Portrait of Cardinal Sigismondo Chigi
Jacob Ferdinand Voet (1639-1700), known as "Monsù Ferdinando"
1670, Oil on canvas
Sigismondo, born in Siena on August 19, 1649 to Augusto Chigi and Francesca Piccolomini, became Grand Prior of the Order of Malta in Rome at a very young age. He was appointed cardinal by Clement IX on December 12, 1667, and became deacon of Santa Maria in Domnica on May 19, 1670. He was a deeply cultured man, a distinguished bibliophile and founder of the famous Biblioteca Chigiana, whom Clement X sent as an envoy to Ferrara, a task he performed with excellent results. He died in Rome at the age of only twenty-nine on April 30, 1678 and is buried in the family chapel in Santa Maria del Popolo. The work is characterised by highlights rendered in fine brushwork, and the paint appears to disintegrate in places, an effect achieved by the use of solvents. The realistic strength of the face is remarkable, effectively rendering the sickly expression and feverish gaze of the cardinal, who died very young, in 1678, perhaps not long after this portrait was painted.