CHRON­I­CLES AND HIS­TORY FROM THE QUIRINALE PALACE

Pre­sent­ing the last episode ded­i­cated to this sym­bol of Ital­ian his­tory, with a mul­ti­tude of anec­dotes about the great fig­ures who once roamed its cor­ri­dors

All About Italy (USA) - - All About Italy - Maria Cristina Bagolan

Com­pleted un­der Pope Paul V, dur­ing the 17th cen­tury the Quirinale’s ar­chi­tec­ture was for­ti­fied, al­most ex­clu­sively for de­fen­sive rea­sons.

Among the gar­dens’ dec­o­ra­tions, the Fon­tana Rus­tica (1622) in the “Boschetto” area, was en­larged by Pope Gre­gory XV Lu­dovisi (1621-1623) and be­came what it is to­day, de­spite the wide lime­stone ac­cu­mu­la­tions sur­round­ing it. The pope wanted a mo­saic de­pic­tion of his coat of arms placed di­rectly in front of the Fon­tana Rus­tica: the Mo­saic floor is a re­peat­ing pat­tern with a cage de­picted that im­pris­ons the vis­i­tor in the cen­ter of the pa­pal coat of arms. Poet Giuseppe Gioacchino Belli tells the story in a son­net of how Pope Gre­gory XV lead a poor prelate to the foun­tain and then sud­denly turned the wa­ter on, splash­ing him like “a wet chick.” It was Pope Ur­ban VIII Bar­berini (1623-44) who cov­ered the en­tire perime­ter of the gar­den walls, en­sur­ing that the Swiss guards’ lodg­ings were ex­panded (the first part of the cur­rent Man­ica Lunga, the build­ing that runs along Via del Quirinale) and build­ing a low canopy on the fa­cade, where there is cur­rently a mil­i­tary can­teen. In ad­di­tion, he added new foun­tains to the gar­dens, en­trust­ing Gian­lorenzo Bernini with the de­sign of the Log­gia delle Benedi­zioni (1638), above the main por­tal of the palace fa­cade.

But in the course of the 16th cen­tury one of the most beau­ti­ful dec­o­ra­tive en­ter­prises was in­stalled: Pope Alexan­der VII Chigi (1655-67) com­mis­sioned a fresco de­pict­ing scenes from the Old and New Tes­ta­ments in long gallery of the palace wing over­look­ing the square. The frieze was made by a

group of painters un­der the di­rec­tion of Pi­etro da Cor­tona, in­clud­ing Carlo Maratta and Pier Francesco Mola, and is vis­i­ble to­day in three rooms (Gialla, Au­gusto, Am­bas­ci­a­tori) in Alexan­der VII’S gallery split up in 1812 by Napoleon. The last im­por­tant ar­chi­tec­tual al­ter­ations on the Quirinale’s com­plex and its ad­ja­cent ar­eas were com­pleted by the first half of the 18th cen­tury. First, Alessan­dro Spec­chi and then Fer­di­nando Fuga built, amongst other ad­di­tions, the Pa­pal sta­bles (Scud­erie) on the square over­look­ing the be­gin­ning of via Dataria.

Fer­di­nando Fuga was also re­spon­si­ble for the com­ple­tion of the Man­ica Lunga and the ad­join­ing build­ing for the Se­gre­tario delle Cifre (diplo­matic desks of the Holy See). Pre­vi­ously used as ac­com­mo­da­tion for the Ital­ian royal fam­ily, it is now the res­i­dence of Pres­i­dents of the Repub­lic — cur­rently Pres­i­dent Ser­gio Mattarella. Fer­di­nando Fuga was also com­mis­sioned to de­sign the Quirinale gar­den’s Coffee House (1741), with a splen­did view over Rome, on the square of the Palazzo della Con­sulta, to host Swiss of­fices and guards.

At the be­gin­ning of the 18th cen­tury the Quirinale’s his­tory took a sharp turn. In 1809, Napoleon’s troops oc­cu­pied Rome, cap­tured Pope Pius VII (1800-1823) and de­ported him to France; the Quirinale was cho­sen by the Napoleonic gov­ern­ment as the em­peror’s res­i­dence.

In preparation for Napoleon’s so­journ in Rome - which ac­tu­ally never hap­pened - the palace was adapted to neo­clas­si­cal needs and tastes. And to make the nec­es­sary changes hap­pened quickly, ar­chi­tect Raf­faele Stern, re­spon­si­ble for the pro­ject, was called on to co­or­di­nate a large team of artists (in­clud­ing painters Felice Giani and Jacques Do­minique In­gres, and Dan­ish sculp­tor Ber­tel Thor­vald­sen).

The present-day lay­out of the Sala della Mu­sica, for ex­am­ple - one of the most beau­ti­ful, with a splen­did view of Rome, with its grand piano - still presents im­por­tant el­e­ments of the early

19th cen­tury, when it was de­signed to be­come Napoleon’s stu­dio. From the room’s six win­dows, the em­peror could en­joy a spec­tac­u­lar view of the gar­dens, and have vis­ual dom­i­nance of the en­tire city. The dec­o­ra­tions, with a mas­sive paint­ing by Bolog­nese artist Pe­la­gio Palagi at the cen­ter, was ded­i­cated to Julius Cae­sar, ar­tis­ti­cally de­pict­ing the words “De bello gal­lico and De belle civili” from the Ro­man em­peror’s Com­men­taries on the Civil War or Bel­lum Civile. In May 1814, Pope Pius VII re­turned to Rome and to the Quirinale. He im­me­di­ately or­dered the traces of Napoleonic oc­cu­pa­tion to be cleared out: amongst the most im­por­tant we see the aus­tere fres­coes of the Pauline Chapel.

The last pope to re­side at the Quirinale was Pius IX (184678), who left his pa­pal mark in Pope Paul V’s apart­ment by com­mis­sion­ing Tom­maso Mi­nardi to paint the Mis­sion of the Apos­tles (1848) in the Sala degli Am­bas­ci­a­tori (Am­bas­sador’s Room).

Re­turn­ing to Vit­to­rio Emanuele. In 1870, af­ter the Porta Pia up­ris­ing and the an­nex­a­tion of Rome to the King­dom of Italy, the Quirinale be­came the Savoy fam­ily res­i­dence. The an­cient pa­pal palace was trans­formed into a royal palace by restor­ing some rooms - es­pe­cially the wing to the gar­den – com­pletely and usu­ally in the sump­tu­ous Louis XV style.

Queen Margherita was the mas­ter­mind of this rad­i­cal change, dous­ing the many halls in gold and glit­ter, still ap­pre­ci­ated in to­day’s of­fi­cial cer­e­monies. The taste was ap­plied, of course, to all the fur­nish­ings — ta­bles, flow­er­pots, sil­ver­ware, pots — still ad­mired in the beau­ti­ful Vasella, on the palace’s ground floor. Ac­cord­ing to Pro­fes­sor Francesco Co­lalucci, Woody Allen him­self was riv­eted dur­ing his visit to the Quirinale and thrilled by the Ro­coco Revival style of the Sala degli Spec­chi (Hall of Mir­rors) and the Salone delle Feste (Cer­e­mo­nial Hall).

More­over, the young princess Margherita, though not re­ally loved by her hus­band Um­berto, was cer­tainly ad­mired by for her in­tel­li­gence and abil­ity with which she de­cided to ex­press the sovereignty of the Savoy House through the em­bel­lish­ment of the palace, fol­low­ing in the steps of other Euro­pean roy­als. This par­tic­u­lar Ro­coco Revival taste adapted well to 18th cen­tury fur­ni­ture brought to the Quirinale from the rulers around Italy. Some ex­tra­or­di­nary pieces, such as Piemon­tese cab­i­net maker Pi­etro Pif­fetti’s li­brary was trans­ferred “in its en­tirety” from the Cas­tle of Mon­calieri in Pied­mont to the Quirinale, and holds the queen’s books to this day. Im­por­tant paint­ings and se­ries of ta­pes­tries also orig­i­nate from be­fore the Ital­ian Uni­fi­ca­tion: six paint­ings by Cor­rado Gi­aquinto with Sto­ries of Ae­neas come from Mon­calieri; Vit­to­rio Emanuele II brought ten16th-cen­tury ta­pes­tries from Florence to the Quirinale, de­signed by Bronzino, Pon­tormo and Salviati; the two Beau­vais se­ries from ‘700, taken from Fran­cois Boucher’s sketches were brought from Parma.

Fur­ni­ture, paint­ings, ta­pes­tries and var­i­ous fur­nish­ings from Ital­ian es­tates are now pre­served in the Quirinale, while a col­lec­tion of large ori­en­tal pots from the late 17th and early 18th cen­turies, var­i­ous paint­ings by Gi­ulio Ro­mano, Francesco Mancini, Pi­etro da Cor­tona and oth­ers, ta­pes­tries (four Go­belins with the Sto­ries of New Tes­ta­ment that were do­nated to Pius VII by Napoleon in 1805) re­main from the pa­pal past. The Savoys, dur­ing their stay un­til the procla­ma­tion of the Repub­lic in 1946, used the Palace to fit their habits and de­sires: for a good length of time, a part of the Bar­berini bas­tions be­came small canals nav­i­ga­ble by the princes’ boats. In the gar­dens, palm trees were planted and there was a ten­nis court and a rid­ing school.

The Co­razz­ieri sa­lon was used as a cov­ered ten­nis court and dur­ing re­cent restora­tions a lost ball was found be­hind a Tad­deo Lan­dini mar­ble foot basin as it was be­ing trans­ferred near the en­trance of the Cap­pella Paolina at the Vat­i­can. At one point it is be­lieved the grand room was used as a skat­ing rink! Prob­a­bly not ...

What were the Savoy’s fa­vorite dishes? Um­berto and Margherita were light years apart. Margherita pre­ferred brioches and pas­tries for break­fast, while the king pre­ferred roast pheas­ant served on toasted bread! The pre­vi­ous King Vit­to­rio Emanuele II pre­ferred to have his son, Um­berto, marry his cousin (brother of Fer­di­nand’s daugh­ter), toe­ing the state line of unity, in­stead of mar­ry­ing out to a for­eign royal fam­ily. How­ever, the only son of Um­berto seemed to suf­fer some “ge­netic” fac­tors. Vit­to­rio Emanuele III, nick­named “Scia­bo­letta” (Lit­tle Saber) was born from the union, short of stature even by 19th-cen­tury stan­dards - only half a me­ter tall. For­tu­nately, how­ever, “Scia­bo­letta” mar­ried Elena of Mon­tene­gro and from their union five healthy and beau­ti­ful chil­dren were born, and among them

Um­berto, called “Prince Char­mant” (the fas­ci­nat­ing prince) - who in­her­ited the throne.

On Septem­ber 27, 1896 Emanuele Scar­foglio, founder of the news­pa­per Il Mat­tino di Napoli, wrote an ar­ti­cle ti­tled “Wed­ding with Dried Figs”. The jour­nal­ist strongly crit­i­cized the choice of the fu­ture sov­er­eign of Italy. One month be­fore the mar­riage be­tween Vit­to­rio Emanuele III and Elena of Mon­tene­gro, the gist of the ar­ti­cle un­der­lined how Um­berto and Margherita had not been able to conquer, among other things, the pop­u­lar ap­proval and re­claim the Savoy dy­nasty. The union was com­mer­cial, and Mon­tene­gro was a mas­sive ex­porter of dried figs. Need­less to say, the news­pa­per was im­me­di­ately seized. In spite of Scar­foglio’s sus­pi­cions, Queen Elena was much loved - even by her hus­band - and re­mem­bered af­fec­tion­ately by all the Ital­ians, pre­cisely for her great hu­man­ity and gen­eros­ity.

Since 1911, the sov­er­eigns have per­ma­nently resided in Villa Savoia (now Villa Ada) and ev­ery morn­ing the king went to Quirinale, of­ten driv­ing him­self in his Fiat. At the buzzing in­ter­sec­tion of the Qu­at­tro Fon­tane (Four Foun­tains) the king’s Fiat stalled and started and sput­tered about half a mile, all the way to the Bar­berini Square, thank­fully without in­jur­ing any­one in the process. Dur­ing Fas­cism, the Palace also hosted Adolf Hitler for din­ner, by in­vi­ta­tion: iron­i­cally, that night princess Mafalda sat at the ta­ble next to Hitler. Mafalda, who later mar­ried Ger­man Prince Filippo, Lan­gravio d’as­sia-kas­sel, was later be ar­rested and died (un­der a false name) in a Ger­man con­cen­tra­tion camp in 1944.

Af­ter the foun­da­tion of the Ital­ian Repub­lic in 1946, King Um­berto left the Palace: since then the ar­chi­tec­tural struc­tures of the Quirinale com­plex and the in­te­rior fur­nish­ings have re­mained ba­si­cally un­al­tered, pro­tected by law. Ta­pes­tries and all fur­nish­ings, in­clud­ing the splen­did col­lec­tion of an­tique clocks, fres­coes dis­cov­ered in Alessan­dro VII’S gallery and those com­mis­sioned by Paolo Borgh­ese V, are guarded by the state. The original traver­tine color of the an­cient stucco sur­faces in the Court­yard of Honor and the main façade of the Palace have been re­stored to its original white-blue color. But main­te­nance and new dis­cov­er­ies con­tinue un­in­ter­rupted, both in the Palace and in the gar­dens. The Palace, as it is known, is now open to the pub­lic with reg­u­lar guided tours dur­ing the week, cu­rated by univer­sity stu­dents along­side vol­un­teers from the Ital­ian Tour­ing Club. Since it has be­come the seat of the Pres­i­dent of the Repub­lic, not all the Pres­i­dents have stayed at the Palace. For ex­am­ple, San­dro Per­tini con­tin­ued to live in his own house at Fon­tana di Trevi, while for ex­am­ple Luigi Ein­audi, Os­car Luigi Scal­faro, Carlo Azeglio Ci­ampi, Gior­gio Napoli­tano and now Ser­gio Mattarella, chose to live and work at Palazzo, backed by their own Coun­selors from the staff and the nu­mer­ous em­ploy­ees who carry out their du­ties in spe­cific of­fices and ser­vices.

Long live the Palace that has wel­comed 30 Popes, 4 Kings and 12 Repub­li­can Pres­i­dents — the Quirinale!

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