Visit Rome following 8 XVIIIth century itineraries XVIIIth century Rome in the 10 Books of Giuseppe Vasi - Le Magnificenze di Roma Antica e Moderna The Grand View of Rome by G. Vasi The Environs of Rome: Frascati, Tivoli, Albano and other small towns near Rome A 1781 map of Rome by G. Vasi An 1852 map of Rome by P. Letarouilly Rome seen by a 1905 armchair traveller in the paintings by Alberto Pisa The 14 historical districts of Rome An abridged history of Rome How to spend a peaceful day in Rome Baroque sculptors and their works The coats of arms of the popes in the monuments of Rome Pages on a specific pope Pages complementing the itineraries and the views by Giuseppe Vasi Walks in the Roman countryside and in other towns of Latium following Ferdinand Gregorovius A Directory of links to the Churches of Rome A Directory of links to the Palaces and Villas of Rome A Directory of links to the Other Monuments of Rome A Directory of Baroque Architects with links to their works A Directory of links to Monuments of Ancient Rome A Directory of links to Monuments of Medieval Rome A Directory of links to Monuments of Renaissance A Directory of links to Monuments of the Late Renaissance A list of the most noteworthy Roman Families Directories of fountains, obelisks, museums, etc. Books and guides used for developing this web site An illustrated Glossary of Art Terms Venice and the Levant Roman recollections in Florence A list of Italian towns shown in this web site Venetian Fortresses in Greece Vienna seen by an Italian XVIIIth century traveller A list of foreign towns shown in this web site
What's New!

Detailed Sitemap

All images © by Roberto Piperno, owner of the domain. Write to romapip@quipo.it. Text edited by Rosamie Moore.


Paolo Posi

Paolo Posi (1708 - 1776) was a prominent architect in XVIIIth century Rome, however there are very few works of him, for the simple reason that in XVIIIth century Rome there was little need for building new churches and palaces and more important there was no money.
Posi's fame is mainly due to the ephemeral fake buildings erected for the fireworks of the "Festa della Chinea" (the white horse donated every year by the King of Naples to the Pope).
These fake buildings, made of wood and papier mache, were often erected to celebrate the appointment of a cardinal or the arrival of a new ambassador. The materials used and the fact that the constructions (or machines, as they were called) lasted a few days allowed all sorts of extravagant and theatrical effects.
In 1771 Paolo Posi was asked to design the tomb of Maria Federica Odescalchi Chigi: the Chigi had already a family chapel (designed by Raphael and completed by Bernini) in S. Maria del Popolo, but Posi felt that the severe atmosphere of the chapel was not the proper setting for the tomb he had in mind, so he put it outside the chapel in the nave.

The Tomb of Maria Flaminia Chigi Odescalchi

Chigi and Odescalchi

Maria Flaminia Odescalchi was the young wife of Ferdinando Chigi. She died at the age of 20, giving birth to her third child. Chigi and Odescalchi had both a pope in their past and quite important ones (Alexander VII Chigi - Innocent XI Odescalchi) and they both had complex coats of arms.
Here below the coat of arms of Alexander VII in St Peter's square and the coat of arms of Innocent XI over his tomb in St Peter's.
The tomb designed by Posi is far more a celebration of the heraldic symbols of the two families, than a compassionate tribute to a young woman. The bizarre assemblage of subjects has a rationale: each subject with the exception of the two angels is an element of the coat of arms of the two families.


Tracing the family symbols

The little monument clearly shows the influence of Bernini (in particular Bernini's monument to Maria Raggi in S. Maria sopra Minerva and the two gigantic coats of arms of Alexander VII over the organ in S. Maria del Popolo, with oak branches and leaves coming out the pipes) and the experience gained by Posi in designing ephemeral machines.
In the lower part of the monument a lion (Odescalchi) is climbing a mountain (Chigi); to the right of the mountain one can see an incense burner (Odescalchi) and even the twists of the smoke.

The Lion and the Mountain

The inscription is supported by a bronze oak (Chigi). Most likely the Chigi themselves influenced Posi in using different materials and colours as a reminder of Alexander VII's tomb in St Peter's by Bernini.

The oak

The tomb is topped by an eagle (Odescalchi) and two angels carrying a portrait of the dead. The star of the Chigi and the incense burner of the Odescalchi are used as a decoration of the inscription (see my background).

The eagle

At first the tomb had a great success and was celebrated as a masterpiece, but this success was as ephemeral as the machines built by Posi. Neoclassicism and the French Revolution criticized anything which was associated with the Ancien Regime and soon labelled Posi's work as "confused bad taste". Stendhal wrote in his Promenades dans Rome "L'exécrable gout du XVIIIe siècle éclate dans le tombeau de la princesse Odescalchi-Chigi (December 13, 1827)."
It is definitely a minor work and a repetition of more vigorous ideas, but nevertheless it attracts the attention of all those who visit the Chigi Chapel and vainly look in their guide for a comment on the tomb of Maria Flaminia Odescalchi Chigi.

SEE THESE OTHER EXHIBITIONS (for a full list see my Detailed Index)