It is highly recommended when at 17th century Palazzo Altieri on the one day a year it’s open (belongs to the Italian Bank Association) that you only look up. Try to take in everything and you’ll blow your Roman Baroque fuse for once and for all.
Not that the ceiling frescoes are exactly understated… word has it that Pope Clement X, (aka E.B. Altieri), didn’t finish decorating his palazzo because …get this… he ran out of money! No mean feat for a Pope right in the midst of the Counter-Reformation, the most opulent period ever for the Church.
Yet he sure got every penny’s worth. Allegories about “clemency” (get it? Pope Clement..), Triumphs of Romulus over pagans and Christians alike, Acclamations of Public Happiness and of other cardinal virtues abound.
But where he really got a bulk deal is on the putti (cherubs). Putti here, putti there, putti putti everywhere! It’s a veritable invasion of the cute little guys. Cute for the first 15 minutes of the tour, that is. By the time you reach the last of the 16 gran saloni you’re definitely having Wizard of Oz, creepy flying monkey childhood trauma flashbacks.
The quantity of them is truly prodigious.. hiding behind marble vases, hanging from vines, peeking out from behind your pick of any minor Goddess, Fate, or Muse, yanking Aeneas’ toga, chucking grapes at the onlookers, and if that weren’t enough, they also “hold”, duck, swerve and flit around the outside edges of the frescoes too!
Makes you imagine the interior decorator’s negotiation with the artists…
“Deal, 100 gold florins for each of you… but I want 2.8 putti per square meter at least, and make ’em chubby!!”