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Dig Deeper: About the artist Pietro da Cortona

Ajaccio_Da_Cortona_Autoportrait

Imagine this: Your organization discovers that a painting long displayed in your building could be a valuable work by a major seventeenth-century painter. This rare find gains national attention; it’s worthy of conserving. You want your organization’s communications team to explain this painting’s significance and to provide updates on its conservation. Now, imagine your good fortune that a writer for that team is a librarian who specializes in art history.

We don’t have to imagine.

Alice Bampton, visuals specialist and senior writer for Falvey’s Communication and Service Promotion team, has been an adjunct instructor of art history in Villanova’s Department of History. She has taught art history survey, ancient, medieval, the Renaissance and history of photography courses. Bampton, through words and photos, has been documenting the conservation process and explaining the history of Pietro da Cortona’s “Triumph of David.” In this latest installment, Bampton provides a research librarian’s curated links to the painting’s mysterious artist: Pietro da Cortona.


While Pietro da Cortona (1596 – 1669), the artist to whom Falvey’s “The Triumph of David” is attributed, is an acknowledged major painter and architect of the Baroque, surprisingly few monographs about him exist, even in Italian. What follows is an annotated bibliography of works held in Falvey plus an e-book available through Hathitrust.org. The most accessible information for those who do not read Italian is in the following two works:

Turner, Jane, editor. The Dictionary of Art, 7. New York: Grove Dictionaries, Inc., 1996. “Cortona, Pietro da,” pp. 905-915. N31.D5 1996, Reference – non circulating.

Zirpolo, Lilian H. Historical Dictionary of Baroque Art and Architecture. Lanham, Md., The Scarecrow Press, 2010. “Berretini da Cortona, Pietro,” pp. 93-95. N6415.B3 Z57 2010

Comprehensive works about Cortona (with my translations of the titles) are listed below:

Benocci, Carla. Pietro da Cortona e la Villa di Castel Fusano dai Sacchetti ai Chigi: Architettura, Pittura, Giardini, Paesaggio. [Pietro da Cortona and the Villa of the Sacchetti and Chigi (Families) at Castel Fusano: Architecture, Paintings, Gardens, Views.] Roma: Editoriale Artemide s.r.l., 2012. NA1123.P53 B46 2012 — Provides a comprehensive study of the “birth of the Baroque” in an “original architectural complex by Pietro Berrettini da Cortona.” (Petrucci, p.73). Covers the villa through the nineteenth century. Thoroughly illustrated.

Briganti, Guiliano. Pietro da Cortona: o della pittura barocca. [Pietro da Cortona: Or of Baroque Painting.] Firenze: G. C. Sansoni editore, 1962. ND623.B45 B7 — Includes a chronology of Cortona’s life with references to supporting documents. Also contains a catalogue raisonnè which identifies 152 paintings and a draft for a catalog of drawings. (A catalogue raisonnè is “a descriptive catalog of works of art with explanations and scholarly comments.” oxforddictionaries.com). Falvey’s painting is not listed in the catalogue raisonnè. This is the standard monograph for Cortona.

Campbell, Malcolm. Pietro da Cortona at the Pitti Palace: A Study of the Planetary Rooms and Related Projects. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977. ND623.P56 C35 — Specific to the Pitti Palace frescoes. Black and white illustrations.

Constantine the Great: The Tapestries – The Designs. N.p.: The Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1964. NK3055.A1 P47 — Exhibition catalogue of the Constantine tapestries from the Barberini Palace, Rome, donated to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Tapestries were designed by Peter Paul Rubens and Pietro da Cortona. Almost no information about Cortona.

Contini, Roberto, editor. Pietro da Cortona per la sua terra: da allievo a maestro. [Pietro da Cortona in his world: from apprentice to master.] Milano: Electa, 1997. ND619.T9 P45 1997 — Exhibition catalog for 1997 exhibit in Cortona. Numerous black and white illustrations, some color illustrations.

Dubon, David. Tapestries from the Samuel H. Kress Collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. N.p.: Phaidon Press, 1964. NK3055.A1 P5 — Includes a small amount of information about Cortona’s personal style, designs for five panels of the Constantine tapestries and six sketches reproduced in black and white.

Fabbrini, Narciso. Vite del Cav. Pietro Berrettini da Cortona: Pittore ed Architetto. [Life of the Cavalier Pietro Berrettini da Cortona: Painter and Architect.] Cortona: Tipografia R. Bimbi & F., 1896. — Available as an e-book. Written at the tricentennial of Cortona’s birth. A comprehensive work, but without illustrations. Fabbrini includes a Berrettini family tree and Pietro da Cortona’s first will plus an addition he made near the time of his death. This is still considered an essential reference for Cortona.

Haskell, Francis. Patrons and Painters: A Study in the Relations between Italian Art and Society in the Age of the Baroque. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1980. (1st edition 1963) — Not specific to Cortona, but an excellent overview of the relationships between artists, Cortona among them, and their patrons. N6916.H37 1980

Lo Bianco, Anna, editor. Pietro da Cortona 1597-1669. Milano: Electra, 1997. N6923.P458 A4 1997 — Exhibition catalog for 1997-1998 exhibition in Rome. Well illustrated in color and black and white. Text in Italian.

Lo Bianco, Anna. Translated by Oona Smyth. Pietro da Cortona’s Ceiling. Rome: Gebart s.r.l., 2004 (2006 reprint). ND623.P56 L6313 2004 — This pamphlet focuses on the ceiling fresco painted in the Gran Salone of the Palazzo Barberini, Rome. Color illustrations with numerous details.

Merz, Jörg Martin. Pietro da Cortona and Roman Baroque Architecture. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2008. NA1123.C647 B58 2008 — As title states, the focus is on architecture and the frescoes used to decorate the buildings. Well illustrated.

Prosperi Valenti Rodináo, Simonetta, editor. Pietro da Cortona, il meccanismo della forma: Richerche sulla technical pittorica. (Pietro da Cortona, the Mechanisms of Form: Research on Pictorial Techniques). Milano: Electra, 1997. NC257.P46 A4 1997 — Well illustrated, numerous drawings reproduced.

Tiberia, Vitaliano. Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Pietro da Cortona, Agostino Ciampelli in Santa Bibiana a Roma – I restauri. (Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Pietro da Cortona, Agostino Ciampelli in Santa Bibiana in Rome – The restorations.) Todi: Ediart editrice di Leonilde Dominici, 2000. ND2357.R6 T53 2000 — Covers the works of all three artists. Features a chapter on Pietro da Cortona’s works in the church of Sta. Bibiana. Good illustrations showing before and after the restorations of the frescoes by Cortona and Ciampelli (Bernini was an architect and sculptor who created no paintings in this church).


imagesArticle by Alice Bampton, digital image specialist and senior writer on the Communication and Service Promotion team.

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Last Modified: June 3, 2014