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Italian family who achieved prominence with the election of Maffeo (1568–1644) as Pope Urban VIII in 1623 and ranked among the chief art patrons in 17th-century Rome. Urban's favourite artist was Bernini, from whom he commissioned two great works in St Peter's—the statue of St Longinus and the baldacchino over the high altar. Some of the enormous quantity of bronze required for the baldacchino was taken from metal stripped from the Pantheon (the only ancient Roman building that had survived more or less intact), giving rise to the adage ‘Quod non fecerunt barbari, fecerunt Barberini’ (What the barbarians failed to do, the Barberini did). Urban used most of the metal to cast cannon for the Castel Sant' Angelo, saying it was more important to defend the pope than to keep rain out of the Pantheon. Apart from Urban, the most important member of the family was his nephew Cardinal FrancescoBarberini (1597–1679), who was Poussin's first important patron in Rome. The Barberini also employed Pietro da Cortona, Romanelli, Andrea Sacchi, and others in the decoration of the family palace and of St Peter's. The Palazzo Barberini, in the design of which Bernini and two other outstanding contemporary architects—Carlo Maderno and Francesco Borromini—all played parts, now houses part of the Galleria Nazionale.

Subjects: Art.

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