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The Paper Museum of Cassiano dal Pozzo

Vincenzo Leonardi (fl. 1621–46), Head of a white stork. Watercolour and bodycolour over black chalk, 20.8 x 27.1 cm. Windsor, RCIN 928740 ©

During the course of the seventeenth century, the Roman patron and collector Cassiano dal Pozzo and his younger brother Carlo Antonio assembled a 'Paper Museum' of c.10,000 watercolours, drawings and prints, covering antiquities, architecture, zoology, botany and geology, and (among the prints) social customs and ceremonies, costumes, portraits, topography and military maps. The collection was one of the most significant attempts before the age of photography to embrace human knowledge in visual form. Most of the Dal Pozzo collection was acquired by George III in 1762, as part of the collection of Cardinal Alessandro Albani.

The Paper Museum reflects the taste and intellectual breadth of Cassiano (1588-1657), one of the most learned and enthusiastic of all seventeenth-century Roman collectors. Cassiano was secretary to Cardinal Francesco Barberini (nephew of Pope Urban VIII), a friend of Galileo, a member of the scientific Accademia dei Lincei, and a correspondent with intellectuals all over Europe. Cassiano was also Nicolas Poussin's major patron, and ranged across the artistic, archaeological, scientific and political fields of his day to create a unique visual encyclopaedia.

Pietro Anichini after Jan van den Hoecke, Portrait of Cassiano dal Pozzo, engraving, 225 x 165 mm. Frontispiece to Carlo Dati’s Delle lodi del Commendatore Cassiano dal Pozzo, Florence 1664 © British Library

A complete catalogue of the surviving portions of the Paper Museum is being published by Royal Collection Trust in twenty Parts, allowing the Paper Museum to be studied in its entirety for the first time since the seventeenth century. Series A covers antiquities and architecture (in ten Parts); Series B covers natural history (in eight Parts); and Series C covers the print collection (in two Parts). Each Part (often in more than one volume) is devoted to a particular subject area of the collection, and is written by leading scholars in that field. Thirty-two volumes have been published so far, thirteen in Series A, thirteen in Series B (now complete), and six in Series C (the prints collection). The cataloguing project is due for completion in 2023, and will be complemented by an online database that will provide unprecedented access to this major source for the intellectual, cultural, artistic and scientific history of seventeenth-century Europe.

Visit the Cassiano Project website

Ottavio Leoni (c. 1578-1630)

Pope Urban VIII

Ottavio Leoni (c. 1578-1630)

Cardinal Francesco Barberini

Attributed to Niccolò della Casa (active 1543-47)

Henri II, King of France

After Cornelis de Vos (c.1584–1651)

‘Charles I and Henrietta Maria playing cards’

Giovanni Maggi (1566-after 1621)

The Siege of Montauban