Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Building of the Week: The Palazzo Spada, Rome, 1540

Palazzo Spada
Front Facade, 1540
Galleria Spada
Originally built in 1540 for Cardinal Girolamo Capodiferro, the Palazzo Spada stands near the Tiber River and is relatively close to Rome’s Palazzo Farnese. The initial structure was designed by architect Bartolomeo Baronino with the ornate interior and exterior stucco work having been created by Giulio Mazzoni. The stucco features patterns of swags of fruit and flowers around niches which are filled with exquisite sculptures symbolizing divinity.

Borromini's Trompe-l'oiel Arcade
Galleria Spada
In 1632, the palace was purchased by Cardinal Bernardino Spada who commissioned Francesco Borromini to alter the existing structure. Borromini did not modify the palace’s original front façade with its masterful Manneristic stucco work. He did, however alter the inner courtyard. Borromini’s most impressive contribution is the stunning arcade which can only be seen from the interior of the courtyard. While the arcade appears to be 120 feet long, ending at a life-sized sculpture of a human figure, it is, in reality only twenty-six feet long with the figure at the end appearing seven times its real height. This optical illusion is achieved through a trompe-l’oiel mural (a painting designed to literally “fool the eye”) which is a true masterpiece of artistic perspective.

An Interior Gallery
Galleria Spada
The palace was purchased by the Italian state in 1927 and today is comprised of impressive art galleries which house Cardinal Spada’s exquisite collection of Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century paintings. The paintings are hung in the traditional style of the Seventeenth Century—frame to frame with little-to-no space between--creating an awe-inspiring sight. Among the artists represented in the collection are: Andrea del Sarto, Guido Reni, Titian, Jan Brueghel the Elder, Guercino, Rubens, Dürer, Caravaggio, Domenichino, Salvator Rosa, Parmigianino, Francesco Solimena, Michelangelo Cerquozzi, Pietro Testa, and Orazio and Artemisia Gentileschi.

For a stunning trip back to the Seventeenth Century, a visit to the Palazzo Spada is a must if you’re in Italy.

Portrait of a Gentlewoman by Raphael
From Cardinal Spada's Colelction
Galleria Spada

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