The Triumph of Divine Providence

February 24, 2011 / Art & Archaeology
Rome, Lazio

Visited all the main monuments and walked the Forums and the Vatican? Well, maybe there is something you have never done and you must do at least once in your life. Visit Palazzo Barberini and Pietro da Cortona’s huge ceiling fresco for the Sala dei Palafranieri, or guardroom, originally utilized for formal meetings or banquets by the Barberini family and today one of the painting collection rooms of the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica.

The Triumph of Divine Providence (1633-1639) was finished under the papacy of Urban VIII. This fresco is an exuberant crowded ceiling, where Cortona aimed to deify Urban VIII and his family utilizing complex allusions of great appeal to cultured visitors. The artist created a multiplicity of images drawing upon the antique, eliminating all the spatial references and setting his figures and scene in the empty space of a fresco which incorporates the architectural structure below, intentionally producing a chaotic ceiling, full of figures. Astonishing sections of this ceiling are the The Falling of the Giants and The Triumph of Religion and Spirituality, where Cortona showed his skills, certainly inspired by previous fresco production of the early seventeenth century, such as Annibale Carracci’s ceiling for the Palazzo Farnese in Rome.

Chaotic as it is, this ceiling is definitely worth a visit!


– Contributed by Simona Albanese, a native of Rome, a bit Kiwi and Aussie, living, travelling and moving around the world with her family, while sharing via blog her passion for art and culture.

8 Responses to “The Triumph of Divine Providence”

  1. Penny Ewles-Bergeron
    Penny Ewles-Bergeron

    A triumph in every sense! Thanks – I didn’t know about this.

  2. Edward McCabe

    Was there six weeks ago, twice! Wonderful. But there are many other fantastic things on view at the Barberini as well. Paintings, sculpture as well as the architecture of the Palazzo itself.

  3. giuseppe spano (jojo)
    giuseppe spano (jojo)

    researching this artist intent, is not what one may think, look deeper

  4. Gian Banchero

    Oh my gosh, over morning coffee I kept staring at the fresco and found myself being physically drawn up to the above people, and oh the music I heard!! Work such as this allows for a wonderful transcendental experience, nothing like much of the modern stuff that so many times feels oppressive and stifles the soul and imagination. Today I shall put on some of Vivaldi’s music. Thank you Simona!!

  5. I’ve been to the Palazzo Barberini many times as a study abroad professor -the Italian Baroque never fails to amaze! Few artists today could visualize such a grand gesture. One wonders how Cortona got it right! Think of the problems in perspective, foreshortening, light and dark; movement and rest….

    It is always wonderful to visit these wonderful works of art again, even if via cyberspace.
    Grazie, Simona

  6. Dante Bianchi

    There is currently a biography of Galileo on the market which contains much about Barberini/Urban VII, the man who ordered Galileo to deny his discoveries: “Galileo: Watcher of the Skies.” The ceiling is discussed as well, and it is a beautiful work of art, but one sees it differently when one learns more about the times and the men.

  7. Thanks for the your comments!!

    I could stand hours there!!This is one of the most beautiful ceiling in Rome and the second largest ceiling after the Sistine Chapel!!!
    It was the subject of my Master a few years ago… but I can tell you more, I was on the scaffolding when the fresco was restored before the Jubileum!!!

    A presto!!
    Simona Albanese

  8. Tina Giamotti

    Every time I go back to Rome I make of list of the places, sites and palazzi I didn’t see; this is one of them! Thank you!


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