The Galleria Doria-Pamphilj is home to a striking bust of Olimpia Maidalchini (1591-1657), who was known as la Papessa, on account of the strength of her influence on Pope Innocent X (r. 1644-55), who was her brother-in-law, and, some said, her lover!
The bust (1646-7) is by Alessandro Algardi (1598-1654), a gifted sculptor from Bologna, who worked mainly in Rome. The gallery is also home to Algardi's marble bust of Pope Innocent X.
Donna Olimpia, who lived in Palazzo Pamphilj, in Piazza Navona, was also known as la Pimpaccia. A stone's throw from the palazzo was the famous talking statue of Pasquino. Donna Olimpia was not a popular figure (her greed was legendary) and she was often the butt of satire. One such lampoon, which appeared on the statue, made a pun on her name: Olim Pia, Nunc Pia (Once pious, now impious). Another appeared when Pope Innocent X died: È morto il pastore, la vacca ci resta (the shepherd is dead, the cow remains).
Donna Olimpia did not actually remain for long in Rome following the pope's death. She retreated to her estate near Viterbo, but not before she is said to have stolen two trunks of gold coin from under the Holy Father's death-bed!
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private walking tours of Rome.
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