Villa Medici in Rome
|Current tenants||French Academy in Rome|
|Owner||Government of France|
|Design and construction|
The Villa Medici (Italian pronunciation: [ˌvilːa ˈmɛːditʃi] ) is a Mannerist villa and an architectural complex with a garden contiguous with the larger Borghese gardens, on the Pincian Hill next to Trinità dei Monti in Rome, Italy. The Villa Medici, founded by Ferdinando I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany and now property of the French State [ citation needed ], has housed the French Academy in Rome since 1803. A musical evocation of its garden fountains features in Ottorino Respighi's Fontane di Roma .
In ancient times, the site of the Villa Medici was part of the gardens of Lucullus, which passed into the hands of the Imperial family with Messalina, who was murdered in the villa.
In 1564, when the nephews of Cardinal Giovanni Ricci of Montepulciano acquired the property, it had long been abandoned to viticulture. The sole dwelling was the Casina of Cardinale Marcello Crescenzi, who had maintained a vineyard here and had begun improvements to the villa under the direction of the Florentine Nanni Lippi, who had died however, before work had proceeded far. The new proprietors commissioned Annibale Lippi, the late architect's son, to continue work. Interventions by Michelangelo are a tradition.
In 1576, the property was acquired by Cardinal Ferdinando de' Medici, who finished the structure to designs by Bartolomeo Ammanati. The Villa Medici became at once the first among Medici properties in Rome, intended to give concrete expression to the ascendancy of the Medici among Italian princes and assert their permanent presence in Rome. Under the Cardinal's insistence, Ammanati incorporated into the design Roman bas-reliefs and statues that were coming to sight with almost every spadeful of earth, with the result that the facades of the Villa Medici, as it now was, became a virtual open-air museum. A series of grand gardens recalled the botanical gardens created at Pisa and at Florence by the Cardinal's father Cosimo I de' Medici, sheltered in plantations of pines, cypresses and oaks. Ferdinando de' Medici had a studiolo, a retreat for study and contemplation, built to the north east of the garden above the Aurelian wall. Now these rooms look onto Borghese gardens but would then have had views over the Roman countryside. These two rooms were only uncovered in 1985 by the restorer Geraldine Albers: the concealing whitewash had protected and conserved the superb fresco decoration carried out by Jacopo Zucchi 1576 and 1577.
Among the striking assemblage of Roman sculptures in the villa were some one hundred seventy pieces bought from two Roman collections that had come together through marriage, the Capranica and the della Valle collections.An engraving detailing the arrangement of statues prior to 1562 was documented by Galassi Alghisi. Three works that arrived at the Villa Medici under Cardinal Fernando, ranked with the most famous in the city: the Niobe Group and the Wrestlers , both discovered in 1583 and immediately purchased by Cardinal Ferdinando, and the Arrotino . When the Cardinal succeeded as Grand Duke of Tuscany in 1587, his elder brother having died, he satisfied himself with plaster copies of his Niobe Group, in full knowledge of the prestige that accrued to the Medici by keeping such a magnificent collection in the European city whose significance far surpassed that of their own capital. The Medici lions were completed in 1598, and the Medici Vase entered the collection at the Villa, followed by the Venus de' Medici by the 1630s; the Medici sculptures were not removed to Florence until the eighteenth century. Then the antiquities from the Villa Medici formed the nucleus of the collection of antiquities in the Uffizi, and Florence began to figure on the European Grand Tour.
The fountain in the front of the Villa Medici is formed from a red granite vase from ancient Rome. It was designed by Annibale Lippi in 1589. The view from the Villa looking over the fountain towards St Peter's in the distance has been much painted, but the trees in the foreground have now obscured the view.
Like the Villa Borghese that adjoins them, the villa's gardens were far more accessible than the formal palaces such as Palazzo Farnese in the heart of the city. For a century and a half the Villa Medici was one of the most elegant and worldly settings in Rome, the seat of the Grand Dukes' embassy to the Holy See. When the male line of the Medici died out in 1737, the villa passed to the house of Lorraine and, briefly in Napoleonic times, to the Kingdom of Etruria. In this manner Napoleon Bonaparte came into possession of the Villa Medici, which he transferred to the French Academy at Rome. Subsequently, it housed the winners of the prestigious Prix de Rome, under distinguished directors including Ingres and Balthus, until the prize was withdrawn in 1968.
In 1656, Christina, Queen of Sweden was said to have fired one of the cannon on top of the Castel Sant'Angelo without aiming it first. The wayward ball hit the villa, destroying one of the Florentine lilies that decorated the facade.
In 1803, Napoleon Bonaparte moved the French Academy in Rome to the Villa Medici with the intention of preserving an institution once threatened by the French Revolution. At first, the villa and its gardens were in a sad state, and they had to be renovated in order to house the winners of the Prix de Rome. In this way, he hoped to retain for young French artists the opportunity to see and copy the masterpieces of antiquity and the Renaissance.[ citation needed ] The young architect Auguste-Henri-Victor Grandjean de Montigny undertook the renovation.
The competition was interrupted during the first World War, and Benito Mussolini confiscated the villa in 1941, forcing the Academy of France in Rome to withdraw until 1945. The competition and the Prix de Rome were eliminated in 1968 by André Malraux. The Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris and the Institut de France then lost their guardianship of the Villa Medici to the Ministry of Culture and the French State.
From that time on, the boarders no longer belonged solely to the traditional disciplines (painting, sculpture, architecture, metal-engraving, precious-stone engraving, musical composition, etc.) but also to new or previously neglected artistic fields (art history, archaeology, literature, stagecraft, photography, movies, video, art restoration, writing and even cookery.) Artists are no longer recruited by a competition but by application, and their stays generally vary from six to eighteen months.
Between 1961 and 1967, the artist Balthus, then at the head of the Academy, carried out a vast restoration campaign of the palace and its gardens, providing them with modern equipment. Balthus participated “hands on” in all the phases of the construction. Where the historic décor had disappeared, Balthus proposed personal alternatives. He invented a décor that was a homage to the past and, at the same time, radically contemporary: The mysterious melancholic decor he created for Villa Medici has become, in turn, historic and was undergoing an important restoration campaign in 2016.Work continued under the direction of the previous director, Richard Peduzzi, and the Villa Medici resumed organizing exhibitions and shows created by its artists in residence.
The Academy continues its programme of inviting young artists, who receive a stipend to spend twelve months in Rome, exhibiting their work. These artists-in-residence are known as pensionnaires. The French word ‘pension’ refers to the room & board these, generally young and promising, artists receive. The Villa Medici hosts a number of guest rooms, and when these are not used by pensionnaires or other official guests, they are open to the general public.
Several structures base their style on the villa. Architect Edward Lippincott Tilton designed the Hotel Colorado in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, in 1893. Philanthropist James H. Dooley had a mansion called Swannanoa built on Rockfish Gap, Virginia, in 1912. The NYC architectural firm, Schultze and Weaver, modeled the Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, Florida after the Villa for the hotel's second reconstruction, which took place between 1925 and 1926.
The marble Medici lions by the stairs to the courtyard served as inspiration for Bernard Foucquet's bronze lions at the Lejonbacken (lion slope) on the northern side of the Royal Palace in Stockholm in 1700–1704.
The Farnese Hercules is an ancient statue of Hercules, probably an enlarged copy made in the early third century AD and signed by Glykon, who is otherwise unknown; the name is Greek but he may have worked in Rome. Like many other Ancient Roman sculptures it is a copy or version of a much older Greek original that was well known, in this case a bronze by Lysippos that would have been made in the fourth century BC. This original survived for over 1500 years until it was melted down by Crusaders in 1205 during the famous Sack of Constantinople. The enlarged copy was made for the Baths of Caracalla in Rome, where the statue was recovered in 1546, and is now in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Naples. The heroically-scaled Hercules is one of the most famous sculptures of antiquity, and has fixed the image of the mythic hero in the European imagination.
Villa Borghese is a landscape garden in Rome, containing a number of buildings, museums and attractions. It is the third largest public park in Rome after the ones of the Villa Doria Pamphili and Villa Ada. The gardens were developed for the Villa Borghese Pinciana, built by the architect Flaminio Ponzio, developing sketches by Scipione Borghese, who used it as a villa suburbana, a party villa, at the edge of Rome, and to house his art collection. The gardens as they are now were remade in the late 18th century.
The French Academy in Rome is an Academy located in the Villa Medici, within the Villa Borghese, on the Pincio in Rome, Italy.
Ferdinando I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany was Grand Duke of Tuscany from 1587 to 1609, having succeeded his older brother Francesco I.
Niccolò di Raffaello di Niccolò dei Pericoli, called "Il Tribolo" was an Italian Mannerist artist in the service of Cosimo I de' Medici in his natal city of Florence.
Cardinal Andrea della Valle was an Italian clergyman and art collector.
The Medici Vase is a monumental marble bell-shaped krater sculpted in Athens in the second half of the 1st century AD as a garden ornament for the Roman market. It is now in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.
Pierre Franqueville, generally called Pietro Francavilla, was a Franco-Flemish sculptor trained in Florence, who provided sculpture for Italian and French patrons in the elegant Late Mannerist tradition established by Giambologna.
The Villa Medici at Careggi is a patrician villa in the hills near Florence, Tuscany, central Italy.
The Borghese Gladiator is a Hellenistic life-size marble sculpture portraying a swordsman, created at Ephesus about 100 BC, now on display at the Louvre.
The Borghese Collection is a collection of Roman sculptures, old masters and modern art collected by the Roman Borghese family, especially Cardinal Scipione Borghese, from the 17th century on. It includes major collections of Caravaggio, Raphael, and Titian, and of ancient Roman art. The Borghese also bought widely from leading painters and sculptors of his day, and Scipione Borghese's commissions include two portrait busts by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Most of the collection remains intact and on display at the Galleria Borghese, although a significant sale of classical sculpture was made under duress to the Louvre in 1807.
The Sleeping Hermaphroditus is an ancient marble sculpture depicting Hermaphroditus life size. In 1620, Italian artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini sculpted the mattress upon which the statue now lies. The form is partly derived from ancient portrayals of Venus and other female nudes, and partly from contemporaneous feminised Hellenistic portrayals of Dionysus/Bacchus. It represents a subject that was much repeated in Hellenistic times and in ancient Rome, to judge from the number of versions that have survived. Discovered at Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome, the Sleeping Hermaphroditus was immediately claimed by Cardinal Scipione Borghese and became part of the Borghese Collection. The "Borghese Hermaphroditus" was later sold to the occupying French and was moved to The Louvre, where it is on display.
Giusto Utens or Justus Utens was a Flemish painter who is remembered for the series of Medicean villas in lunette form that he painted for the third grand duke of Tuscany, Ferdinando I, in 1599–1602.
The Villa Medicea di Cafaggiolo is a villa situated near the Tuscan town of Barberino di Mugello in the valley of the River Sieve, some 25 kilometres north of Florence, central Italy. It was one of the oldest and most favoured of the Medici family estates, having been in the possession of the family since the 14th century, when it was owned by Averardo de' Medici. Averardo's son, Giovanni di Bicci de' Medici, is considered to be the founder of the Medici dynasty.
Tommaso Francini (1571–1651) and his younger brother Alessandro Francini were Florentine hydraulics engineers and garden designers. They worked for Francesco I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, above all at the Villa Medicea di Pratolino, whose water features Francesco de Vieri described thus in 1586: "the statues there turn about, play music, jet streams of water, are so many and such stupendous artworks in hidden places, that one who saw them all together would be in ecstasies over them."
Galasso Alghisi (1523–1573) was an Italian architect and author of the Renaissance period.
Paolo Alessandro Maffei was an antiquarian with a humanist education, who was active in Rome. Maffei was the son of Paolo Maffei and his wife Giovanna di Raffaele, both of patrician families of Volterra. He was a descendant of the humanist and papal bureaucrat Raffaele Maffei, "il Volterrano," (1451–1522), author of the Commentaria urbana (1506), dedicated to Julius II. Paolo Alessandro was made a cavaliere of the Tuscan Order of Saint Stephen and an honorary member of the Papal Guard. He wrote the laudatory biography of Pope Pius V, in which he praised the Pope's suppression of newsletters and slanderous printed avvisi in 1572.
The Wrestlers is a Roman marble sculpture after a lost Greek original of the third century BCE. It is now in the Uffizi collection in Florence, Italy.
The Sleeping Ariadne, housed in the Vatican Museums in Vatican City, is a Roman Hadrianic copy of a Hellenistic sculpture of the Pergamene school of the 2nd century BCE, and is one of the most renowned sculptures of Antiquity. The reclining figure in a chiton bound under her breasts half lies, half sits, her extended legs crossed at the calves, her head pillowed on her left arm, her right thrown over her head. Other Roman copies of this model exist: one, the "Wilton House Ariadne", is substantially unrestored, while another, the "Medici Ariadne" found in Rome, has been "seriously reworked in modern times", according to Brunilde Sismondo Ridgway. Two surviving statuettes attest to a Roman trade in reductions of this familiar figure. A variant Sleeping Ariadne is in the Prado Museum, Madrid. A later Roman variant found in the Villa Borghese gardens, Rome, is at the Louvre Museum.
The Medici lions are a pair of marble sculptures of lions, one of which is Roman, dating to the 2nd century AD, and the other a 16th-century pendant; both were by 1598 placed at the Villa Medici, Rome. Since 1789 they have been displayed at the Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence. The sculptures depict standing male lions with a sphere or ball under one paw, looking to the side.