Almost thirty years after the young Cardinal Francesco Gonzaga had engineered his prestige and renown in Rome by means of his fabulous expenditure on rare antique gems and cameos—strategically sharing his passion for them with Pope Paul—the Cardinal’s collection still served to elevate his memory and clerical reputation. But the objects of beauty over which he and the Pope had pored together languished in a Roman bank-vault. Purchased deliberately as assets which could be conveniently used, when necessary, as financial guarantees, these exquisite and important cameos had become permanently trapped in the world of finance, rather than that of culture—forever currency instead of art.

Lisa Jardine, Worldly Goods: A New History of the Renaissance