Italian art: Sales

Jul 17, 2021 174

Something sinister is hovering over real estate Italian cultural assets which, even if privately owned, fail to remain within the scope of state property and are put up for sale without the Ministry of Culture apparently having any wiggle room. Two striking cases in a few months give a good example of the situation.

The first one is Palazzo Sacchetti in Rome, located in Via Giulia, a street lined with historic buildings and baroque churches, in the heart of the historic center of Rome. Palazzo Sacchetti is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful Renaissance palaces in the city.

Its construction dates back to 1542 and was the work of Antonio da Sangallo the Younger, one of the greatest Italian Renaissance architects, who designed Palazzo Farnese and part of St. Peter's Basilica. He built it for himself, dedicating the last years of his life to it. When he died, the palace was sold to the Ricci family of Montepulciano who had it restored and enlarged. In 1608 the palace was purchased by Cardinal Ottavio Acquaviva of Aragon, then Archbishop of Naples, who decided to add a chapel decorated by the painter Agostino Ciampelli.

In 1648 the palace was sold to Marquis Sacchetti of Florence and has remained in his family until today. Surrounded by a square courtyard with two loggias, the noble part houses a series of twelve rooms with marble statues and painted ceilings. The frescoes include works by Francesco Salviati, such as the cycle of the Stories of David (1553-1555) in the splendid Sala dei Globi, and others by Pietro da Cortona and Jacopino del Conte.

The other striking example is the convent of San Giovanni della Calza in Florence. A piece of history in the heart of the city, a fourteenth-century convent later used as a modern conference center. It is a complex of about 16,000 square meters next to Porta Romana, which preserves inside a fresco of the "Last Supper" painted in 1514 by Francesco di Cristofano known as Il Franciabigio. Perfectly set in the late Gothic architecture, the work shows from the painted windows views of Florence at the time and the names of the diners painted on the heads behind them.

The Hierosolymitan nuns had abandoned it during the siege of Florence in 1529 and were replaced by the Gesuati friars, known for their workmanship and coloring of painted glass, called "pinti" for church windows. The building takes its name from the "calza", a long cloth cap worn by the friars who occupied the old hospital until 1668, the year of the suppression of the order.

The ancient boarding school was used as the Hospital of St. John the Baptist, intended for pilgrims and knights of the Holy Sepulchre, cared for by the Hierosolymitan nuns. But over the centuries the convent was then used as a charitable asylum for sick children and ecclesiastical boarding school for country clerics. A place of peace and contemplation but also of masterpieces, to be admired in this splendid fourteenth-century setting. Closed since last March because of the pandemic, now the Archbishop's Curia of Florence has put it up for sale, because it has become only a cost.

These are places of historical memory, of extreme artistic richness and potential museum and cultural containers that would welcome, to give just one example, the immense mine of works in storage and never exhibited in Roman and Florentine museums.

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