|On the night of October 30 to November 1, 1503, Giuliano was elected against George in one of the fastest elections ever held for a pope.
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GEORGES ditCARDINAL D’AMBOISE
Kate Addleman-Frankel, Obscure Marvels : Cardinal d’Amboise (1824), Photomechanical Symposium, Washington, Nov 2023
Over 200 art and photography enthusiasts gathered at the National Gallery in Washington for a three-day symposium on the history of photogravure. Rarely has the name of Niépce resonated so profoundly in an American symposium, even surpassing that of Talbot, which is more familiar to Anglo-Saxon audiences.
The symposium focused on photographs printed with ink, photomechanical printing, and the history of all photogravure processes. Here, unequivocally and without debate, all historians concur that the invention belongs to Niépce, with his printing of the portrait known as “The Cardinal d’Amboise” from an engraving of 1634, which he successfully reproduced using a completely photographic process in 1824 on a metal plate.
Eight prints on paper printed with ink by Niépce from this plate have been located. Additionally, eight or nine others were printed later, in 1870, by Blancard-Evrard to illustrate a few copies of his “History of Photography.”
The Houston Museum is currently exhibiting a few treasures from the dawn of photography, allowing the public to compare a Niépce heliogravure with a print of the 1634 portrait. During the Washington symposium, for a brief fifteen minutes, participants also had access to rare specimens that help piece together the history of the first photogravure.
The 1634 portrait is an engraving by Isaac Briot, serving as the frontispiece for the history of Georges d’Amboise (1460-1510), Archbishop of Rouen and Cardinal of San Sisto, who is commonly known as the Cardinal of Amboise. “Amboise” refers not only to a small town in France but also to the name of an illustrious, though now extinct, family.
Niépce’s selection of Cardinal de Amboise’s portrait may initially appear to be a matter of convenience—perhaps he simply had this particular engraving on hand. However, Niépce was deeply aware of the significance of his work, and he expressed this sentiment in his correspondence, at one point equating his experiments with the groundbreaking discovery of a new world by Christopher Columbus.
While Niépce conducted initial experiments with various engravings, including those depicting a young girl with a frog and a young man holding a horse by the bridle, the choice of Cardinal de Amboise’s portrait was intentional and symbolically charged. By opting to use the image of a distinguished historical figure, Niépce was not just testing his process but also making a statement about the gravity of his invention. The details of Cardinal de Amboise’s life and legacy likely contributed to Niépce’s decision, as they would add layers of meaning to his pioneering work, reflecting the transformative nature of his discovery in photography.
Georges d’Amboise was the French king’s choice in the papal election of 1503, which saw 38 cardinals convene in Rome on October 30th. This conclave followed shortly after the election of Cardinal Piccolomini, who became Pius III and whose tenure lasted a mere 26 days due to ill health.
The conclave was held in the shadow of Pope Alexander VI, Rodrigo Borgia, a Spaniard whose tenure and family, particularly his son Cesare Borgia, were marred by scandal and ambition. Cesare’s actions included the dispossession of Giovanni della Rovere’s Senigallia fiefdom.
In this charged atmosphere, Georges d’Amboise was up against Giuliano della Rovere, brother of Giovanni. Giuliano had recently outmaneuvered Cesare Borgia, securing the votes of the Aragonese and Catalan cardinals.
Concerned about electing another foreign pope, the Italian cardinals were hesitant to support Georges. Recognizing this, Georges withdrew his candidacy, which allowed Giuliano della Rovere to be elected unanimously as pope—albeit with the traditional abstention of the winning candidate, a practice that reflected humility or wisdom.
What we observe is a result that closely resembles the original, yet is fundamentally different — “en meme temps” — a duality that was to become, in itself, a trendy expression of our time.
The phenomenon of solarization comes to mind, leading to the speculation that Niépce, in his initial trials, might have left the oil-treated, translucent etching in the sun for an extended period.
In 1824, the absence of artificial light meant that Niépce had only the sun to rely on. The exposure could have lasted several days, prompting us to envision the sun’s arc across the sky, its rays methodically sculpting the shadows and highlights over time.
Having not been elected pope, George returned to the Kingdom of France. His profound understanding of Italian culture in the early 16th century inspired him to introduce to his native Normandy the bold artistic and architectural innovations of what we now term the Renaissance. Historians acknowledge the château he constructed near Rouen as France’s inaugural Renaissance château.
He furnished it with an exceptional collection of manuscripts acquired during his Italian campaigns. He became the closest advisor to King Louis XII, and was behind many of the wise decisions that brought him glory for centuries to come. Niepce chose a cultivated man and pioneer of his time to give his invention a profile.
Upon his coronation, Julius II declared his intent to centralize the Papal States, which were a collection of independent communities and lordships, and to “free Italy from the barbarians.”
In the initial phase of his papacy, he stripped the Borgias of their power, banishing them to Spain, and Cesare Borgia, Duke of Romagna, was dispossessed of his lands.
Julius II took a hands-on approach in military matters, leading the Papal army to success at the Siege of Mirandola. Even after the heavy defeats at the Battle of Ravenna, he managed to compel the retreat of Louis XII’s French forces behind the Alps, especially following the support from Swiss mercenaries allied with the Holy Roman Empire.
At the 1512 Congress of Mantua, in the absence of French influence, Julius II mandated the reinstatement of Italian families to positions of power. This act is viewed by some historians as the closest Renaissance Italy came to unification since the disbanding of the Italic League in the 15th century.
By the time of his death, Julius II had succeeded in positioning the Church as a central power in the Italian Wars. During the Roman Carnival of 1513, he took on the mantle of “liberator of Italy.”
In the world of arts, Julius II was not only a patron but also a friend to Bramante and Raphael, and he commissioned some of Michelangelo’s most celebrated works, including the painting of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. As part of his vision for the urban renewal of Rome, also known as the Renovatio Romae, he instructed Bramante to design two new streets: the Via Giulia on the left bank of the Tiber and the Via della Lungara on the right bank, shaping the city’s infrastructure for generations to come.
The Ascendant Della Rovere Family. From left to right: Giovanni della Rovere, Girolamo Riario, Bartolomeo Platina, Giuliano della Rovere (who would become Pope Julius II), Raffaele Riario, and Platina alongside all of Pope Sixtus IV’s nephews, ‘nepoti’ in Italian, a term that has lent itself to the concept of ‘nepotism.’
Giovanni della Rovere wed Giovanna, the daughter of the Duke of Urbino, and together they became the first sovereigns of Senigallia.
La Fotografia antica è la più bella delle collezioni …
Photography is the most beautiful of collections. All collections should be born in Rome, and Senigallia will become the city of photography …