Interview of Francesco Petrucci, director of the Palazzo Chigi in Ariccia

Francesco Petrucci, director of the Palazzo Chigi, holds an architectural degree as a restorer of historical monuments. He has written many studies on the Baroque, notably a monograph on Bernini’s paintings. He thus progressively moved towards the history of painting, also publishing a monograph on Voet, a portrait artist (several of his works are in the Palazzo Chigi). He first supervised the restoration of the palace, then took over as director in 1998. (See article)

Can you tell us what the Baroque museum is, when it was born and with which collection ?

The Palazzo Chigi is essentially a 17th century palace, even if one part dates back to the second half of the 16th century. It was commissioned by the Chigi family and executed by Bernini and his collaborator Carlo Fontana. Bernini took over the project of restructuring the town of Ariccia, built the church of the Assunta and restructured the square which is located between the palace and the church. In the village, he also directed the work on the Porta Romana, Porta Napolitana and in the sanctuary of Galloro. The palace was the Chigi family’s main country residence ; they also owned the Palazzo Chigi in Rome. In 1917, the Chigi princes sold the Roman palace to the Italian state then in 1918 a portion of the painting collection which today is at the Galleria Nazionale in the Palazzo Barberini. Some works were then transferred to Ariccia. Today the Palazzo Chigi still holds, besides the 17th century collection, paintings, sculptures and furniture which are originally from the Palazzo Chigi in Rome. The town of Ariccia bought the palace and all of its furnishings from Prince Agostino Chigi in 1988, along with the small palaces built by Bernini on the square. In the last twenty years, there have been various restorations, the first one being very important repairs on the structure. For the Jubilee year, we were able to work on the interior, enabling us to complete the repairs and open the “étage noble” (first floor formal rooms) of the palace which is entirely furnished and presents paintings by 17th century artists and some important furniture including two consoles designed by Bernini, as well as the red-chalk work by Bernini, executed on the wall in the chapel. In 2003 we opened the apartment on the ground floor which is completely furnished with 17th century pieces. Then, in 2002 there had been the donation by Maurizio Fagiolo dell’Arco which made up the first basis of the Baroque museum and which we installed in a specific area devoted to the museum. A museum for Roman Baroque, in one of the most important Roman Baroque palaces. It’s a perfect adaptation of form and content.

Since last year, the collection has taken on major importance with several donations…

Another very important impulse came from the Lemme donation last year which added a wealth of 128 17th and 18th century paintings. The collection was built up in a systematic and uniform manner, giving the museum a major boost. Then in the spring of 2008 there were the Laschena and Ferrari donations. Renato Laschena was the president of the State council and a great collector, while Oresto Ferrari founded the Istituto del Catalogo e Documentazione at the Ministry of Cultural Affairs and also the journal Storia dell’Arte.

Did these donations extend the scope of the museum ?

Yes, because these weren’t only Roman artists, there are Neapolitans like Rosa and Giordano, Domenico Antonio Vaccaro, and also painters from other Italian regions who passed through Rome at some point in their lives. So this is no longer a purely Roman collection of the 17th and 18th centuries, it has become enriched with paintings from other schools of the same period. The concept of the museum is so well thought out, it is so systematic, that there is no other collection like it in all of Italy. If anyone wants to study the Baroque, he has to come to Ariccia.

In painting, yes, but there is still no collection of sculptures, except for the ones in the palace apartments…

That’s true. It would be an excellent idea to enrich the museum with sculptures, or even objects.

How did these donations affect the organization of the museum ?

After exhibiting the Lemme donation at the beginning of the year, we have just finished completely rearranging the layout of the visit. The new museum was inaugurated on November 9th.

Do you have other collections besides the Baroque ?

We also have a project for Roman art in the 1960’s, Pop art since there’s also a group of works from the 60’s, not only Roman artists, but contemporary artists who worked in Rome in the second half of the 20th century.

Will you have an acquisitions policy ?

An association of Friends of the Palazzo Chigi has been created. The goal of this association will be, on the one hand, to promote the activities at the museum and, on the other, perhaps to proceed with new acquisitions.

To wrap up, what are your exhibition plans for the future ?

We do a lot of exhibitions and publish many catalogues, all related to the theme of the Baroque. We are now preparing in particular a retrospective on Guillaume Courtois and an exhibition on clothes in the Seicento

Interview by Didier Rykner

Didier Rykner, mercredi 3 décembre 2008

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