The Hall of Roman Glory: Iulo Ascanio abandons Lavinio to found Alba Longa

The centre of the northern wall of the Hall of Roman Glory is dominated by the well-structured episode depicting Iulus Ascanio, son of Aeneas, who on his father’s death was dissuaded by the god Mercury from expanding his paternal city Lavinium to found a new capital.

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The messenger of the gods appears to him in flight, with wings on his feet holding a caduceus, a sceptre-stick wrapped with the coils of two snakes, its characteristic iconographic attribute. Beside him, on the clouds, a series of cherubs embrace and chase each other, carrying some roses. At the scene is Iulus’ comrade in arms positioned behind him with a spear in his hand, and a woman with her child, sitting in the lower right of the composition, surrounded by three female figures. In the background, between two small groups of figures, a building under construction is visible in the distance, symbol of the foundation of Alba Longa and a precise symbolic reference to the new palace built by Arese in Cesano Maderno.
In this way the character of Iulus would be identified with Bartholomew Arese III recalling the ever-present link between mythological and religious episodes with events and the personalities of the time. Critics have also suggested a second interpretation for the characters of the frescos, which sees Iulus as the young Count Julius Arese II, called too early (here by the god Mercury) to abandon his loved ones and the places he will eventually inherit, in this case the Palace of Cesano, because of his untimely passing in 1665. If this interpretation were accepted, the female figures on the right may be identified as the mother of Julius II, Lucrezia Omodei Arese (here as Lavinia, wife of Aeneas) and sisters Margaret and Julia, whose affection is now focused on a new child (Silvio, half brother of Iulus). The latter may be identified with either the new heir Bartolomeo III, Renato II Borromeo, chosen after the death of his beloved son, just like the “famous” baby Charles II of Hapsburg, the youngest and only son of King Philip IV of Spain, to highlight the undying loyalty of the Arese family to the Spanish monarchy.
The painting has been attributed to Ercole Procaccini the Younger (1605-1680) for the tones used in the composition, the characteristics of the faces of the cherubs and the similarities of the faces painted here with his other works.
In this work the artist from Milan began to collaborate with the renowned panel-painter Giovanni Ghisolfi, creator of architectural panels that surround the episode and with painter Antonio Busca, creator of the two pseudo-statues that surround the arc where the scene of the founding of Rome is represented.