Saturday, 22 November 2014

The Accademia dei Lincei and its treasures

Yesterday I profitted of access being granted to a series Palaces usually closed to the public to attend one of the guided tours promoted by the association Turismo Culturale Italiano.
In a desperate attempt to match the visits to my work schedule and my days off, I managed to get a reservation for the visit to Palazzo Corsini, now the site of the Accademia dei Lincei, together with the Villa Farnesina, popular for its paintings of Raffaello.
It was a visit that implied science, books and art at the same time, too juicy to miss.

Meeting point of our visit was the entrance of the palace.
The first part of our visit involved the visit of what once were the private rooms of the building, now occupied by the offices of the Academy.
Once walked the monumental staircase of the building, in its beautiful "colour of the air", we reached the "ballroom". Among the various hands that worked on the architecture of the building, the last one belonged to architect Ferdinando Fuga, who tried to fix up the mess left by Christina Queen of Sweden while trying to keep the original baroque vibe of the palace.

This beautiful ceiling is his job, like the design of the balustrade of the ballroom, that can be appreciated expecially from the floor below, the "vestibule":
If you look at the floor of the ballroom, you'd notice that it's slightly downhill, an escamotage to make the balaustrade visible even from the vestibule, creating a suggestive scenic effect that is a tribute to the baroque origin of the previous architecture.

As the presence of the famous lynx becomes more and more predominant in the furniture, we access the rooms of the Palace, that were left with their original ceilings and texile decorations on the walls, simply lovely.

Among them the most important is probably the Sala Dutuit:
It contains a precious collection of Eastern chinoiseries, and on a wall it's possible to look at one of the most ancient document of family law, compiled in a peculiar way of writing that changes its direction on every row.

After this short walk across the rooms, it was finally the time to visit the beautiful library!

I confess you that when I entered the reading room I was shocked by its beauty and I was about to cry (how pitiful of me! I'll blame it on the ovulation)--The paintings that decorate the ceiling of the reading room date 1885 circa, as the palace was given to the Lyncean Academy by the Italian Government through the Corsini family, who presented also the huge collection of books.
The paintings represent allegories of the subjects of the preserved books.

The other rooms, the ones where the books are stored and catalogued, present the original frescoes on the ceilings, paintings of mythological inspiration.
The books are placed on two "floors", according to the custom of the XVII century.
The "second floor" is accessible thanks to some stairs placed in the nearby rooms.

The library of the Academy owns one of hugest collections of engravings. Some of them were exposed in the various rooms.
Extremely intriguing those pertaining the original look of the palace, as it went through a series of renovations during the centuries, and those of the close-by Villa Farnesina.

After the library of the Academy it was the time to explore the innermost collection, the so-called "Corsini library", the original "nucleus" donated by Prince Tommaso Corsini.
At its entrance is the marmble bust of cardinal Neri Maria Corsini. He's the one who started to collect books and "magazines" from all around the world. He's also the one who opted for a fideicommissum for the treasures of the palace: because of this, his relatives, in case they wanted to sell the palace, had to sell it together with the books and painting collections, to preserve it as a whole.
He also opened the library to the public. Even now all the books of the collections are freely consultable by everyone.

The various rooms of the wing are divided into subjects.
The last one is dedicated to the studies of theology.
This fresco portraying "The Faith defeats the Heresy" is quite eloquent on the spirit of the times. How scenographic!

Besides the books and frescoes, some rarities of books were left for us to see.
Some of them were so precious that we could see only the copies-- But the copies were quite precious themselves!
Among the various curiosities, that to be honest I had no heart to take pictures of, I dedicated a shot to this:
It's a dedication to Ersilia Caetani Lovatelli from Gabriele D'Annunzio on a copy of one of his theatrical pieces, "Più che l'Amore".
Ersilia was an archaelogist and the first female scholar to enter the Academy.

Once we were done with this visit, we had the chance to access the Villa Farnesina too, as it's part of the Academy.
As a chance to take a peek to Rafaello's famed frescoes, how could I say no?
The Villa was commissioned by banker Agostino Chigi, who wanted to spend his happy days as a patron of the arts here.
Designed by architect Baldassare Peruzzi and decorated with the paintings of Rafaello, Peruzzi himself, Sebastiano dal Piombo, the good ol' Sodoma and so on...
The Villa is called "Farnesina" because by the end of the XVI century it was bought by cardinal Alessandro Farnese once it was abandoned after the sack of Rome. It was a way to tell it apart from the Palazzo Farnese on the other side of the Tiber.

Long story short, let's start with the visit!
The first room that we find is the famous Hall of Galatea:

Besides the portrait of the beautiful nymph of the sea, we can spot some landscapes of the Roman countryside.
The ceiling is decored with allegories of the Zodiac and other mythological stories. I don't know, the general vibe of this room is quite chaotic for me ò_o

Next is the Loggia of Psyche:

How vivacious and joyous!
This whole place was decorated by Rafaello and his pupils.
The lodge was once open and facing the garden-- The place is now closed and protected after a huge restoration's work.

From the loggia is possible to access to the Room of the Frieze, painted by Baldassare Peruzzi:

You can see various mythological scenes, expecially concerning Hercules, Orpheus and Jupiter.
I also took my time to pay attention to the grotesque decorations of the rooms... In this period the Domus Aurea, the magnificent private villa of Nero, was discovered and all the artists used to go there to study the paintings of the ceilings and the walls to enrich their decorative repertory.
This kind of decorations was extremely popular with the noblesmen of the time and you can find such decorations in every private residence of those who "matterred" at the time.
Isn't it fun how the luxury of Ancient Romans was associated to the luxury of Modern Romans--?

On the first floor is the Salone delle Prospettive, designed by the architect himself with a series of fun optical effects and fake perspectives:
--Even the marbles are painted!

And, last but not least, the room that hosted the bedroom of Agostino himself, decorated by Giovanni Antonio Bazzi (nicknamed "Sodoma" for his sexual preferences) and featuring a beautiful Marriage of Alexander and Roxane:

I laughed at the cupids hurrying up to get Roxane naked for Alexander without any regard for the scared people around!
Again, note the grotesque on the ceiling's decorations... I really dig these cofferings!!

And here ended my experience with the fancy palaces of Rome-- I hope that you enjoyed it too!

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