When we talk about collections we should be particularly diligent in our dating. Indeed, most collections even at present remain as unstable entities subject to various changes which are related to purchase, selling, and lending. These are the reasons why when we talk about the collection of Christina of Sweden we must be precise in the years we refer to, as the collection went through changes at various stages not only gaining but also losing works. Upon her ascension to the throne of Sweden her collection was that of the royal household, which had very few works of repute, however, in 1649 after the looting of the castle of Prague, the collection of Rudolph II, Holy Roman Emperor found its way to her. The collection held within it part of the collection of the Cardinal Granvelle who was a prolific patron and friend of the arts and artists, amongst whom was Titian.1 When she abdicated in 1654 this collection together with the wider royal collection remained in Sweden, however, it was depleted as she prepared for the occasion by sending off paintings, jewels and carved stones, statues, tapestries, etc, to Antwerp almost a year in advance to this event.2 

Her collection would grow within the bounds of continental Europe as her prolonged stay in Rome bore fruits through the acquisition of contemporary works of artists such as Bernini. She also made the acquaintance of Cardinal Decio Azzolino (1623-1689) whom became a life-long companion for Christina and managed her accounts. He was in charge, at Christina’s discretion, of the acquisition of the Imperiali Collection that came out into the market around 1667. At the time, Christina was away from Rome in Hamburg, from 1666 to 1668, and left Azzolino in charge of her estate. The collection of letters, published by Carl Bildt in 1899, reveal not only the trust of the former Queen but also the intricacies involved in the purchase of collections during the period.3 Throughout the letters compiled by Bildt we can see how involved Christina was with the different members of the Roman religious circles. We can also witness her reactions to the increasing health incidents of the Cardinal Imperiali, the collection’s namesake and brother of its deceased owner Carlo Imperiali.4 She would refer to him, the Cardinal, as her cousin and dearest friend and would bid Azzolino to pass on her grief and joy at his health issues and recoveries.5 This would prove key in understanding why she received preference in the sale of the collection when faced with a very interested 30 year old Louis XIV.6 Although her status was admittedly lower as she had resigned her crown and lived in exile, and as her letters and numerous accounting books recall, she was for the most part of her stay in Hamburg in financial trouble, she was still considered a worthier candidate for the sale.7 Her close relationship, as portrayed in the letters, might provide the key to this choice. Despite the abundant factors against her, the social weight of her relationship with the dead and his family won. 

This process is quite fascinating despite lacking much information regarding the negotiations and the discussions around pricing beyond the mention of some attempts at only obtaining the paintings and then switching to buying the whole collection. What we do have access to are the letters of Christina of Sweden and her way of addressing the different people in Rome which can help us make further sense of the decision made by the Imperiali family. In the article of Sharon Kettering, Gift Giving and Patronage in Early Modern France, we are introduced to the dynamics that surround patronage, specifically focusing on the relationship between patron and protegé, who is referred to as ‘client’.8 In more than one way, Christina of Sweden was the ‘client’ of quite a few of the religious court of Rome. Her arrival was preluded by her abdication and subsequent conversion from protestant to catholic, a conversion that was held as a triumph for Pope Alexander VII. Yet, this excitement quickly fell as despite her newfound religion she remained staunch in her enlightened attitudes.9 Her loss of favour in Rome with the Pope was followed by the mounting conflict between the French and the Spanish sides. Sweden had declared war on Poland, the French were considering allying themselves with the swedes invoking old ties while the Spanish stood by the side of Poland. These two factions made up most of the clergy in Rome, with the Medici cardinals siding with the Spanish and the Barberini with the French, while a third faction stood as a middle-ground, group to which belonged Azzolino.10 Although Christina kept both companies, she leaned more towards the Spanish sharing with them the view that this war was ultimately unnecessary. Nevertheless, as a member of the Swedish royalty she could not outright undermine the decisions of the nation. Her exchange of reciprocities with the French side was perceived as a betrayal by the Spanish.11 Furthermore, when she decided to remove herself from Rome, for some time, she announced her plan to travel through French territory under the guise of meeting with the King of Sweden.12 This delicate situation was the one she was inhabiting in Rome and the way she left required a lot of diplomacy to reestablish her position of favour within the city. 

She was thus placed in the position of ‘client’, as Kettering puts it, and was forced to toe the line of exchanges and gratitudes.13 Yet, this also enabled her to gain proper favour with families such as the Imperiali, the cardinal of which, was on the ‘neutral’ side like Azzolino. This positioning would have likely helped as she required far less work to undo any intentional or unintentional offence made in her political alignment. However, as we read on about the exchanges and voyages of Christina, her relationship with the Imperiali family and specifically the Cardinal takes a turn. The Cardinal had been involved in an incident with the Duc de Créquy, then ambassador of France, and his wife. Although details are unclear it seemed that from a misunderstanding they were attacked by the Corsican Guard.14 At the time of the event, the Cardinal was the governor of Rome and ultimately the singled out culprit. Louis XIV demanded retribution and Azzolino and Christina both intervened in favour of the Cardinal and the Church.15 This would cost dearly for Christina who lost momentarily the favour of the Sun King, a favour she had traded for previously with her friendship to Philip IV, King of Spain. I suspect it was in great part this matter that was decisive in her obtention of the collection instead of the French King. The friendship between the two would not be repaired until 1665, three years later.16 In an interesting twist, this collection that escaped the grasp of the Sun King would find its way into France and into the collection of none other than his nephew, Philippe II, Duc d’Orléans. At her death, the collection was entrusted to Azzolino who would follow her less than a year after leaving it all to his family. 

Despite the description of the above process around the Imperiali collection being portrayed as carried out by one individual and without much fuss around the pricing, it is merely a perception based on the few primary texts available on the subject. On another hand, the purchase of the collection of the exiled Queen by Philippe II, Duc d’Orléans was much more diligently recorded. These accounts were partly compiled and presented in Ancel René’s article on the matter: Les tableaux de la reine Christine de Suède. La vente au Régent d’Orléans. Published in 1905 we are presented with the timeline and conflicts that arose throughout the six years of negotiations from 1715 to 1721.17 I have compiled the key dates and events in a chronology that can be found as a companion piece to this article. Beyond the irony of having the collection be purchased by another French royal after defeating the Sun king, the retelling of the sale allows us to see the complexity of collecting on a deeper level. As we saw above, financial struggles were not rare amongst the royals and this was no different for the Odescalchi family who inherited the collection from Prince Livio as he had died without a direct heir in 1713. Prince Livio had purchased the collection from the Azzolino family and added to it throughout his life. Some, like Michael Mahoney with the Salvator Rosa drawings, have interrogated the collection seeking to define which collector was responsible for the inclusion of certain elements, an issue that arose during the negotiations.18 After his death, the whole of his collection, including the absorbed Christina of Sweden collection, came out into the market with some very interesting and specific pricing. In 1715, year in which the collection was put out for sale, the Odescalchi family was in financial trouble and seeking to break even with part of their debt through this sale. Pierre Crozat, who hailed from a wealthy family of bankers and brother of the once richest man in France, was tasked by the Regent to obtain the collection. Crozat was one, if not the most, proficient collector in Paris second only to the Comtesse de Verrue. Due to his knowledge of the art world and his previous successes in securing works for the Regent’s collections he was, much like Cardinal Azzolino with Christina, the man for the job. 

Of course, at first, he would go in person to negotiate. The Prince had died in 1713 and by November of 1714 Crozat had found his way to Rome.19 The Odescalchi family had been, however, retained outside of the country until 1715. Nevertheless, the presence of Crozat was not necessarily in service of direct negotiations as much as he was there to establish a network and imbuing his chosen agents with his strategies and willingness to negotiate. The agents he chose in situ were: Monsieur le Chevalier de La Chausse, who was at the time the Consul of France in Rome, and the Cardinals: Joseph-Emmanuel de La Trémoille and Philippe Antoine Gualtieri. The hierarchy would be as follows: M. Le Chevalier de La Chausse would report directly to Crozat on the ongoing negotiation as well as the chatter around the collection and the family’s movements, the latter would be provided to the Consul by the cardinals. The Odescalchi were closely tied to the curia as Pope Innocent XI was the uncle of Prince Livio, different members of the family were also involved with the religious organism. This is something we had the chance to observe with the purchase of the Imperiali collection, in her letters Christina took the time to receive news on the comings and goings of the religious court in Rome as well as sending her regards repeatedly. As alluded to, the curia worked in a similar manner to the royal courts and what Christina as Crozat sought was to obtain agents who could not only represent them in this space but also keep an ear to the ground as to rumours and movements within. The Regent lacked a personal relationship with the family as Christina had with the Imperiali, thus his approach was that of obtaining agents within these spaces who could bridge that gap in some manner. 

The first negotiation took place with Crozat in Rome, in it the discussion centred on the parts of the collection being sold and their individual value. The first offer was 123000 écus for the whole, it was refused.20 Upon this first failure Crozat doubled down on his interest, which was firmly placed on the paintings and some of the tapestries, making an offer just for the paintings for 60000 écus and 75000 écus for both. This was also refused by the family, the paintings had been valued alone as being worth 110000 écus.21 Crozat would depart Rome on the 5th of April of 1715, expecting that they would come around to his proposal in his absence. That is when he set up his agents the consul de La Chausse and the cardinal Gualtieri. The latter would inform Crozat towards the end of 1715 that he had had a conversation with one of the Odescalchi brothers who said they were still willing to sell, this time for 130000, the whole collection without the tapestries, and that the paintings alone were going for 80000 now.22 Gualtieri would not receive a reply until much later in 1719 at which point the conditions for buying had once again changed. Crozat had a renewed interest in the offered deal and sought out the next in line now, Duc of Bracciano, to conclude the sale. The response was that they were now only willing to part with the paintings, as they no longer found themselves in a debt related crisis (owing 900 000 écus), the price would be of 100 000 écus together with 1000 Louis d’or as a gift. He added that the deal would be on the table for the next three months.23 After not making any headway in reducing this price, Crozat turned once again to Cardinal Gualtieri as an intermediary. In the mean time, the Duc did not spare the ears of anyone willing to hear how many aristocrats from Germany were interested in the collection, this reached Crozat who quickly sent out word that he would not need to find other buyers.24 The matter was at a stalemate until May of 1720, time at which negotiations on this last pricing began. Once again attesting to how involved the curia were in these matters, the Duc, residing at that time in Milan, appointed the Abbot Calcaprina and Monseigneur G.-B. Mesmer as his representatives. On the other side, Crozat appointed, on behalf of the Regent, Cardinal Gualtieri. These two sides would met and attempt to make sense of past offers and which ones should remain relevant to the discussion around the paintings which were the only ones the Duc was now willing to let go. This first round ended in the agreement of 95 000 écus for the paintings.25 

The question of the price somewhat settled in the eyes of the French,  they turned towards the state of the paintings with doubts surging about their conservation and subsequent value. This was brought to attention by a Mr. Guilbert who had previously worked for Crozat, he brought up not only the poor state of some paintings, which he was charged to write down for Gualtieri, but also that there had been movements in the household of the Duc.26 The latter referred to the transportation of part of the collection that he, the Duc, defended were not of Christina of Sweden’s cabinet but of the Prince’s own. This devolved in the discovery that the Duc was trying to remove some painting’s borders. Faced with these allegations, the opposite party resolved to hurry the deal with the excuse of being free to go elsewhere after 6 weeks. After some persuasion, Gualtieri obtained 2 more months from Calcaprina to seek a reply from the Regent. Through Crozat, he was reassured that the purchase could proceed despite these conditions. They were, however, intent on renegotiating the price or conforming themselves through the inclusion of the principal paintings of the Prince Livio collection, which could be argued to be the last pieces of the Christina of Sweden collection. These would be seen as a consolation price and would in turn maintain the original pricing. This is a clear example of the collector’s struggle with obtaining exact collections, as we mentioned at the beginning, one should be precise in their dates as collections shift continuously and in their absorption some parts can be misattributed. Playing on this issue two different catalogues were brought up. When in November, the Consul de La Chausse appeared to do a last inspection of the collection, in agreement with the conditions of the contract, he had in hand a catalogue made by Prince Livio himself four years prior to his passing and gifted to Crozat.27 There were only two accounted for, one in the hands of the Regent and the other in de La Chausse’s provided both by Crozat. In view of this, Mesmer presented an opposing catalogue which he demanded was used to verify the veracity of the first, Cardinal Gualtieri agreed to this after verifying both the work and the person who had written it. Eventually the question moved higher in the ascendance of the collection questioning the catalogues around Cardinal Azzolini’s collection and considering it as the original list for the collection bought by Prince Livio. The result would be the loss of some of the paintings Crozat held in high regard.28 Through this back and forth the French were able to obtain some compensations in the form of works and eventually a reduction of the pricing to 93 000 instead of 95 000.29 Other issues would arise after the signing of the contract, most interesting amongst them, beyond the intricacies of obtaining a credit to pay for the sum, was the refusal of Pope Clement XI of letting the collection leave Rome.30 Eventually the collection did leave towards the end of 1721 after the Pope’s death, however, we need to keep in mind that what left were paintings, the library of the exiled Queen was still in Rome and other parts of the wider collection were eventually sold to different parties.

The right of purchase is quite elusive when we try to define it, even so, these cases do provide a few keys to understand it. The candidate is not necessarily constrained through their financial capacity or social status, although both examples here given are of two distinguished aristocrats of the highest order, they are almost entirely dependant on circumstance. Nonetheless, there are ways to circumvent the whims of the individuals through the cultivation of influence and good will between the parties but also through the careful choice of the negotiating party and its adequate preparation. These are the factors that can be controlled. Despite the sequential nature of these cases, they exhibit common contemporary practices in collecting.

 The case of the Imperiali Collection and its purchase was mostly focused on the employment of the favours and ‘weaponised’ friendships. On one hand, I do not believe that Christina thought this precisely about how she would make good on the favour she gave Cardinal Imperiali. On the other hand, she did do it in a strategic bid to strengthen her weakened position amongst the clergy in Rome. Although the Regent did not have a stronghold on the collection from a relational perspective like the above, he prepared the terrain for negotiation to be in his favour. Picking Pierre Crozat as the head of this enterprise was done so in great part because of his beforehand knowledge on the collections, both the Christina of Sweden’s and the Prince Livio’s. He was also already in the good graces of the Regent as he had previously handled other bids for collections. Crozat was also keenly aware of the closeness of the collection to the clergy and would not only be presented to the Pope but also pick his agents from the ranks of the church on his trip to Rome in 1714. He also made sure to have a diverse array of sources in Rome that could communicate with him and inform of rumours and events. This is something, however, that the other party also did. The selling party did engage in strategies of their own, through the placing of their own representatives and who would also employ subterfuge to accelerate and close-in on the deal they desired, which was done through the mention of other potential buyers not once but twice in the second half of the negotiation (this cannot be fully verified as I have not found more primary texts confirming this).31

We can conclude, thus, that the right of purchase in the world of collecting was obtained through arduous bargaining and social networking. Titles and riches were not sufficient to gain this right in the eighteenth century, making collecting into an artful display of strategic and political brilliance on both sides. 

The right to purchase – Part I of “Collecting and Patronage in eighteenth century France” by Chiara Selene Ferrari Braun is licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0

  1. Dinard, Simon Pierre. ‘La Collection Du Cardinal Antoine de Granvelle (1517-1586). L’inventaire Du Palais de Granvelle de 1607’. Les Cardinaux de La Renaissance et La Modernité Artistique, by Frédérique Lemerle, Publications de Recherches historiques du Septentrion, 2009, pp. 157–68, http://books.openedition.org/irhis/229. ↩︎
  2. Bildt, Carl. Christine de Suède et Le Cardinal Azzolino: Lettres Inédites (1666-1668). E.Plon, Nourrit et Clo, Imprimeurs-Éditeurs, 1899.p.30. ↩︎
  3. Bildt, Carl. Christine de Suède et Le Cardinal Azzolino: Lettres Inédites (1666-1668). E.Plon, Nourrit et Clo, Imprimeurs-Éditeurs, 1899.p.308-309. ↩︎
  4. Bildt, Carl. Christine de Suède et Le Cardinal Azzolino: Lettres Inédites (1666-1668).p.288-289. ↩︎
  5. Bildt, Carl. Christine de Suède et Le Cardinal Azzolino: Lettres Inédites (1666-1668).p.278-280; 300; 306; 473. ↩︎
  6. Bildt, Carl. Christine de Suède et Le Cardinal Azzolino: Lettres Inédites (1666-1668).p.309. ↩︎
  7. Bildt, Carl. Christine de Suède et Le Cardinal Azzolino: Lettres Inédites (1666-1668).p. 308-309; 325-326. ↩︎
  8. Kettering, Sharon. ‘Gift-Giving and Patronage in Early Modern France’. French History, vol. 2, no. 2, June 1988, pp. 131–51, https://doi.org/10.1093/fh/2.2.131. ↩︎
  9. Bildt, Carl. Christine de Suède et Le Cardinal Azzolino: Lettres Inédites (1666-1668).p.47-49; 88-90. ↩︎
  10. Bildt, Carl. Christine de Suède et Le Cardinal Azzolino: Lettres Inédites (1666-1668).p.49. ↩︎
  11. Bildt, Carl. Christine de Suède et Le Cardinal Azzolino: Lettres Inédites (1666-1668).p.25-26; 49-51. ↩︎
  12. Bildt, Carl. Christine de Suède et Le Cardinal Azzolino: Lettres Inédites (1666-1668).p.50-51. ↩︎
  13. Kettering, Sharon. ‘Gift-Giving and Patronage in Early Modern France’.p.134. ↩︎
  14. Bildt, Carl. Christine de Suède et Le Cardinal Azzolino: Lettres Inédites (1666-1668).p.117-118. ↩︎
  15. Bildt, Carl. Christine de Suède et Le Cardinal Azzolino: Lettres Inédites (1666-1668).p.124-128. ↩︎
  16. Bildt, Carl. Christine de Suède et Le Cardinal Azzolino: Lettres Inédites (1666-1668).p.128-129. ↩︎
  17. Ancel, René. ‘Les Tableaux de La Reine Christine de Suède. La Vente Au Régent d’Orléans’. Mélanges d’archéologie et d’histoire, vol. 25, 1905, pp. 223–42, https://doi.org/10.3406/mefr.1905.6898. ↩︎
  18. Mahoney, Michael. “Salvator Rosa Provenance Studies: Prince Livio Odescalchi and Queen Christina.” Master Drawings, vol. 3, no. 4, 1965, pp. 383–89. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/1552772 ↩︎
  19. Ancel, René. ‘Les Tableaux de La Reine Christine de Suède. La Vente Au Régent d’Orléans’.p.224. ↩︎
  20. Ancel, René. ‘Les Tableaux de La Reine Christine de Suède. La Vente Au Régent d’Orléans’p.225. ↩︎
  21. Ancel, René. ‘Les Tableaux de La Reine Christine de Suède. La Vente Au Régent d’Orléans’. p.225. ↩︎
  22. Ancel, René. ‘Les Tableaux de La Reine Christine de Suède. La Vente Au Régent d’Orléans’. p.226. ↩︎
  23. Ancel, René. ‘Les Tableaux de La Reine Christine de Suède. La Vente Au Régent d’Orléans’.p.227. ↩︎
  24. Ancel, René. ‘Les Tableaux de La Reine Christine de Suède. La Vente Au Régent d’Orléans’.p.227-228. ↩︎
  25. Ancel, René. ‘Les Tableaux de La Reine Christine de Suède. La Vente Au Régent d’Orléans’.p.228. ↩︎
  26. Ancel, René. ‘Les Tableaux de La Reine Christine de Suède. La Vente Au Régent d’Orléans’.p. 229. ↩︎
  27. Ancel, René. ‘Les Tableaux de La Reine Christine de Suède. La Vente Au Régent d’Orléans’. 231. ↩︎
  28. Ancel, René. ‘Les Tableaux de La Reine Christine de Suède. La Vente Au Régent d’Orléans’.p.231-233. ↩︎
  29. Ancel, René. ‘Les Tableaux de La Reine Christine de Suède. La Vente Au Régent d’Orléans’. p.235. ↩︎
  30. Ancel, René. ‘Les Tableaux de La Reine Christine de Suède. La Vente Au Régent d’Orléans’. p.236. ↩︎
  31. Ancel, René. ‘Les Tableaux de La Reine Christine de Suède. La Vente Au Régent d’Orléans’. p.223-224; 229-230. ↩︎

Bibliography

Ancel, René. ‘Les Tableaux de La Reine Christine de Suède. La Vente Au Régent d’Orléans’. Mélanges d’archéologie et d’histoire, vol. 25, 1905, pp. 223–42, https://doi.org/10.3406/mefr.1905.6898.

Bignami-Odier, Jeanne. ‘Christiniana’. Mélanges d’archéologie et d’histoire, vol. 80, no. 2, 1968, pp. 705–47, https://doi.org/10.3406/mefr.1968.7565.

Bildt, Carl. Christine de Suède et Le Cardinal Azzolino: Lettres Inédites (1666-1668). E.Plon, Nourrit et Clo, Imprimeurs-Éditeurs, 1899.

Dinard, Simon Pierre. ‘La Collection Du Cardinal Antoine de Granvelle (1517-1586). L’inventaire Du Palais de Granvelle de 1607’. Les Cardinaux de La Renaissance et La Modernité Artistique, by Frédérique Lemerle, Publications de Recherches historiques du Septentrion, 2009, pp. 157–68, http://books.openedition.org/irhis/229.

Kettering, Sharon. ‘Gift-Giving and Patronage in Early Modern France’. French History, vol. 2, no. 2, June 1988, pp. 131–51, https://doi.org/10.1093/fh/2.2.131.

Mahoney, Michael. “Salvator Rosa Provenance Studies: Prince Livio Odescalchi and Queen Christina.” Master Drawings, vol. 3, no. 4, 1965, pp. 383–89. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/1552772. Accessed 14 Apr. 2024.

Sjøvoll, Therese. Queen Christina of Sweden’s Musaeum, Collecting and Display in the Palazzo Riario. Columbia University, 2015.


The right to purchase – Part I of “Collecting and Patronage in eighteenth century France” © 2024 by  Chiara Selene Ferrari Braun is licensed underCC BY-NC 4.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/

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