The bust of Pope Paul II Barbo by Mino da Fiesole
A piercing portrait of the pope that built Palazzo Venezia, made by a renowned Early Renaissance sculptor active in Florence and Rome
The marble bust represents Paul II (1464-1471) with the lilied papal tiara, as evidenced by the inscription on the base. It was commissioned during the years of his papacy, between 1464 and 1471. Who to credit with its realisation has been debated over the centuries. Giorgio Vasari believed it was by Bartolomeo Bellano (1437/8 – 1496/7), a student of Donatello in Padua, though it was later attributed to the workshop of Paolo Romano, and finally its origins were traced to Mino da Fiesole (1429-1484) by art historian and professor Francesco Caglioti.
Though Tuscan by birth, Mino da Fiesole spent long periods of time in Rome, becoming an important figure in the art scene. One of his specialities was portraiture, and he was known for his ability to combine physical likeness with psychological insight.
This piece is found in its original location in Palazzo Venezia. Even Vasari mentioned that it was ‘at the top of the stairs’ of the building. It was in fact located in a niche above the entrance door of the Sala Regia: removed in 1915, at the outbreak of the First World War, it was returned to Italy by the Spanish ambassador. Today the bust is located in the Tower Room of the Barbo Apartment.