Staging Multiple Identities: The Temporary Facade at Palazzo Farnese for Queen Christina of Sweden

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    • Presentation speakers
      • Margaret Kuntz, Art History Drew University Madison, New Jersey

    Fascination with Queen Christina (1626-1689), has endured since the 17th century.  Giacinto Giglio (1594-1641) wrote,  ‘while many said she was a hermaphrodite, she professed to be a woman.”  King Louis XIV marveled, “she swore like a trooper.” Most striking, however, are the multiple identities she was assigned in Rome: unmarried queen who abdicated her throne; convert to Catholicism; supporter of the Catholic Church; paradigmatic Catholic ruler; founder of the Academy of Arcadia; collector and connoisseur of art.  Her Roman identity as royal convert, was created by Pope Alexander VII (1655-1667) who orchestrated her conversion and entrance into Rome on 23 December 1655.  Three days later she transferred from the Vatican to the Palazzo Farnese, where she resided for the next six months.  Her residence in Rome was decorated with a magnificent temporary façade that transformed the Palazzo Farnese into the Palazzo Queen Christina. This paper will demonstrate how these staged decorations proclaimed her newly defined Catholic identity and
    established an Old Testament genealogy likening her to the greatest biblical heroines and the Virgin Mary.  Documenting the elaborations are two drawings in the Kunstbibliothek, Berlin, which correspond to contemporary accounts.  I argue that Christina’s new Catholic identity and genealogy, fashioned by Alexander VII, was his first effort to feminize and control Christina.  Alexander aimed to co-opt her masculine reputation for his purposes and to further the Counter-Reformation. Through the iconography of the facade he reassigned her a Catholic identity that was feminine, Biblical, and part of a lineage of female agency.   All notions expressed by her new names, Maria and Alexandra, which she received during confirmation ceremonies at St. Peter’s basilica. The identity Alexander created for Christina served to promote
    his larger political-religious agenda, but was one she thwarted by her performances on the stage of 17th century Roman society.