The true nature of the Capodimonte Palace: museum or royal palace?

by Roberta Montesano

La vera natura della Reggia di Capodimonte: museo o palazzo reale?

The Capodimonte wood and his Palace, constitute one of the countless jewels with which the dynasty of Bourbon has embellished the Kingdom of Naples. A gust of culture, as well as wealth, has pushed Charles of Bourbon in the 1738 to commission this magnificent palace, which was built by Giovanni Antonio Medrano e Antonio Canevari, who, a bit like a dog and a cat, didn't really care for each other very much.

In the wake of the royal residences that were spreading faster and faster throughout Europe, one was chosen neoclassical style, made majestic by the piperno gray and the Neapolitan red, which still play the role that was once assigned to them: to remember the majesty of Bourbon dynasty.

But there is a detail that reveals the real reason that led to the birth of this building: the use of the style vaguely Doric, used at the time for cultural buildings such as theaters and museums, makes us understand that Carlo had very different ideas in mind. Well, he didn't just want to build a new villa in which sit on your back and go hunting, but rather he wanted to make the Royal Palace of Capodimonte a real one museum!

First of all you must know that the mother of Charles of Bourbon was nothing after all Elisabetta Farnese, grandson of Antonio Farnese, who owned the very famous Farnese collection. When this Antonio died, Carlo's mother inherited this enormous patrimony, which his son thought it best to bring to Naples and build a museum there.

But what is the Farnese collection? What does it include? The collection was born between Rome, Parma and Piacenza includes approximately 329 paintings among the most famous in the world including works by Titian, Michelangelo, Raphael and others that have marked the history of Italian art and beyond. And it was the collection that defined the layout of the interior of the Palace. In fact, it was decided to create the exhibition rooms facing the sea, while the internal sides facing the courtyard were used for the library and for the collection of other important objects that are always part of the collection.

Over the years the Royal Palace has seen numerous changes, concerning the wood that surrounds it, the tenants, the works on display, the roads that connect it.

Let's start from 1738: when the first stone was laid, the road to reach the Capodimonte hill was impervious and steep, due to the Vallone della Sanità, In the 1742 the arrangement of the immense began Park, Of 124 hectares, edited by Ferdinando Sanfelice, and pre-existing buildings. It is precisely from one of these buildings that in the 1743 was born there china factory. In 1758 the first works were transferred to the museum still under construction. With the ascent to the throne of Ferdinand I, the work proceeded slowly, the sovereign had his eyes turned to Caserta and he neglected Capodimonte, but nevertheless excellent results were obtained, were it not for  the looting dated 1799, which saw the number of works in the collection drastically decrease.

Let's move on to 1806, arrival of the French, who almost completely transform the Palace into a royal residence. And, don't you want to get to your house by making a huge climb? Thus they left, numerous urbanization works including the making of Corso Napoleone, today Via Santa Teresa degli Scalzi, which overlooks the Healthcare. It was the construction of this road that halved the cloister of Santa Maria alla Sanità, but that's ... it's another story.

We return to us, we are in 1816, return of the Bourbons, Ferdinand I he too decided to use the Palace as a residence: numerous works are dismantled and brought to what is now known as National Museum, and set about organizing parties and banquets.

Instead in the 1830, ascends the throne Ferdinand II, who decided to complete the palace hired Niccolini e Giordano. He also took measures for the reorganization of the park, relying on Friedrich Dehnhardt.

Over the years other nobles stayed in the Palace, including the Savoy, and it was only after the Second World War that the palace returned to its origins, rediscovering its true nature and the reason for which it was created. 1957 was finally inaugurated on National Museum of Capodimonte.

-Roberta Montesano

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