In the labyrinthine heart of Rome, the historic center, an artistic discovery of profound significance has been made. The revelation unfolded on the ground floor of an ancient palace during the meticulous process of restoration. On March 23, under the meticulous guidance of restorer and writer Antonio Forcellino, the team embarked on a process known as 'descialbo', which involves the removal of plaster. The result was nothing short of extraordinary, unveiling a long-hidden fresco that depicts the biblical 'Feast of Belshazzar'.
Unveiling the Feast of Belshazzar
The fresco, hitherto known only through miniature representations, portrays seven elegantly robed and bearded men at a banquet table, identified as oriental figures. The scene captured is one of divine prophecy as described in the Book of Daniel. The high quality of the drawing, the employment of perspective, and the conspicuous absence of preliminary sketching, all hint at the work of a master artist. The suspects in this artistic mystery are major artists who painted the Sistine Chapel at the time, including Perugino, Botticelli, Rosselli, Ghirlandaio, and Pinturicchio.
Traces of Melozzo da Forlì
However, the melancholic and dreamy faces etched on the fresco also echo the style of Melozzo da Forlì, patronized by the same Cardinal Nardini who built the palace between 1472 and 1480. The palace itself is a living testament to Rome's layered history, having been erected by Cardinal Stefano Nardini, later serving as the headquarters of the Governor of Rome from 1624 to 1755, and even becoming a feminist movement center in the 1970s.
A Mystery Unfolds
The discovery of this fresco poses tantalizing questions. What symbolic significance does the Feast of Belshazzar hold? What were the possible reasons for its commission by Cardinal Nardini? The answers to these questions may shed light not only on the artistic traditions of the era but also on the complex interplay of religion, art, and power in the heart of the ancient city. As the fresco is further studied, it promises to reveal more about the enigmatic world of Roman art and the stories hidden beneath centuries of plaster.