Francesco Maria Del Monte  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Francesco Maria Del Monte, full name Francesco Maria Borbone Del Monte (5 July 1549 - 27 August, 1627) was an Italian cardinal, diplomat and connoisseur of the arts. His fame today rests on his early patronage of the important Baroque master Caravaggio, and on his art collection (the Del Monte collection) which provides provenance for many important works of the period.

Born in Venice of the aristocratic Del Monte family (which provided several Popes and innumerable cardinals to the Church), he was the son of Marquis Ranieri Bourbon del Monte, first count of Monte Baroccio, and Minerva Pianosa, and remotely descended from the royal Bourbon dynasty of France. He began his ecclesiastical career as Abbot commendatario of Santa Croce a Monte Fabali. He then went to Rome when he was still quite young, and was appointed as auditor for Cardinal Alessandro Sforza, before being finally admitted into the court of Cardinal Ferdinando de' Medici. He made his way up through the clerical ranks as Referendary of the Tribunals of the Apostolic Signature of Justice and of Grace (1580), and later went to serve the grand-duke of Tuscany, the former Cardinal Ferdinando de' Medici.

He was created cardinal deacon in the consistory of 14 December 14, 1588 under Pope Sixtus V, and received the deaconry of S. Maria in Domnica the following year. He took part in the two conclaves of 1590, that of 1591 and that of 1592. He subsequently took the titles of Santa Maria in Aracoeli, Santa Maria in Trastevere, and S. Lorenzo in Lucina. As a cardinal he proved an accomplished diplomat and administrator: he represented the interests of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, the former Cardinal Ferdinando de' Medici, in Rome, and was firmly but discreetly pro-French in the ongoing struggle between the French and Spanish for influence over the papacy. He served as Prefect of the Tridentine Council 1606-1616 and had ambitions of being elected Pope at the conclave of 1621, but his pro-French sympathies ensured his veto by the Spanish.

Together with his brother, he helped Galileo win a lectureship in mathematics in Pisa in 1589 and in Padua in 1592. In the wake of Galileo’s successes in discovering the Medicean Planets, he gave the Cardinal a copy of his Sidereus nuncius (Starry Messenger) and a telescope as gifts. When Galileo went to Rome in 1611, Grand Duke Cosimo II recommended him to the Cardinal’s council so that he could be helped during his sojourn at the Vatican.

Academics such as Posener, Frommer and Hibbard have drawn upon extant documents (principly the correspondence of Dirk van Ameyden) that suggest the strong likelihood that he was homosexual and this may have influenced his tastes in the art he commissioned, as well as damaging prospects of assuming the papacy (D. Posener, "Caravaggio's early homo-erotic works", Art Quarterly 24 (1976).

He died in his Rome palace (Palazzo Madama, today the home of the Italian Senate) and was buried in the church of Sant'Urbano, Rome.

Del Monte was a perceptive supporter of the arts and sciences of his day - he was the first recorded owner of the Portland Vase and his Palazzo Madama household was one of the most important intellectual salons in Rome. At his death his art collection contained nearly six hundred paintings, and his support of the young Caravaggio has given provenance to several of that artist's early works.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Francesco Maria Del Monte" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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