Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Pope Clement XIV (1705-1774) 1770s

Giovanni Domenico Porta 

Portrait of Pope Clement XIV (1705-1774), Giovanni Domenico Porta
Oil on copper
18th Century
9 1/3 x 7 1/3 inches 24 x 18 cm
Giandomenico Porta's oeuvre represents his career as a portraitist to the Papal court and to the Roman aristocracy. This portrait -a version of which was engraved for distribution in France- shows the qualities of character, modelling and flamboyance which recommended him to such sitters as Cardinal Simonetti and Pope Pius VI.

Pope Clement XIV, born Lorenzo Ganganelli, was a surprising and compromise candidate to emerge successfully from the Conclave that followed Clement XIII's death in 1769. He won only by one vote, which was his own exercised on his behalf by Cardinal Rezzonico. He was destined, however, by virtue of the political and ecclesiastical circumstances that he inherited, to perform one of the most important actions of eighteenth century Catholic history, the Suppression of the Jesuit Order in 1773. This action came as the culmination of years of pressure brought upon the Papacy by the secular powers of Europe and their allies in the Holy College. Spain and France in particular resented the wealth and influence of the Jesuits as an impediment to their own domestic and colonial ambitions, whilst some members of their governments found the Order an offence to their own rationalist philosophy. The Pope's command was effected throughout Europe with varying degrees of rigour, particularly in Spain, where the King regretted that the instruction merely disestablished the Jesuits and confiscated their property without containing a rounding condemnation of their many (presumed) moral failings and blasphemies. Ironically, the Jesuits found harbour in Protestant Prussia and at the Court of Maria Theresa of Austria, where their institutions remained unmolested until the Order's restoration in 1804.

When the Pope died in 1774 of natural causes, rumours spread of his death by the hands of his victims. An inscription in an old hand on a posthumous engraving of the Pope reflects the general belief: ''et mourut empoisonne par les Jesuites.''
Philip Mould Ltd, 18-19 Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5LU.Copyright Philip Mould Ltd.