Rooms and furnishings

Salone di lettura Maria Luigia

In a report written in 1873, the director of the Library Federico Odorici stressed how the Palatina's grandness was unique in Italy.

The Library first developed from the South Gallery (both book deposit and reading room) which was  inaugurated in May 1769. This Gallery is introduced by a Vestibule decorated with a bas relief in stucco representing Apollo Palatinus, the Arts, Sciences and Letters and the words by Horace "Scripta Palatinus quaecumque recepit Apollo”.

The Gallery is known as the Petitot Gallery from the name of the French architect Ennemond Alexandre Petitot who designed the shelves in walnut which were then realized by Drugmann.

A few years later, in 1791, under the directorship of Ireneo Affò, the Library acquired a second Gallery, the so-called Galleria dell'Incoronata, previously home to the Farnese painting collection. It derives its name from the fresco by Antonio Allegri, better known as Correggio. This painting representing the Crowning of the Vergin had been realized by Correggio for the apse of the church of S. Giovanni Evangelista.   When the latter was destroyed in 1587 the fresco was transferred to the far end of the corridor of the Pilotta palace. In 1937 it was removed once again and displayed in the National Gallery, but its sinopia was kept in place with its original frame by Girolamo Magnani.

By wish of the director Angelo Pezzana and thanks to the generosity of Maria Luigia the Library was greatly embellished during the first half of the 19th century: the De Rossi room was built around 1819-1821 with its vaulted ceiling frescoed by Giovanni Battista Borghesi, the construction of the new reading room in the years 1830-1833 according to the project by the court architect Nicola Bettoli and the decoration of the Librarian's Chamber (once called the Chamber of the fireplace and now known as Sale Dante).

In  the new reading room,  the so-called Salone Maria Luigia – Francesco Scaramuzza frescoed the central part of the ceiling with the scene depicting Prometheus protected by Minerva whilst stealing a spark from the Sun; on both sides the coat of arms of Maria Luigia held by the Sciences and Arts by Giovanni Gaibazzi; in the rectangular frames above and in front of the entrance  we find the poet Torquato Tasso reading to the Accademia degli Innominati presided by Ranuccio Farnese and the encounter in Parma between Petrarch and Azzo da Correggio. Beside these scenes Giuseppe Varoli paints Religion and Philosophy  holding hands, Galileo explaining the Earth’s movement whilst Giocondo Viglioli paints the invention of the compass  and  of printing. The decorative system is completed by a freeze on all four sides of the room depicting the letters of the alphabet  by Girolamo Gelati and his pupil Filippo Bocchi.

The Sala Dante was painted in encausto by Francesco Scaramuzza between 1841 and 1858. For the Chamber he chose a series of scenes inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy: the encounter between Dante and Virgil with the poets (North wall); Aristotle sitting amongst philosophers (West wall); The Divine Clemence and Lucia amongst choirs of angels and virgins, Lucia and Beatrice, a choir of Angels and a choir of virgins, Dante coming out of the forest, Dante met by Virgil, Virgil and Dante at the entrance of Hell, Charon.

At the end of the 19th century the De Rossi room was demolished by wish of the Mayor Mariotti and rebuilt near the Salone Maria Luigia. The new room was identical to the previous one so its splendid Neo classical furnishings could be reused. The only part of the previous setting that was lost was the frescoed ceiling painted by Borghesi and depicting Maria Luigia in the act of donating the De Rossi collection to the Library in the likelihood of Minerva offering Apollo a torch in order to enlighten with the light of wisdom Parma and its surroundings.