Art in the Piazza Dante station

by Roberta De Masi
Piazza Dante disegno

The Piazza Dante station of line 1 of the Naples underground was designed by the architect Gae Aulenti in 1999 and is part of the circuit of the art stations; the project also involved the urban reorganization of the square.

A little history of Dante Square

It was originally called Largo del Mercatello since one of the two markets of the city was held there, not to be confused with the larger and older one in Piazza Mercato. The current structure was taken over in the eighteenth century thanks to Luigi Vanvitelli. Until the mid-nineteenth century, the grain pits building rose to the north and the oil cisterns to the south, for centuries the city's main food warehouses.

The "Forum Carolino"Commissioned to Vanvitelli it was to represent a commemorative moment of the sovereign Charles III of Bourbon; the result of the works, which lasted from 1757 to 1765, was a large hemicycle tangent to the Aragonese walls which, seen horizontally, incorporated Port'Alba to the west and flanked the church of San Michele. The building sees at the top the presence of twenty-six statues representing the virtues of Charles and in the center a niche that should have housed an equestrian statue of the sovereign (which was never built). Since 1843 the central niche constitutes the entrance to the Jesuit boarding school, which in 1861 became the Vittorio Emanuele II National Boarding School, housed in the premises of the ancient convent of San Sebastiano and of which the two cloisters are still visible; the smallest and oldest is a rare testimony of Naples between the Romanesque and Gothic ages, the largest retains the sixteenth-century structures.

Port 'Albainstead, it was officially opened in 1625. I wrote "officially" because the population had created a pertuso unauthorized in the wall to facilitate communications with the villages, in particular with that of the Avvocata.

At the center of the square, which from then on assumed its current name, was placed the statue of Dante Alighieri, the work of the sculptors T. Angelini and T. Solari junior, inaugurated in 1871 and placed on a base designed by the engineer G. Rega . Today, on its sides, more secluded, there are the windows of the subway line 1 exit.

The station Dante

The interior of the station is clad in white glass panels with steel studs and houses the works of various protagonists of international contemporary art. Among the names of the artists stands that of Jannis Kounellis, author of an installation Without title consisting of beams representing the tracks and various shoes, a hat, a coat and a toy train to signify the comings and goings of the varied crowd of passengers. Another artist is Joseph Kosuth who installed “These things visible”, a neon with a piece taken from Dante's Convivio. Among the works, then, there is a mosaic entitled “Universe without bombs, kingdom of flowers. 7 red angels ”by Nicola De Maria. Michelangelo Pistoletto installed “Intermediterraneo”, a mirroring work in which the profile of the Mediterranean basin is depicted; Carlo Alfano, on the other hand, created two paintings mounted on an aluminum frame, a work entitled “Luce-Grigio”, and “Fragments of an anonymous self-portrait”.

After the construction of the station, the hemicycle was completely pedestrianized and, in 2011, the square was closed to private traffic.

-Roberta De Masi

Drawing by Lisa Emanuela Mocciaro


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