Private Chapel and Vestments of Cardinal Gianfrancesco Gambara (1533-1587)

Today we consider some of the art and vestments coming from Cardinal Gianfrancesco Gambara (1533-1587), a sixteenth century Italian cardinal who was a cleric in the court of Pope Julius III and ultimately made a Cardinal Deacon by Pope Pius IV in 1561. In his role as a cardinal he participated in the Council of Trent and was also one of the cardinals involved in the conclave that elected St. Pius V, Pope Gregory XIII and Sixtus V. It was under Pius V that the cardinal was consecrated to episcopal orders. His titular churches included S. Pudenziana, Sant'Anastasia, San Clemente and Santa Maria in Trastevere. 

Cardinal Gianfrancesco Gambara

Let's begin first with a look at his private chapel, located in the Palazzo of Cardinal Gambara. As was typically the case with such chapels, its configuration and size is meant for the private celebration of Mass. The altar is simple yet noble, made from orange and red marbles. Situated behind the tabernacle is a painting of the Holy Family and surrounding this is a beautiful series of sculptural reliefs highlighted by reds, golds, whites and blues. 

Beyond the chapel, what is also of particular interest are the paraments of Cardinal Gambara, beginning with this beautiful red antependium done in velvet with gold embroideries of floral and vine motifs. Further to this are three larger embroidered medallions of three saints, presumably apostles and martyrs, as well as four smaller medallions including the Madonna and Child.  The bottom of the antependium is decorated by an impressive fringe. 

Next we turn to the very simple and very early Roman solemn set that utilizes a red and pale gold brocade and the very thin galloons that were often indicative to the period. This particular set certainly characterizes the sobriety so typical of "Romanitas" -- simple yet at the same time not devoid of ornament. 

Next we have this green cope, made up of a simple green velvet for the main fabric of the cope and the use of a voided velvet to create the ornamental decoration of the hood and orphrey. This particular cope hearkens back to the aesthetic of the previous century, and in fact, one would wonder if the cope is made up of repurposed 15th century velvets. 

As a final point of interest for our readers interested in clerical vesture, here is a good view of the cardinal's cappello from the 16th century. 

Photos courtesy Nicola de Grandi. 

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