Cabinet de Pichini

Témoignage de John Evelyn (1644)

I came to Rome on the 4th November, 1644, about five at night ; and being perplexed for a convenient lodging, wandered up and down on horseback, till at last one conducted us to Monsieur Petit’s, a Frenchman, near the Piazza Spagnola. Here I alighted, and, having bargained with my host for twenty crowns a month, I caused a good fire to be made in my chamber and went to bed, being so very wet. The next morning (for I was resolved to spend no time idly here) I got acquainted with several persons who had long lived at Rome. I was especially recommended to Father John, a Benedictine monk and Superior of his Order for the English College of Douay, a person of singular learning, religion, and humanity ; also to Mr. Patrick Cary, an Abbot, brother to our learned Lord Falkland, a witty young priest, who afterwards came over to our church ; Dr. Bacon and Dr. Gibbs1, physicians who had dependence on Cardinal Caponi, the latter being an excellent poet ; Father Courtney, the chief of the Jesuits in the English College ; my Lord of Somerset, brother to the Marquis of Worcester ;2 and some others, from whom I received instructions how to behave in town, with directions to masters and books to take in search of the antiquities, churches, collections, &c. Accordingly, the next day, November 6, I began to be very pragmatical.3

In the first place, our sights-man4 (for so they name certain persons here who get their living by leading strangers about to see the city) went to the Palace Farnese, a magnificent square structure, built by Michael Angelo, of the three orders of columns after the ancient manner, and when architecture was but newly recovered from the Gothic barbarity. The court is square and terraced, having two pair of stairs which lead to the upper rooms, and conducted us to that famous gallery painted by Augustine Caracci, than which nothing is more rare that art ; so deep and well-studied are all the figures, that I would require more judgment than I confess I had, to determine whether they were flat, or embossed. Thence, we passed into another, painted in chiaroscúro, representing the fabulous history of Hercules. We went out on the terrace, where was a pretty garden on the leads, for it is built in a place that has no extent of ground backwards. The great hall is wrought by Salviati and Zuccharo, furnished with statues, one of which being modern in the figure of a Farnese, in a triumphant posture, of white marble, worthy of admiration. Here we were showed the Museum of Fulvius Ursinos, replete with innumerable collections ; but the Major-Dômo being absent, we could not at this time see all we wished. Descending into the court, we will astonishment contemplated those two incomparable statues of Hercules and Flora, so much celebrated by Pliny, and indeed by all antiquity, as two of the most rare pieces in the world : there likewise stands a modern statue of Hercules and two Gladiators, not to be despised. In a second court was a temporary shelter of boards over the most stupendous and never-to-be-sufficiently-admired Torso of Amphion and Dirce, represented in five figures, exceeding the life in magnitude, of the purest white marble, the contending work of those famous statuaries, Apoilonius and Taurisco, in the time of Augustus, hewed out of one entire stone, and remaining unblemished, to be valued beyond all the marbles of the world for its antiquity and workmanship. There are divers other heads and busts. At the entrance of this stately palace stand two rare and vast fountains of garnito stone, brought into the piazza out of Titus’s Baths. Here, in summer, the gentlemen of Rome take the fresco in their coaches and on foot. At the sides of this court, we visited the Palace of Signor Pichini, who has a good collection of antiquities, especially the Adonis of Parian marble, which my Lord Arundel would once have purchased, if a great price would have been taken for it.

1James Alban Gibbs, a Scotchman, bred at Oxford, and resident many years at Rome, where he died 1677, and was buried in the Pantheon there, with an epitaph to his memory under a marble bust. He was an extraordinary character. In Mood’s Athenæ is a long account of him, and some curious additional particulars will be found in Warton’s Life of Dr. Bathurst. He was a writer of Latin poetry, a small collection of which he published at Rome, with his portrait prefixed.
2Thomas, third son of Edward fourth Earl of Worcester, made a Knight of the Bath by King James, and in 1626 created Viscount Somerset, of Cashel, in Ireland. He died in 1651.
3The sense in which Evelyn uses this word is that of its old signification, as being very active and full of business,—setting to work systematically with what he came upon, namely, to view the antiquities ant beauties of Rome.
4The name for these gentlemen since universal with Italians is cicerone, but they affect universally the title of antiquaries.

(The diary of John Evelyn, Ed. William Bray, J.M. DENT et E.P DULTON, London-New York, 1905, Tome I, p.101-103.)