Born as an artists’ corporation in the late 16th century, the Accademia di San Luca welcomed the most illustrious masters in the fields of paintings, sculpture and architecture. It was administered by a Prince whom they elected each year. The institution was not a place designed for classes but the scholars could however give private lessons in their studies. Only the artists from the Academy of San Luca could be awarded public duties.
From 1695 to 1713, the Accademia was administered by Carlo Maratti who influenced no less than two generations of artists with his late-baroque-inspired classicism. He was the driving force of Clement XI’s artistic policies, aiming to shine a favorable light on his Pontificate and propagandize for the Catholic Church. His charge saw the introduction of the Clementini contests to award and encourage young talents.
Founded in Paris in 1648 and modelled from the Accademia di San Luca, the Académie Royale was conceived as an actual school featuring regular painting and sculpture classes to train the future artists who would become worthy of representing France. Starting in 1661 the Académie had its headquarters in Rome and starting in 1725 it also had one in the prestigious Palazzo Mancini set in the Corso. Its links to the Accademia di San Luca always remained solid and the two institutions came to share some of their scholars and directors.
With Clement XI’s successors came a decrease of funds awarded to the Academy of San Luca and consequentially to its contests ; Maratti’s influence became less visible and foreign artists claimed their spot on the roman academic scene. If the first timid attempts to distance themselves from maratism had been seen with Benedetto Luti, Sebastiano Conca and Francesco Trevisiani, Marco Benefial was the true bringer of radical changes. During the princedom of Francesco Mancini, under the reign of Benedetto XIV came a temporary return of the contests, as well as the inauguration of the School of Nude in 1754.
Rome was also the location of foreign academies (Portugal, Spain, Austria, Germany and England) but none among these artistic representatives could be the equal of France’s.