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Un sacrilego salito sulla scala. (A Blasphemer Breaks his Leg while Climbing Over the Walls for the Vatican 6 July 1809)
Etching. 287 x 235 mm
Inventory number: E937
Equipped with ropes, ladders, axes and a bribed former papal servant to show the way, General Étienne Radet (1762-1825) and his men took the Vatican during the night of the 5th July 1809. They were acting on the orders of Napoleon I (1769-1821) with the aim of arresting Cardinal Bartolommeo Pacca (1756-1844), but they also kidnapped Pope Pius VII (1740-1823). The man in the middle of the print, who has broken his leg, has probably fallen. When Radet and his men forced the walls of the Vatican, some of their ladders collapsed, making a loud noise. Thus the surprise element in the action was completely ruined. And so neither was the Pope literally caught in bed. He was nevertheless arrested, though in the more dignified surroundings of his state apartment.
The motif is typical of Bartolomeo Pinelli. He was fond of portraying both important and unimportant everyday scenes in Rome. And here he has been able to see the comical side of the very serious situation. He also made an etching of the Pope’s arrest (inv. no. E936).