The ground floor, Casina delle Civette

The Casina delle Civette (House of the Owls), which was the residence of Prince Giovanni Torlania the younger until his death in 1938, is the result of a series of transformations and additions to the nineteenth century “Swiss Cabin”, which, positioned at the edge of the park and hidden by an artificial hillock, was originally intended as a refuge from the formality of the main residence.

It was designed in 1840 by Giuseppe Jappelli, as a commission for Prince Alessandro Torlonia, using a deliberately fabricated rusticity. The outside of the house was faced with blocks of tufo, while the inside was painted in tempera in imitation of masonry and wooden planking.

The Hall
The hall was added to the pre-existing nineteenth century building in 1909 when Prince Giovanni Torlonia decided to transform the picturesque and rustic Swiss Cabin into an elaborate country house in which to live. The date is clearly stated in the writing on the fine majolica floor, which also includes the prince’s initials.

The entrance to the museum leads to the twentieth-century wing of the Casina, added at the behest of Giovanni Torlonia in 1909 when he wanted to transform the Swiss Hut into a home, a date shown in some majolica with the signature of the prince. The original part of the Swiss Hut is the faux rusticated ashlar wall that can be seen entering the entrance porch. This new wing consists of vegetable decorations, mostly leaves, flowers and fruit festoons as if to introduce inwards, these decorations are made by Giuseppe Capranesi. A wooden staircase leads to the upper floor. A columnside is in marble. The ceiling is equally wooden with decorated beams.

In this room there are two projects by Vincenzo Fasolo for the extension of the Casina, while on the wall, where there was a tapestry depicting a hunting scene, there is now a large cartoon by Duilio Cambellotti created to make the “I guerrieri” stained glass window also called “Heroic Vision” now placed at the National Gallery of Modern Art. The floor is entirely in majolica by Richard Ginori from 1909, while the doors are with opalescent glass carvings.

Going through the entrance by the small portico, you find yourself in front the original wall of the Swiss Cabin, retained unchanged, with its portico and its paint work, which mimics wall facings of rustic stucco.

The other walls, however, were painted in tempera by Giovanni Capranes i, and depict festoons of flowers and fruit in imitation of an arbor, mediating between the interior and the park.
A staircase of enlaid wood leads up to the next floor, supported by a column of colored marble with a clover leaf capital.
The ceiling is made of wooden beams with precious decoration, which continue the theme of fruit and flowers.

A fine chandelier in wrought iron, shaped as a phoenix, the symbol of eternity, completed the décor, along with a column supporting a miniature statue. Both have since been lost.

The windows contain precious glass with geometric designs of scrolls and garlands. These were the first pieces from Cesare Picchiarini ‘s workshop to use the technique of joining pieces of blown glass with lead.

The high wall on the left of the entrance was originally covered by a great Flemmish tapestry showing scenes of hunting. The wall now displays Duilio Cambellotti ‘s huge cartoon for the stained-glass design known as “The soldiers” or “Heroic vision”, which was made in 1912.
Two building plans drawn by Vincenzo Fasolo, rich in architectural and decorative detail, hang beside “The soldiers” and help to reconstruct the transformation of Jappelli’s Swiss Cabin into the House of the Owls.

Also worth attention are the precious polychrome majolica floor, made by Richard Ginori in 1909, and the inlaid doors with their squares of opalescent glass.
Warriors or Heroic Vision. made on a photographic paper, this cardboard is in an ogival frame. The inscriptions of armed warriors, while in the center a naked place baby in the arms of a warrior, this child was not yet identified the identity of which the painting refers to symbols legendary medieval and sagas of northern Europe including the Nibelung myth that Cambellotti knew through Wagnerian reminiscences. In the lunette you can admire the falling leaves.

Room of Clovers
This room takes its name from the clover motif recurrent in its decoration. The shallow stucco of the ceiling shows a pattern of clover fronds woven together, as does that which frames the spacious alcove, designed, according to the sources, to hold a couch covered in purple velvet.

The room takes its name from the predominant decorative motifs of the room. Clover designs are created with stucco on the ceiling and in the place where there was a sofa that some sources cite was lined with purple velvet. The floor traces the same subject with green-blue and yellow-ocher grit tiles. At the windows there is the recurring theme of the Torlonia coat of arms in medieval style. Here, in this room, there are other sketches for the windows of the Waldensian church in Piazza Cavour in Rome made by Paolo Paschetto. The windows are in medieval style made with bottoms. The marble fireplace is in neo-Renaissance style. The fireplace is a nineteenth-century copy of a Renaissance-style fireplace with grotesque-style embellishments likely from another building and later placed in its current location.

The floor design takes up the same motif, depicting on tiles of marble agglomerate in turquoise and yellow-ochre.

The windows contain two pieces of stained glass in a medieval style, showing the arms of the Torlonia family (roses and comets). The glass is made by a mixed method, using bottle bases with the details then painted in with flame.

The only surviving piece of furnishing in the room is the fine marble fireplace, a nineteenth century copy of a renaissance model with decorations in the grotesque style. It probably came originally from another building and was moved to its current position at the beginning of the century.

Displayed in the room is “Wings and Flames”, a piece of stained glass made by Paolo Paschetto, an interestingly stylised interpretation of biblical themes.
The Room of the Clover and the adjoining room also hold a series of preparatory sketches for the stained glass of the Waldesian Church in Piazza Cavour in Rome. These also are the work of Paolo Paschetto.

The stained glass window was built in around 1927 made with opalescent glass joined to lead and iron. The stained glass window was located in a stairwell. Three wings are drawn one above the other alternating with reddish flames and gray and blue feathers.
Tiled floor with clover designs

The Room of the 24 Hours
This room, positioned in the octagonal cupola, is the most richly decorated in the house. In Jappelli’s original design, it was a simple country kitchen. However when the house was transformed at the beginning of the twentieth century, at the wish of Giovanni Torlonia, it became a sitting room for the Prince.

It is made in the octagonal body of construction by Giuseppe Jappelli. The time in the pavilion was painted by Giovanni Capranesi with painting of “The Flight twenty-four hours,” indicating the passage of time. In it are depicted girls, in groups of three placed in eight squares delimited by branches of roses. This was meant to symbolize the eternity of the Torlonia name despite the passage of time. The windows are characterized by simple glass, while in the floor there is the mosaic representing Mars and Venus originally located in the Casino dei Principi had Giovanni Torlonia transported to the site in 1910 as the Casino dei Principi had become the seat of the administration. The central rose window of the ceiling is in stucco with decorations in stucco that recall the Phoenix, symbol of the resurrection. On the walls, originally there was wallpaper. Originally the room was designed as a rustic kitchen, later, following the transformations wanted by the Prince, it was transformed into a sitting room.

The vault of the cupola, which was painted in 1909 by Giovanni Capranesi, is divided into eight panels, demarcated by stucco, which depict the 24 hours dancing among rose tendrils. They are represented as charming children, draped with diaphanous veils, who frolic in groups of three against a blue sky.

The backdrop is painted with comets, which, along with roses, are the heraldic symbols of the Torlonia family. The decorative scheme is completed by a central tondo with stucco cornices, which repeat the rose motif.

At the base of each ceiling rib there is a stucco relief depicting a phoenix rising from the ashes. The room is clearly intended as a glorification of the Torlonia family, who are symbolised by the roses and comets, and the celebration of their eternal fame, as alluded to by the phoenix and the hours.
The small windows that illuminate the room have clear glass, with bevelled frames, made according to an elegant design using sticks of bronze.

The floor is decorated with a polychrome nineteenth century mosaic, which depicts Mars and Venus and comes from the House of the Princes, and is framed with coloured marble.
The mosaic was transported and put in place in 1910 on the orders of Prince Giovanni Torlonia, who wanted to use the house as his new residence, as the House of the Princes had, at that time, become an administrative office.

The walls were once covered with precious damask cloth, silver and gold in colour, but it has since been lost.

The Smoking Room
This light-filled room was fitted out with wicker furniture and used by the prince as a smoking room, according to the accounts of the children of the wardrobe mistress, who lived in the House of the Owls from 1916 to 1939.

The room opens onto the park through a bay window and was formerly furnished with wicker furniture and boiseries of which few pieces remain. The boiseries were carved with decorations in roses and garlands similar to the stucco decorations in the same room. The bay window is an addition from 1910, it consists of a stained glass window with designs representing floral and ribbon-like wreaths by Cesare Picchiarini, whose construction technique is doubtful. The windows are in polychrome glass. There are biblical themed stained glass windows designed by Paolo Paschetto in 1927and built by Cesare Picchiarini for his home in via Pimentel where they remained until some time ago. Other sketches in the room are by Paolo Paschetto, representatives of the projects for stained glass windows of Methodist and Waldensian churches in Rome. Other drawings represent floral subjects or simple decorations are studies for the windows of the rose balcony on the upper floor of the same museum.

The bow window, which looks out onto the park, was decorated with wood panelling carved with roses, repeating the theme of the garlands of flowers found on the high strip of the walls of the room.

The window was added to the nineteenth century construction in 1910 and contains stained glass decorated with garlands of flowers and ribbons. The glass was made by Cesare Picchiarini and involves coloured pieces of glass laid in sheets over transparent glass. However the technique he used for this is still uncertain.

The room also contains several works by Paolo Paschetto, who was a native of Torre Pellice, the son of a Waldesian shepherd who had moved to Rome. Paschetto created many designs for stained glass for Methodist and Waldesian churches in Rome. The sketches for these, with their characteristic biblical themes, are displayed here.
Some of the sketches have floral and other decorative subjects, such as the “Rose and Butterfly” designs, which were preparatory sketches for the stained glass in the “Balcony of Roses” on the upper floor of the House of the Owls.

In the middle of the room are displayed a series of pieces of stained glass created by the artist for his own house in Via Pimentel in Rome. They have simple geometrical patterns around a central square containing figured decoration on biblical themes.

The stained glass, made in 1927 by Cesare Piccharini for the lunch room, each consist of two ante with lunettes. Opalescent glass was chosen for the subject, in contrast to the transparent background, making the subjects depicted immediately recognisable.

For the lunettes, however, Paschetto chose the motif of a loose ribbon, which he had already experimented with in numerous other decorative solutions.

Sketches for the windows for the Methodist church in Via Firenze in Rome
They were made between 1919 and 1920 in china ink and watercolor by Paolo Paschetto.
Woman with blue cape, Woman with red cape and seagull
These are three drawings from 1911 in ink and watercolor on paper pasted on cardboard by Paolo Paschetto. In the drawing of the seagull, moreover, a boat is depicted which seems to be Noah ‘s ark.

The Lunch Hall
This room is characterized by the fine wood panelling that covers all the walls and frames the four doors.

The boiseries in this room have recently been restored, the ceramic plates of which have been lost in some period photos. The woodwork have notches in leaves and berries of laurel whose clear wood drawings forming a nastrifome design bounded by square brass. Groups of three ears separate the various panels. The plates have been replaced by wooden panels. Windows and windows are from the Picchiarini Laboratory. The windows consist of plant motifs different from those of the other stained glass windows in the casina designed by Cambellotti. The sketches on the walls are by Umberto Bottazzi.

The panels are carved into laurel branches and berries, with inserts made from light wood creating a ribbon pattern, which is outlined by squares of bronze. Ears of corn, arranged in groups of three and also made from bronze, demarcate the panels.

Along the high cornice of the panelling hang a series of ‘plates’ of light wood, substituting for the original ceramic plates decorated with scenes of the countryside which used to hang here, but have unfortunately been lost.

Small brackets are fixed to the panels at head height. These used to support miniature lead soldiers. These too have been lost.

The windows and the door which opens into the Room of the Clover contain stained glass decorated with vine-shoots and leaves, in warm tones of yellow and green, works of the Picchiarini Workshop.

Along the upper face of the wall runs a stucco frieze in deep relief. This takes up the laurel leaf motif and, like the panelling, has a series of circular fittings, which once used to display ceramic plates, outlined by the small lamps that lit the room.

In the room are displayed various sketches for stained glass by Umberto Bottazzi.

The Room of the Nail
This room takes its name from the large piece of stained glass in the form of a nail, made by Duilio Cambellotti and elaborately decorated with vine leaves and bunches of grapes.

From Prince Torlonia this room was used as a study. The window, which seems to give the room its name, is in the shape of a nail. This stained glass window is made using a design by Duilio Cambellotti between 1914 and 1915. Small paintings in the room seem to form drawings of vine leaves, branches and bunches of grapes made with colored glass and touch – ups with the brush. In the same room there is a preparatory sketch of two different ideas for decoration, one with ivy and the other with grapes, the latter of which can be seen as the actual realization. A cardboard, placed alongside, shows the complex construction of the window. Other cartoons complete the roomwatercolors by Duilio Cambellotti, including one for the Ministry of Agriculture. Some sketches have been lost including the series “Dawn, day and night” and the window “Cherries”. Among the windows on display there is one called the “magpies”.

The motif is repeated in the delicate monochrome work in stucco which emphasises the panels of the ceiling and in the tondo at its centre, from which a chandelier of wrought iron originally hung.

The room was used as a studio by the Prince, but its furniture has been lost.

In the current museum layout, the walls display preparatory drawings and cartoons for the stained-glass, made by Duilio Cambellotti and corresponding, as in the case of the sketches for the piece known as “The nail”, to the stained glass on display in the museum.

There are several sketches of stained glass produced for the House of the Owls, but lost at some unknown point, before the property was acquired for the public. Today only sketches remain of the stained glass series “Dawn Day and Night”, and another piece, “Cherries”.

There are also displayed sketches and a cartoon for some of the important pieces of stained glass that Cambellotti made for the Ministry of Agriculture.

Also noteworthy are the preparatory sketches for “The Magpies”, which was designed by Cambellotti and produced by Cesare Picchiarini for Prince Torlonia. It was the cause of a long legal dispute between the craftsman and his powerful patron, over the financial value of the work that had been done.

Stained glass window of the nail, the name of the stained glass window takes from the shape of the stained glass itself divided into 120 panes. Colors have been retouched in focus. The stained glass window was created in 1915 by Mastro Picchio, as shown by the Picchiarini archive where it is cited as a stained glass window (grape), based on a design by Duilio Cambellotti. The design is divided into two parts by means of a pillar.

Nail with exedra and grapes, the cardboard dates back to 1914 and is made by Duilio Cambellotti with pencils, tempera, watercolor and Indian ink. The drawing is the project for the right part of the above mentioned window. In the same room there is the sketch with two projects, with grape branches, the idea used for the realization of the same work and one with ivy branches. The arrangement of the cardboard, the sketch and the stained glass window aims to follow the various stages of construction of the works in the Museum. The grape branches, together with the owls, are one of the recurring themes as decoration of the various rooms of the Museum itself, in fact it is found in the stuccos of the rose window on the ceiling, on the room tax and on thecloth on the walls.

Dawn, day and night. the cardboard was painted between 1915 and 1916 by Duilio Cambellotti with the tempera technique. These sketches were the preparatory phase for the cycle of three windows with the same theme, now irretrievably lost, to be carried out for the central part of the Casina delle Civette. The birds, of various types, are represented in flight symbolically depicting the progress of the day from sunrise, sunset, to the arrival of the night. The passage from light to dark is represented by the different colors of the birds: the sunrise (white for the doves on a light and transparent background), the day (a hawk), the twilight (of the nocturnal birds of prey).

Room of the owls
This small room was originally decorated in the elaborate imperial style of wood paneling and had rich drapes hanging from the ceiling. Only a few fragments of this décor remain, insufficient for a reconstruction of the furnishings to be possible.

The three-paneled window placed inside was built by Cesare Picchiarini in 1918 according to a design by Duilio Cambellotti. The two side panels host reproductions of owls within plant motifs, the central window consists only of plant motifs the only original element remained intact. The owls, in part, are made with fire-painted paints to recreate the effect of the plumage. In ancient times, the room was covered with Empire-style boiseries. Curtains hanging from tatters that still exist today hung from the ceiling. In the same room are the sketchfor “Le lucciole” and the cardboard “L’albero”, windows that are never made.

The only original decorative element that remains is a piece of stained glass, composed of three panels by Duilio Cambellotti. The two side panels are decorated with stylized owls and the central panel with ivy and ribbons.

The owls, perching on the ivy branches, are made from colored glass, partly painted with flame, to improve the effect of the plumage.

The piece of stained glass forms part of the last series made by Cambellotti and Picchiarini for the House of the Owls, after the restoration by the architect Vincenzo Fasolo in 1916-19.

The room also contains a large panel decorated with four fragments of stained glass. It is a trial piece made by Cesare Picchinarini to check how the design would transfer into glass.

All four were designed by Duilio Cambellotti and one of them, “The Owl in the Night”, was used for the stained glass of the same name, which was once in the prince’s bedroom, but has since been lost. This piece is also known from a sketch in a private collection.

The other three trial pieces correspond to the works of stained glass ” The Soldiers ” and “Winter Clouds” and to an unidentified piece, the subject of which is swallows in flight, a motif very dear to Cambellotti, which he often used as a decorative motif. The motif of swallows in flight is also used in a sketch by Cambellotti from 1913 and in a cartoon.

A small sketch for ” The fireflies ” and a large cartoon for ” The tree “, which was planned but never made, complete the display.

Owls, The windows are made of glass and various gems, with fire stapling, joined by untinned lead made by Duilio Cambellotti in 1914.

Fireflies, This is a sketch in pencil and ink on paper made in about 1920 by Duilio Cambellotti for the realization of the homonymous stained glass window presented at the Second Stained Glass Exhibition organized by Cesare Picchiarini in 1921 in Rome. The fireflies are represented in human form as stray light ghosts georgic that animate the landscape with their movements.

This is an entrance from the back. It is a small room with a grit floor and a stucco ceiling with plant motifs. On the walls there are sketches for the realization of the windows of the Waldensian church of Piazza Cavour in Rome made by Paolo Paschetto displayed on loan for use.

Casina delle Civette
The Casina delle Civette Museum is a former residence of the Torlonia family transformed into a museum. It is located inside the park of Villa Torlonia in Rome. The name derives from the recurring theme of the owls inside and outside the cottage. In the nineteenth century it was known as the Swiss hut for its rustic appearance similar to that of an alpine refuge or a Swiss chalet.

Today the complex consists of two buildings, the principle house and the annex, connected by a small wooden gallery and an underground passage. These buildings bear little resemblance to the romantic Alpine refuge planned by Jappelli in the nineteenth century, except for the “L” shaped disposition of the walls of the two principle buildings, the deliberately rustic style, the use of diverse construction materials, left on view, and the steep layered roofs.

As early as 1908, the “Swiss Cabin” started to undergo an increasingly radical transformation into a “Medieval Hamlet”, at the behest of Alessandro’s nephew, Giovanni Torlonia the younger. The work was overseen by the architect Enrico Gennari, and the small building became an elaborate residence with huge windows, loggias, porticos and turrets, decorated with majolica and stained glass.

From 1916 the building began to be known as the “House of the Owls”, perhaps because of the stained glass depicting two stylised owls among ivy shoots, created by Duilio Cambellotti in 1914, or because the motif of the owl is used almost obsessively in the decorations and furnishings of the House, at the wish of Prince Giovanni, a mysterious man who loved esoteric symbols.

In 1917 Vincenzo Fasolo added the southern facade of the house and master-minded its fantastical decorative scheme in the Liberty style. Fasolo’s influence can be seen in the choice of spatial volumes that adhere to one another and interrelate, taking form through a wide variety of materials and decorative details. The unifying element of the multiplicity of architectural solutions he uses is the grey tone of the roof surface that mantles the house, for which thin slate tiles of varying shapes were used, in contrast to the vivid colours of the tiles in glazed terracotta.

The internal areas, laid out on two levels, are all particularly highly finished, with figured decoration, stucco work, mosaics, polychrome majolica, inlaid wood, wrought iron, wall fabrics, marble sculpture, and made to measure furniture, which demonstrate the particular care the Prince gave to his domestic comfort.

Among so many decorative elements, the ubiquitous stained glass is nevertheless the distinctive feature of the house. It was all installed between 1908 and 1930 and represents a unique moment in the international artistic outlook, all produced in the workshops of Cesare Picchiarini to the designs of Duilio Cambellotti, Umberto Bottazzi, Vittorio Grassi and Paolo Paschetto.

The destruction of the building began in 1944, with its occupation by Anglo-American troops, which lasted more than three years.

When the Municipality of Rome acquired the park in 1978, both the houses and the grounds were in terrible condition.

A fire in 1991, along with theft and vandalism, exacerbated the ruined state of the House of the Owls. Its current appearance is the result of long, patient and meticulous restoration work carried out from 1992 to 1997, which has been able, using the surviving remains and much documentary evidence, to restore to the city one of the most unusual and interesting buildings of the early years of the last century.