The page covers:
The plate by Giuseppe Vasi
Palazzo Massimi alle Colonne
Palazzo di Pirro
Palazzo Santobono Braschi
Farnesina ai Baullari
Palazzi di Girolamo e Ceccolo Pichi
This 1754 etching by Giuseppe Vasi shows a section of Strada Papale, actually a series of streets from Ponte S. Angelo to il Ges¨ which were crossed by the solemn procession which accompanied the newly-elected pope
from S. Pietro to S. Giovanni in Laterano. Strangely enough, notwithstanding the importance of the street, Vasi showed few carriages and people around, as if he wanted to call the attention of the viewer to the unique Renaissance design of Palazzo Massimi alle Colonne.
The view is taken from the green dot in the small 1748 map here below. In the description below the plate Vasi made reference to: 1) Palazzo Santobono; 2) S. Pantaleo; 3) Palazzo di Pirro (also belonging to the Massimi); 4) Papal Street leading to Palazzo Valle. The small map shows also 5) Palazzo Istoriato; 6) Palazzo di Girolamo Pichi; 7) Farnesina ai Baullari; 8) Palazzo di Ceccolo Pichi. The dotted line in the small map delineates the border between Rione Parione (left) and Rione Sant'Eustachio (right).
(left) The view in August 2009; (right) detail showing that the dome depicted in the etching is that of S. Pietro
After the 1870 annexation of Rome to the Kingdom of Italy town planners felt the need to enlarge
this section of Strada Papale which was renamed Corso Vittorio Emanuele II;
they did so by pulling down the buildings on the southern (left) side of the street, while those on the northern side were not impacted by the change,
although Palazzo Massimi ended up by being too close to the usually congested traffic of the new street; it can be properly seen only from the other
side of the street.
Palazzo Santobono and S. Pantaleo are not visible in the image, nor were they visible at the time of the etching.
Fašade in June 2020
The palace was designed by Baldassarre Peruzzi in 1536 on the site of a previous building which was damaged during the 1527 Sack of Rome; the fašade is curved, because the palace makes use of the foundations of an ancient odeon, a small Roman theatre adjoining Stadio di Domiziano. Peruzzi developed some very innovative solutions, which in some aspects show his admiration for the monuments of Ancient Rome (e.g. the Doric columns of the portico) and in other details (e.g. the small windows, which you can see in the image used as background for this page) anticipate the future Baroque predilection for curved lines. In the initial period of his career Peruzzi worked with Raphael and designed Villa la Farnesina.
Portico: (left) ancient copy of the Doryphoros (Spear-bearer) by Polykleitos (Vth century BC); (centre) stucco coat of arms of the Massimo on the ceiling; (right) Renaissance statue imitating the ancient ones. The decoration of the niche is based on that at Tempio di Venere e Roma
The Massimi are often recorded among the Conservatori di Roma. Their initial wealth was most likely due to trading activities. In the XVIth century the family split into two branches, that of the Massimi delle Colonne and that of the Massimi d'Aracoeli, after their palace opposite S. Maria d'Aracoeli or Massimi di Rignano, one of their fiefdoms. Today the family name is Massimo rather than Massimi. It sounds better especially when preceded by the noble title: Principe Massimi sounds ordinary whereas Principe Massimo means the highest prince.
Detail of the ceiling portraying infant Hercules (a popular subject in antiquity)
The Massimi claimed to descend from Fabius Maximus Cunctator, a Roman commander during the Second Punic War; in turn the Fabii claimed to descend from Hercules/Heracles, so the Massimi decorated the ceiling of the portico with an infant Heracles lying on a lion's skin while joyfully strangling the snakes Hera sent to kill him.
The Massimi acquired the fiefdom of Arsoli in 1574 and they still retain a castle/palace there. Roccasecca near Priverno was another of their fiefdoms. Prince Stefano Massimo di Roccasecca is half British, as his mother was British actress Dawn Addams.
Three villas are named after the Massimo: Villa Giustiniani Massimo, Villa Massimo alla Balduina and Villa Massimo alla Nomentana. They also acquired former Villa Peretti where they built a large palace which now houses a section of Museo Nazionale Romano.
Internal loggia (it was a quiz of the Hall of Fame of this website)
Every year on March 16 the palace is open to the public in memory of a miracle by St. Philip Neri, who brought back to life a boy of the family for a short time. A mass is held in a chapel which was created inside the boy's bedroom.
Palazzo di Pirro (yellow building) and another house of the Massimo (pink building)
Palazzo di Pirro is one of several adjoining buildings belonging to the Massimo; it was named after a gigantic statue of Mars, which
once stood in its courtyard. The statue was thought to represent Pyrrhus, the king of Epirus who in 282-275 BC fought
against the Romans. It is now at Musei Capitolini.
Palazzo di Pirro was designed at the same time as Palazzo alle Colonne by Giovanni Mangone, a pupil of Antonio da Sangallo the Younger.
(left) A view of the upper part of a courtyard from the rear of the palace; (right) painted fašade and a reconstructed column thought to have belonged to the odeon
Palazzo Istoriato (decorated with figures) was not affected by the Sack of Rome; it was painted in 1523 by a pupil of Daniele da Volterra on the occasion of the marriage of a member of the Massimo family; the scenes depict episodes of the Old and of the New Testament. Other Renaissance painted buildings can be seen at Via del Pellegrino, Palazzo Ricci and Via della Maschera d'Oro.
Details of the graffito paintings portraying events associated with Judith and Holofernes
(left) Fašade; (right-above) detail of its decoration, which is typical of the time of Pope Pius VII; (right-below) detail of the ceiling by Filippo Gherardi, best known for his role in the decoration of Palazzo Colonna
The church was entirely rebuilt in 1680 by Giovanni Antonio De Rossi, but the fašade was added in 1806 by Giuseppe Valadier at the expense of the Torlonia family (it recalls the fašade of S. Benedetto in Piscinula). The interior has a fine illusionistic ceiling (more on this topic) by Filippo Gherardi.
(left) Main altar with an 1802 stucco relief by Luigi Acquisti portraying St. Joseph Calasanz; (right) Cappella del Crocifisso: XVIIIth century painted stucco sculpture portraying St. Mary Magdalene at the foot of the Cross (similar combinations of paintings and sculptures can be seen at Lanuvio and Acquapendente)
St. Pantaleon was a fourth century martyr who was the physician to Emperor Galerius. Only a side chapel is dedicated to him in this church, because the relief on the main altar portrays St. Joseph Calasanz and members of his order worshipping an image of the Virgin Mary.
JosŔ de Calasanz was a Spanish priest who founded in 1597 the first school in Rome which did not require an admission fee. In 1614 he was assigned this church which adjoined the rear side of Palazzo Torres Lancellotti where his school was located. The members of his order are usually known as Scolopi, after Scuole Pie (pious schools) and in 1746 they built a large college named after Calasanz. He was canonized in 1767 and the inscription on the fašade indicates that the church is dedicated to both saints.
Detail of the ceiling showing the Four Continents (left to right): America, Europe, Africa and Asia. The subject was very popular and it was portrayed in the ceiling of S. Ignazio and in the shape of rivers at Piazza Navona
(left) Fašade and to the far left S. Maria degli Agonizzanti in Piazza di Pasquino; (inset) detail of the 1593 Map of Rome by Antonio Tempesta showing the palace when it belonged to the Orsini; (right) Boreas, a cold wind, one of the heraldic symbols of Pope Pius VI in the courtyard
In 1790 Pope Pius VI Braschi bought Palazzo Santobono for his family; the palace was built in the XVth century by the Orsini;
in the following century Antonio da Sangallo the Younger designed a lost loggia on the side towards Piazza Navona; at a later time it was acquired by the Caracciolo di Santobono, a Neapolitan family.
The Braschi had the building entirely redesigned by Cosimo Morelli in a neo-Renaissance style which was imitated in many of the late XIXth century buildings along Corso Vittorio Emanuele. The street to the right of Palazzo Braschi leads to Piazza Navona, while that to the left leads to Piazza di Pasquino. In 1871 the palace was bought by the Italian State; today it houses Museo di Roma, but until 1961 it housed Ministero dell'Interno (Home Office), now at Palazzo del Viminale.
In 1798 Pope Pius VI was deposed by the French and in the following year he died in exile in France. The palace was yet to be completed, but Luigi Onesti Braschi, nephew of the Pope, jumped on the winner's wagon and was appointed Mayor of Rome in 1810 when the city was part of the French Empire. The completion of the palace was entrusted with Giuseppe Valadier. At the death of Luigi Onesti Braschi in 1816, the decoration of some parts of the building was still to be finalized as the rather bare courtyard shows. Another page shows some of the coats of arms of the Onesti Braschi on the external walls of the building.
The origin of the ancient red granite columns which decorate the main staircase of the palace is known, but it is possible that other columns which embellish the palace were taken from existing buildings e.g. those of the portico of S. Saba. The stuccoes of the staircase ceiling were made by Luigi Acquisti.
The revenues of the Dukedom of Nemi, the fiefdom of the Onesti Braschi, were not high enough to support the cost of the maintenance of the palace. Many pieces of the family collection of antiquities were sold to the King of Bavaria, a beautiful statue of Antinous was sold to the Pope and parts of the palace were leased. Eventually the entire building was sold to pay creditors.
Exhibits of Museo di Roma a Palazzo Braschi: reliefs attributed to Filippo Della Valle and portraying Pope Innocent XIII and Mons. Ludovico Sergardi, Treasurer of Fabbrica di S. Pietro (the body in charge of the maintenance of the basilica) and best known for his satires describing the Roman society of his time
Museo di Roma is a museum about the history of Rome, but its collections focus on the period from 1600 to 1900. In particular some of its exhibits come from buildings which were demolished after 1870, e.g. the decoration of Palazzo Bolognetti Torlonia, or are paintings/engravings showing lost sites, e.g. the gardens of Villa Aldobrandini, or past events, e.g. the Carnival of Rome.
(left) Eastern fašade (original) and in the inset detail of the decoration (the darkened side of the building was redesigned and slightly enlarged in 1887); (right) detail of the loggia
Farnesina ai Baullari means (small) Farnese palace at the Baullari (trunk makers) street, but the reference
to the Farnese is wrong as the building belonged to Monsignor Thomas le Roy, a Breton prelate, who added the fleurs-de-lis of the French royal family to
the heraldic symbol of the Duchy of Brittany.
The presence of these flowers in the decoration of the palace led to assuming it belonged to the Farnese, whose heraldic
symbols were the fleurs-de-lis too (you may wish to see them in nearby Palazzo Farnese).
Farnesina ai Baullari was built in 1522 and there is still uncertainty about the architects who designed it: for some time it was attributed to Michelangelo, but today it is thought to be a work either by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger or by Baldassarre Peruzzi.
The palace was impacted by the opening of Corso Vittorio Emanuele and a new fašade was built on that side, while the original main entrance is in the rear alley. The small but very elegant loggia is original too, while the steps leading to the building are a modern addition required by the new level of the street.
The heraldic symbol of Brittany is an ermine, i.e. a fur represented as black spots on a white background (you may wish to see it at S. Ivo dei Brittoni). The crowns of Brittany and France were united in 1532 by King Francis I.
The coats of arms or heraldic symbols in the decoration of the building help in understanding which parts of it are original and which were added after 1885 when it was bought by the City of Rome.
In the Corso Vittorio Emanuele, a little beyond the Piazza Sforza-Cesarini, is the Museo Barracco, containing a small but choice collection of ancient sculptures, etc., formed by Senatore Barracco and presented to the Roman municipality. This collection should be visited by all who
are interested in ancient sculpture, since almost every piece possesses a definite interest or importance.
Sir Henry Stuart Jones - Classical Rome - 1910.
In 1948 Farnesina ai Baullari was chosen to house a collection of antiquities which was donated to the City of Rome by Giovanni Barracco in 1902. Initially the collection was housed in a small building which was pulled down in 1938 for the opening of Ponte Principe Amedeo d'Aosta.
Exhibits of the Barracco Collection: (left) Hermes Kriophoros (ram-bearer) copy of a Vth century BC original which shows the origin of the Christian iconography of the Good Shepherd; (right) Roman copy of a statue of Bes found at Colonna; other statues of Bes were found at a Temple to Serapis on the Quirinal Hill. Bes was an Egyptian deity which became very popular throughout the entire Roman Empire (you may wish to see a monument to Bes at Sabratha, in today's Libya and a statue of Bes found at Amathous on Cyprus)
Giovanni Barracco (1828-1914) was a member of the Italian Parliament for more than twenty years (1861-1886) before being appointed Senator. His archaeological interests were not limited to ancient Rome and he gathered in his home a collection with exhibits from Egypt and the Near East. The museum houses also a fragment of a mosaic from S. Pietro Vecchio.
Exhibits of the Barracco Collection: funerary reliefs from Palmyra
Palazzo di Girolamo Pichi: (left) modern fašade; (right) window in the rear of the building with the heraldic symbol of the Pichi (also in the inset)
The etching by Vasi shows to the left a large palace which was modified and reduced in size by the opening of Corso Vittorio Emanuele: by walking in a rear alley one can see its remaining original parts which were built towards the end of the XVth century. Picchio in Italian means woodpecker and this explains why woodpeckers decorate the old windows and a portal (now inside the modern part of the building).
(above) Lintel of the portal with a motif which can be seen in ancient sarcophagi; (below) lintel of the window
Ceccolo Pichi, father of Girolamo, had a less imposing house in the square behind the palace of his son, very near Palazzo della Cancelleria. The building was modified in the XIXth century, but the portal retains a fine Renaissance relief.
Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:
Fra questa giÓ antica parrocchiale fondata nel 1316. da Onorio III. e vi stavano alcuni Preti Inglesi; essendo poi nel 1621. conceduta al B. Giuseppe Calasanzio fondatore de' Chierici regolari delle Scuole pie, eresse nel vicino casamento il suo collegio, e poi rinnov˛ la chiesa col disegno di Antonio de' Rossi; fra le pitture evvi il Santo martire dipinto dal Cav. Calabrese, e quelle intorno all'immagine della ss. Vergine sono della scuola del P. Pozzi Gesuita.
Dopo la detta chiesa siegue il palazzo dell' antichissima famiglia Massimi, eretto col
disegno di Baldassare Peruzzi Senese, ed Ŕ degno di osservazione particolare, per il
portico in linea curva ornato di colonne, e nicchioni ben adattate, che pare opera antica,
e fa nobile prospetto nella strada papale, ed ancora per li tre cortili distribuiti con
carattere grandioso, sebbene in poco sito, ornati di colonne, statue; bassirilievi antichi,
e fontane, e vi si vedono alcuni capitelli di singolare bellezza non messi in opera.
Ed Ŕ finalmente sopra ogni altro notabile, che nelle case contigue verso la
chiesa di s. Andrea della Valle, possedute giÓ da Pietro Massimi l'anno 1455.
sotto Niccol˛ V. fu per la prima volta eretta la stampa de' caratteri ritrovata da
Corrado Suveynheyn, e Arnoldo Pannatriz entrambi Tedeschi, e i primi libri, che vi si
stampassero, furono il s. Agostino della CittÓ di Dio, e Lattanzio Firmiano: con che
daremo fine a questa quarta giornata, che non Ŕ stata di poca fatica a me, ed al mio Lettore.