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It is clear from Bargrave's diary that he spent a considerable amount of time in Rome during his travels, finding time to visit many parts of the city, as well as venturing beyond into the hinterland. Rome had remained the centre of Italian art in the 17th century and attracted many visitors, despite challenges from Venice and Florence.
It was during this period that Rome was transformed into a Baroque city. Artistic commissions from Popes and private patrons blossomed during the course of the century.
This trend was even confirmed by Bargrave's own comments.
He describes how labourers regularly dug up small statues, images, jewellery, medals, and other classical finds when laying the foundations for the new buildings being erected around the city upon the ruins of the old. He also made a point of noting where individual objects he collected were found in Rome. However, many of the more significant pieces of sculpture and valuable finds had subsequently found their way into the 'Pope's, and every Cardinal's and Prince's pallaces'.
Bargrave was clearly fascinated by the Cardinals, writing a book on the College of Cardinals and collecting a series of commemorative portraits of popes and cardinals. Amongst them was Cardinal Charles de Medici, a son of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, whom he described as 'a prince of no small knowledge, and an expert souldier, but rather by sea than land……he is a man of some years, but loves the ladies somewhat too much'. It was in house of the Grand Duke in Florence that Bargrave observed in the gallery 'Cromwell's picture hanged up amongst the heroes…that spoyled all the rest'. The Grand Duke replied that 'On occasion it is as easily taken down as it was hanged up'.