Although listed in the Museum’s records as ‘unknown pope or Cardinal’, this is almost certainly a portrait of Pope Innocent XI (1611–1689), since it is similar to other portraits known to be of him.
Born into a banking family as Benedetto Odescalchi, he studied civil law and then became involved with the papal court. He was appointed bishop of Novara in 1650. Although a strong candidate, he was not elected Pope until 1676 because of opposition from the French King Louis XIV. During his papacy Turkish expansion into Europe was halted at the Siege of Vienna (1683), there was conflict with France over the primacy of Church or state and a great migration of Huguenots took place from France when Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes (although the Pope is said to have opposed this).
The donor, the Reverend Andrew Gifford, gave the Museum around 28 portraits. This is thought to be one of ‘Two pictures of Popes’, presented 3 July 1761.
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