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Chigi Palace


Chigi Palace


The construction of the palace began under the Savelli family in the second half of the 16th century. Reusing more ancient structures dating to the medieval period and to the 15th century (located near the Neapolitan Gate), the Savellis built a large complex that defined the northern borders of the city together with the contiguous ancient city walls. A large part of the main facade, namely the portion that goes from the left tower heading to Rome to the third window on the right of the portal, the large living room on the piano nobile (main floor) and the facade facing the park, characterized by a set of pilasters, belong to this late Renaissance phase. As the Chigis acquired the feud in 1661, they promoted a series of radical transformations of Ariccia; this included restoring and restyling the Church of the Assumption (Chiesa dell’Assunzione), the square and the Savelli manor. The layout given by the previous owners met the Chigis’ taste, who thus decided to preserve the severe and fortified character of the building, in contrast with the lines of the contemporary princely villas of the Alban Hills and of Rome.

The project was commissioned to Gian Lorenzo Bernini by Pope Alexander VII Chigi (1655–1667) and carried out between 1664 and 1672 by Bernini’s pupil Carlo Fontana. The manor was restructured and enlarged, thereby constituting an architectural synthesis between different kinds of building: the castle, due to its turreted layout, the villa, with its “u”-shaped design, like many villas of the Roman countryside, and the palace, for its facade. Its symmetrical and rational layout, together with the simplicity of the architectural language, make the Chigi Palace of Ariccia an original and early example of the classicist evolution of Berninian baroque. It is a unique example of a historic residence whose art collections as well as its furnishing have remained unchanged, even though some of them were originally from other Chigi properties, primarily from Palazzo Chigi in Rome, today the seat of the Council of Ministers.

The collection of paintings consists of pieces by, among others, Baciccio, Cavalier d’Arpino, Pierfrancesco Mola, Salvator Rosa, Mario de 'Fiori, Maratta, Giacinto Brandi, Bernardino Mei and Ferdinand Voet. Some thematic collections are especially interesting: the "Room of the Beauties", which contains the portraits of the noble women of the Roman aristocracy of the 17th century, the "Room of the Nuns", with portraits of the religious women of the Chigi house, and the "Cabinet of Portraits" where the entire succession of the Chigi family from the 15th century to the present is displayed (a unicum in the genre of portrait painting). The Palace also hosts a collection of 17th-century sculptures by Bernini and Berninian artists such as Giuseppe Mazzuoli, Bernardo Fioriti, Ercole Ferrata, Orfeo Boselli as well as an absolute masterpiece of baroque portraiture: the terracotta bust of Pope Alexander VII Chigi by Melchiorre Cafà.

One of the most prestigious features of furnishing is represented by the precious wallpaper in printed leather called "Cordova". Among the wall decorations, in addition to the famous sanguine drawing depicting Saint Joseph with the Child painted by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in the chapel, it also worth mentioning the 17th-century decorations of the vaults of the ground floor apartment with astrological signs, attributed to Pietro Mulier and called “Il Tempesta” (The Storm).

The Chigi Residence was given by Prince Agostino Chigi Albani della Rovere to the Municipality of Ariccia on 28 December 1988. Since 1999, after careful restoration work, the Palace has been officially opened to the public and now hosts exhibitions, concerts and other cultural events.

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Compilato da Saverio Capozzi sulla base di materiale fornito da: arch. Francesco Petrucci; © Museum With No Frontiers (MWNF)

Palazzo Chigi, esterno, veduta dal ponte monumentale © MWNF

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