Farnese’s Splendours

Last update 30 June 2023

Fasti farnesiani

Fasti farnesiani - The term ‘Fasti’ refers to a series of self-celebratory paintings celebrating the fame of the Farnese dynasty through the representation of the most important events lived by members of the family.

Fasti Farnesiani are divided into two cycles. A first series corresponds to a group of canvases commissioned by Ranuccio II for the stuccoed apartment and painted by Giovannifasti2 Evangelisti Draghi, Sebastiano Ricci and others, between 1685 and 1687; they represent the stories of pope Paolo III and Alessandro Farnese. They were transferred to Naples upon will of Carlo di Borbone in 1734 , and were only partly returned to the Municipality of Piacenza  in 1928.

The second series includes the paintings carried out in 1714 by Ilario Spolverini, commissioned to continue the cycle, and represents the wedding of Elisabetta Farnese with Philip V of Spain, celebrated in 1714. The original cycle has been divided betweenPalazzo Farnese,  Reggia di Caserta and the Municipality of Parma.

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Fasti di Alessandro Farnese

Alessandro Farnese witnessing the destruction of the invincible Armada
Sebastiano Ricci 1686-87

The cycle celebrating the Farnese family started upon will of the duke Ranuccio II as a consequence of three connected episodes: the acquisition of the Landi Principality, the re-opening of the Trade Fair in Piacenza, the wedding of Prince  Odoardo with Dorotea Sofia of  Newburg. The paintings about Alessandro Farnese were added between August 1686 and May 1687. Alessandro, the protagonist of the Catholic conquest of the Flanders and very faithful to the king of Spain, was very celebrated after his death, occurred in  1592. The painter appointed by Ranuccio II was Giovanni Evangelista Draghi, who was already working at the court of the Farnese Family. He was inspired by some iconographic sources, like ‘De Bello Belgico (1640–48)’, historical-documentary text requested by the Farnese to the Jesuit Famiano Strada, describing the Catholic Conquest of  the Flanders.
The duke is depicted in the crucial moments of his career as a strategist, while he’s drawing fortifications, planning battles, receiving supplications from the representatives of defeated cities or while receiving the devotion of the Walloons regions, his allies, and, finally, when obtaining the Blessed Sword, the maximum honour for the defenders of the Catholic Faith.

Fasti di Paolo III Farnese













Paolo III approving the project of the Castle of Piacenza
Sebastiano Ricci 1687-88

The paintings belonging to this series were 19, all by Sebastiano Ricci (1659-1734), but are currently only. The cycle, dedicated to Paolo III Farnese, was finished for the wedding of Odoardo Farnese and Dorotea Sofia  Newburg in 1690. The painting celebrates the reforming and peace-making qualities of the Pope which helped sorting out the inner conflicts of the Catholic Church.
The paintings belonging to the cycle dedicated to Paolo III are: Paolo III approva la compagnia di Gesù (Paolo III approving the Society of Jesus); Paolo III approva l’ordine dei Cappuccini (Paolo III approving the Order of Friars Minor Capuchins); Paolo III fra i cardinali (Paolo III amongst Cardinals); Paolo III benedice una flotta in partenza contro i saraceni (Paolo III blessing a fleet leaving to fight the Sarrasins); Paolo III con una statua della Madonna (Paolo III with a statue of the Virgin); Paolo III nomina il figlio Pier Luigi duca di Piacenza e Parma (Paolo III appointing his son Pierluigi as Duke of Parma and Piacenza); Paolo III e i cardinali in viaggio per Trento (Paolo III and the cardinals travelling to Trento); Paolo III ispirato dalla Fede a convocare il concilio di Trento (Paolo III inspired by faith to summon the Council of Trento); La fede addita una statua di Paolo III (Faith pointing to a statue of Paolo III); Apoteosi di Paolo III (Apotheosis of Paolo III); Paolo III riconcilia Francesco I e Carlo V (Paolo III reconciling François I and Carlos V); Conclave (Papal Conclave); Paolo III approva il progetto del castello di Piacenza (Paolo III approving the project of the Castle of Piacenza).

Fasti di Elisabetta Farnese










Elizabeth meeting Cardinals Gozzadini and Acquaviva
Ilario Spolverini 1714-17

The series dedicated to the wedding of Elisabetta Farnese with the king of Spain, Felipe V, celebrated in 1714, ideally ends the history of the family, begun in 1538 with the wedding of Ottavio with Margaret of Austria, daughter of the emeperor Carlos V.
The wedding of the last Farnese with the king of Spain was owed to the diplomatic expertise of the Cardinal Giulio Alberoni from Piacenza.
The paintings belonging to the cycle celebrating the wedding, carried out by Ilario Spolverini between 1714 and 1717, are unfortunately divided among Musei Civici of Palazzo Farnese,  the Royal Palace of Caserta and the Town hall of Parma.