The Chiaramonti Museum is set out in the long loggia which joins the small Palace of the Belvedere to the Vatican Palaces. It is named after pope Pius VII Chiaramonti (1800-1823) and marks a very dramatic period in the history of the Vatican Collections. Under the terms of the Treaty of Tolentino (1797), Napoleon ordered the Papal States to cede the major part of the masterpieces in the Pio Clementino Museum to France. Much later, the Congress of Vienna (1815) and the diplomatic work of the sculptor, Antonio Canova, brought about the recovery of almost all the pieces of sculpture taken away. By means of a vast campaign of purchasing from Roman antiquaries and from people actively excavating sites in the Papal States, the new museum was opened in 1806. The arrangement of the museum was dictated by Canova himself who aimed to display the "three sister arts" together: sculpture, in the antique works exhibited; architecture, in the corbels obtained from ancient architectonic cornices; and painting, in frescoes. These last were painted by young artists of the period and Canova himself paid for them. The pictorial cycle illustrates the great distinction of the Pontiffs in their care for the arts and monuments of Rome; the return of the Vatican works of art from France is commemorated in the lunette of panel XXI.
The rigorous arrangement, which avoids isolating masterpieces so that they can be compared with minor works arranged around them, shows the influence of the ideas of Quatremère de Quincy who, arguing against the French sequestrations, considered that works of art could only be really understood if they were displayed in the place for which they were originally designed, and together with other works of poorer quality. The Chiaramonti Museum, with over one thousand examples of antique sculpture on display, is one of the most important collections of Roman portrait busts, and is also rich in examples of idealistic and funerary sculpture.