Palazzo Abatellis and the blue of the sky
Palermo’s Palazzo Abatellis was bombed during the night in April 1943. The 15th-century building by Matteo Carnelivari was first restored and reinforced, and then in 1953 it was fit out and furnished in order to turn it into an “Art Gallery for Medieval Art Collections”.
Carlo Scarpa was entrusted with this delicate operation. The Venetian architect envisioned a museum in which the works on display would stand apart from the surrounding context, and could be enjoyed in their contrast with the backdrop.
He certainly achieved his goal. The masterpieces showcased in these halls – including the “Bust of a Gentlewoman” (probably Eleanor of Aragon) by Francesco Laurana, the “Madonna with Child” by Antonello Gagini, the “Annunciation” by Antonello da Messina – are enhanced by the virtuous dialog they entertain with the space that has welcomed them.
In the second half of the 1970s, during a lecture about the Plaster Cast Gallery in Canova’s hometown, Possagno, Scarpa said, “I wanted to cut out the blue of the sky”.
Standing in front of Antonello’s Madonna, we can say he certainly succeeded.