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History of the French Academy in Rome

The creation of the French Academy in Rome was part of the policy of great work of King Louis XlV at the end of the 17th century. Those works transformed the Louvre, the Tuileries, and Versailles. The Academy was created in 1666 under the leadership of Colbert, Le Brun and Gian Lorenzo Bernini. It welcomed artists who won the First Prize of Rome and several protégés of powerful lords. Young artists pensioned by the king got broadened training, being in touch with Rome and Italy. At the time pensioners followed a regime of strict discipline and devoted their stay to the realisation of copies of Antique or Renaissance art. In 1720 architects joined the sculptors and painters as pensioners.

Before being transferred to the Villa Medici the Academy headed in different buildings. It started in the modest house near Sant'Onofrio on the side of the Janiculum, before moving to the Caffarelli palace in 1683 and to the Capranica palace in 1684. Then the Academy was moved to the Mancini palace in 1725. At the time the Academy welcomed the painters Boucher, Subleyras, Fragonard, David as well as sculptors like Houdon.

During the Revolution the function of director was abolished. The Mancini palace had been plundered and devastated by Roman counter-revolutionaries in February 1793. Some pensioners fled to Naples or Florence. After those events the Academy was removed. It was reinstated in 1795 by the Directory, but it needed a new place to be welcomed. On May 18, 1803 France and the Court of Etrury decided to trade the Mancini palace for the Villa Medici.