Concise, critical reviews of books, exhibitions, and projects in all areas and periods of art history and visual studies
December 15, 2003
Ingo Herklotz Cassiano Dal Pozzo und die Archäologie des 17. Jahrhunderts Munich: Hirmer Verlag, 1998. 439 pp.; 226 ills. Cloth €138.00 (3777477508)

Most of what remains of Cassiano Dal Pozzo’s collection of drawings—a collection that he referred to as the Museo Cartaceo (or “Paper Museum”)—survives as loose sheets and bound volumes in the Royal Library, Windsor Castle, and the British Museum in London. The surviving works include drawings of mineral samples, plants and animals from Mexico, and more familiar fauna and flora. In addition, there are more than 2,300 representations of ancient monuments and objects. Perhaps in response to a perceived overspecialization in contemporary academia, Dal Pozzo’s collection has been the object of much scholarly interest in the past two decades. After all, the Museo Cartaceo seems to be the product of a mind that effortlessly synthesized diverse topics that today are considered mutually exclusive specialist discourses.

Several books accompanying conferences or catalogues for museum exhibitions have focused exclusively on Dal Pozzo and his collection. Appropriately enough, they consistently include the research of scholars working in a variety of disciplines, including archaeology, the history of science, and art history.1 The only monographic study on Dal Pozzo since Giacomo Lumbroso’s Notizie sulla vita di Cassiano dal Pozzo of 1875 has been Donatella Sparti’s Le collezioni Dal Pozzo: storia di una famiglia e del suo museo nella Roma seicentesca (Modena: Franco Cosimo Panini, 1992). Where Sparti focuses on the activities of Cassiano and his younger brother Carlo Antonio as collectors, Ingo Herklotz’s book concentrates on Dal Pozzo’s interests in ancient archaeology. In Cassiano Dal Pozzo und die Archäologie des 17. Jahrhunderts, Herklotz masterfully assembles a volume on this centrifugal personality of seventeenth-century Rome whose broad interests, extensive social contacts, and prodigious legacy seem to defy efforts of synthesis in a monographic study. Herklotz’s research figures prominently in recent scholarship on Dal Pozzo and the Museo Cartaceo. In his previous articles and essays, the author explored how Dal Pozzo’s collection informed ancient archaeology and the archaeological method of early modern Europe. In the early 1990s, Herklotz posed the following question in the final section of an article on Dal Pozzo and antiquarian studies: Did the Museo Cartaceo function as an antiquarian resource in the way Cassiano dal Pozzo himself intended? (“Geriet das Museo Cartaceo wirklich zu jenem großen antiquarischen Instrumentarium, wie es seinem Initiator vorschwebte?”).2

The book under review here further engages this question, and a rich and complex picture of seventeenth-century archaeological research emerges as a result. Herklotz approaches this inquiry from a variety of viewpoints, both examining the quotidian minutiae of Cassiano’s daily responsibilities and interactions in the Barberini Palace and explaining how the Museo Cartaceo participated in the broader tradition of antiquarian and archaeological research of early modern Europe. In the first part of the book, Herklotz portrays the assembling of the Museo Cartaceo as a comprehensive collaboration with his brother, the papal nephew Cardinal Francesco Barberini, the artists who drafted the drawings, and the antiquarians whose studies benefited from the collection. In the second part, Herklotz sets the drawings in an artistic and intellectual tradition of understanding ancient Roman civilization that emulated Varro’s Antiquitates of the mid-first century B.C.E. and strove for a progressively new empirical understanding of ancient material culture. In turn, the Museo Cartaceo became an important precedent for inquiry that synthesized a rigorous analysis of ancient material culture with a thorough knowledge of antique literary sources that characterize the work of Bernard de Montfaucon, the Comte de Caylus, and Johann Joachim Winckelmann.

Cassiano’s spirited epistolary exchanges with intellectuals throughout Europe are well known, and his name appears in the dedications to more than thirty books published during his lifetime. Dal Pozzo’s ability to assist his colleagues was facilitated by his position as coppiere (while a coppiere is literally a “cup pourer” for banquet events, Cassiano’s responsibilities corresponded more closely to those of a butler) in Cardinal Francesco Barberini’s household and by his brother’s deft handling of the Dal Pozzo estate. Cassiano resisted pressures from his family to get married, and even though he inherited the Dal Pozzo estate upon his father’s death in 1620, he ultimately transferred it to Carlo Antonio in 1627 upon his brother’s marriage to Theodora Costa, daughter of a Ligurian nobleman. Herklotz suggests that this maneuver allowed Cassiano to pursue his collection of drawings without having to administer the Dal Pozzo estate. Carlo Antonio proved to be a competent financial manager; he helped his older brother maintain an independent financial status. Even after the Barberini papacy, when Cassiano lost his position in the papal entourage and revenues from his ecclesiastical titles waned, the Dal Pozzo household in the Via dei Chiavari (just behind the Theatine church, San Andrea della Valle) remained a meeting point for intellectuals in Rome. Notable among Dal Pozzo’s later correspondents and visitors were the Neapolitan doctor and student of Tommaso Campanella, Marco Aurelio Severino, and the Dutch philologist Nicolaas Heinsius (who was instrumental in bringing Dal Pozzo and his work to the attention of Queen Christina of Sweden).

While Dal Pozzo’s salary as a coppiere in the Palazzo Barberini was probably little more than a symbolic gesture, the post allowed him to gain the acquaintance of the philologists, antiquarians, and archaeologists who sought the favor of the Barberini. While ranking below the maggiordomo of the Barberini household, his position was comparable to those of the Seneschal, the maestro di camera, and the cavallerizzo; it also ranked above the posts of Secretary, Librarian, and Antiquaries, which were usually occupied by the literati at the court of the papal nephew. For the aspiring intellectuals of seventeenth-century Rome, therefore, winning the favor of Cardinal Francesco Barberini meant endearing themselves to Cassiano Dal Pozzo.

One of the most significant events in Cassiano’s career with the Barberini was his trip to France and Spain with the Papal Legation in 1625, where he met the French polymath and long-time friend of the Barberini, Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc. Dal Pozzo and Peiresc’s extensive correspondence, their comparably widespread interests (from philology and antiquarian studies to botany, zoology, and pharmacology), and their generous collaboration in numerous intellectual projects throughout Europe have invited comparisons between the two polymaths since the 1630s (in letters to Cassiano, both Jacques Gaffarel and Vincenzo Noghera referred to him as the Peyrescio redivivo). Because of its centrality in the ritual, intellectual, and artistic life of Rome—if not all of Europe—Herklotz sees Dal Pozzo’s position in the cardinal’s household as a distinguishing point between the two men. The author contends that Cassiano’s position as coppiere became a fundamental part of his identity, blurring the distinction between Cassiano Dal Pozzo the courtier and Cassiano Dal Pozzo the antiquarian. The courtier served the needs of the antiquarian quite well: Cassiano’s ability to negotiate the potential intrigues of the Barberini court translated into an unmatched ability to coordinate both learned and artistic activity in several projects.

The contributions of the artists who copied ancient objects for Dal Pozzo were central to the success of the Museo Cartaceo. Some scholars suspect that Nicolas Poussin and Pietro da Cortona executed drawings for Dal Pozzo, but it was less well-known artists, including Bernardino Capitelli, Pietro Testa, and Vincenzo Leonardi, who created most of the works. Herklotz emphasizes that even though producing an accurate facsimile of the original was crucial to the scientific empiricism of the “Paper Museum,” fidelity to the original could not always be reconciled with the act of copying. In a sensitive analysis of select drawings from the Museo Cartaceo, the author observes passages of deviation from the antique object that are highly instructive. For example, Testa modified the proportions of the figures from the Arch of Constantine (the late-antique frieze scene showing the imperial Largitio, or “alms giving”), giving them more classically oriented dimensions. In another instance, Testa modified the composition from a sarcophagus found in San Paolo fuori le Mura so drastically (the scene was the Flaying of Marsyas) that Herklotz suspects that only rough sketches were taken in the presence of the actual object and that Testa combined these impressions with copies from another sculpted relief. Thus, the mechanical act of copying was not without the stylistic biases of the artists and their efforts to create an aesthetically pleasing reproduction.

While the Museo Cartaceo itself was not a published study, the collection of drawings was essential to archaeological research in the seventeenth century. (The author appropriately refers to Cassiano and Carlo Antonio Dal Pozzo as the “Fratelli Alinari” of the seventeenth century, 185). One of the biggest beneficiaries of the drawings was Peiresc, Cassiano’s French counterpart. Peiresc’s purchase of an ancient three-footed incense tray that was discovered on the coast of Provence in 1629 inspired an intensive search for other examples of tripods or representations of them in antiquity. Dal Pozzo was able to send him many depictions of comparable tripods that were taken from antique monuments. In Ottavio Ferrari’s De re vestiaria of 1654, now considered one of the most important archaeological treatises of the seventeenth century, Dal Pozzo’s drawings and plaster casts from ancient Roman monuments enabled Ferrari to assemble numerous examples of ancient Roman clothing types.

In the larger context of antiquarian and archaeological research, Herklotz considers the ways in which both ancient and early modern authors tried to capture the totality of ancient Roman life. Dal Pozzo’s friend and colleague Carlo Dati referred to the Museo Cartaceo as “un corpo di tutta l’Antichità Romana,” or a “Corpus antiquitatum” (“a comprehensive collection of all Roman Antiquities,” 240). Such an encyclopedic appellation finds an ancient precedent with Varro’s Antiquitates rerum humanarum and Antiquitates rerum divinarum. The organization of Varro’s Antiquitates provided a framework for Cassiano’s own collection that was diagrammed in Dati’s Synopsis, atque Ordo antiquitatum Romanorum Ilustriss. & Eruditiss. V. Equites Cassiani a Puteo of 1658. Herklotz argues that Dal Pozzo’s drawings fit into Dati’s index by following a double principle of selection: they are divided according to their iconographic content and their functions as monuments and as objects.

The Museo Cartaceo, however, is more than a continuation of the tradition of Varro that was revived in the Renaissance. The drawings attest to a newfound faith in visual evidence. Furthermore, its place alongside literary and philological methods demonstrates a broadening of comparative methods, helping to prevent an overreliance on literary sources and philology. The comparison of visual and literary sources was central to Dal Pozzo’s methodology: Herklotz emphasizes that Cassiano had planned to accompany the drawings with commentaries taken from ancient sources. The author publishes a list of sources that Dal Pozzo intended to use for the commentaries in appendix 3.

Herklotz’s assessment of seventeenth-century archaeology leaves questions about the place of the Counter Reformation in this enterprise. One of the premier archaeological projects of Counter Reformation Rome, Antonio Bosio’s Roma Sotteranea of 1634, is marginalized in this study. This demotion is in part justified: even though Cassiano contributed drawings to the Roma Sotterranea, he appears to have expressed lukewarm interest in the project and collaborated only upon the insistence of Francesco Barberini. A brief contrast between the Roma Sotterranea and the Museo Cartaceo, however, would have been instructive. One also wonders if the Counter Reformation affected the way archaeologists approached the patristic writings. Augustine’s Civitate Dei was an important literary source for its information on the gladiatorial games, and the Church Father’s condemnation of the games was echoed by numerous other archaeologists in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Herklotz did address Dal Pozzo’s relation to the Christian tradition in an earlier article, where he made an insightful differentiation between how Dal Pozzo and Federico Borromeo viewed early Christian antiquities.3 Whereas Dal Pozzo was attracted to these remains primarily for what they could tell him about ancient material culture, Borromeo’s interest laid in how they could clarify the iconography of the saints and how they could be used to reproduce the saints’ verae effigies in contemporary painting. This differentiation is a crucial defining feature in Dal Pozzo’s archaeology and most certainly merited repetition in the more recent book. (While Herklotz cites his earlier article on p. 60, it is in reference to the engravings of the catacombs that Bosio had prepared by 1615.)

Herklotz’s book provides us with a comprehensive view of Cassiano Dal Pozzo, his collaborators, and an archaeological project that placed a new value on visual documentation. For Cassiano, the close scrutiny of objects and monuments had multiple criteria: they were observed both for their iconographic content and for isolating incidental details of a figurative scene to glean information about the material culture of antiquity. Seventeenth-century archaeologists then compared this observed information against literary sources, sharpening their critical appreciation for both the visual and the textual. Herklotz presents the archaeological method embodied in the Museo Cartaceo as one guided by the tradition of Varro’s Antiquitates and infused with an interest in visual empiricism in the spirit of Francis Bacon.

The author concludes the book by reconsidering how the minutiae of Cassiano’s drawings after antiquity could be reconciled with the broader interests, goals, and meaning of antiquarian research of the early modern period. Perhaps fitting to a study so rich in detail, Herklotz concedes that Dal Pozzo’s scrupulous attention to particulars is both the greatest strength and the glaring weakness of the Museo Cartaceo. Where Dal Pozzo’s drawings allowed Ferrari (in De re vestiaria) to compare vestment types in an analysis that engaged questions of social stratification, gender distinction, and ritual life—the “mores et instituta”—in antiquity, other inquiries slipped into a series of commonplace observations. In his commentary on Lorenzo Pignoria’s De servis (1613), Dal Pozzo himself could fall into such banality as he used his drawings to differentiate bread from grape baskets and compared the reliefs of the Column of Trajan with those on the Arch of Septimius Severus in order to determine the form of ancient barrels.

These strengths and weaknesses are ongoing concerns for present-day classics research. Herklotz notes that recently published reference books on ancient Rome4 show a renewed interest in the material culture of antiquity to produce a “history from below” (306) of the ancient world. In addition, doctoral dissertations continue to explore topics—the history of the toga, the medical instruments of antiquity, the use of water and wine at Roman banquets—that were of interest to Cassiano Dal Pozzo, Ottavio Ferrari, and Lorenzo Pignoria.

Cassiano Dal Pozzo und die Archäologie des 17. Jahrhunderts is both a tale of an early modern archaeologist and the story of a historical method. Herklotz helps us to see how the Museo Cartaceo contributed to the development of a cultural history in which the particulars of material culture inform the broader aspirations and ideals of a civilization. The author also challenges us to consider why this method—in both its strengths and weaknesses—continues to guide our search for meaning in material culture.

J. Nicholas Napoli
—J, Assistant Instructor, Writing Program (Department of English), Rutgers University

1. Among these are the published proceedings from a seminar in Rome and Naples in 1987 (Cassiano dal Pozzo: Atti del Seminario Internazionale di Studi, ed. Francesco Solinas [Rome: De Luca, 1989]) and a four-volume series, the Quaderni Puteani, published by Olivetti in Milan (Quaderni Puteani 1: Il Museo Cartaceo di Cassiano dal Pozzo: Cassiano Naturalista, 1989; Quaderni Puteani 2–3: Cassiano dal Pozzo’s Paper Museum, 2 vols., 1992; and Quaderni Puteani 4: The Paper Museum of Cassiano dal Pozzo, 1993, which was an exhibition catalogue to a 1993 show at the British Museum in London). Essays on Dal Pozzo have also appeared in thematic compilations that include Elizabeth Cropper, Giovanna Perini, and Francesco Solinas: Documentary Culture: Florence and Rome from Grand-Duke Ferdinand I to Pope Alexander VII. Papers from a Colloquium Held at the Villa Spelman, Florence, 1990 (Bologna: Nuova Alfa Editoriale, 1992); and Richard Harprath and Henning Wrede’s study of antiquarianism and archaeology in the early modern period: Antikenzeichnung und Antikenstudium in Renaissance und Frühbarock: Akten des internationalen Symposions, 8–10 September, 1986 (Mainz am Rhein: P. Van Zabern, 1989). In addition to these studies, a multivolume catalogue raisonné of Dal Pozzo’s drawings is in production by Harvey Miller Publishers in London (The Paper Museum of Cassiano dal Pozzo: A Catalogue Raisonné, Series A includes Antiquities and Architecture, Series B includes Natural History).

2. Ingo Herklotz, “Das Museo Cartaceo des Cassiano dal Pozzo und seine Stellung in der Antiquarischen Wissenschaft des 17. Jahrhunderts,” in Cropper, Perini, and Solinas 1992, 81–125, at 105.

3. Ingo Herklotz, “Cassiano and the Christian Tradition,” in Cassiano dal Pozzo’s Paper Museum, 2 vols., ed. Ian Jenkins et al. (Milan: Olivetti, 1992) 2:31–48.

4. Salvatore Settis, Civiltà dei Romani, 4 vols. (Milan: Electa, 1990–930; Lesley and Roy A. Adkins, Handbook to Life in Ancient Rome (New York: Facts on File, 1994).