The Castle of Vigoleno
In 1933, in the Castle of Vigoleno – one of the most beautiful towns in Italy, in the province of Piacenza – the German painter Max Ernst conceived “The Embalmed Forest”, a beautiful oil on canvas now in the Menil Collection in Houston.
At the time, Ernst was a guest of Princess Maria Ruspoli, Duchess of Grammond, who in the 1920s had brought the medieval fortress back to its original glory. The structure dates back to the 10th century, although the first documented evidence of its existence is from the first half of 12th century, when the building served as an outpost of the Piacenza Municipality towards Parma.
After breathing new life into the castle – which has now been restored back to its 1389 state, with a portentous ravelin and a magnificent, quadrangular entrance tower with brackets, louvers and Ghibelline battlements – Princess Ruspoli began to invite in these elegant lounges many internationally renowned artists and personalities, such as Gabriele D’Annunzio, Jean Cocteau, and Athur Rubinstein.
And Max Ernst, who indeed created here his most mystical and eerie work of art – mystical and eerie like certain medieval castles under the full moon.