Chigi, Agostino (1465-1520)

Sienese banker and entrepreneur, with a vast fortune in shipping and real estate, a principal financier of popes from Alexander VI to Leo X and a prominent social figure in Rome. He was granted a lease (1500) to exploit the papal alum (a mineral used in glassaking and to fix dyes) mines at Tolfa and given a nominal office (1507) as an apostolic secretary. The luxurious style of Chigi's domestic life was notorious; after the deaths of his first wife and of the Roman courtesan Imperia, he lived for 7 years with a young mistress who bore him 5 children and whom he married only in 1519. His suburban villa (later known as the Farnesina), planned by Peruzzi, contains paintings of classical inspiration: Sodoma's erotic scene of the marriage of Alexander and Roxana, based on Lucian; an Amor and Psyche cycle painted by Raphael's pupils; and Raphael's famous Galatea in the Loggia. Chigi's horoscope, painted by Peruzzi, also appears here. His serious literary patronage included the setting up of a Greek printing press (it produced an edition of Pindar's works, 1515). His fame (he was dubbed 'Il Magnifico') was to be commemorated in two monumental chapels, at S. Maria della Pace and S. Maria del Popolo, but neither was completed during his lifetime.


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