The Meeting of the King Gustav III of Sweden and the Pope Pius VI at the Museo Pio-Clementino in Rome on 1 January 1784

Bénigne Gagneraux

Bénigne Gagneraux - The Meeting of the King Gustav III of Sweden and the Pope Pius VI at the Museo Pio-Clementino in Rome on 1 January 1784
The scene from the Museo Pio-Clementino is a somewhat adapted replica of a painting that Gageraux made for Gustav III in 1785, now housed in the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm. The painting records the encounter of the Protestant ruler with the head of the Catholic Church during an inspection of the rich sculpture collection in the Vatican Museum. Inspections of art collections commonly formed part of official visits. The meeting took place shortly after the Vatican museums were opened to the public on the first day of 1784. The artist finished the canvas in March 1785. Still before being transported to Sweden it had received exceptional recognition and Pope Pius VI commissioned a replica of it. This signed and dated painting fell in the hands of the Imperial Army in Italy in 1798-1801. The piece was loaned from Franz II’s collections to the Prague Castle, from where it entered the Picture Gallery of the Society of Patriotic Friends of the Arts (the predecessor of the National Gallery Prague). The scene is set in the Hall of Muses, with a view of the Sala Rotonda; the representive nature of the scene is enhanced by the depicted sculptures, among them a copy of the Amazon by Phaedias, The Three Graces, Apollo of the Belvedere and Ganymede. Most of the men in the king's retinue can be identified. In some aspects, the Prague painting is a perfected variant of the first version. In the first version of the composition, two faces known from the Prague painting are missing. These are of Cardinal Pierre de Bernis to the right of the pope and the young man at the side of the animatedly gesturing prelate, who may conceivably be the painter himself. It is of some interest that here he portrayed himself in a different, more important place than in the first version of the painting, where he depicted himself in the background, in a group with Francesco Piranesi and Johan Tobias Sergel.
measurements: height 167 cm
width 259 cm
material: canvas
technique: oil
inventory number: O 9025
gallery collection: Collection of Old Masters