Pope Clement X (1590-1676)
About the work
Pope Clement X was born Emilio Bonaventura Altieri, into a family of ancient Roman nobility. At the age of about 79, just before the death of Pope Clement IX, Altieri was made a Cardinal. The following year he was offered the papacy, with 59 Cardinals voting for him and only two against. However, he was a reluctant successor and, believing himself to be too old at the age of 80, he is reported to have cried ‘I don’t want to be the Pope!’ just before being crowned on 11 May 1670. He assumed the name of Clement X and served for just six years, before his death on 22 July 1676, following which he was interred at the Vatican. This half-length portrait shows Pope Clement X dressed in a red velvet cloak and hat; typical vestments of a Pope or Cardinal at the time. The work is a seventeenth-century copy after a portrait by Giovanni Battista Gaulli. It may in fact have been copied from a printed version of the portrait, made by the engraver Pierre Simon (c.1650–1710), an example of which exists in the collection of the British Museum, London. Simon’s print was made after both the original drawing (a study for the final work) and the painted version. A drawing of Pope Clement X by Gaulli exists in the Royal Collection. However, the painted version is currently untraced.
In 1761, Andrew Gifford, a Baptist minister and coin collector, presented this painting to the British Museum. Gifford had been employed as Assistant Librarian at the Museum since 1757. The painting was displayed in the Museum for many years before it was eventually transferred to the Office of Works (a former Government department, once responsible for the Government Art Collection) in 1946.
About the artist
- Pope Clement X (1590-1676)
- Oil on canvas
- height: 73.50 cm, width: 59.50 cm
- Purchased from the British Museum, June 1946.
- Collection of Baptist minister, numismatist and assistant librarian in the British Museum Dr Andrew Gifford (1700-1784); by whom presented to British Museum on 3 July 1761; from whom purchased by the Ministry of Works in 1946
- GAC number