Palazzo Nuovo (Rome)

Palazzo Nuovo (Rome)


Description of Palazzo Nuovo

Palazzo Nuovo (Rome)

Piazza del Campidoglio
Tel. 06- 3996 7800
Bus: 63, 70, 75, 81, 87, 95, 160, 170, 204, 628, 716
Open: 9am- 8pm Tue- Sun
Closed: Jan 1, May 1, Dec 25


Palazzo Nuovo or Palazzo Nuovo in Italian is located on the north side of Piazza del Campidoglio. The palace was turned into one of the best museums in Capitol Hill during the Renaissance. Many works of ancient art are kept here. The ticket that you buy here is also valid for another Capitoline Museum - Palazzo dei Conservatori. The first group of bronze sculptures was given to the city by Pope Sixtus IV in 1471, and additions were made by Pope Pius V in 1566. Palazzo Nuovo was designed by Michelangelo as part of the reconstruction of Piazza del Campidogli and after in 1655 a collection of beautiful antique statues was collected here. In 1734, Pope Clement XII Corsini decided that the Palazzo Nuovo building would be turned into the first public museum in the world.

Palazzo Nuovo (Rome)


The palace was built only in the 17th century, probably in two phases, under the direction of Girolamo Rainaldi and then of his son Carlo Rainaldi who completed it in 1663. However, the project, at least of the body of the facade, must be attributed to Michelangelo Buonarroti.

The palace was built, in fact, right in front of the Palazzo dei Conservatori (closing the view of the basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli from the square) of which it faithfully reproduces the facade designed by Michelangelo with the portico on the ground floor and the slightly oblique orientation, compared to the Palazzo Senatorio, in order to complete the symmetrical design of the square characterized by a trapezoidal shape.

During the first phase of the works, the façade with the portico span behind it was erected. During the second phase of the works to build the rest of the building, an excavation was carried out towards the Aracoeli, demolishing an embankment on which the Marforio fountain was supported, which was dismantled and then installed in the internal courtyard of the Palazzo Nuovo. Since the nineteenth century it was used for museum purposes. The internal decorations in wood and gilded stucco are still the original ones.

Palazzo Nuovo (Rome)

Architecture and collections

In 1603 Clement VIII provided to ensure a loan for the construction of Palazzo Nuovo and laid the first stone. The construction site ended in 1654, under the pontificate of Innocent X.

Between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the collections of Roman antiquities are gradually enriched through the discovery of new masterpieces of the past; the semi-external areas of the palaces become the privileged places of exposure for the large ancient sculptures that are piled up in the atriums and courtyards. Niches, columns, pillars and pilasters with shelves at various heights, reliefs, busts and ancient heads, the taste for scenography manifests itself in its best forms. The courtyard is the focal point of the entrance, it is often visible from the square on which the buildings open, the lithographs of the period give us an idea of ​​this desire for "spectacle".

In the middle of the atrium of Palazzo Nuovo, crossing the external passage, the door and the gate, you enter a very suggestive interior space, the courtyard. It looks like a small internal square with brick curtain walls, which curves to house the basin of the fountain and the niche in which the statue of Marforio is inserted. The scenographic fountain of Marforio was perhaps so appealed following its discovery in the sixteenth century, in the Forum of Mars (Martis Forum, a name that the ancients attributed to the Forum of Augustus). The statue, of colossal dimensions, was restored with the typical attributes of Ocean by Ruggero Bescapè in 1594 and placed on the Capitoline Hill close to an embankment of the Aracoeli and in a symmetrical position with respect to the similar statues of the two rivers (Tiber and Nile), placed in front of the facade of the Palazzo dei Conservatori since 1513.

Many scholars identify in the Marforio the representation of the Tiber, or of another fluvial divinity pertinent also in ancient times to a fountain. The figure is lying on the left side with a reclined face and characterized by long hair, a very thick beard and mustache. The piece is stylistically attributed to the Flavian age (1st century AD) and had particular notoriety from the Renaissance as it was used to post "pasquinate", defamatory writings against the government, which the Romans signed with the name of Pasquino.

On the new fountain in the background of the courtyard, Clement XII affixed, in 1734, a commemorative plaque for the inauguration of the Capitoline Museum, surmounting it with his own coat of arms. Four statues were placed on the terminal balustrade overlooking the fountain, now replaced by four busts. Later, a valuable portrait of Pope Corsini was placed in the center of the fountain; its dimensions appear out of scale compared to the colossal ones of the Marforio.

The Marforio was placed in the courtyard with an outline of ancient statues; two rectangular niches framed in travertine welcomed, after various alterations, the two statues of Satyrs bearing a basket of fruit on their heads. The two sculptures were found in Rome near the Theater of Pompey and kept for a long period not far from the place of discovery, in the courtyard of the Palazzo della Valle (not surprisingly they are called Satyrs of the Valley). They are two mirror statues depicting the god Pan, probably used as telamons in the architectural structure of the theater. The treatment of the marble and the rendering of the modeling allow us to date them to the late Hellenistic period.

The right side is used as an exhibition place for a strigilated sarcophagus decorated with hunting scenes, for two busts (Ideal female head and Virile head on togato bust) and two herms (Erma barbata 1 and Erma barbata 2) also inserted in two small niches framed in travertine and obtained above two access doors to the rooms (no longer used today). Above an inscription of Pope Alexander VII.

In the courtyard there are also three gray granite columns, found in the Temple of Isis at Campo Marzio (Egyptian type 1 column, Egyptian type 2 column, Egyptian type 3 column). The frieze is sculpted in relief around the shaft, as in the columnae coelatae (columns partially incorporated into the masonry), and represents, on each column, four couples of priests standing on high stools. Some are caught in the moment of offering to the divinity, others in that of the extension of sacred objects. The priests have a shaved head encircled with laurel, they wear clothes stopped at the height of the armpits that distinguish them from the carriers of canopic jars with long high-necked robes and veiled hands, according to the ritual.

On both sides of the large fountain, four columns in cipollino (until the middle of the last century surmounted by as many marble busts, now in the museum for conservation reasons) and two leonine protome drips (Gocciolatoio 1 and Gocciolatio 2) .

Palazzo Nuovo (Rome)

Hall of Egyptian Monuments

During the pontificate of Clement XI, a series of statues found in the area of ​​the Villa Verospi Vitelleschi (Horti Sallustiani) were acquired which in ancient times decorated the Egyptian pavilion built by Hadrian inside the horti. The four statues were placed in the Palazzo Nuovo.

During the eighteenth century the collection was increased by new statues and in 1748 a "Canopus Room" was even set up to collect the sculptures from Villa Adriana and the Temple of Isis at Campo Marzio.

In 1838 most of the works were transferred to the Vatican. In 1907 Orazio Marucchi partially reconstituted this nucleus, giving life for the first time to an Egyptian collection made up of finds not transferred from Egypt, but all coming from the Roman excavations of the Iseo Campense, the Villa Adriana and the Roman territory in general. The archaeologist thus demonstrated the importance that Egyptian culture had in Roman society.

The Hall of Egyptian Monuments is now accessed through the courtyard; behind a large glass wall are the great works in granite. Among the most representative works there is a large bell-shaped crater from Villa Adriana and a series of animals symbolizing the most important Egyptian gods: the crocodile, two cynocephalics, a sparrow hawk, a sphinx, a scarab, etc.

Earthly rooms on the right
The name of "terrene rooms" identifies the three rooms on the ground floor to the right of the atrium. At the end of the construction of the Palazzo Nuovo every single room was open onto the portico and only between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and in subsequent moments these rooms were also used as a private seat.

These "earthly rooms" house epigraphic monuments of notable interest; among all it is important to mention the fragments of post-Caesarian Roman calendars showing the new year, which Caesar defined as 365 days, and lists of magistrates called Fasti Minori, in relation to the most famous Fasti (Fasti consulares and modern Fasti) preserved in the Palazzo dei Conservatori.

In the first room there are numerous portraits of private Romans, among which perhaps the one of Germanicus, son of Drusus Major or Drusus Major himself (mid 1st century AD).

Among the most important works we must mention the Cinerary by T. Statilius Aper and Orcivia Anthis; and the Sarcophagus with reliefs depicting an episode from the life of Achilles.

The Gallery
Proceeding from the ground floor you arrive in front of a double flight of stairs at the end of which the Gallery begins.

The long Gallery, which runs longitudinally along the first floor of the Capitoline Museum, connects the various exhibition rooms and offers the visitor a large and varied collection of statues, portraits, reliefs and epigraphs arranged by the eighteenth-century conservatories in a random manner, with one eye turned. more to the architectural symmetry and the overall ornamental effect than to the historical-artistic and archaeological one.

On the walls, within panels, there are small epigraphs, including a large group from the colombarium of Livia's freedmen and freedmen.

In the Gallery, among other noteworthy works, are preserved the fragment of the leg of Hercules fighting with the Hydra (heavily reworked in the seventeenth-century restoration), the statue of a wounded warrior (of which only the torso is ancient, while the rest is the work of of the restoration carried out between 1658 and 1733), the statue of Leda with the swan, the small statuette of Heracles as a child strangling the snake and Eros stringing the bow.


Room of the Doves

The room, which largely retains its eighteenth-century layout, takes its name from the famous floor mosaic: the mosaic of doves, found in Tivoli at Hadrian's Villa.

It was originally called the "Room of the Miscellaneous" due to the material diversity of the pieces it contained; mostly works belonging to the collection of Cardinal Alessandro Albani, whose acquisition is at the origin of the Capitoline Museum. The arrangement of the male and female portraits, along shelves that run along the entire perimeter of the wall of the room, dates back to an eighteenth-century exhibition project and is still visible, albeit with some imperceptible changes.

In 1817 the room took the name "del Vaso" because, inside, the large marble crater with plant decoration was inserted inside it, today at the bottom of the Capitoline Museum Gallery.

An arrangement that has never been altered is that of the Roman sepulchral inscriptions posted, in the mid-eighteenth century, in the upper part of the walls. Acquisitions have been reported along the course of the eighteenth century, among which we also remember the finds visible in the display cases.

Toilet of Venus
This small polygonal room, similar to a nymphaeum, is the perfect setting for the statue called Capitoline Venus. The Venus was found during the pontificate of Clement X (1670-1676) at the Basilica of San Vitale; according to Pietro Santi Bartoli the statue was inside some ancient rooms together with other sculptures. Pope Benedict XIV bought the statue from the Stazi family in 1752 and donated it to the Capitoline Museum. After various vicissitudes at the end of the Treaty of Tolentino it returned definitively to the Museum in 1816.

Palazzo Nuovo (Rome)

Hall of the Emperors

The Hall of the Emperors is one of the oldest rooms in the Capitoline Museum. Since the opening of the exhibition areas to the public in 1734, the curators wanted to arrange the portraits of the emperors and the characters of their circle in a single room. The current layout is the result of several reworkings implemented over the last century. It consists of 67 busts-portraits, a seated female statue (center), 8 reliefs and a modern honorary epigraph.

Among the most remarkable portraits, those of a young Augustus with a crown of leaves and an adult Augustus of the "Azio type", of Nero, of the emperors of the Flavian family (Vespasian, Tito, Nerva) or of the emperors of the second century AD. (from Trajan to Commodus). The Severan dynasty is also well represented. The series ends with Honorius, son of Theodosius.

There is no shortage of female portraits, with their complex hairstyles, their wigs and their elaborate curls; we remember the consort of Augustus [Livia], that of Germanico Agrippina Maggiore, Plotina, Faustina Maggiore and Giulia Domna.

Through the series of portraits the visit path winds in a helical way in a clockwise direction, starting from the upper shelf entering on the left, to finish at the end of the lower shelf on the right. The visitor will appreciate the evolution of artistic taste in the representation of Roman portraits and fashion (hairstyles, beards, etc.).

Hall of the Philosophers
As in the case of the Hall of the Emperors, also the hall of the philosophers was born, at the time of the foundation of the Capitoline Museum, from the desire to collect the portraits, busts and herms, of poets, philosophers and rhetoricians of antiquity. In the room there are 79 of them. The itinerary begins with the most famous poet of antiquity, Homer. Followed by Pindaro, Pythagoras, Socrates and many others. Among the many characters of the Greek world, some portraits of the Roman period are also exhibited, including Marco Tullio Cicerone, a famous statesman and man of letters.

lounge area
The hall of Palazzo Nuovo is certainly the most monumental environment of the entire Capitoline museum complex.

The four walls of the great hall were decorated with a division into three vertical sections, with an architecture that allows the space to be divided into three different parts. A spectacular seventeenth-century coffered ceiling, intertwined in a baroque way, octagons, rectangles and rosettes, all finely carved. In the center, the coat of arms of Innocenzo X, the architect of the completion of the building.

The large hall has recently been restored and this has made it possible to recover the ancient colors, highlighting the richness of the compositional decorations.

It is worth mentioning the large portal that opens into the long wall of communication with the Gallery, designed by Filippo Barigioni in the first half of the eighteenth century, arched, with two winged Victories of exquisite workmanship.

On the sides and in the center of the room, on high and ancient bases, there are some of the most beautiful sculptures of the Capitoline collection. Among these we remember the Apollo of the Omphalos, a Harpocrat, the Apollo Citaredo, etc. In the center of the room are the large bronze statues among which the sculptures of the old Centaur and the young Centaur stand out. All around on a second level, shelves with a series of busts; among these we remember the bust of Caracalla or Geta, of Marcus Aurelius, of Augustus and Hadrian.

Finally, a splendid sculpture of a wounded Amazon deserves to be mentioned, also called "Sosikles type", with the signature on this replica. Generally attributed to Polykleitos, it has slightly larger dimensions than the real one.

Hall of the Faun
The room takes its name from the famous sculpture present in the center of the room since 1817. The statue of the Faun was found in 1736 and restored by Clemente Bianchi and Bartolomeo Cavaceppi. It was bought by the museum in 1746 and very quickly became one of the most popular works of visitors of that century.

The walls are covered with inscriptions inserted in the eighteenth century, divided into groups according to the content and with a section created for brick stamps. Among the epigraphic texts we remember the Lex de imperio Vespasiani of the first century AD (decree which gives particular power to the emperor Vespasian), on the right wall.


Galata room

This room takes its name from the central sculpture, the Capitoline Galata, mistakenly considered a gladiator in the act of falling on his shield, at the time of its purchase by Alessandro Capponi, president of the Capitoline Museum, becoming perhaps the most famous work of the collected, repeatedly replicated on engravings and drawings. The Galata is surrounded by other copies of remarkable quality: the wounded Amazon, the statue of Hermes and the resting Satyr, while, against the window, the delightful Rococo group of Cupid and Psyche symbolizes the tender union of the human soul with the divine love, according to a theme dating back to Platonic philosophy which enjoyed great success in artistic production since early Hellenism.