A Wonderful Mid 18thC Italian Painted Pine Chapel Dedication Plaque for the Grassi Family, Dated to 1755

Origin: Italian, Probably Rome
Period: Settecento
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1755
Height:  24”
Width: 30”
Depth: 1.5” (all in frame)

Dating from the Settecento period the mid eighteenth century painted softwood chapel dedication panel in its original pine and gesso frame with hand painted script on a series of five boards headed DOM for Deo Optimo Maximo over a weighty Latin text for the Grassi family surviving from the middle of eighteenth century Italy and almost certainly Rome.

The fact this piece has survived in original condition is very pleasing and overall it remains a hugely attractive piece in its entirety. It has a wonderful dry and arid texture that only comes with considerable age. There is some minor shrinkage to the five boards, expected losses to the paint as per the photographs and a wonderful aged patina throughout making it hugely decorative. Overall, the work has wear expected and commensurate with its age, now surviving for two hundred and sixty years, with some heavier wear to the right centre of the plaque. It retains its original painted gesso frame and charming original iron hanging loop for wall mounting.

The plaque is headed D O M for Deo Optimo Maximo and the text reads approximately in Latin:

“d.o.m. hujus sacelli altare sacrum ex diplomate benedicti XIV. pont. ma perpetuo donatus est privilegio quando cus missae sacrifcium celebrabitur ad expiandas animas defunctorum de nobili familia grassi qui quacuno consanguinitatis vel affinitatis ratione ad eam pertinfani vel pertinere
possint usquedum vel jus patronatus ejusdem sacelli retineat, vel nemo alius ex ipsa familia supersit ut latius in supradicto diplomate dat die xiv maii mdccix”

And translates roughly to:

“D O M (to the greatest and best God) Of this chapel blessed gifts from Pope Benedict XIV is given in perpetuity whenever the ritual of mass for the expiation of souls is celebrated souls of the dead from the noble family of Grassi who by whatever nature of kinship or relatedness belong to it or can belong to it for as long as either it retains the right of patronage of this shrine or no-one else from that family survives that in the above mentioned patents gives the 14 may 1755”

This plaque confirms that mass is held at this particular altar for members of the de Grassi family that have sadly passed away. It mentions Pope Bendedict XIV in the third line, thus between 1740-1758, and the plaque is dated to 1755. This rather long-winded and bureaucratic ecclesiastical Latin is essentially detailing a Papal dispensation for the wealthy Grassi family to have a particular mass for their dead, which can clearly be removed in certain circumstances. It would have probably been displayed in the Grassi family's private or local chapel with some amount of showboating to locals/visitors.

The year of 1755 saw the birth of Marie Antionette in France, the death of Francesco Durante in Italy and back in Britain the publishing of Samuel Johnson's "A Dictionary of the English Language".

Pope Benedict XIV (Latin: Benedictus XIV; 31 March 1675 – 3 May 1758), born Prospero Lorenzo Lambertini, was pope from 17 August 1740 to his death in 1758, three years after this plaque was created in 1755. In life, Benedict XIV was loved by the people of the Papal States who praised him. He was incredibly intelligent and witty, had a sense of humour and was dubbed the "Pope of Concordats" during his papacy. He was known to be a proud patron of the arts and of science. He was well known for visiting major edifices and monuments in Rome by carriage and sedan chair to make public appearances. Perhaps one of the greatest scholars in Christendom, he promoted scientific learning, the baroque arts, and the study of the human form. In terms of the governance of the Papal States, he reduced taxation and also encouraged agriculture. He also supported free trade. A scholar, he laid the groundwork for the present Vatican Museum. Benedict XIV, to an extent can be considered a polymath due to his numerous studies of ancient literature, the publishing of ecclesiastical books and documents, the study of the human body, and his great devotion to art. Benedict XIV's health worsened in 1758 and after a battle with gout, he died on 3 May 1758 at the age of 83. His final words to those surrounding him on his deathbed were, "I leave you in the hands of God."

Grassi is quite a common surname in Italy but with further research this plaque could be attributed to the correct chapel and exacting family.

This has everything we look for in an object.