Gian Lorenzo Bernini

Maffeo Barberini, Pope Urban VIII

c. 1632
Bernini's friendship with Pope Urban VIII, who ruled from 1623 to 1644, undoubtedly explains the portrait's extraordinary presence. The pontiff's pensive and wise expression, his dignified bearing, the slight angle of his head, and the realistic detail in the clothing, all give an impression of life momentarily suspended.

– still in 1964
Castelbarco Albani family, Rome, Italy [1]

Anonymous collection, Zurich, Switzerland [2]

by 1969 – 1973
“Etablissement pour la Culture et Arts”, Vaduz, Liechtenstein (Robert Leclerc, Geneva, Switzerland) [3]

12/1973 – 07/1974
Eugene V. Thaw (b.1927), New York, NY, USA, and David Carritt (b.1927), London, England, UK (owned jointly), purchased from Robert Leclerc, Geneva, Switzerland [4]

1974 –
National Gallery of Canada, purchased from Eugene V. Thaw, New York [5]

[1] It is not known how the bust of Urban VIII came into the possession of the Castelbarco Albanis, a distinguished Italian family of Albanian descent. It is known that many family members had ties to the papacy: e.g. Carlo Albani was Maestro di Camera to Cardinal Francesco Barberini, the nephew of Pope Urban VIII. In the 18th century, a Castelbarco Albani became Clement XI. Whereas the principal Roman line of the Albanis died out, a collateral line leads to the Castelbarco Albani family, which considers itself direct heirs.

According to a statement by Carlo Castelbarco Albani (1926–2005), Casciago, Italy, dated October 5, 1974, the bust of Pope Urban VIII was owned by his family until the late 1960s [NGC curatorial files]. For several years his father Prince Cesare Castelbarco Albani (d. 1972) unsuccessfully attempted to sell the bust through his brother Count Francesco Castelbarco Albani, an antique dealer in Milan. It remained with Francesco Castelbarco Albani until 1964, when Prince Cesare reassumed possession. This was the last time Carlo Castelbarco Albani saw the marble. In 1969, Prince Cesare showed him Rudolf Wittkower's article in the Burlington Magazine, attributing the bust to Bernini [Wittkower, Rudolf. “A New Bust of Pope Urban VIII by Bernini.” Burlington Magazine, vol. 111, no. 791 (February 1969) p. 60]. On this occasion, his father told him, that he had sold the bust to an art dealer from Geneva without realizing to whom it was attributed [NGC curatorial file].

[2] See note [4].

[3] See note [4].

[4] In a statement rendered by David Carritt, London, on October 11, 1974, he claimed that he had purchased the bust of Urban VIII after Christmas 1973 in joint ownership with Eugene V. Thaw, New York, from Robert Leclerc, Geneva. Leclerc, a Swiss banker and art dealer, presumably acquired the work in the late 1960s. According to Carritt, Leclerc indicated that he had acquired it from a bank in Zurich. Leclerc was associated with the Etablissement pour la Culture et Arts, Vaduz, Liechtenstein [dealer's invoice dated July 11, 1974, NGC curatorial file].

[5] National Gallery acquisition form dated July 12, 1974 [NGC curatorial file].

Maffeo Barberini, Pope Urban VIII
c. 1632
94.7 x 68.8 x 34.3 cm with base
Credit line
Purchased 1974
Accession number