The Palazzo della Pilotta

A journey in the history of the Palace and its secular collection

By Palazzo della Pilotta

Piazzale della Pace and Palazzo della PilottaPalazzo della Pilotta

History of the Palace

Originally conceived of as a ‘container’ to service the Farnese Court and integrate the system of Ducal residences, the Pilotta Palace was begun most probably around 1583 during the last years of the Duchy of Ottavio Farnese (1547-1586) based on the project of Francesco Paciotto from Urbino.

Cortile del Guazzatoio del Palazzo della PilottaPalazzo della Pilotta

The lengthy corridoors were organized at right angles to delimitate a true “citadel” connected both to the now destroyed Ducal Palace and the Garden Palace on the other side of the Parma river.

The system of internal courtyards and the walls in rustic brickwork were destined for warehouses, stables, barracks as well as an enormous armoury which would later be transformed into the Court theatre.

Cortile di san Pietro del Palazzo della PilottaPalazzo della Pilotta

The complex takes its name from the noble game of the “pelota” which was played in the courtyards on particular occasions.

Galleria: Saloni ottocenteschiPalazzo della Pilotta

Already during the Farnese period the complex housed the Ducal collection of paintings and a library, and during the Duchy of Don Filippo di Borbone (1748-1765) it hosted the Academy of Fine Arts with its artistic collections whichwere destined to become the nucleus of the National Gallery, the Palatine Library and the Archeological Museum.

Scalone monumentale del Palazzo della PilottaPalazzo della Pilotta

All of these institutions still exist, together with the Bodoni Museum, under the Superintendant for the historical, artistic, ethnoanthropological and architectural heritage of Parma and Piacenza.

Palcoscenico del Teatro FarnesePalazzo della Pilotta

The Farnese Theatre

Built in 1618 the Farnese is the first modern theatre in the Western world. It was built rapidly using lightweight materials like wood and painted plaster to fulfill the desire of Ranuccio I Farnese to celebrate in style a planned stay in Parma of Cosimo II de’Medici while on the way to Milan.

Teatro Farnese dalla prima loggiaPalazzo della Pilotta

The result of architectural research in Italian courts which lasted for more than a century, the Theatre was designed by Giovan Battista Aleotti who created the first enclosed space for performances equipped with an engineering system for moving scenery.

Ingresso alla platea del Teatro FarnesePalazzo della Pilotta

The Theatre was inaugurated in 1628 and then used for Ducal celebrations and festivities on the occasion of marriages and important state visits.

Museo Archeologico: Nuovo ingresso del Museo ArcheologicoPalazzo della Pilotta

The National Archeological Museum

The Parma National Archeological Museum is one of the oldest museums in Italy. It was established in 1760 to house the precious material obtained from excavations in the Roman city of Velleia and has been enriched over time with the acquisition of Egyptian, Etruscan and Roman material.

Museo Archeologico: Sala delle statue di VeleiaPalazzo della Pilotta

Since its foundation it has been the reference point for all archeological research within the Duchy and, in fact, exhibits all items coming from the scientific excavations conducted during the XIX and XX centuries throughout the Parma provincial area thus revealing to visitors local history from the Paleolithic to the High Middle Ages.

Galleria: Sala ovale con i Colossi del PalatinoPalazzo della Pilotta

The National Gallery

In the XVII century with the transfer to Parma of the celebrated Farnese Collection the city became one of the cultural capitals of Europe.

This privilege did not last long and in 1734 the entire collection was transferred to Naples by Don Carlos Borbone leaving all the Ducal residences empty of decoration and adornment.

The family of Don Filippo di Borbone (1757) by Giuseppe BaldrighiPalazzo della Pilotta

It would be the arrival in 1748 of Duke Filippo di Borbone and his wife, Louise Elisabetta of France, daughter of Louis XV, which would make amends to the city.

Galleria: Saloni ottocenteschiPalazzo della Pilotta

the foundation of the Academy of Fine Arts in 1752 based on enlightenment principles, student displays of painting ability and the winning paintings from the famous competitions, together with the copious new Ducal collections resulting from a complex history of commissions, donations and acquisitions contributed to the birth of the present Gallery and its splendid collection of masterpieces.

Galleria: Sale della Rocchetta VisconteaPalazzo della Pilotta

The subsequent transformation into a “museum” is due to Maria Luigia of Austria who at the beginning of the XIX century charged the architect Nicola Bettoli and the painter Paolo Toschi to plan a new way of exhibiting he numerous paintings and new acquisitions in order to give maximum prominence to the great Correggio altarpieces which returned to Parma after the Napoleonic expropriation.

Galleria: sezione espositiva Arte sacra in Emilia 1600-1700Palazzo della Pilotta

In this way the first Ducal Gallery came into being, totally modernized at the end of the XX century and now the fulcrum of an ongoing process of re-qualification of museum spaces through re-styling and re-organisation.

Biblioteca Palatina: Galleria PetitotPalazzo della Pilotta

Palatine Library

The Library was founded on 1st August 1761 with the avowed political wish to endow the Duchy with a library useful for and to the benefit of the public following the enlightened cultural project of the Prime Minister Guillaume Du Tillot and in reply to the transfer of the Farnese library collection to Naples.

Biblioteca Palatina: Salone Maria LuigiaPalazzo della Pilotta

A true model of an enlightened cultural institution housed in rooms specially designed by the expert hands of Petitot and Bettoli, famous throughout the world for the Hebrew collection as well as the unique examples of manuscripts and incunabula.

Museo Bodoniano: armadio settecentesco con cassette di punzoni per caratteriPalazzo della Pilotta

The Bodoni Museum

The Bodoni Museum, an autonomous body set up in 1962, first of its kind in Italy and amongst the most important in Europe, brings together the letters and editions as well as the punches, matrices and many of the furnishings and equipment from the private typographical studio and fusion workshop of Giambattista Bodoni.

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