According to the 18th century British painter Sir Joshua Reynolds, the portrait of Pope Innocent X by Diego Velázquez, which hangs in the Galleria Doria Pamphilj, was 'the finest picture in Rome'.
The portrait was painted around 1650 and depicts Giovanni Battista Pamphilj, who was pope from 1644 to 1655. Innocent X, who was in his mid seventies when he sat for Velázquez, was famous for his ugliness. However, this has been somewhat softened in the painting.
The pope stares out of the picture at the spectator. In his left hand he holds a piece of paper, which Velázquez has used to identify himself.
The Galleria Doria Pamphilj boasts one of the greatest private collections of art in Italy and Velazquez's penetrating portrait of Pope Innocent X is the jewel in the crown.
In the middle of the 19th century Prince Filippo Andrea Doria Pamphilj V, wanting to isolate the portrait from the rest of his collection, had a special chamber built for it by the architect Andrea Busiri Vici (1818-1911). Velazquez's portrait shares the space with Bernini's celebrated bust of the same pope.
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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