International museum and
library of music of Bologna

Museum / Palazzo Sanguinetti

Palazzo Sanguinetti: history and architecture

At the beginning of the 16th century, the original core of the Palazzo Sanguinetti belonged to the Loiani family. In 1569, the building was sold to the Bolognese brothers, Ercole and Giulio Riario, originally from a family from Savona related to the della Rovere family. Having acquired land and neighboring buildings, the Senator Ercole Riario had the home reconstructed and enlarged, according to the standards of magnificence and splendor that reigned then among the most renowned families. The single residences were united into one structure and the impressive staircase, which still characterizes the building today, was probably started then. The second important structural reconstruction was desired by Count Antonio Aldini, to whom the Marquis Raffaello Riario Sforza had bestowed the building in a long-term lease in 1796. Count Aldini gave the architect Giovanni Battista Martinetti (1774-1830) the task of modernizing the building, attaching part of the neighboring house with the tower that belonged to the Oseletti family. He decided, then, to lower the large 5th century hall and to divide it into two rooms. The grand hall corresponded to the two most spacious rooms of the modern museum, the vestibule, or the Room of Virtues, and the Ballroom.

Following the fall of Napoleon and the economic ruin of Aldini, the palace was sold to the Cuban nobleman don Diego Pegnalverd, a former member of the Napoleonic government. Upon his death in 1832, the palazzo passed to the famous tenor Domenico Donzelli. It's noted that Gioachino Rossini was his guest, since Rossini's residence, which was located not far away, was under reconstruction.

In 1870, the palace was acquired by the Sanguinetti family who were responsible for the most recent decorations in the parts of the building destined to be the library and the so-called "Egyptian Room", where marvelous frescos were discovered in recent renovations of the palazzo.

In 1986, the last heiress, Eleonora Sanguinetti, donated the larger part of the building to the Comune di Bologna in memory - as she wrote in her will - of "...my unforgettable father, Dr. Guido Sanguinetti. I wanted to donate the building in Strada Maggiore 34 in his name and memory, and for the love that he always had for his city and his home, so that it could become a music museum and library..."

The frescos and decorations

The decorations of the Palazzo Sanguinetti represent, for Bologna, one of the most meaningful testimonies of the Napoleonic years because of the array of artists involved and their variety of subjects. The significance of these decorations establishes the Palazzo Sanguinetti as an exemplary anthology of 18th and 19th-century neoclassical decorations.

The most important painters of the time, such as Pelagio Palagi, Serafino Barozzi, Vincenzo Martinelli, and Antonio Basoli, collaborated on the enterprise under the direction of Martinetti.

On the ground floor, the landscape fresco, a magnificent trompe-l'oeil perspective, is by Luigi Busatti, while the illusive architecture is the work of Francesco Santini (1763-1840). Also by Santini, with the probable collaboration of Serafino Barozzi (1735-1810), are the decorations on the walls of the grand staircase.

Sala 4 On the first floor, "...if you follow the designated course through the museum" - Paola Foschi writes in the museum guide - the Woodland Room (Room 1), which was used as a dining room and called the Banquet Room, is a product of Vincenzo Martinelli's (1737-1807) imagination: he illustrates landscapes rich with greenery and classical architecture in the distance. These classical elements surround the onlooker in the illusive step that supports hermas and statues of Bacchus and Ceres, works by the young Pelagio Palagi (1777-1860)."

The Aeneas Room (Room 2) follows and is dedicated to the legend of the Trojan hero and to Dido, queen of Carthage, who was loved and abandoned by him. Palagi drew up the articulated pictorial structure and developed the themes on a black, "Etruscan", background.

The following room (Room 3) is decorated with the Zodiac signs by Domenico Corsini (1774-1814) with the figure of Aurora, attributed to Palagi, while the last small room of the east wing (Room 4) is decorated by artists from the Barozzi workshop.

The two rooms (Rooms 6 and 7) that conclude the surroundings of the west wing are decorated in "oriental" style by Barozzi and his workshop with curtains and pavilions, exotic plants, and feminine figures with small umbrellas.

At the end of the museum tour, there are the two salons in the apartment desired and designed by Aldini, which were the first two rooms to be decorated. There's the original room (Room 8), decorated by Antonio Basoli (1774-1848) in an almost "semi-gothic" style with figures, statues, and bass reliefs by Pietro Fancelli (1764-1850), and the Ballroom (Room 5).