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Capodimonte Royal Palace - Naples


The Royal Palace on the Capodimonte hilltop was built according to the wishes of the King of Naples, Charles of Bourbon, set over a vast green area looking out over the magical panorama of the gulf and the city, embracing Vesuvius, the San Martino hill and Posillipo, was a hunting residence and Museum site for the priceless collection of art and antiquities which he had inherited from his mother Elisabeth Farnese.
Construction work began in 1738, according to the plans and under the direction of Giovanni Antonio Medrano, an engineer from Palermo.
Work continued for over a century and the project initially by Medrano which entailed the construction of a large building on a rectangular plan (170 metres in length and 87 metres in breadth), with a mezzanine level and just two floors under the attic (30 metres in height) was successively carried out with a number of modifications and interventions by the architect Ferdinando Fuga.
The result was horizontally imposing structure, with a succession of three large communicating courtyards, internally connected by porticos, and externally with large fornixes the open onto the outside gardens.
The facades, in a rigorously Doric style with measured early 16th century taste, have a rhythm of strong architectonic elements in grey piperno stone which contrast cleverly with the Neapolitan red of the plastered walls.
The interior consists of the Royal Apartments and a series of never-ending halls created for formal activities, decorated with paintings which are mostly from the Borboun Collection and the Farnese Collection, and sculptures, furniture and elegant objects of decorative art from the 18th 19th centuries.
In 1743 for the parks, gardens and land adjacent to the Royal Palace which was still under construction, work began according to the plans of the Neapolitan architect Ferdinando Sanfelice.
His project entailed the creation of an obviously Baroque scenographic set up, filled with marble statues and games of perspective set out within the dense vegetation.
Sanfelice was also commissioned to design a small building in the wood, to house the "Royal Porcelain Factory" of Capodimonte.
Construction work on the Palace progressed slowly, due to technical problems and difficulties in the availability of materials.
Despite these delays, by the second half of the 18th century, a limited number of foreign artists, travellers and distinguished visitors had been to the Royal Museum of Capodimonte, to see the Farnese Collections of Parma, Piacenza and Rome, on display in the Palaces first completed wing.
During the French decade, 1806-1815, the Napoleonic sovereigns Joseph Bonaparte and Joachim Murat chose the Royal Palace as their habitual Court residence, hence the elegant and sumptuous furnishing in the Empire style and precious items and decorations that were brought directly from Paris.
With the Unity of Italy in 1860 the Royal Palace of Capodimonte passed to House of Savoy, without any changes to its residential function.
All the same, the collections were rearranged, and under the direction of Annibale Sacco, it was enriched by new paintings and elegant Court furnishing which were brought in from the ex-Bourbon Royal sites.
Among these is the magnificent "Boudoir" in polychrome Capodimonte porcelain created for Queen Marie Amalie of Saxony by Giuseppe Gricci, in the second half of the 18th century for the Royal Palace of Portici which reveals the elegant decorative taste of the "chinoiseries", inspired by Watteau and Bouchers French models.
In 1864, Bourbonic plans were carried out, to establish a "Modern Art Gallery" formed by the works of contemporary artists and academic paintings by mostly Neapolitan early 19th century artists.
At the end of the world war, a rearrangement of all Neapolitan Museums began, and the aim of bringing the function of the Royal Palace of Capodimonte back to that of Museum, we realised, after large scale restoration, only in 1957, when the collections of paintings and objects from medieval and modern eras, collections of Pompeii and Herculaneum antiquities, were moved there from "Real Museum Borbonico" (now National Archaeological Museum), and the new Museum structure, called National Museum and Galleries of Capodimonte was finally opened to the public. (Simona Virgilio)

National Museum of Capodimonte


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