This again was owned by the Brignole-Sale family, though the matriarch in my last Italian post, and who is represented here, bequeathed the palace to the city in 1874 a few years before her death. Built in the 17th century, this is the most sumptuous of the three, and features an array of artwork including some Brignole portraits by Van Dyck which must have accompanied them from one of the other palazzi that they owned. Here you will also find Veronese, Dürer and more. One of the rooms from her residential area in the palace is the header to this piece.
There was one painting that stopped me in my tracks however, for no other reason than that I thought I recognised it from a programme I’d seen looking into the provenance of UK artworks, yet here was the same image in Genoa. The attendant in the gallery spoke no English so I was unable to confirm that the BBC had been here, and my subsequent online searches linking it to art historian Bendor Grosvenor proved fruitless, and yet I knew I was familiar with this work by Jan Wildens. That bum hanging over the frozen water is unmistakable!Leaving the artworks to one side, this is a remarkable building. Frescos, stucco, gilded statues, trompe l’oeil… In bequeathing the building to the city the Duchess said she was leaving “artistic splendour”. She might have added opulence. Even the floors which were only recently discovered after the removal of worn out carpeting are spectacular.
There’s another woman who plays an important part in the history of the palazzo. Until her death in 1976, Caterina Marcenaro was one of Italy’s leading art historians, and she supervised the restoration of the Palazzo Rosso, removing many of the 18th and 19th century features to reveal the glorious baroque excesses below. She moved into the building and commissioned rationalist architect Franco Albini to design an apartment for her in the loft space. This open plan living space might have been considered stark and minimal, but the addition of a few items from the museum’s collection has transformed it. The private staircase which Albini installed for her has become a major exhibit in itself.
Now if the title of this piece led you into expecting something salacious, perhaps I should tell the tale of another Brignole who lived here. This is Via Garibaldi, a name that either means biscuits to you, or the Royal Family of Monaco. Maria Caterina Brignole was no baker and was once referred to as “the most beautiful woman in France”. Though she wed Prince Honoré III of Monaco, that relationship didn’t get off to a good start when on her arrival there he didn’t come to meet her, launching a stand-off where each party refused to go to the other due to their respective levels of nobility. An affair with a French prince ensured (Louis Joseph Prince of Condé). Following the French Revolution she escaped with Condé to London where they married in secret. She died in Wimbledon.
But I digress. Back to the Palazzo Rosso and that staircase…