Pierre Hubert Subleyras (French, 1699–1749)
Oil on canvas
25 1/4 x 19 1/4 in. (64.1 x 48.9 cm)
Purchase, Friends of European Paintings Gifts, Bequest of Joan Whitney Payson, by exchange, Gwynne Andrews Fund, Charles and Jessie Price Gift, and Valerie Delacorte Fund Gift, in memory of George T. Delacorte, 2009 (2009.145)
Benedict XIV, who was elevated to the papacy in 1740, is shown wearing the ermine-lined cape (mozzetta) and hat (camauro) characteristic of papal winter garb. The stole is decorated with the papal keys and the armorial device of the pope's family, the noble Lambertini of Bologna. Pierre Subleyras had been chosen in 1740 to paint the state portrait of the pope (now in the Musée Condé, Chantilly), but this informal likeness painted six years later takes us much closer to the man whom Horace Walpole described as "a priest without insolence or interest, a prince without favorites, a pope without nephews." Benedict was an avid student of the Church, but he was also a witty and spirited conversationalist. (He once declared: "The pope orders, the cardinals do not obey, and the people do as they please.") Subleyras conceived his portrait as a rich harmony of reds and golds.