13 1/8 in.); Museum purchase through gift of various donors; 1901-39-1714

This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Hewitt Sisters Collect.

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<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url=https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18111015/ |title=Drawing, Design for Allegory of Divine Wisdom, Reception Room, Palazzo Barberini, Rome, Italy, 1629–33 |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=22 August 2019 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>