Saturday, December 3, 2011

New Exhibit at the Quirinale

A new exhibit opened this Wednesday, not at the Scuderie del Quirinale (where the Filippino Lippi exhibit is still in full swing) but at the actual Palazzo Quirinale itself. This palace is the residence of the President of the Republic, and is generally open only once a week, on Sunday mornings at a cost of 5 euros. As you can imagine, it can be stiflingly crowded.

Thanks to the new mostra, until March the Quirinale is open six days a week--for free! The exhibit, entitled From the Unification of Italy to our time, displays hundreds of portraits, photographs, letters, newspapers, documents, videos, books and more that tell the (comparatively short) story of the country of Italy.

In 1870, nine years after the Garibaldi's troops unified the country, Rome finally fell to the bersaglieri and the capital city was moved from Torino to Rome. Pope Pius IX hunkered down in the Vatican, and his former palace, the Quirinale, became the official residence of the kings of Italy. Nearly 80 years later, when Italy became a republic, it became the residence of the president, as it remains today.

New Year's Day reception in the Sala dei Corazzieri, 1888.

The monarchs visit an exhibition at Palazzo delle Belle Arti on occasion of the 50th anniversry of the Unification of Italy, March 1911.

Hitler and Mussolini depart from the Quirinale, 4 May 1938

President Giorgio Napolitano in Piazza del Quirinale on occasion of the Notte Tricolare, 16 March 2011

One of my favorite things about the exhibit was that reproductions of important letters, photographs and documents printed on high quality glossy paper and hand-stamped are lying around on the display cases at random for visitors to pick up and take home with them.
This exhibit is most suited either to Italians or people with an active interest in Italian history of the past 150 years. If you do not fall into one of these categories, there are probably other exhibits on at the moment that might capture your interest more fully. However it is more than worth a visit simply to admire the magnificent building, now affectionately called La Casa degli Italiani. Nearly the entire piano nobile is open to the public, including the glorious Sala Gialla, Sala di Augusto and Sala degli Ambasciatori, (once one long gallery and now sadly divided) decorated by a group of artists led by Pietro da Cortona and recently restored to its original splendor. In addition, Ottaviano Mascarino's (sometimes spelled Mascherino) graceful spiral staircase, the Sala degli Specchi (Hall of Mirrors), the Sala del Balcone (Balcony Room) and many others are open to visitors.

One disappointment: the Sala dei Corazzieri (ex-Sala Regia) with its delightfully distinct frescoes of the ambassadors by Agostino Tassi, Giovanni Lanfranco and Carlo Saraceni is not part of the exhibit. Neither is the Cappella Paolina, however, if you come on a Sunday morning, at least during December, you can end your visit with a live (free!) concert in the Cappella Paolina. Since you can't get to the chapel without passing through the Sala dei Corazzieri, you'll get to see both--and get to hear some classical music!

The palace itself deserves its own post, so I will not attempt to describe it here in further detail. Instead I will leave you with a few more images of the works in the exhibition.

Joseph and his brothers, tapestry, design by Agnolo Bronzino and Raffaellino del Colle

Portrait of Queen Margherita, Pasquale Di Criscito

Portrait of Princess Elena of Savoy, Francesca Gambacorta Magliani
"The King's Thunderbolt", Fiat, 1910

Oh, did I fail to mention the kings' (and presidents') carriages and cars are also on display? For opening days and times, see the Exhibits on now page.

All images provided courtesy of Ufficio Stampa Civita
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