Palazzo Collicola was built between 1717 and 1730 in the square by the same name, on a project by Roman architect Sebastiano Cipriani, thus commissioned by cardinal Francis Collicola, in a period when the family was experiencing dramatic economic and social progress. The original project was based on a sober horseshoe-shaped layout, that remained incomplete, hence the present L shape. This imposing palace featured 110 rooms on three levels, besides basement and attics.
The main façade towers over the square and is faced by a fountain that leans against the building that used to host the stables; the inside overlooks a courtyard that was once an Italian garden with a central fountain surrounded by flowerbeds showing the owners’ coats-of-arms; the garden is scheduled for being recreated. The gallery at the piano nobile features a wide glass wall on the side of the courtyard, and other walls decorated with tempera, remarkable samples of performing skills and of illusionist virtuosity that was typical for the trend of the time, aptly described in art history as barocchetto or proto-rococò. The other rooms of the palace are also interesting and showcase coffered ceilings, either painted with garlands or sculpted with golden fretworks and under-ceiling friezes, decorated doors, high socles and windows intradoses.
In 1939, the Comune di Spoleto bought the palace at auction, including most of the furniture. Past long and complex restoration works, in 2010 the site finally became the core of the city’s museum system.
Palazzo Collicola hosts the G. Carandente Modern Art Gallery, that was established starting from the early ’50s
The Piano nobile is a faithful reconstruction of an XVIIIth-century noble dwelling featuring furniture that was both already present in the original apartment, and coming from elsewhere, though dating to the same period. The Pictures Gallery exhibits painting dating to the XVth–XXth centuries.
During the year, Palazzo Collicola features temporary exhibitions of modern and contemporary artists.
The Palace also hosts the Giovanni Carandente Library, a remarkable collection of more than 30000 volumes on contemporary art.
The permanent collection of contemporary art originated with the Spoleto Prize, an event that started with the very purpose of creating a contemporary art collection, through paid acquisition of the winners’ works. During the prize’s 13 editions, which occurred between 1953 and 1968, important works of art became part of the collection, among which Pino Pascali’s Coda di cetaceo, prime example of 1960s’ Pop Art. The collection was further enriched at the end of the 1980s, with the project New Acquisitions, that led to the gathering of a group of works by Spoletan sculptor Leoncillo Leonardi, whom the critics consider to be among the most important XXth-century Italian artists.
The sketches of the Sculture nella città. Spoleto 1962 exhibition and the generous Carandente donation also contributed to the collection, with works by Calder, Smith, Moore, Franchina, Colla, Pascali, Giò and Arnaldo Pomodoro, and others; a remarkable part of the Museum’s collection is made of works by Italian and foreign artists, whom Giovanni Carandente met along his long and passionate career as contemporary art critic and collector. Sol Lewitt, among the leading figures of American minimalism, gave the city and its museum a full hall of wall drawings, his Bands of color. A catalogue of the works on display is available at Palazzo Collicola’s bookshop, published in 2007 by Electa.
The city-owned paintings dating to the XV-XX cen., once on display at the former Pinacoteca, are now in the palace’s Noble Apartment. Mostly they belonged to the States of the Church and were seized past the unification of Italy. Among the most interesting ones there are the portraits of Charles and Marianne Collicola and the great canvas that portrays the arrival of Leo III at Spoleto, featuring a panoramic image of the town at the end of the VIIIth century, that welcome the visitors by the entrance hall; the table with saint George the dragon (a copy of Raphael); the Madonna with Child and San Giovannino by Sebastian Conca (1746) with its precious golden frame; a number of landscapes and Still Lifes; a group of works coming from the Palettoni collection, among which the Spezieria, the Cleopatra stand out, as well as the portraits of the family ladies; Giacomo di Giovannofrio’s Crib; Reading Madonna with Child, by Antiveduto Grammatico from Siena, who taught Caravaggio when in Rome; the group of works by Spoletan Cesare Detti, who enjoyed a fortunate career in XIXth-century Paris. Among more recent works, there are those by Scipione Pistrucci, an adventurous Risorgimento patriot artist, who left his only three known works in the city, and the Sight of Spoleto by Giuseppe Moscatelli (1904).
As for the furniture, a big chest that belonged to Urban VIII of Barberini is by the entrance hall; a number of XVIIIth-century golden consoles, a finely inlaid closet in bois-de-rose style and high chairs in iridescent fabric are by the antechambers; the Pictures Gallery section also features chests with sights of the city, a bench and a small throne previously owned by the Orsinis, formerly at the Cathedral. A series of five, splendid tapestries manufactured in Bruxelles and owned by Christine of Sweden is also part of the collection, though not on display because in need of restoration.