Palace of Capodimonte
|Palace of Capodimonte|
|Type||Palace now used as a museum, National Gallery|
|Architectural style||Italian Baroque, Neo-Classical|
|Design and construction|
Giovanni Antonio Medrano
The Palace of Capodimonte (Italian Reggia di Capodimonte) is a grand Bourbon palazzo in Naples, Italy, formerly the summer residence and hunting lodge of the kings of the Two Sicilies. It today houses the National Museum of Capodimonte and art gallery of the city. "Capodimonte" means "top of the hill", and the palace was originally just outside the city, which has now expanded to surround it, and somewhat cooler than the city in summer.
In 1738, Charles VII, king of Naples and Sicily (later Charles III, king of Spain) decided to build a hunting lodge on the Capodimonte hill, but then decided that he would instead build a grand palace, partly because his existing residence, the Palace of Portici, was too small to accommodate his court, and partly because he needed somewhere to house the fabulous Farnese art collection which he had inherited from his mother, Elisabetta Farnese, last descendant of the sovereign ducal family of Parma.
He commissioned Angelo Carasale, Giovanni Antonio Medrano and Antonio Canevari to build it. Work started in August 1738, but it was to take more than a century to complete, partly because of the difficulty of transporting piperno, the volcanic rock used, from the quarries in Pianura. In 1758, the first part of the palace was opened and the art collection was brought in. In 1759, Ferdinand I succeeded his father Charles and the following year he appointed the architect Ferdinando Fuga to oversee work on the palace and the grounds. In 1787, on the advice of Jacob Philipp Hackert, a laboratory for the restoration of paintings was created.
When the Parthenopaean Republic was declared in 1799, Ferdinand fled to Palermo on board Nelson's Vanguard, taking the most valuable items from the palace with him. What remained was looted by the French troops of General Championnet who were billeted there. During the ten years of French occupation (1806 to 1815), the palace was the residence of Joseph Bonaparte and then of Joachim Murat. The art collection was transferred to the Naples National Archaeological Museum. When Ferdinand returned from Sicily in 1815, he employed many painters and sculptors to work on the decoration of the palace.
Francesco I succeeded his father Ferdinand in 1825 and appointed the architect Antonio Niccolini to oversee work on the palace. Niccolini added monumental staircases, and new suites of rooms for the royal family, continuing work when Ferdinand II succeeded Francesco I in 1830. The palace was finally completed in 1840, and a gallery housing contemporary art was added.
With Italian Unification, the palace passed in 1861 to the House of Savoy who used it as a residence and also added to the art collections, appointing Domenico Morelli as consultant for new acquisitions. They also added an extensive collection of historic firearms and other weapons. In 1866, the boudoir of Maria Amalia of Saxony was transferred to Capodimonte from the Palace of Portici, and in 1877 a Roman era marble floor was brought in from a Roman villa on Capri.
In the early twentieth century, the palace became the residence of the Dukes of Aosta. Then in 1920 it became the property of the Italian state. In 1950 it became a museum, with many of the exhibits being returned from the National Museum.
The first and second floors house the National Gallery (Galleria Nazionale).
Elsewhere in the palace the royal apartments are furnished with antique 18th century furniture and a collection of porcelain and majolica from the various royal residences. The famous Capodimonte Porcelain Factory was just adjacent to the palace; it was started in 1743 by the Bourbon King Charles.
The palace is situated in the Bosco di Capodimonte ('Hilltop Wood'), which served as a royal hunting preserve. There is still a pleasant park around the palace.
Media related to Palace of Capodimonte at Wikimedia Commons
- Museo di Capodimonte official website (Italian)