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Portrait of Pope Leo XII c. 1823

Painting of Pope Leo XII, c. 1823
Artist unknown; Probably of Latin American origin
Oil on panel; 26 x 19.25 in.
90.16.1 Beginning July 19th visitors to the Riverside Metropolitan Museum will have the chance to view this 19th century painting and others on loan from the Bowers Museum in the exhibition “The Mission Inn: Celebrating 30 Years as a National Historic Landmark.” This untitled painting was formerly in the collection of the Mission Inn located in Riverside, California. The eclectic hotel was built mostly by Frank Miller who between 1912 and his death in 1935, never stopped building. Miller frequently traveled, purchasing art and foreign made objects to decorate the Inn. Whether or not this particular painting was acquired by Mr. Miller directly is unknown. A select group of objects came to the Bowers Museum about 1990, long after the family had sold the historic hotel in 1956. Sadly, the condition of many original works of art deteriorated, some beyond repair, as ownership of the hotel changed throughout the years. The painting depicts Pope Leo XII rendered in a three-quarters view and wearing a white fur-lined red coat and a red stole with gold details. At the bottom of the painting a brief description of Leo XII’s ascent to the Papacy is noted in Spanish. This information includes his birth name and date (Juan Annibal de la genga de Espolero, born 1760), the date he became a Cardinal priest (1816) and the date he assumed the Pontificate (October 28, 1823). With poor heath Leo XII was not expected to live long but, his health improved and he held his position for five years. He initiated a series of strict rules and regulations that severely lessened his popularity. He is remembered for renewing the church’s ability to grant sanctuary, prohibiting vaccinations, reorganizing the educational system, stripping Jewish citizens of the right to own property, declaring excommunication the punishment for any seamstress or tailor who fashioned dresses too short or transparent, and standing in opposition to liberal groups like the Carbonari who sought a unified Italian state. His hobbies were music and bird hunting.
All images and text under copyright. Please contact Collection Department for permission to use. Information subject to change with further research.
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Friday, 27 January 2023

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