Followup on the Barberini and the rentier class. As with several other of the great Palazzi, the Barberini has reinvented itself as a kind of art gallery, heavy on 16th-17th Century. Not very good stuff for the most part, although they do have a wonderful Caravaggio. But set that aside. My present point is that a lot of these 16th-17th Century paintings are, as far as the gallery goes, fairly recent donations--some, I believe, as late as the 1980s.
Bully for all these donors, but could we be seeing here the working of modern inheritance tax law? Consider: your family has been rich since you can't remember when or why but the great house is getting a little drafty and nobody around here has held down a fulltime job since the Battle of Sedan. When grandpa kicks off, you'll face some awful death duties, but wait: the walls are covered with boring old paintings that nobody remembers and nobody wants. What if we give them to the state (at a suitably puffed-up valuation, heh heh) and let the charitable deduction offset the tax bill? Thereby we wiggle out of our obligations while basking in the warm glow of public gratitude. Win-win, I'd say. Well, except for the roughnecks down at the revenue office.