Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Italian Ancestors

The idea of fate fascinates me: that a thousand tiny decisions –even things that happen before you were born– conspire to lead you down one path in life instead of another.

Church of San Silvestro in Bagnoli del Trigno

I started this story by describing the unexplainable pull I have always felt toward Italy, without which it’s virtually impossible that I would have ever met my Maritino. Perhaps it’s more of a stretch to think that finding my great-great-grandmother’s wedding ring somehow had an influence on my destiny, but nevertheless, that is how it seems to me. And somehow it made perfect sense when I learned that I was not the first person in my family to pick up and move to Italy. But even more significant is that while my paternal great-grandmother was teaching German and Latin in Florence at the end of the 19th century, my maternal ancestors were working the land not far away.

The mountain village of Bagnoli del Trigno, in the province of Isernia in the region of Molise in south-central Italy
My mother’s mother’s ancestors came from a tiny town in the hills of Molise (the least well-known of Italy’s 20 regions), a place called Bagnoli del Trigno, with less than 500 residents, where everyone knows everyone and most people are related. Two brothers, Enrico and Raffaele, were married to two sisters, Filomena and Michelina. 

Italian farmers, or contadini, not any relation to me

Life was hard for Italian farmers in the first few decades of the 1900s, and every hand was needed. So even new mothers, like my great-grandmother Filomena, were expected to toil the land. The women who were too sick to work in the fields would have the duty of nursing the children of the village, and this is how Filomena and Enrico’s first-born child died.

Bagnoli del Trigno, my ancestral village
The loss of this child was the catalyst that propelled Enrico and his brother Raffaele to seek out a better life. And since America was the land of dreams for southern Italians at that time, that is where they went. Unable to afford passage for all four, the wives were left behind for the time being, and the two brothers sailed across the ocean, arriving, as so many before them, at Ellis Island. It was nearly 1920 and New York was already teeming with Italian immigrants, and besides, Enrico and Raffaele were farmers, so they headed west. They got jobs on the railway, and literally worked their way across the country. They earned enough not only to send for their wives to join them, but also to buy a small farm in eastern Washington state, where my grandmother, Eleanora (whose name was later Americanized to Eleanor) was born in 1922.

Nonna Eleanora, aka Grandma Ellie, circa 1923

This makes me one-quarter Italian. Not very much, when you think about it, but as soon as I learned I was part Italian, at about seven or eight years old, I embraced my heritage whole-heartedly. I would declare proudly that I too was Italian. My sister made fun of me, and loved to remind me that I was not, in fact, Italian, but a boring old American, nothing more. But I felt Italian. I was also part English, German, Irish and Portuguese, but I identified only with the Italian side. Is it any wonder then that I ended up here? And that I can now say that I am, at the very least, Italian by marriage? (Although not yet a citizen; I’ll have to wait a few more years before it’s official.)

Photo sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5: family photo

Liked it? Then share:
StumbleUpon Pin It

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Trastevere's Living Nativity Scene

This past Tuesday night, 20 December, our little parish in Trastevere, Santa Dorotea, staged a pretty impressive living Nativity Scene. I was expecting a couple of kids dressed as shepherds or angels draped with sheets à la The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. I was completely unprepared for a massive production that included over 50 children and dozens of adults, a children's choir, and adult choir, a violinist, a spotlight and numerous live animals. Trastevere's first Living Nativity Scene, staged in our very own Piazza Trilussa, was a resounding success, and I would be lying if I said I didn't tear up a few times during the 90 minute production. Here are a few of my own photos from the event that do not do it justice.

Seeing Mary and Joseph preparing to cross the Ponte Sisto was a magical sight. This was when I started to get as giddy as a child on, well, Christmas. I have nothing against Santa Claus, the reindeer, the tree and all the presents, but as corny as it sounds, this is what Christmas is all about for me, and seeing it reenacted, especially in my stomping ground, the neighborhood I have called home for more than seven years, was intensely moving.

One of my favorite parts of the nativity scene was the shepherds corner. They went into such detail to recreate the atmosphere and it was truly magical.

Mary and Joseph arrived to Debussy's Clair de Lune, its gentle notes overpowering the hushed square. You can see my priest in this photo, to the right of Joseph's head, the inspiring Padre Umberto Fanfarillo who organized the entire production.

See the angel playing violin?

The three wise men also arrived to gut-wrenchingly beautiful music.

A few photos of the stars.

The baby actually seemed divine: he didn't cry once, not even a peep.

This was without a doubt one of the greatest things I have ever experienced in Trastevere, including the Chocolate Festival! I hope to participate next year!

All photos by author

Liked it? Then share:
StumbleUpon Pin It

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Guercino Exhibit at Palazzo Barberini

Erminia and Tancredi, 1618, Private Collection, Cento
As a baby in his cradle he was noticed to be cross-eyed, and so Giovanni Francesco Barbieri became know as il Guercino, "the squinter", a nickname that stuck until his death. Luckily, this supposed cross-eyedness did not affect his painting skills.  Born in 1591 in Cento, a small town in Emilia-Romagna, Guercino's talent was recognized early, and he was sent to study in Bologna, before eventually migrating south to Rome, once again the center of the art world and the heart of the Baroque explosion.

St. Peter receives the keys, 1618, Pinacoteca Civica, Cento

But Guercino never quite fit in with his fellow artists. His work was too sensitive and full of emotion to be considered classical, yet too colorful and romantic to be considered naturalistic. He struck the perfect happy medium between Carracci and Caravaggio, although in his early period he occasionally showed signs of being influenced by the great Caravaggio, particularly in the painting above. Does it remind you just a bit of Caravaggio's Madonna di Loreto? Yeah, me too. But the work above was painted a full two years before Guercino came to Rome, so the similarity is most likely purely coincidence.

Mystical wedding of St. Catherine in the presence of St. Carlo Borromeo, 1614-15, Cassa di Risparmio, Cento

It was his brilliant chromatic ability that set Guercino apart from the others. Photographs can never capture the true colors of a painting, particularly if they are appearing on a computer screen, so I urge you to visit the exhibit in person if you are in Rome. His use of lapis lazuli outdoes even Michelangelo.

Sibyl, 1619-21, Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio, Cento

Today a new exhibition of 36 of this incredible artist's paintings opens in Palazzo Barberini's new exhibition space. This massive area on the ground floor of the exquisite baroque palace is over 1000 square meters, and this is only the second exhibit to be housed there, in what is expected to be a long series of mostre, each one focusing on a different painter. (Rumor has it Antoniazzo Romano is next, an artist who has the distinction of being the first Roman Renaissance painter!) What is fascinating about this exhibit is that it gives you a thorough understanding of the entire career of the great Emilian master, with a large selection of his early works, all on loan from his home town of Cento, a second section devoted to the work he executed in Rome, while working for the Emilian pope, Gregory XV Ludovisi, and a third section with his later works, created after his return to Emilia-Romagna. The three areas are clearly distinct from one another by the bright colors of the walls: cobalt, crimson and lilac, respectively.

The Miracle of St. Carlo Borromeo, 1613-14, Church of St. Sebastian, Renazzo di Cento

In the stunning painting above, one of my favorites of the mostra, St. Carlo Borromeo performs a miracle, giving sight to a blind infant. The women, taken with the quotidian worries of life, are not able to perceive what is happening. But the little girl sees a vision of the saint, and tries to get her mother's attention by pulling on her apron. Even the cat is aware of something out of the ordinary.  

Cleopatra before Octavian Augustus, 1640, Pinacoteca Capiotolina, Rome

The painting above, long believed to depict Augustus, has recently been considered by some to depict Julius Caesar instead. What do you think? I personally think the original idea is right. The soldier here looks quite young, and Caesar was considerably older than Cleopatra. And she doesn't seem to be in her first flush of youth, but instead older than the man in front of her. But I could be wrong!

Saul attempts to kill David with a spear, 1646, Palazzo Barberini, Rome

Only in Guercino's later work, from the 1640s onward, does he fully embrace classicism, becoming more inspired by Guido Reni than any other artist. How different, for example, is the Sibyl below from the one above? So much more intellectual and cold, almost as if she is posing for the artist, as opposed to the plumper, more life-like version above. At least his northern talent for color never changed.

Periscan Sybil, 1647, Pinacoteca Capitolina, Rome

She looks like she could be the long-lost sister of Reni's Beatrice Cenci!

Diana and the Hunt, 1658, Fondazione Sorgente Group, Cento

You're probably thinking right now, "Tiffany, how do you know so much about Guercino?" Okay, maybe not, but I can dream, can't I? Well, immediately following the press conference yesterday, just as I was beginning to admire the works, I had the fortune of bumping into Fausto Gozzi, one of the curators of the exhibit and the one of the world's leading Guercino experts. He led a few of us through the exhibit, explaining several of the works in detail, and giving us a greater understanding of the distinct phases of Guercino's long career

For all the practical information for visiting this gorgeous show, visit my Exhibits on now page.

All images provided courtesy of Ufficio Stampa Civita

 Liked it? Then share:
StumbleUpon Pin It

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Borghese Gallery and the fate of an ill-gotten collection, part 2

A few days ago, in part 1, I gave you the back story on how the unscrupulous art-addict Scipione Borghese was able to amass his immense collection in such a short time. Well, about 200 years after all this art extortion occurred, the still prosperous Borghese family was forced to pay back some of their karmic debt.

In 1807, Prince Camillo Borghese was strong-armed by his brother-in-law, Napoleon Bonaparte, into selling him hundreds of works from the family collection. 695 pieces in all, most of them antiquities -sculptures, vases and reliefs- were packed up and carted off to France. The Romans of the time were in an uproar, and attempted to block the sale, but to no avail.

Vaso Borghese. Neo-attican school. End of 1st century BC. Louvre Museum, Paris. © Musée du Louvre, Etienne Revault

Ennio Quirino Visconti, a famous antiquarian of the day, was responsible for selecting the most important works for the emperor. The crown jewel of the collection was the exquisite Borghese Vase, dating to the 1st century BC and discovered in the Orti Sallustiani. It will take your breath away the moment you cross the threshold of the already magnificent salon. It's impossible not to be awed by it, standing nearly six feet high and masterfully carved with delicate reliefs of Dionysian scenes. This one piece alone was valued at 200,000 francs at the time of purchase, about 1.1 million US dollars today. (I would wager its value is much higher today).

Silenus with the Child Bacchus, 1st-2nd cent. AD copy of  4th cent. BC original by Lysippus
Louvre Museum, Paris. © Musée du Louvre, Thierry Ollivier 

It was a tragedy for Italy, but an even greater one for art. The antiquarians may have been the ones to select the art, but unfortunately they weren't always present during the removal of the works, and many sculptures were literally broken into pieces to fit them into the shipping crates. The sale price agreed upon was 13 million francs (circa 71.5 millions US dollars today), but in the end, just over half of this was ever paid. The rest was made up for by the gift of Lucedio estate in Piemonte.

Portrait of Lucius Verus. Head: ca. 180 AD, modern bust: Carlo Albacini. Louvre Museum, Paris. © Musée du Louvre, Daniel Lebée and Carine Déambrosis

Unlike much of the painting collection that belonged to Scipione Borghese, the antiquities were acquired legally. He purchased most of the items from Lelio Coeli and Giovanni Battista della Porta in the first decade of the 1600s. But karma works in strange and mysterious ways, at least in my overactive imagination, and despite the fact that I hate to think all of these glorious Italian works ending up in France, I do feel that Scipione Borghese got what he deserved, even if he wasn't alive to see it.

Cupid seated astride a Centaur, 2nd cent. AD copy of 2nd cent. BC original. Louvre Museum, Paris. © Musée du Louvre, Thierry Ollivier
These works now make up the vast majority of the Louvre Museum's antiquities collection and this is the first time they have been brought back to Italy since they were carried over the Alps to what was at the time called the Musée Napoléon. Sixty works in total make up this temporary exhibit, and provide a wonderful opportunity to admire them in the villa that was designed around them, but they are a mere pittance compared to the 695 pieces that were sold. Both Antonio Cavona (who told Napoleon what he had done was "an indelible shame") and Cardinal Casoni did everything they could to block the sale from going through, but they were unsuccessful due to France's indomitable political clout at the time.

Sleeping Hermaphrodite. First half of 2nd century AD. Restored by Gian Lorenzo Bernini and David Larique. Louvre Museum, Paris. © Musée du Louvre, Thierry Ollivier

About ten years before the Borghese collection was downsized, Antonio Asprucci, commissioned by Prince Marcantonio Borghese, renovated the villa. The most important pieces in the collection became the focal points of the rooms, with the entire decorative theme from the walls to the ceiling arranged to compliment and enhance them. Despite the disappearance of so many of the works, the arrangement of the museum today is essentially Asprucci's design. This makes the new exhibit even more suggestive, as all of the works have been placed in their original location, with the exception of the Borghese Vase, which was placed in the center of the salon for the exhibition due to the impact it offers upon entrance.

Detail of Sleeping Hermaphrodite. First half of 2nd century AD. Restored by Gian Lorenzo Bernini and David Larique. Louvre Museum, Paris. © Musée du Louvre, Thierry Ollivier

As improbable as it sounds, something good did come out of this unfortunate business deal. It caused such an outrage in the artistic circles of Rome at the time that it raised awareness of the growing risk threatening the Italian artistic heritage. It led directly to Cardinal Bartolomeo Pacca's issuing of the Pacca Edict in 1820 which prohibited Italian works of art belonging to private galleries from being removed from Rome.

Venere Marina, ca. 160 AD. Louvre Museum, Paris. © Musée du Louvre, Daniel Lebée and Carine Déambrosis

And hey, it could have been worse. They could have stolen all the works by Carvaggio, Bernini, Domenichino and friends. We should be thankful that Napoleon lived in a time when the Baroque was considered kitch. Although many of the other works stolen by Napoleon and the French troops were repatriated to Italy after Napoleon's defeat (thanks, in part, to the diplomatic skill of Antonio Canova), the Borghese collection was not returned as it had been sold fair and square, and there was a contract to prove it. That was not the case for the rest of Napoleon's looted treasure (which included the Laocoon, the Apollo Belvedere and hundreds of other works), which was brazenly and brutally stolen, a plundering that is unprecedented in the modern age.

As my favorite pasquinade goes, "I francesi sono tutti ladri?" "No, ma buona parte!"

"Are all Frenchmen thieves?"  "No, but most of them ('Buonaparte')!"

For practical information on how and when to visit this exhibit, see the Exhibits on now page.

All images courtesy of Ufficio Stampa Mondo Mostre
Liked it? Then share:
StumbleUpon Pin It

Friday, December 9, 2011

19th century Italian Rebuses!

Do any of you out there like solving rebuses? You know what I'm talking about, right, those pictogram puzzles? I'm the only one? Okay...

I know Sudoku is all the rage, but since I am generally interested in what was popular in the last decade, if not the last century, I must admit to my preference for this particular type of brain-teaser. So imagine my delight when I stumbled upon these rebuses from the 1800s, engraved by Stefano della Bella.

If you like rebuses (come on, I can't be the only one!) and you speak Italian, give it a go! Try not to look at the answers at the bottom of the first image. The second has no solution, so I'd like to hear what you come up with!

Rebus of Love

Images provided courtesy of the Press Office of the Ministero per i Beni Culturali, and were part of an exhibition entitled, "Ah, che rebus!" presented at Palazzo Poli last winter.
StumbleUpon Pin It

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Borghese Gallery and the fate of an ill-gotten collection, part 1

Do you believe in karma?

What about when it comes to art?

Visiting the extraordinary new exhibit at the Galleria Borghese, which opens in Rome today, I couldn't help but be struck by the irony of situation. Sixty works of art, mostly antiquities, once part of the Borghese collection, have been temporarily returned from their current location at the Louvre in Paris back to their original home at the Boghese Gallery. But how did they get to Paris?

Would you be surprised if I told you Napoleon had something to do with it? But let me start from the beginning...

Rome, 16 May 1605. Camillo Borghese is elected Pope Paul V and immediately names his sister's son, Scipione Caffarella, as Cardinal-Nephew. Not content with being a pope's nephew, Scipione becomes the adopted son of his uncle and is known thereafter as Scipione Borghese. He became the most unscrupulous collector the art world has ever seen.

Scipione must have realized that as Cardinal-Nephew in corrupt 17th-century Rome, he would have more than ample access to any funds he might require, and so he traded his right of inheritance with his cousin Marcantonio, in exchange for every piece in the family's art collection. Despite his position of immense influence, he chose not to involve himself in affairs of state, and instead used his power to satisfy his obsession to possess the world's greatest art.

The collection was already dazzling, but it wasn't enough to satisfy Scipione. He had plans for a marvelous villa, custom built to display the crown jewels of his collection, and he was determined to fill it up. One of his preferred painters was Giuseppe Cesari, better known as Cavalier d'Arpino, a mannerist painter who could boast that Caravaggio had once been his student. In fact, it was d'Arpino who introduced Scipione to the work of Caravaggio, as well as that of Bernini, both of whom would go on to become the cardinal's favorite artists. Since Caravaggio had once worked in d'Arpino's studio, the latter owned a number of Caravaggio's early paintings, and possessed a collection totalling 107 works by various artists. Scipione lusted after d'Arpino's collection (the Caravaggio works in particular) and it didn't take long before he got his hands on it. In 1607, when the artist failed to pay a tax bill, Pope Paul V confiscated his entire collection and gave it to Scipione. The collection included Caravaggio's Boy with a Basket of Fruit and Sick Bacchus, both of which hang in his villa today. If Scipione was addicted to collecting art, then his uncle the Pope was his enabler.

Boy with a Basket of Fruit, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, 1593-1594, Galleria Borghese, Rome

Sick Bacchus, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, 1593-1594, Galleria Borghese, Rome

Another Caravaggio painting, Madonna and Child with St. Anne which had been commissioned to be an altarpiece in a chapel in St. Peter's, was appropriated by the cardinal when it was declared by the College of Cardinals to be unfit to hang in the basilica. Documents have suggested that Scipione may have planned it that way from the beginning.

Madonna and Child with St. Anne, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, 1605, Galleria Borghese, Rome

More shocking still is how the Cardinal Borghese ended up with Raphael's sublime Deposition. A gang working for Scipione literally ripped it off the Baglioni Altarpiece in the church of San Francesco in Perugia. The city of Perugia was understandably outraged, and to appease them, Scipione had two copies of the painting by Lanfranco and d'Aprino sent to them. But if you've seen the original, you know the copies couldn't possibly substitute it.

The Deposition, Raphael, 1507, Galleria Borghese, Rome

While Bernini was more than willing to be on the cardinal's payroll, pumping out masterpiece after masterpiece, some of his most famous sculptures that still adorn the gallery today, others were not so easily convinced. Cardinal Pietro Aldobrandini had commissioned the sensitive artist Domenichino to paint his triumphant Diana and the Hunt, and when Scipione decided that the work should go to him instead, Domenichino refused to sell it to him. Domenichino was carted off to jail for his lack of cooperation (and probably some invented charges as well) and Scipione got his Diana in the end. Guido Reni, a proud Bolognese through and through, got so sick of the nepotism and corruption rife in Rome, he washed his hands of the Vatican and returned home, only to retrace his steps when the cardinal threatened him with jail as well.

Diana and the Hunt, Domenichino, 1617-1618, Galleria Borghese, Rome

But most horrific of all was his alleged blackmailing of Caravaggio. After over three years on the run due to an unfortunate brawl that left him with blood on his hands and a price on his head, Caravaggio was desperate to return to Rome. As his doting uncle the Pope had recently conferred on him the title of Grand Penitentiary, it was well within Cardinal Borghese's power to pardon Caravaggio, but for months he kept the tortured artist guessing. When the pardon finally came, the 'grateful' Caravaggio sent Scipione a David with the Head of Goliath as gesture of  'thanks'. But Caravaggio wasn't long for this world, and it was on his journey back to Rome that he died, most likely of malaria or fever (although his body was never found), and Scipione snapped up his last two available works to round out his collection.

David with the Head of Goliath, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, 1609-1610, Galleria Borghese, Rome

None of these works are the subject of the Borghese Gallery's new exhibition of course, but to me, the way they were acquired caused the Borghese family to acrue some karmic dept that would be paid back about 200 years later to a short Frenchman with an even greater sense of entitlement than Scipione Borghese, if possible. Part 2 to come tomorrow...

Photo sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 78
Liked it? Then share:
StumbleUpon Pin It

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Seen in Rome: Palle del nonno?

When I first started this blog, I thought it would be fun to have a photo-day (I randomly picked Tuesday) where I could post some of my personal favorite photos I have taken during my 7+ years in Rome. Problem is, I never carry my camera around with me. But the other day, when I was on my way to the Trastevere Chocolate Festival (hence I had my camera in my purse) I had to stop as I passed my favorite salumeria, when I saw something hanging the window that caught my attention.

Now anyone who has spent any decent amount of time in Italy has seen these hanging around:

Coglioni is a vulgar word for testicles, and a mulo is, of course, a mule. Ass's bollocks. Mmm, appetizing.

Knowing the Italian (and particularly Roman) habit for eating any and every part of the animal (someday I'll explain what pajata is) and their lack of qualms about consuming equines (yes, they eat horse here, there is even babyfood made of horse!) I wouldn't have been surprised if the label was literal, although they do seem a little big. Luckily I read fine print: puro suino, pure swine. Ah, that makes it much better, doesn't it?

(For those interested: coglioni di mulo is the popular name of a type of mortadella salami typcial of the town of Campotosto, near Aquila.)

Thankfully I knew that, otherwise I would have been seriously disturbed when I saw this hanging in the doorway of the same shop:

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, according to the label, those are grandpa's balls.

Really? That's the name you came up with. You couldn't have called them, I don't know, salami pinecones? Well, all I can say is, what a relief to thow they are gluten and lactose free!

PS These photos were taken at the historic Antica Caciara salumeria in Trastevere, which I wrote about (among other things) in one of my all-time personal favorite blogposts, when I thought I was leaving Trastevere forever. Thank goodness it has not yet come to that!

All photos by author
Liked it? Then share:
StumbleUpon Pin It

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Words, words, words: Sfingica

Word-of-the-day is becoming a bit too ambitious, so I'm thinking word-of-the-week is a little more realistic.

This one was overheard at work last week: Sfingica. I love this word; I love how it feels to say it. (I take particular delight in saying s+consonant words in Italian, but this one has an especially nice ring to it.)

It means "like a sphinx, or pertaining to a sphinx" (la sfinge). In particular, it is used to describe someone with no facial expression, who shows no emotion or personality. Impassive, vapid, dull.

Quella tipa è così sfingica, probabilmente non ha neanche il cuore!

Or, to put it much more poetically, in the words of Alfred de Musset*:
"She would drink the blood of her children from the skull of her lover and not feel so much as a stomach ache."

*The authenticity of this quote is not to be trusted. It is, however, from one of the best films ever.
Liked it? Then share:
StumbleUpon Pin It

Saturday, December 3, 2011

New Exhibit at the Quirinale

A new exhibit opened this Wednesday, not at the Scuderie del Quirinale (where the Filippino Lippi exhibit is still in full swing) but at the actual Palazzo Quirinale itself. This palace is the residence of the President of the Republic, and is generally open only once a week, on Sunday mornings at a cost of 5 euros. As you can imagine, it can be stiflingly crowded.

Thanks to the new mostra, until March the Quirinale is open six days a week--for free! The exhibit, entitled From the Unification of Italy to our time, displays hundreds of portraits, photographs, letters, newspapers, documents, videos, books and more that tell the (comparatively short) story of the country of Italy.

In 1870, nine years after the Garibaldi's troops unified the country, Rome finally fell to the bersaglieri and the capital city was moved from Torino to Rome. Pope Pius IX hunkered down in the Vatican, and his former palace, the Quirinale, became the official residence of the kings of Italy. Nearly 80 years later, when Italy became a republic, it became the residence of the president, as it remains today.

New Year's Day reception in the Sala dei Corazzieri, 1888.

The monarchs visit an exhibition at Palazzo delle Belle Arti on occasion of the 50th anniversry of the Unification of Italy, March 1911.

Hitler and Mussolini depart from the Quirinale, 4 May 1938

President Giorgio Napolitano in Piazza del Quirinale on occasion of the Notte Tricolare, 16 March 2011

One of my favorite things about the exhibit was that reproductions of important letters, photographs and documents printed on high quality glossy paper and hand-stamped are lying around on the display cases at random for visitors to pick up and take home with them.
This exhibit is most suited either to Italians or people with an active interest in Italian history of the past 150 years. If you do not fall into one of these categories, there are probably other exhibits on at the moment that might capture your interest more fully. However it is more than worth a visit simply to admire the magnificent building, now affectionately called La Casa degli Italiani. Nearly the entire piano nobile is open to the public, including the glorious Sala Gialla, Sala di Augusto and Sala degli Ambasciatori, (once one long gallery and now sadly divided) decorated by a group of artists led by Pietro da Cortona and recently restored to its original splendor. In addition, Ottaviano Mascarino's (sometimes spelled Mascherino) graceful spiral staircase, the Sala degli Specchi (Hall of Mirrors), the Sala del Balcone (Balcony Room) and many others are open to visitors.

One disappointment: the Sala dei Corazzieri (ex-Sala Regia) with its delightfully distinct frescoes of the ambassadors by Agostino Tassi, Giovanni Lanfranco and Carlo Saraceni is not part of the exhibit. Neither is the Cappella Paolina, however, if you come on a Sunday morning, at least during December, you can end your visit with a live (free!) concert in the Cappella Paolina. Since you can't get to the chapel without passing through the Sala dei Corazzieri, you'll get to see both--and get to hear some classical music!

The palace itself deserves its own post, so I will not attempt to describe it here in further detail. Instead I will leave you with a few more images of the works in the exhibition.

Joseph and his brothers, tapestry, design by Agnolo Bronzino and Raffaellino del Colle

Portrait of Queen Margherita, Pasquale Di Criscito

Portrait of Princess Elena of Savoy, Francesca Gambacorta Magliani
"The King's Thunderbolt", Fiat, 1910

Oh, did I fail to mention the kings' (and presidents') carriages and cars are also on display? For opening days and times, see the Exhibits on now page.

All images provided courtesy of Ufficio Stampa Civita
Liked it? Then share:
StumbleUpon Pin It
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...