Presages of Decadentism in Rome’s Palazzetto Zuccari

Palazzo Zuccari, Biblioteca Hertziana Roma Trinità de' Monti

Andrea Sperelli, the main character in Gabriele D’Annunzio’s masterpiece, “The Child of Pleasure”, describes Palazzetto Zuccari as the place where “the most perfect essence of Rome is concentrated as in a cup”.

There could never be a better set for the novel meant to be a manifesto of Italian Aestheticism. According to D’Annunzio’s work, the early 16th-century building had hidden rooms exhaling the fragrance of luscious, wide roses, set in crystal vases like diaphanous prisons, portraying religious or loving offerings.

Like a dapper dandy walking about Piazza Trinità de’ Monti, the Palazzetto enjoys making an impression: the three huge mouths that open into doors facing Via Gregoriana are like a 17th-century premonition of the Decadentism movement that arose between the 19th and 20th century, whose leaders strived to make their life into a true work of art.

The Urbino-born Mannerist painter Federico Zuccari (1539-1609) designed this home to express his creativity and skill. By the time construction was complete, however, he was flat broke.

Since 1913, Palazzetto Zuccari is home to the Max Planck Institute for Art History and Hertzian Library, one of the most important libraries in the world for Italian art, which was recently completely renovated by Enrico De Gai and Juan Navarro Baldeweg. In the library’s cellars, remains of what probably was Lucullus’s villa in Rome have been found.

It is a place where art and life try for once to coincide.

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August 7, 2014

Presages of Decadentism in Rome’s Palazzetto Zuccari

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