Palazzo Chigi was built in the second half of the fifteenth century by order of Carlo Caetani, who moved from Pisa to Viterbo because of the strong potential of this strategic city in regards to the control of traffic between the Tolfa alum and Tuscany. The building, built in an area once occupied by warehouses of wealthy merchants from Tuscany, blends in an old urban context, incorporated in some structures, without abandoning their architectural forms of the Renaissance and expressed mainly in the construction of the façade. The inner courtyard is characterized by the Renaissance style with a colonnade on two levels, covered on the southern side by lunettes placed on corbels and, on the east, by cross vaults. Built in the late fifteenth century at the behest of the Caetani family who were merchants from Pisa, the building was purchased by the Chigi family in the first decade of the sixteenth century. The building, of great artistic interest, has been left aside by historians, as an exception to the comprehensive study conducted by Dr. Simonetta Valtieri that, however, focused only on its appearance and architectural clients. However, the frescoes in the rooms of the palace have caught our interest, not only for their good quality and reasonable conservation, but also especially for being unpublished. The lack of research on them has left these paintings in the shadows for too long, so it was considered important to devote a study on this product relevant for the pictorial history of Viterbo.
The structure of the building animates the two sides, made even more move by a play of solids and voids determined from large portals decorated with the family’s coat of arms and three rows of windows, while the interior is enriched by a hall with a porch, a garden terrace and the first floor, a bright balcony. Finally, along the inner circles, there are unpublished frescoes. Very interesting was the analysis of a series of paintings hidden by a low vault and remained for decades “lost” between the original ceiling and the new one built in the second half of the eighteenth century. Through a trap door in the floor of the dovecote (shelter for pigeons), you can find these decorations. The work, commissioned by the Caetani family, whose crest is usually found among the paintings, presents an invoice is not exceptional, but very important is the presence of women’s faces, old men in medallions and rectangular motifs, which carefully made in physiognomy and in particular they deduce that they are specific portraits of members of the house itself. The cycle, for the singular presence of cupids on dolphins and banners of men pulling and cutting red tape, appears to be unique in Viterbo paintings of this period. Almost cartoonish in style and the same style are not found in other contemporary buildings located in the territory. Two other interesting environments in which the presence of the Chigis and Poggis arms are based on helped to identify their achievement, the first one at the end of the sixteenth century, the other during the early seventeenth century. In the first room, called the Room of San Paulo, twelve events appear painted on a mural, depicting stories from the life of the saint. While the other room, the Studio, shows landscape scenes, hunting and mythological figures. The significant workmanship of the paintings suggests that the workers had personality with good skills and a certain artistic merit. A comparative study showed strong similarities with other works of Viterbo as well as the frescoes in palaces in neighboring countries. In particular, it captures interesting similarities with the style of Marzio Ganassini who was active in the cloister of SS. Trinità in Viterbo, in the New Chapel in the Palazzo dei Priori and in the Villa Montalto at Villa Lante in Bagnaia. Due to the similarities between the works of Marzio Ganassini and the Chigiano cycle, our interest is rotated around this individual. The lack of documented sources, of deeds, agreements between the artist and the client does not allow us to have indisputable certainties; we should also take into account the presence of secondary characters, as apprentices or aid workshop, acting under the direction of teachers. For interspersing stories of St.Paolo, cupids also appear well made and undeniably similar, both in the pictorial, both in style and type, to the ones found on the frieze located in the Salone di Conversazione in the Villa Montalto at Villa Lante in Bagnaia. This work was carried out by Agostino Tassi, who, in his own house, had executed the frescoes on the side of Ganassini. In another room of the Palazzo Chigi, the Studio, the mythological gods turn out to be very close to the figures created by Agostino Tassi and those painted by Cavalier d’Arpino, who directed the work for Cardinal Montalto. Finally we must remember that Viterbo is “una citta in Tempesta”, this definition emphasizes that the prints of Antonio Tempesta circulated throughout Viterbo with ease and frequency. The work of this artist we find in buildings located in the provinces such as in Bassano Romano, Caprarola and BagnaiaIn the studio, there are hunting scenes that take inspiration from Tempesta’s etching. In addition Palazzo Lomellino and Palazzo Especo y Vera, located in the city, display hunting scenes hat are without any doubt related to the drawings of the master.
VITERBO, CHIGI PALACE
Traduzione di Amanda Santini, California State University, Stanislaus. Programma USAC presso Università degli Studi della Tuscia.