Sponsored by Agostino Chigi - Loggia fresco by Raphael

On this day in History: Agostino Chigi born

Culture News

A major sponsor of artists during the Renaissance, banker Agostino Chigi was born on 29th November, 1466 in Siena.

At its height, Chigi’s banking house in Rome was the biggest financial institution in Europe. It employed around 20,000 people, with branches throughout Italy and abroad.

Chigi invested his wealth in supporting the arts. He backed many of the 16th century artists including  Perugino, Sebastiano del Piombo, Giovanni da Udine, Giulio Romano, Il Sodoma (Giovanni Bazzi) and Raphael.

Agostino Chigi

Perugino painted The Chigi Altarpiece which hangs in the Chigi family chapel in the church of Sant’Agostino in Siena.

Legacy to Rome

Chigi’s significant legacy to Rome was a chapel in the church of Santa Maria della Pace. Another was his mortuary chapel, the Chigi Chapel, in the church of Santa Maria del Popolo. Yet another was the superb suburban villa in Trastevere, on the banks of the Tiber.

Work began on the Trastevere palace, now known as Villa Farnesina, in 1506. Chigi commissioned an untried pupil of Bramante, Baldassare Peruzzi, to design and oversee the construction of the villa. His design differed from that of the typical urban palazzo, with a U-shaped plan with a five-bay loggia between the arms, facing north, which was the main entrance.

Raphael’s frescoes on the ground floor, depict the classical and secular myths of Cupid and Psyche, and The Triumph of Galatea.

Many noted Raphael’s Galatea bore similarities to the courtesan, Imperia Cognati, who was Agostino Chigi’s lover. The art historian and Raphael’s near-contemporary, Giorgio Vasari, however, wrote that Raphael said Galatea was the product of his imagination, an idealised beauty.

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