The page covers:
Inside Palazzo dei Conservatori
Inscriptions in the Epigraphic Gallery
Inside Palazzo Nuovo
a previous page covers:
The plate by Giuseppe Vasi
Palazzi del Campidoglio: Senatorio, dei Conservatori and Nuovo
Uffici delle Corporazioni
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 Ottoman costumes.
On the 7th November 1644: In the great hall are divers excellent paintings of Cavaliero Giuseppe d'Arpino, a statue in brass of Sextus V.
and of Leo X., of marble.
John Evelyn's Diary and Correspondence
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.
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 (that of Pope Leo X to S. Maria in Aracoeli) and that of Pope Sixtus V was melted down. In 1816 Pope Pius VII placed two of the statues along the short sides of Sala degli Orazi e dei Curiazi.
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. She can be seen weeping also in a famous painting by Jacques-Louis David (it opens in an another window)
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, similar to what was done in the same period in the transept of S. Giovanni in Laterano. 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.
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 another hall, are many
modern statues of their late Consuls and Governors, set about with fine antique heads. Evelyn
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 (1545-1592), Duke of Parma and Piacenza, but best known as Governor of the Spanish Netherlands in 1578-1592 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.
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 ceilings of S. Giovanni in Laterano and 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
Ascending by the
steps of the other corner, are inserted four basso-relievos,
viz. the triumph and sacrifice of Marcus Aurelius, which
last, for the antiquity and rareness of the work, I caused
my painter. Carlo Neapolitano, to copy. Evelyn
Appartamento dei Conservatori is accessed via a grand staircase along which some large marble reliefs from ancient monuments (e.g. also those from Arco di Portogallo and Tempio di Adriano) were placed. The decision to put them there was influenced by the decoration of the staircase which imitated ancient reliefs.
In the corner of this court stand (..) two monstrous feet of a colosse of Apollo. Evelyn
In 1720 the courtyard of Palazzo dei Conservatori was redesigned by Alessandro Specchi in order to properly display three statues from the Cesi collection 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 another Room. The most ancient Wolf, with Romulus and Remus sucking it. 'Tis in Brass, a great part of the Left-leg behind is melted by Lightning which Cicero says happen'd in his time.
Jonathan and Jonathan Richardson - Account of Some of the Statues, etc. in Italy - 1722
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.
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.
In this place also is the statue of A Lyon having a horse
in his mouth, and was found under ground, being made
in the Romans tyme, a piece for the excellency of the
workemanship much esteemed and for which the king of
Spaine offered 10,000 Crownes, and upon this regard the
Lyon is his Armes and a horse without a Bridle is the Armes of Naples, he supposing that this statue may be a prophesye
of his Predecessors conquering the Kingdome of Naples,
as this Lyon did the horse.
Francis Mortoft's Journal of his travels in France and Italy in 1659
Many medieval chronicles report that an ancient statue of a lion stood on the steps of Palazzo Senatorio as a symbol of the town; in 1594 it was completed by Ruggero BescapŔ who added the head and the legs of the horse and the rear part of the lion. The original part of the statue is dated ca IV century BC and the depiction of the mouth and paws of the lion tearing up the flesh of the horse testifies to the skill of its sculptor.
Appartamento dei Conservatori: Sala dei Trionfi: (left) "Spinario" (Boy with Thorn) (Ist century BC); (right) L. Iunius Brutus (IIIrd century BC)
The Slave taking the Thorn out of his foot. (..) My Father has a drawing of it in Red Chalk of Raffaele. (..) A Brass Head of Lucius Junius Brutus, the Eyes of an Antique Composition to imitate the Natual Colour. Richardson
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.
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, where it was seen by J. W. Goethe. It was seized by Napoleon for the Louvre, but it was returned to Rome in 1816
November 3, 1786. I saw with amazement the wonderful Petronilla
of Guercino which was formerly in St. Peter's, where a mosaic
copy now stands in the place, of the original. The body of
the Saint is lifted out of the grave, and the same person, just
reanimated, is being received into the heights of heaven by a
celestial youth. Whatever may be alleged against this double
action, the picture is invaluable.
J. W. Goethe - Italian Journey - Translation by Charles Nisbeth
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: Two paintings which Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio made for Cardinal Francesco Maria del Monte: (left) The Fortune Teller; (right) Young St. John the Baptist
Epigraphic Gallery: (left) funerary altar of Caius Caelius Eyfiletus who lived 85 years, 5 months and 10 days; (right-above) tombstone of Cnaeus Munatius Paris, maker and merchant of clothing; (right-below) epitaph of Geminia Agathae Mater
The gallery contains a selection of inscriptions which shed light on the life of ordinary people (and on the preciseness of their age records). The first part of the epitaph says: For the sweet Geminia Agathe Mater. My name was Mater, but I was never destined to become a mother. In fact I do not deny having lived only five years, seven months and 22 days. During the time that I lived, I enjoyed myself and I was loved by everyone. In fact, believe me, I had the face of a little boy, not of a girl; as only those who generated me knew Agathe, of gentle temperament, of pleasing and noble appearance, with red hair, short on top and long behind. Now all of you offer me nice drinks and pray that the earth does not weigh heavily upon my remains.
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 symbols. 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.
The museum was (..) augmented by Innocent X. and still
more by Clement XII. (..) and Pius VII. restored to it
the principal monuments of antiquity, carried off by
the French during their usurpation. (..) Containing as it does one of the finest collections of
ancient sculpture in the world, it arrests the particular attention of every enlightened traveller; and
in our walk through its noble halls and galleries,
we shall adopt a medium between the dry uniformity of a mere catalogue, and the redundant copiousness of the ponderous tomes of Winkelmann
and others, confining ourselves to such explanations
as are compatible with our limits and necessary
to a clear comprehension and just appreciation of each
object as it occurs.
Rev. Jeremiah Donovan - Rome Ancient and Modern - 1843
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 they are not large enough, some of the exhibits have been moved to Centrale Montemartini, a former power plant.
Upper floor gallery and the Old Drunkard (far right)
It would be ridiculous in me to enter into a detail of the vast collection of marbles, basso relievos, inscriptions urns, busts and statues which are placed in the upper apartments of this edifice.
Tobias Smollett - Travels through France and Italy in 1765
The walls of the gallery are divided into compartments covered in part with inscriptions belonging to the columbarium of Livia, discovered in 1726 near the church of Domine quo vadis, and with eighty-six sepulchral inscriptions. Donovan
The upper Corridor is lined with statues and busts. Here and elsewhere we will only notice those especially remarkable for beauty or historic interest.
Augustus J. C. Hare - Walks in Rome - 1874
Statues in the former Secret Cabinet (similar to what occurred at the Archaeological Museum of Naples)
I was struck with the following particulars (..) a Jupiter and Leda at least equal to that in the gallery at Florence. Smollett
Next is a room to the right with the Capitoline Venus of Parian marble, coming out of the bath, with a vase at her feet, found at the Suburra, much esteemed and particularly well preserved; Cupid and Psyche in fond embrace, found on the Aventine; and Leda visited by Jupiter in the form of a swan; they are not shown without the special permission of the custode. Donovan
Hall of the Emperors (see a similar collection of busts in Florence)
I find nothing so delightful as these
old Roman heads of Senators, Warriors, Philosophers.
They have all the freshness of truth and nature. They
shew something substantial in mortality. They are
the only things that do not crush and overturn our
sense of personal identity; and are a fine relief to the
mouldering relics of antiquity, and to the momentary
littleness of modern things.
William Hazlitt - Notes of a Journey Through France and Italy in 1824-1825
In the centre of the room is the noble seated statue of Agrippina, the mother of Nero, simply but elegantly draped in the stola and palla, and full of life and expression. (..) On the marble shelves around the room are the imperial busts of the emperors, arranged chronologically, with those of some of their relations; and their nomenclature has been fixed after the most diligent comparison with their medals, cast in their own times. Donovan
Many of the busts which are on display at Musei Capitolini were part of a collection of Cardinal Alessandro Albani which was bought in 1734 by Pope Clement XII. Small collections of busts have been found in many private residences throughout the empire, e.g. at Chiragan, near Toulouse.
Hall of the Philosophers: reliefs
We next enter the hall of the philosophers, on
of the walls of which are A. Fragments of friezes with
helmets, prows, instruments of sacrifice etc. B. The death of Meleager. (right to left) On one side is Meleager about
to slay his uncles, who would deprive him of the
spoils of the Caledonian boar: his infatuated mother
burns the brand, to which is attached the life of
her son; his fainting form has fallen on the couch;
and he is vainly mourned by his father, wife and
sisters, one of whom applies a stimulant to his nostrils, while Fate indites the decree of his death. Donovan
The use of ancient reliefs, often parts of sarcophagi, as decorative elements of palaces began in the XVIth century, e.g. at Villa Medici; the reliefs were often cut to adjust their size or heavily restored.
Sala delle Colombe (Hall of the Doves after a mosaic from Villa Adriana); at the centre Innocence or a girl holding to her bosom a dove
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 (Donovan counted 117 items in the Hall of the Doves, but today some of them have been removed). 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 (aka The Dying Gladiator) which is shown in a page covering Horti Sallustiani the site where it was found.
The large saloon. (At the centre) a gilt bronze Hercules, found in the forum Boarium, his head two small for his body, standing on an altar of Fortune, who is seated on her throne, crowned and holding the cornucopia in her left, and the rudder in her right hand. The Victories above, supporting the arms of Clement XII, had belonged to the arch of Marcus Aurelius in the Corso. Donovan
Amongst the more noteworthy additions to the Capitoline collection belonging to the latter part of the sixteenth century were (..) the youthful Hercules in green basalt found on the Aventine.
H. Stuart Jones - A catalogue of the ancient sculptures preserved in the municipal collection - 1912. The catalogue indicates that the statue of Apollo was moved to Palazzo dei Conservatori, where it still is.
Double herm of Dionysus. Restored: the noses and front edges of both busts. (..) The two heads are of the same type, and are bound with a wreath of
ivy and berries. (..) The beard is outlined
in the archaic manner. (..) Statuette of reclining River-god. Restored: a piece on the r. forearm below the elbow, the l. forefinger, the top of the cornucopia. The head has been broken off, is of the same marble, and appears to belong.
The figure is of the usual River-god type, reclining on his left elbow,
with a cornucopia resting along his left arm and ears of corn in the right hand. The head, bearded and bound with a taenia, is turned sharply towards the left shoulder. Stuart Jones
The sarcophagus depicts Meleager hunting the Calydonian Boar; the same subject is depicted in another sarcophagus at Palazzo dei Conservatori.
We now enter the last room of the museum, all the statues of which are of a high order of excellence, and were brought back from France and placed here, in 1816, by Pius VII.; but, on entering, our attention is at once and exclusively arrested by the Dying Gladiator, in Greek marble, the finest statue of its kind in the world. Donovan
All these noble statues, etc., belong to the city, and cannot be disposed of to any private person, or removed hence, but are preserved for the honour of the place, though great sums have been offered for them by divers Princes, lovers of art and antiquity. Evelyn
Return to page one.