In the oldest wing of the building is the apartment where Pietro Canonica lived and worked, from 16 August 1927 until 8 June 1959, the day of his death. The apartment was opened to the public in 1988 and annexed to the museum, after the death of Mrs. Maria Assunta Riggio Canonica, the artist’s second wife who continued to live in the house even after the sculptor’s death. Mrs. Riggio was in fact named by the Municipality of Rome as “Honorary Conservator” of the Canonical Archive.
The rooms of the apartment have been restored and completely furnished by Pietro Canonica according to the Piedmontese taste of the eighteenth century, giving prominence to a conception of the spaces of representation that would enhance his public image. Environments, therefore, which, reflecting the spirit of the artist, of his era and of his social environment, constitute a unique example of a house-museum within the Roman museum panorama.
Room with fireplace
The fireplace is made of lava stone from Vetralla, dating back to 1581. The lounge is furnished with period furniture from the 16th – 17th centuries. Other works on display include a self-portrait, a portrait and two sketches in stone by Canonica, as well as the title page of a score and the sets for two musical works by the same rectory.
The Sala del Camino is so called for the monumental lava stone fireplace, built in 1581, from Vetralla (in the Viterbo area where the artist had a villa).
In the reception hall, furnished with valuable period furniture from the 1500s and 1600s, some marble and bronze works and some sculptural sketches executed by Pietro Canonica are preserved.
Among the paintings on display, a portrait and a self-portrait of the artist. In addition, two watercolor sketches are placed here for the title page of the score and for the scenography of the Bride of Corinth (1918) and Medea (1953), works set to music by Pietro Canonica (who also took care of the set design).
Other works worthy of interest in the room include:
Sketch for the Victorian, sculpture from 1908,
The plaster sketch was made for the central part of the Victorian. The work consists of a group from Rome with their children marching. On the right there are “Il Plebiscito ” and the ” Breccia di Porta Pia “. Ironically, the work was never performed as it was appointed as a member of the royal subcommittee, so it was no longer able to participate due to conflict of interest in the construction of the Altare della Patria.
Display cabinet on a chest, dating from the seventeenth century,
and inside the cabinet:
a uniform of Alexander II, Tsar of Russia, dating from the 19th century,
an oriental tunic and cloak,
an oriental dress.
Ground floor corridor
In the small Corridor, which connects the Sala del Camino to the Studio, thirteen autographed paintings of the artist depicting some rural landscapes of Viterbo, a marina of Forte dei Marmi, a view from the Po from the Turin studio of the artist, are exhibited along the walls particular interest dating back to the time when Canonica attended the Academy, and a very representative painting entitled Sister Luigina at the Fortezzuola.
On the walls there are fourteen paintings by Canonica depicting various landscapes including countryside landscapes in the province of Viterbo, a marine view of Forte dei Marmi, a view of the Po and a portrait of Sister Luigina at the Fortezzuola. The paintings are from the Turin landscape school of the second half of the 19th century.
These are works expressed with simple compositions inspired by the truth and performed sparingly with pictorial means that were affected by the taste of the Turin landscape school of the second half of the 19th century.
In the first room to the left of the corridor is the Canonical Library which collects the interesting book collection left by the artist, recently opened to the public and enriched with new book acquisitions.
The studio is preserved as well as when he worked. The ceiling was restored by Canonica at his own expense. In the center is the small table with the tools with which Canonica worked and the sketch of the monument to Giovanni Paisiello. On the walls there are portraits, self-portraits, glimpses of landscapes made by the Canonica himself, there are also sketches of translated works and studies of sculptures never made, a canvas by Enrico Gamba and a canvas by Demetrio Consola.
The Studio maintains the same structure of the time in which the artist worked on it. The environment is part of the ancient premises once owned by the Borghese family.
The ceiling of the room, the only original and not restored at the expense of the sculptor, is made of wooden coffered and was painted around the years 1833-1839, when the villa became the property of Francesco Aldobrandini Borghese. On the ceiling there are the emblems of the Borghese family – the eagle and the dragon, the eight-pointed star of the Aldobrandini family and the three heraldic roe deer that appear in the arms of La Rochefoucauld. Indeed, Prince Francis had married Adelaide de La Rochefoucould.
At the center of the Studio is the small table with the work tools used by Canonica, still dirty with plaster and the last pieces of clay left molding the model of San Giovanni Bosco, the last work to which the artist dedicated himself. At the center of the atelier is the sculptor’s easel with a rolling base on which the plaster sketch of the stele of the Monument to Giovanni Paisiello is exposed.
The study contains preparatory sketches of works translated, then, in marble or bronze by the artist and studies of unrealized sculptures. On the walls there are paintings depicting portraits, self-portraits and glimpses of landscapes made by Canonica “during idle hours”. A canvas depicting a study of hands and feet, donated to the artist by his master of drawing from the Accademia Albertina Enrico Gamba (1831-1883) and another canvas entitled Lavandaie di Torino (1891), signed by Demetrio Cosola (1851 -1895) are the only paintings not executed by the artist exhibited in the atelier.
Small table with tools. On the small table with the Canonica tools, there are: a smallwooden team, rasps, hacksaws, spatula, a bottle containing anunknown oily resin now dried, pieces of clay used for the model of San Giovanni Bosco, the last work in which Canonica devoted himself. At this table there is a chair and an easel.
Stele for the monument to Paisiello. The stele is a copy of the original destroyed by a bombing raid. The work consists of various allegorical figures recalling dance, music and poetry.
Furthermore, in the same room, there is the casket of Isabella Saluzzo, dating back to the fourteenth century which is made of walnut.
On the sides of the staircase leading to the first floor of the apartment are some valuable works carried out by Canonica including the sketch for the Monument to Costantino Perazzi, president of the Provincial Council of Novara (1901).
On the staircase there are some busts of children and four bronze sculptures by Canonica, while on the second landing there is a Japanese armor of a samurai dating back to the seventeenth century. The armor is in iron, gilded bronze, silk and leather.
On the second landing there is an imposing Japanese samurai armor of the seventeenth century.
First floor corridor
In this corridor there is a console with a mirror with carvings decorated in Rococo style by Piedmontese workers. At the center of the mirror is placed a portrait of Vittorio Emanuele I. The furniture was bought by Canonica at an auction in Turin. In the first room to the left of the corridor there is the Canonical Library with the artist’s book collection along with new book purchases. On the walls there are some paintings by various artists, including Enrico Gamba and Antonio Fontanesi, also there is a week.
At the beginning of the corridor on the first floor there is a console with a large rectangular mirror with carved decorations, lacquered and gilded, made in full Rococo period by Piedmontese artisans. In the center of the mirror there is a medallion with the portrait of Vittorio Emanuele I of Savoy. The furniture was purchased by the artist, together with four doors with over door and the access door to the second landing, to an auction of the Royal Palace of Turin.
In succession on the walls of the corridor there are several paintings and drawings including works by Enrico Gamba, Antonio Fontanesi, Jan Dirk Both, Giovan Battista Quadrone and J. Jaques Callot. Interesting is also a small table, placed on the right wall, in inlaid ebony and in gilded bronze chiseled with turtle, in the Napoleon III style of French manufacture, datable to the second half of the nineteenth century.
The library. It consists of 2200 volumes formed by Canonica’s private collection and a section on sculpture and figurative arts of the 19th and 20th centuries acquired recently. The photographic and family archives of the canonical widow are also available.
From the left side of the corridor you enter the small bedroom of Pietro Canonica, also rigorously furnished with period furniture. The bed is in Baroque style with twisted columns and four bronze knobs, while a bookcase-wardrobe, an en cabriolet armchair and a corner cabinet are made in Piedmont (1750 ca.).
The room is furnished with period furniture. The bed is in baroque style. Other furniture, including an en cabriolet armchair, are Piedmontese in style. On the back wall there is a deposition of Christ.
On the sides of the bed you can see small family photographs of the artist. On the back wall there is a painting depicting a Deposition of Christ, the work of an anonymous master whose chronological and pictorial definition is still being studied.
Also in the room is the medal display with the honorific decorations given to Canonica, all in gold and enamel, with the following medals:
two decorations such as Grand Officer of the order of Simon Bolivar conferred by Venezuela;
two decorations as grand officer of the order of the Crown of Italy;
a decoration as commenda of the cross of the order of St. Stanislaus of Russia;
a decoration as commenda of the order of Adolfo di Nassau conferred by Luxembourg;
two grand officer’s crosses of the order of San Maurizio and San Lazzaro;
a large cross of the order of the Luxembourg oak;
a decoration as a command of the order of the two rivers of Iraq;
a cross to the civil merit of Savoy, as a knight
In the dining room stands a massive Bolognese table in seventeenth century walnut. On the table the portrait of Baroness Niemptsch (1903). On the back wall there is a sideboard with a plate, on which sixteen pewter plates are displayed (the manufacture is Piedmontese from the 18th century). In the center a Persian copper plate with arabesque decorations in turquoise enamel. On the sides of the cabinet there are two oil portraits on wood representing the same subject: on the left Child in white and on the right Child in black. The two works, dated 1895, are by Vittorio Cavalleri (1860-1938), a Turin painter, friend of Pietro Canonica, for whom he painted other paintings on display in the apartment.
In this room there is a Bolognese walnut table dating from the seventeenth century in the center. On the table is a portrait of Baroness Niemptsch from 1903. At the bottom there is a sideboard with 18th century Piedmontese pewter plates plus a Persian plate made of copper with oriental decorations in turquoise enamel. On the sides of the sideboard there are two oil paintings depicting a child, one white and the other black by Vittorio Cavalleri. Another sideboard, however in the shape of a trapezoid, is located to the left of the first with two savonese dishes in majolica with white-blue paintings dating back to the end of the seventeenth century. Also, on one wall there is a Flemish tapestry from the mid-17th century.
On the left of the room, a large trapezoidal sideboard of Venetian manufacture (datable to the early seventeenth century). On the sides of the sideboard are two large Savonese plates in blue-white painted majolica (late 17th century). On the left wall there is a tapestry, attributable to a French school of the fifteenth century. On the opposite wall another tapestry by a Flemish manufacture of the mid-eighteenth century.
It is a small anteroom from which you can admire the Sala della Musica, the most prestigious and fascinating environment of the apartment. In the antisalone there is a large painting by Vittorio Cavalleri entitled Donizetti writes his latest work (1897).
Inside there is a bureau of the seventeenth century with inlays in ivory, a table-console with a mirror and two small armchairs by masters of Piedmont dating back to the eighteenth century. On one wall there is a painting by Vittorio Cavalleri named “Donizetti writes his latest work” made in 1897. On a small table there is a small bronze statue depicting a “After the vote” copied by the author in around 1921.
Below the painting is a seventeenth-century Venetian chest of drawers, faceted and inlaid in ivory. Framed photographs are arranged on a table – console with mirror, some with dedication. They are famous people known and portrayed by the artist: Grand Duchess Kirillo of Russia with child, Baroness Toinon von Essen, General Scalon and Isabella d’Orleans. On the walls are two photographs of Queen Mary of Romania, dressed in splendid traditional clothes and headdress, and also the photograph, taken in 1910, of the Tsarina Alexandra Fedorovna of Russia, while posing for Pietro Canonica.
The Hall is furnished with chairs, armchairs, sofas and a corner manufactured in Piedmont from 1750. On the back wall are two doors with painted over doors, from the mid-18th century. The Sala is dominated by the Erard grand piano, to which Pietro Canonica composed his music.
In this room there are furnishings of Piedmontese workers of the mid-eighteenth century, while on the walls there are paintings of other Piedmontese workers, however, from the nineteenth century, mostly from the Albertina Academy of Turin, an academy where he studied the Canonica. On a lectern there is a score the Medea, which recalls the last work written by Canonica. In addition there is an Erard grand piano, which dates back to a period after 1855, also, in the same room, there is also the bronze statue, made by Canonica, ” La sartina Tina ” of 1921depicting a seated woman with her face turned to her right and with her hands placed behind her back at her hips, perhaps in the attitude of dressing.
On the music stand the score of the Medea. The room houses a considerable collection of paintings by the most representative Piedmontese artists of the second half of the nineteenth century, which constitutes the most interesting nucleus of Pietro Canonica’s art collection. These are mostly works by landscape painters from the Albertina Academy in Turin. Among them: Landscape by Antonio Fontanesi (ca. 1865), Sunset (1892) and The moon rises on the San Giovanni hill (1903) by Giovanni Piumati, Fir forest in Val d’Aosta (1905) by Carlo Pollonera and Il parco of Morozzo(1889) by Lorenzo Delleani. Other noteworthy subjects concern realist painting, represented here by Alberto Pasini, author of the Desert of Eastern Persia (1857) and of Knights at a pond (1857). Finally there is the beautiful polyptych panel depicting Santa Giustina, a panel attributed to the Piedmontese painter Defendente Ferrari (known from 1509 to 1535).
Pietro Canonica (Moncalieri, 1 March 1869 – Rome, 8 June 1959) was a sculptor and composer Italian; he was appointed senator for life by Luigi Einaudi in 1950 and in 1958 he presided over the Assembly as provisional president.
He was born in Moncalieri, a town in the Province of Turin, northern Italy. His long and prestigious artistic career started at an early age when he became an assistant to Luca Gerosa at age ten. One year later, he was admitted to the Accademia Albertina di Belle Arti of Turin, where he was instructed by Enrico Gamba and Odoardo Tabacchi in making sculpture.
He initially adhered to the traditions of Naturalism, with Romantic and Renaissance influences, turned but later to Realism, without making concessions to the more avant-garde artistic tendencies of the 20th century. After World War II, Pietro Canonica devoted himself to more religious artworks.
He gained big success in the official environment of Turin for his civic and religious monuments. Following the formative period in Turin, he moved in 1922 to Rome, and participated in important national and international exhibitions in Milan, Rome, Venice (Italy), Paris (France), London (England), Berlin, Dresden (Germany), Monaco, Brussels (Belgium) and St. Petersburg (Russia), and received official recognition. Commissioned by Italian and foreign aristocracy in European courts, Pietro Canonica created portraits and commemorative works with passion. The master of equestrian sculpture also produced medallic art.
He was professor of sculpture at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Venezia (1910) and later at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Roma. He was in the first cadre of members named to the Royal Academy of Italy in 1929, and a member of the Accademia Nazionale di San Luca (1930).
In 1937, he managed to obtain the concession to renovate Villa Borghese, a 16th-century building owned by the City of Rome and used as administrative offices until it was abandoned in 1919 following a fire. In exchange of the promise to donate his artworks to the city, he was allowed to use the historical building as home and studio, which he repaired and decorated at his own expense. The unusual architectural construction within the Villa Borghese gardens, called also “La Fortezzuola”, is a museum since 1961 dedicated to his name, exhibiting studies, models, sketches, casts and original works of the artist. His wife donated the valuable furnishings and paintings found in their private section after her death in 1987.
Pietro Canonica was also an accomplished musician and composed the operas La sposa di Corinto (1918), Miranda (1937), Enrico di Mirval, Impressioni, Sacra Terra and Medea (1959).
In 1950, Italian President Luigi Einaudi nominated him life senator for his outstanding artistic achievements. Pietro Canonica died on June 8, 1959 in Rome.
Pietro Canonica Museum
The Pietro Canonica Museum is the home-museum of the sculptor Pietro Canonica and is part of the system of museums in the Municipality of Rome. It is located in via Pietro Canonica 2, near Piazza di Siena, in Villa Borghese, near the fortress (so called for its appearance, but in the 17th century known as “Gallinaro”). The house, where the artist lived until his death, was donated to him by the municipality of Rome which now manages the museum.
The Museo Pietro Canonica, hidden in the greenery of the Villa Borghese, is an important example of the museological model of museums based on artist’s houses, and in its integrity is one of very few examples in Italy.
The museum collection consists primarily of works by Pietro Canonica: marbles, bronzes and original models, as well as a large number of sketches, studies and replicas which provide a complete journey through the evolution of this artist’s works and is therefore an extremely interesting resource for learning about the creative and practical processes involved in creatying sculpture.
The particular layout of this museum offers vistors, as well as the normal route through the seven exhibition rooms on the ground floor, a private, more “intimate” tour which snakes through the workshop and, on the first floor, the artist’s private apartment. This wing of the museum houses a collection of precious furnishings, art objects, Flemish tapestries and even a suit of Samurai armour from the XVII century, as well as an extremely important collection of paintings which belonged to the sculptor, particularly nineteenth century Piedmontese canvases, including works by Enrico Gamba, Giovan Battista Quadrone, Antonio Fontanesi and Vittorio Cavalleri.