Great Hall, Palazzo Nuovo, Capitoline Museums

The hall of Palazzo Nuovo is certainly the most monumental environment of the entire Capitoline museum complex. The great central hall has preserved its original wall decorations and its XVI century gilded wood coffered ceiling. In the centre we can see a row of statues in coloured marble, including two centaurs from Hadrian’s Villa, both are the work of Greek sculptors. Other important sculptures, statues of emperors and reproductions of Greek masterpieces are also arranged along the wall.

The “great central hall”, as it was called in the Eighteenth century, is, for its size and monumentality, the most representative area of the Museum. Of particular interest is the rich coffered ceiling, at the centre of which stands the coat of arms of Innocent X Pamphili (1644-1655), who supervised the completion of the Palazzo, and the great arched portal, decorated with winged Victories, designed by Filippo Barigioni in first half of the Eighteenth century.

At the centre of the hall are placed, with great visual impact, five black marble masterpieces: at the ends of the room there are two statues, smaller than life-size, which represent Zeus and Asclepius. These precious sculptures, part of Cardinal Albani’s collection, were discovered in 1711 in the excavations of an imperial villa at Anzio, which was frequented by Nero and Hadrian.

Another colossal basanite statue depicts the Baby Hercules, with his iconographic attributes (the apples of the Hesperides and the lion’s skin); it was found on the Aventine and purchased by the Conservators in 1570.

At the sides of the room are two grey-black marble sculptures of centaurs, found together at Hadrian’s Villa in Tivoli. These two outstanding sculptures, works of superb technical virtuosity, bear the signatures of Aristeas and Papias of Aphrodisias in Caria (modern Turkey). One is a mature, bearded centaur, with a pained expression, and the other is a young smiling centaur with his arm raised, representing an allegory of love in the different stages of life.

The four walls of the great room 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, in a baroque way, intertwines octagons, rectangles and rosettes, all finely carved. In the center, the coat of arms of Innocent X, architect of the completion of the building.

The large hall has been recently restored and this has allowed 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, some of the most beautiful sculptures of the Capitoline collection are placed on high and ancient bases. These include the Apollo of the Omphalos, an Harpocrate, the Apollo Citaredo, etc. In the center of the room there are 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; these include the bust of Caracalla or Geta, Marco Aurelio, Augusto and Adriano.

Finally, it is worth mentioning a splendid sculpture of a wounded Amazon, also called “Sosikles type”, with the signature affixed to this replica. Generally attributed to Policleto, it has slightly larger dimensions than the real one.

On the walls are placed valuable works depicting gods, mythological characters, and portrait statues.

Worthy of notice are:
the beautiful Wounded Amazon, a copy after a statue by Polykleitos (fifth century BC) for the temple of Ephesus, signed by the copyist Sosikles;
the monumental statue of a Hunter, a portrait of a man of the third century AD, adapted from an early-classical prototype of Perseus;
the imposing portrait statue of Hadrian (117-138 AD) as Mars, with helmet and shield;
the imperial couple Marcus Aurelius and Faustina Minor, as Mars and Venus.

The busts of emperors and private citizens are placed on the shelves.

Highlights works
Statue of Apollo, Sculpture, Copy of the Omphalos Apollo attributed to Kalamis (480-460 BC)
Hunter statue, Sculpture, Middle of 3rd century AD
Centaur young statue signed by Aristeas and Papias, Sculpture, Aristeas and Papias. Hadrianic period (117-138 AD)
Wounded Amazon statue signed by Sosikles. Sculpture. Sosikles. Copy from an original by Polykleitos (5th century BC)
Statue of Pothos restored as Apollo Citaredo. Sculpture. From a Greek original by Skopas (4th century BC)
Statue of Harpocrates. Sculpture. Hadrianic period (117-138 AD)

Palazzo Nuovo
The Palazzo Nuovo is located in Piazza del Campidoglio in Rome, in front of the Palazzo dei Conservatori, with which it is the exhibition site of the Capitoline Museums. Palazzo Nuovo was built in the XVII century under the guidance of Girolamo Rainaldi and his son Carlo. Its slanting orientation, which imitates that of Palazzo dei Conservatori opposite, was influenced by a pre-existing retaining wall on the heights of S. Maria in Aracoeli, in the centre of which was a fountain with a statue known as “Marforio”, later moved to the courtyard of the Capitoline Museum. Externally, the new building is identical to Palazzo dei Conservatori, while the well-conserved decoration of the symmetrically-planned interior features gilded wooden coffering on the first floor.

Despite a number of changes that have taken place over the centuries, this section of the museum has more or less maintained its original XVIII century aspect. The decorative features of this area have remained unchanged, and this has influenced the layout of sculptures and inscriptions. The fine pieces of ancient sculpture come mainly from private collections belonging to high-ranking churchmen and noble Roman families.

Unlike the Palazzo dei Conservatori opposite, the interior space of this building and the arrangement of its architectural features are of symmetrical design.

Palazzo Nuovo is so called because it was built ex novo, using Michelangelo’s blueprint when he redesigned the Palazzo dei Conservatori a century earlier to complete the renovation of the Capitoline Square. The museum was opened to the public in 1734, under Pope Clement XII, who had already purchased the Albani collection of 418 sculptures the previous year, as an addition to the works already on display at the Vatican Belvedere and donated to the Capitoline museum by Pope Pius V in 1566, and the sculptures that could not find a place in Palazzo dei Conservatori. The collections are still arranged according to the exhibition concept of the eighteenth century.

Capitoline Museums
The Musei Capitolini date back to 1471, when Pope Sixtus IV donated to the people of Rome a group of bronze statues that until then had been kept at the Lateran. These statues constituted its original core collection. Various popes subsequently expanded the collection with works taken from excavations around Rome; some were moved from the Vatican, some, such as the Albani collection, were bought specifically for the museum. Around the middle of the eighteenth century, Pope Benedict XIV created a picture gallery. A considerable quantity of archaeological material was also added at the end of the nineteenth century when Rome became the capital of Italy and new excavations were carried out whilst creating two completely new districts were created for the expanding city.

The Museums’ collections are displayed in the two of the three buildings that together enclose the Piazza del Campidoglio: Palazzo dei Conservatori and Palazzo Nuovo, the third being the Palazzo Senatorio. These two buildings are linked by an underground tunnel, which contains the Galleria Lapidaria and leads to the ancient Tabularium, whose monumental arches overlook the Forum.

The Palazzo Nuovo houses the collections of ancient sculpture made by the great noble families of the past. Their charming arrangement has remained substantially unchanged since the eighteenth century. They include the famous collections of busts of Roman philosophers and emperors, the statue of Capitoline Gaul, the Capitoline Venus, and the imposing statue of Marforio that dominates the courtyard.

The Conservators’ Apartment contains the original architectural nucleus of the building, decorated with splendid frescoes portraying the history of Rome. The ancient Capitoline bronzes on display here add to the noble atmosphere: the Capitoline She-wolf, Spinario and the Capitoline Brutus.

On the first floor of the palace, a huge glass room, recently built, contains the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius, which once stood in the Piazza del Campidoglio, and the imposing remains of the Temple of Capitoline Jupiter. A section is also dedicated to the most ancient part of the Campidoglio’s history, from its first inhabitation until the construction of the sacred building, displaying the results of recent excavations. The halls that overlook the room contain works from the Horti of the Esquiline; the hall which connects the room to the apartments of the Palazzo dei Conservatori contains the Castellani collection, testimony to nineteenth century collecting practices.

On the second floor, the Capitoline Picture Gallery contains many important works, arranged in chronological order from late mediaeval times to the eighteenth century. The collection includes paintings by Caravaggio (Good Luck and St. John the Baptist), a massive canvas by Guercino (Burial of Saint Petronilla) and numerous paintings by Guido Reni and Pietro da Cortona.

The Palazzo Caffarelli-Clementino holds the numismatic collection, known as the Medagliere Capitolino. On display are many rare coins, medals, gems and jewels, as well as an area dedicated to temporary exhibitions.