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.)