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The inauguration of Palazzo Moroni in Bergamo

19 December 2023

On Wednesday 22 November, Palazzo Moroni, the 17th-century mansion in the heart of the Upper City, fully opened to the public after three years of restoration.

FAI and the Palazzo Moroni Museum Foundation – on the occasion of the event “Bergamo Brescia Italian Capital of Culture 2023” – have inaugurated Palazzo Moroni. After the opening of the gardens and the orchard in June 2020, in the midst of the pandemic that had hit the city hard, and that of four rooms with splendid Baroque frescoes in September 2021 – as part of the celebrations for the 500th anniversary of the birth of Giovanni Battista Moroni, whose masterpieces are preserved in these rooms – the 17th-century palazzo in the heart of Città Alta has opened in full since Wednesday 22 November 2023.

Five further rooms on the piano nobile, featuring a 19th-century layout – the Yellow Room, the Pink Room, the Blue Room, the Chinese Parlour and the Turkish Room – and the mezzanine, with the kitchenette and the flat used until 2009 by Count Antonio Moroni, the last inhabitant of the residence.

Renovated reception areas, such as the ticket office with shop, and new services and tools to accompany the visit were also inaugurated, starting with a video narration with immersive projections set up in the large kitchen, which narrates – with the voice of Luca Micheletti – the history of the family and the palace.

FAI’S FIRST URBAN PALACE

Palazzo Moroni, the first urban palace acquired by FAI, opened after three years of restoration work to secure, preserve and enhance it. This involved the gardens, extended with panoramic terraces at the foot of the Rocca civica and as far as the ortaglia, two hectares of countryside in the heart of the city, and the interiors, extraordinarily preserved in their decorations, furnishings, objects and works of art from the family collection, which includes three portraits by Giovanni Battista Moroni (1521 circa-1579/1580) among its masterpieces: The Portrait of Isotta Brembati, the Portrait of Giovanni Gerolamo Grumelli, better known as The Knight in Pink, and the Portrait of an Elderly Lady.

“It was in 2008 when Count Moroni gave the family palazzo, with the garden, the astonishing orchard (one tenth of the entire Upper Bergamo!) and the precious furnishings to a Foundation he had created, thus depriving himself and his descendants of a prestigious property of incalculable value,” says Marco Magnifico, FAI President. “Lucretia, her father’s daughter in terms of clarity of vision and lucidity of purpose, has brought her father’s work to fruition by proposing to FAI to ‘absorb’ the family foundation of which she is now president. Antonio Moroni’s choice, as noble as those of Gian Giacomo Poldi Pezzoli, Pasino Bagatti Valsecchi and Antonio and Marieda Boschi di Stefano, is part of the most civilised history of our country, where there are still those who believe that a gesture in favour of the community is a point of honour for one’s own name and that of one’s family; and as such it has the right to be entrusted to the future and recounted just like the works of art and architecture that have been the object of such a gift. In the sign of the best Italian tradition’.

“With the complete reopening of Palazzo Moroni, FAI and the Fondazione Museo di Palazzo Moroni celebrate a significant milestone in the heart of the Upper City, which represents yet another important event in the special year of Bergamo Brescia Italian Capital of Culture 2023,” says Giorgio Gori, Mayor of Bergamo. “After a long restoration process lasting three years, this historic seventeenth-century palazzo, a tangible testimony of history and art, reopens its doors to the public just a few weeks before the end of the Capital’s year. FAI and the Fondazione Museo di Palazzo Moroni have meritoriously taken up the call in the Year of the Capital, adding an important piece to the great programme of activities that have punctuated the entire year that is drawing to a close. I believe that this is also the strength of our Capital’s proposal, namely that of having composed itself and been able to channel the many energies that came from cultural institutions, citizens, associations, and our territory. I thank FAI for the great gift of the reopening of Palazzo Moroni and invite our fellow citizens and all visitors to discover its heritage‘.

“I would like to share with you the excitement of seeing the rooms of the palazzo that has belonged to my family for centuries open again; today, after months of major restoration work, those who enter will be able to rediscover the same rooms in which my father and I lived the happy years of our lives,” commented Lucretia Moroni, President of the Fondazione Museo di Palazzo Moroni. “The profound synergy that has been established between the Fondazione Museo di Palazzo Moroni and FAI has made it possible to crown my father’s wish, to make our house a common good for the citizens of Bergamo and for all those who wish to immerse themselves in the rediscovered splendor of the rooms of the Palazzo and its gardens”.

“Palazzo Moroni is an iconic place and represents FAI’s first urban palace. The proximity of the Lombardy Region has contributed decisively to its restoration,” says Francesca Caruso, the Lombardy Region’s Culture Councillor. “It is our commitment to enhance the value of a symbolic place in the region that is of cultural importance for the whole of Lombardy. I would like to thank FAI for its commitment to promoting fundamental initiatives aimed at enhancing the historical, artistic, architectural and natural heritage of the landscape”.

RESTORATION WORK

Restoration work began in 2020. On June 27th and 28th of the same year, FAI opened the gardens and the orangery: an exceptional event, created as a tribute to Bergamo, one of the Italian cities most affected by Covid-19.

After a year, work was completed on the part of the palace characterised by 17th-century frescoes – the subjects of which give their names to the rooms: the Hall of the Golden Age, the Hall of the Giants, the Hall of Hercules and the Hall of Jerusalem Delivered – painted by the Cremasque painter Gian Giacomo Barbelli (1604-1656), which are among the earliest and most sumptuous examples of Baroque painting in Lombardy.

At the end of 2022, restoration work began on the five rooms that open to the public on this occasion, the result of the alterations that affected the palace around 1835, in view of Alessandro Moroni’s marriage to the Milanese noblewoman Giulia Resta (1838). The layout of these spaces, more intimate and cosy than the 17th-century ones, is dominated by precious silks, oriental and French ceramics, lacquered and Empire-style furniture and fresco decorations that reproduce trompe-l’oeil stuccoes and alternate with imaginative subjects inspired by the classical and exotic world.

The work, which was carried out thanks to the support of the Lombardy Region and the contributions of numerous companies and private individuals, made it possible to make the entire main floor and the entire mezzanine accessible and visitable. Electrical and safety systems were installed, windows and floors restored and conserved, and the necessary services were adapted to the new museum function of the palazzo, which is also equipped with enhancement spaces. A major restoration that harmonises interventions dedicated to safety and usability requirements with work carried out using local materials and techniques that are still crafted.

The work also affected the gardens of Palazzo Moroni with the replacement of trees and shrubs that were in a critical phytosanitary condition, the integration of ornamental plants in the flowerbeds, the pruning of fit yews and the creation of gravel paths to protect the lawns.

THE CONSERVATION PLAN

A long and complex project involved the palace’s movable assets: furniture, decorative coverings, works of art and objects that make, in particular the 19th-century rooms now open to the public, an authentic and intact testimony to the way of furnishing and living in a palace of the period. In agreement with the relevant Superintendency, a conservation plan has been initiated, with cataloguing, complete mapping and up-to-date digital documentation, including very high-resolution images of the works of art, realised for the first time thanks to the collaboration with Haltadefinizione. An in-depth restoration, carried out in cooperation with the Centre for Conservation and Restoration La Venaria Reale, was dedicated to the textile apparatus, including antique silk tapestries from the Caserta factory and important upholstered furnishings, and all the clocks were restored to be put back into operation. In addition to restoration and conservation, FAI also provided for the integration and redecoration of some of the spaces open to the public that did not retain their original layout: thanks to the numerous donations of furnishings and objects by private individuals to FAI, it was possible to restore the rooms to their historical appearance, applying a philological criterion of integration where possible, but also interpreting the spirit of the place, as is in FAI’s tradition and its style and method for valorisation.

THE ‘KNOWLEDGE WORKSITE’

The restoration site was accompanied by a ‘knowledge site’. Studies and research coordinated by FAI, starting with the family’s historical archive, which is still kept in Palazzo Moroni, have made it possible to update and expand knowledge about the family and the collection, as well as about the palazzo and the neighbourhood. FAI, as is customary in its properties, has translated this knowledge into various tools for introducing and accompanying the visit, including room cards, small publications, podcasts and above all a video narration with immersive projections set up in the large kitchen that tells the story of Palazzo Moroni through historical, unpublished and evocative images, accompanied by a narration entrusted to the voice of actor and baritone Luca Micheletti. A volume published by Skira will also be available from January 2024, thanks to the contribution of Gallerie d’Italia: the actual guide to Palazzo Moroni.

FAI PROPERTIES ACCESSIBLE TO ALL

Particular attention has been and will be given to the issue of accessibility thanks to tactile aids for the visually impaired and, as of 2024, a guide in simplified language that makes the visit accessible also to people with intellectual disabilities. Guided tours in sign language  for deaf people will also be organised.

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