Iconography Between the History of Art and the History of Science: Art, Science, and the Case of the Urban Bee

Freedberg, David A.

At the tensest moment of the conclave that would elect the 56-year-old Maffeo Barberini to the papacy as Urban VIII in August 1623, a prophetic event occurred. A swarm of bees entered the Vatican palace from the meadows facing Tuscany, and settled on the wall of Maffeo's cell. It seems that Divine Providence had sent this portent to announce the imminent accession to the papacy of a member of that Tuscan family whose coat of arms had long since been transformed from one showing three wasps into an emblem of three bees.

Within a few years it was impossible to go anywhere in Rome without encountering the Barberini bees.

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Picturing Science, Producing Art

More About This Work

Academic Units
Art History and Archaeology
Published Here
April 7, 2010