The Napoleonic Museum in Rome is a historical museum dedicated to Napoleonic memorabilia, mainly from the Count Giuseppe Primoli collection, donated to the city of Rome in 1927.
Giuseppe Primoli (1851-1927) was the son of Carlotta Bonaparte, his collection included works of art and memorabilia, and was conceived more as a private report that family history as a collection of historical relics. Along with the donation collection he involved the ground floor of the family home, still center of the museum.
Giuseppe Primoli (1851-1927) was the son of Carlota Bonaparte and descended from the Bonaparte family: Carlota Bonaparte (1832-1901), in fact, was the daughter of Charles Lucien Bonaparte, prince of Canino (1803-1857), and Zenaida Bonaparte (1801-1854), and had as cousins the children of two brothers of Napoleon I, respectively Luciano Bonaparte (1775-1840) and Jose Bonaparte (1768-1844). Carlota married Pietro Primoli, Count of Foglia (1820-1883), in 1848.
His collection includes works of art and family memories, and was intended to be as a semblance of family history as a private collection of historical relics. Along with the collection he donated were the ground floor of the family palace, which still houses the museum.
The Primoli Palace was built in the sixteenth century and was owned by the Gottifredi family until the late eighteenth century when it passed to Filonardi. It was acquired by Count Luigi Primoli, father of Pietro, between 1820 and 1828. In 1901 Giuseppe Primoli decided to make a major remodeling, since it was necessary to have been built on the banks of the Tiber and the Umberto I bridge, which connected to the street Nicola Zanardelli. The project was commissioned to the architect Raffaele Ojetti: the works lasted until 1911 when the old facade was demolished and replaced by a loggia, the building was planned and a new monumental entrance was constructed in the street Zanardelli.
The Palace is home to the Primoli Foundation, created by Giuseppe Primoli as well, and the Primoli Library, which houses about 30 000 volumes. It is also the headquarters of the auxiliary offices of the Mario Praz Museum of the National Gallery of Modern Art.
The museum’s collection is divided into three distinct sections, which include:
The Napoleonic period itself, represented by large paintings and busts of the most important artists of the time illustrating numerous members of the imperial family, and used different styles of manorial and conventional,
The so-called “Roman” period, from the fall of Napoleon I to the rise of Napoleon III;
The period of the Second French Empire, with paintings, sculptures, engravings, furniture and art of the time.
The current distribution of the museum is the result of the recent renovation of the rooms and reflects in general terms the instructions left by Giuseppe Primoli. Rooms preserved in several rooms with ceilings painted in 18th century style, while the decoration along the walls of the rooms VIII, IX, X date back to the early nineteenth century, when the palace was already owned by Primoli. The friezes in Hall III and V, with the heraldry of Primoli’s “rampant lion” and Bonaparte’s “eagle”, illustrate the marriage of Pietro Primoli and Carlota Bonaparte.
The American painter Chaim Koppelman did many works on Napoleon. A retrospective exhibition of more than eighty works and studies on Napoleon was held at the Napoleonic Museum in Rome (from October 11, 2011 until May 6, 2012), titled Napoleon Entering New York: Chaim Koppelman and the Emperor, Works 1957 -2007 (Napoleon entering New York: Chaim Koppelman and the Emperor, works from 1957 to 2007), including paintings, pastels, drawings, collages, watercolors, rotogravure, linoleum, and other works of the artist on paper. The exhibition even included selections from a paper by Eli Siegel in 1951: Napoleon Bonaparte or Ordained Energy (Napoleon Bonaparte: or, Orderly Energy), who had assisted Koppelman and whom he attributes to having inspired much of the work.
the true Napoleonic period, testified by great paintings and busts of the greatest artists of the time, portraying in stately, conventional poses numerous members of the imperial family;
the so-called “Roman” period, from the fall of Napoleon I rise of Napoleon III;
the period of the Second Empire, with paintings, sculptures, engravings, furniture, objects d’art, all the time.
The present layout of the museum, the result of recent restoration of rooms, broadly reflects the instructions left by Giuseppe Primoli. The environments preserved in some rooms of the eighteenth-century ceiling painted beams, while the friezes that run along the walls of rooms VIII, IX, X date back to the early nineteenth century, when the palace was already owned by the Primoli. The decoration of the room III and V, as indicated by the “lion rampant” of the Primoli and “eagle” of Bonaparte, are subsequent to the marriage of Pietro Primoli to Carlotta Bonaparte.
In 1927 Count Giuseppe Primoli (1851-1927), the son of Count Pietro Primoli and Princess Carlotta Bonaparte, donated his important collection of works of art, Napoleonic relics, and family mementos, all collected in the ground floor of his Palazzo, to the city of Rome. The collection, which had also absorbed some objects belonging to his brother Luigi (1858-1925), had come into existence not so much from the wish to bear witness to the imperial splendour, as from a desire to document the close relationship between the Bonapartes and Rome. These links were establishes with military force in 1808, after the French occupation of Rome. In 1809 the city became “the free and imperial city”, destined to be governed by Napoleon’s son, on whom was conferred, even before he was born, the title of the King of Rome.
Subsequently, after the fall of the Empire, almost all of the Bonaparte family asked asylum of Pope Pius VII, and came to settle in Rome: Napoleon’s mother, Letizia Ramolino, in Palazzo Rinuccini, his brothers Luigi and Girolamo in Palazzo Mancini Salviati and Palazzo Nuñez respectively, and his sister Pauline in her villa on Nomentana.
But the true founder of the “Roman branch” of the Bonapartes, from whom Count Primoli was descended, was the emperor’s “rebel” brother Luciano, who, in 1804, in open opposition to Napoleon, moved to Rome.
Count Primoli’s mother, Carlotta Bonaparte, was born from the marriage of one of Luciano’s sons, Carlo Luciano, to his cousin Zenaide, the daughter of Joseph Bonaparte. Carlotta married Count Pietro Primoli in 1848 and, immediately after the proclamation of the Second Empire, she moved, with her family, to the court of Napoleon the IIIrd. Count Giuseppe Primoli was therefore educated in Paris, even after the fall of the Empire, in the literary salones of his Matilde Bonaparte and Giulia Bonaparte, the Marchesa of Roccagiovine.
A cultured man, passionately interested in books, and a talented photographer, Giuseppe Primoli lived between Rome and Paris, and was closely involved with the literary and artistic circles in both cities. He was, therefore, an interesting intellectual figure and collector, who, through important family gifts and knowledgable acquisitions on the antiques markets, was able to offer the city of Rome this elegant example of a museum-house