Cardinal Cav. Proc. Francesco Cornaro (B-60)


Born: c. 1476

Died: September 1543, Viterbo

CARDINAL CAV. PROC. FRANCESCO CORNARO was one of six sons of the powerful and fabulously wealthy Venetian leader Cav. Proc. Giorgio Cornaro (B-29), who was the brother of Queen Caterina Cornaro (B-31) and progenitor of the Cornaro della Regina branch of the family. Three of Cav. Proc. Giorgio's sons entered the clergy, two rising to the level of Cardinal and one to Archbishop. Each of the other three sons sired a line of the family that was to sustain the wealth and power of the Cornaro della Regina branch of the family for generations.

Cardinal Cav. Proc. Francesco began a secular career, rising to appointment as a Procurator de Ultra, 29 March 1522. Later in life, however, following the death of his brother Cardinal Patriarch Marco Cornaro (B-61), he entered the Church, becoming Bishop of Brescia. He was elevated to Cardinal, 20 December 1527. Although a political enemy of Doge Andrea Gritti, Cav. Proc. Francesco as Cardinal was an important political operative in relations among Venice, the Papacy and the Holy Roman Empire.

About 1505 Cav. Proc. Francesco commissioned Andrea Mantegna to create a cycle of four paintings on Classical subjects, selected apparently because of their association with historical Roman figures with whom the Cornaro family claimed kinship. Mantegna was able to complete only one of the projected cycle, The Introduction of the Cult of Cybele in Rome, before his death in 1506. Thereupon, Cav. Proc. Francesco turned to Mantegna's equally celebrated brother-in-law, Giovanni Bellini, to execute, with his studio, The Continence of Scipio, perhaps based on a drawing by Mantegna. (See P. F. Brown, Venice and Antiquity [New Haven, 1996], pp. 252-5; George Knox, "The Camerino of Francesco Corner," Arte Veneta, v. 32 [1978], pp. 79-84.)

In the period from 1500 to 1789 nine members of the Cornaro family served as Cardinal, for a combined total of 150 years of service.

1997, 2004 C. I. Gable