The page covers:
Inside Palazzo dei Conservatori
Inside Palazzo Nuovo
a previous page covers:
The plate by Giuseppe Vasi
Palazzi del Campidoglio: Senatorio, dei Conservatori and Nuovo
Uffici delle Corporazioni
Appartamento dei Conservatori: Sala delle Guerre Puniche: fresco by Jacopo Ripanda depicting Hannibal (ca 1508-513)
The redesign of the fašade of Palazzo dei Conservatori was completed in 1568. It eventually led to changes to the interior of the palace which housed the offices of the Conservatori and their Appartamento, some large rooms for meetings and ceremonies. Sala delle Guerre Puniche retains the decoration it had prior to the redesign of the building. Its frescoes depict one of the most crucial events of the history of Ancient Rome. In the early XVIth century Italy was under the threat of an Ottoman invasion (an attempt was made in 1480) and for this reason Hannibal and his Carthaginian troops were portrayed wearing Turkish costumes.
Appartamento dei Conservatori: Sala degli Orazi e dei Curiazi
A large hall was created by the redesign of the fašade. It was used for the meetings of Consiglio Pubblico, an assembly of magistrates and leaders of the rioni. The assembly was summoned to endorse key decisions by the Conservatori and it had particular importance during sede vacante, the period between the death of a pope and the election of his successor. The lay institutions of the City of Rome were responsible for ensuring the enforcement of the law and a smooth transition of power.
It was in this hall that the Treaty establishing the European Economic Community was signed on March 25, 1957 (it opens in another window). The founding members were Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and West Germany.
Appartamento dei Conservatori: Sala degli Orazi e dei Curiazi: 1613 fresco depicting the "Fight between the Horatii and the Curiatii" by Cavalier d'Arpino. The young woman weeping on the left corner of the fresco was a sister of the Horatii, but she was weeping because she had fallen in love with one of the Curiatii. When his only surviving brother learnt about the real cause of her grief, he killed her. Soap operas are not a modern invention
The hall was decorated with large frescoes by Cavalier d'Arpino. He began working in 1595, but he completed the decoration only in 1640 after an interruption which lasted more than twenty years. The frescoes depict episodes of the history of Rome during the Monarchy and the Republic. It was not appropriate from a religious viewpoint to celebrate the achievements of the Roman emperors who preceded Constantine, whom all were charged with having persecuted the Christians.
Appartamento dei Conservatori: Sala degli Orazi e dei Curiazi: (left) detail of the decoration; (right) a panel of a door depicting the personifications of Rome and of the River Tiber (1643)
The frescoes were framed by a decoration suggesting they were hanging tapestries which could be covered by curtains. All details were highly elaborate and testify to the wide range of artistic skills which were available in Rome during the XVIIth century. The image used as background for this page shows a marble head of lion which decorates one of the door frames at Appartamento dei Conservatori. The lion was a symbol of medieval Rome, which was eventually replaced by the she-wolf.
On August 28, 1590 a decree by Consiglio Pubblico stated that the City of Rome would not erect monuments to living popes any longer. The decision was taken the day after the death of Pope Sixtus V, to whom the City of Rome had dedicated a bronze statue in Sala degli Orazi e dei Curiazi (other statues of the Pope had been erected at Loreto, Fermo and Camerino).
In 1635 however the decision was reverted and it was decided to build a statue of Pope Urban VIII which was placed near the fresco of the Horatii. A few years later the Conservatori could not refrain from erecting a monument to Pope Innocent X which was placed in the main hall of Palazzo Nuovo, the construction of which had been promoted by this Pope.
During the first French occupation of Rome all the statues were removed and that of Pope Sixtus V was melted down. In 1816 Pope Pius VII placed the two remaining statues along the short sides of Sala degli Orazi e dei Curiazi.
Appartamento dei Conservatori: Sala dei Capitani: (left) ancient statue with the head of Carlo Barberini, brother of Pope Urban VIII; (centre) ancient statue with the head of Alessandro Farnese, great-grandson of Pope Paul III; (right) statue of Tommaso Rospigliosi, nephew of Pope Clement IX, by Ercole Ferrata
In 1590 a statue to Marcantonio II Colonna, the commander of the papal fleet at the Battle of Lepanto was erected in a room adjoining Sala degli Orazi e dei Curiazi. In 1593 a second statue in the same room celebrated Alessandro Farnese (1545-592), Duke of Parma and Piacenza, but best known as Governor of the Spanish Netherlands in 1578-592 and for his military talent. These statues were justified by the achievements of the two men they portrayed, but Carlo Barberini is only remembered for having written a discipline manual for the Papal Army. Tommaso Rospigliosi was the commander of Castel Sant'Angelo during an uneventful period . He died very young and the decision to erect a statue to him was most likely taken when his uncle was still living.
As a matter of fact the authority of Consiglio Pubblico and of the Conservatori declined during the XVIIth century.
Appartamento dei Conservatori: Sala dei Trionfi: XVIth century ceiling by Flaminio Bolongier
Military symbols are everywhere in Appartamento dei Conservatori, although the Conservatori were not involved in the defence/policing of the City except during sede vacante. Flaminio Bolongier is best known for the wooden ceiling of S. Maria in Aracoeli.
Wooden ceilings and other elements of the decoration of a Roman church or palace were often gilded. The practice of gilding eventually led to the creation of UniversitÓ dei Battiloro (literally gold hitters), a guild which grouped the artisans who made the very thin gold layers which were used for gilding. It is recorded in Rome between 1621 and 1779 and it owned Cappella di S. Barbara at SS. Cosma e Damiano. You may wish to see some other gilded or illusionistic ceilings.
Main staircase: ceiling stuccoes with subjects from the history of Ancient Rome by Luzio Luzi (ca 1575): (left) a naval battle in which ships are equipped with "rostra"; (right) a Roman commander
Appartamento dei Conservatori is accessed via a grand staircase along which some large marble reliefs from ancient arches (e.g. those from Arco di Portogallo - it opens in another window) were eventually placed. The decision to put them there was influenced by the decoration of the staircase which imitated ancient reliefs.
In 1720 the courtyard of Palazzo dei Conservatori was redesigned by Alessandro Specchi in order to properly display three statues from the Cesi collection (it opens in another window) which Pope Clement XI had bought and donated to the City of Rome.
The courtyard houses parts of a gigantic statue found at Basilica di Massenzio on the southern side and marble reliefs from Tempio di Adriano on the northern one. The latter were placed there in recent years whereas the former have stunned visitors to the palace since the early XVIIth century.
Appartamento dei Conservatori: Sala degli Arazzi: (left) XVIIIth century tapestry depicting one of the statues in the courtyard; (right) XVIIIth century door
The decline of the importance of the Conservatori during the XVIIIth is proved by the fact that the only change they made to their palace was the redecoration of a relatively small room. A throne for the Pope was placed in the room. The tapestries were made at a workshop inside Ospizio di S. Michele which was founded by Pope Clement XI in 1720. It was closed by the French.
In 1471 Pope Sixtus IV donated five ancient works of art to the City of Rome, the first elements of today's Musei Capitolini. One of the five works of art was a bronze statue depicting a she-wolf. The earliest records of the statue are dated Xth century and they say it was inside Palazzo del Laterano. Until very recently it was generally believed to be a Vth BC Etruscan work of the region around Veii. Today some art experts are of the opinion that it was made in a medieval workshop. Initially it was placed on the fašade of Palazzo dei Conservatori, but after the latter was redesigned it was moved to the room which is named after it.
Pieces of a colossal bronze statue of Emperor Constantine
Emperor Constantine was celebrated as the great protector of the Christians, yet towards the end of the VIth century a bronze statue which portrayed him was broken to pieces on the assumption it depicted a pagan god. Parts of the statue were placed in Palazzo del Laterano as symbols of the fallen pagan gods. They were donated to the City of Rome together with the she-wolf.
It is possible that the head had a crown of rays and that therefore Constantine was portrayed as Helios, the Greek god of Sun. Recent studies have ascertained that it contains older bronze layers which are dated Ist century AD. It has been suggested that perhaps the portrait of Constantine replaced that of a previous emperor, possibly of Nero who erected a colossal statue of himself which eventually gave its name to Colosseo.
Appartamento dei Conservatori: Sala dei Trionfi: (left) "Spinario" (Boy with Thorn) (Ist century BC); (right) L. Iunius Brutus (IIIrd century BC)
The Spinario is another of the gifts by Pope Sixtus IV. It is one of the most celebrated exhibits of Musei Capitolini. It was seized by Napoleon for the Louvre, but it was returned to Rome in 1816. Because the hair does not fall down as it should (according to physical laws) it has been suggested that perhaps the head belonged to a standing statue.
In 1564 the collection of the City of Rome was enriched by a rare early Roman bronze bust. The identification of the bust with L. Iunius Brutus, who led a revolt against the last Roman king, is unsubstantiated.
Esedra di Marc'Aurelio
During the XIXth and XXth century Palazzo dei Conservatori was modified and enlarged in order to house the ever growing collections of the City of Rome (e.g. the statues found at Horti Lamiani). The most recent addition (2006) is Esedra di Marc'Aurelio, a glass-covered oval courtyard specifically designed by Carlo Aymonino to house the statue of Emperor Marcus Aurelius which stood in Piazza del Campidoglio.
The admirably human character of the figure survives the rusty decomposition of the bronze and the slight "debasement" of the art; and one may call it singular that in the capital of Christendom the portrait most suggestive of a Christian conscience is that of a pagan emperor.
Read more of Henry James's account of his 1873 visit to Piazza del Campidoglio.
Pinacoteca (painting gallery): Burial of St. Petronilla by il Guercino. This large painting was meant for an altar in S. Pietro, but was eventually placed at Palazzo del Quirinale. It was seized by Napoleon for the Louvre, but it was returned to Rome in 1816
The collections of the City of Rome include a painting gallery with fine works of Italian painters of the XVIth and XVIIth century, but today it seems that few people have enough time to visit it. Some of the most important paintings belonged to the collection of the Pio di Savoia family.
Pinacoteca: (left) Guido Reni: St. Sebastian; (right) Domenico Tintoretto: Penitent Magdalene
Palazzo Nuovo was completed in 1654 during the pontificate of Pope Innocent X, but Pope Alexander VII, his successor, took advantage of some finishing touches to place many of his coats of arms and heraldic symbol. The new building had the aesthetical objective of providing symmetry to Piazza del Campidoglio, but it did not have an actual purpose. It was used for meetings of the guilds or for ceremonies which could not take place in the other palaces.
In 1734 Pope Clement XII decided to use the building as a museum for the collection of ancient statues of the City of Rome. Its official name became Museo Capitolino and it was designated in this way until the 1920s. Today "Musei Capitolini" indicates the complex of collections in the three palaces of Piazza del Campidoglio. Because the three palaces are not large enough, some of the exhibits have been moved to Centrale Montemartini, a former power plant.
Sala delle Colombe (Hall of the Doves after a mosaic from Villa Adriana - it opens in another window)
The decoration of Palazzo Nuovo is not as interesting as that of Palazzo dei Conservatori, but the palace spacious rooms allow for an orderly display of many exhibits. It is not a state-of-the-art museum with light effects and a limited number of exhibits (so that the visitor in a hurry does not get annoyed). The "enlightened visitor" (many old guidebooks used this term) finds many interesting things to see in addition to a stunning series of masterpieces e.g. The Dying Galatian, which is shown in a page covering Horti Sallustiani, the site where it was found.
Salone (Main Hall on the first floor)
Return to page one.