Art objects

"La Parmense anch'essa non era forse ad una e pinacoteca e museo, com'altre biblioteche lo sono tuttodì?" ["Wasn't the Palatine Library itself both an art gallery and a museum, just like all the other libraries?"] - This is what Federico Odorici, the library director, wrote in 1868 to Pietro Martini, secretary of the School of Fine Arts, on occasion of the debate that developed around the librarian's successful request  for a collection of paintings. It's not surprising then to find, among the rich heritage of the Palatine Library, paintings, busts, wax relieves, copper printing plates, celestial globes, vases and plaster amphoras.

The Library's art collection comprises portraits of the members of Farnese and Bourbon families, viz. the effigies of the collectors who gave prestige to the Library with their donations. These items entered the Library in different moments and belong to different periods of the history of Parma.

The terracotta bust of Paolo Maria Paciaudi  can probably be ascribed to Jean Baptiste Boudard's circle: it was seriously damaged in 1944 because of the bombing of the Pilotta Palace. It has been restored by Carlo Crovi. The work portrays Paciaudi in typical religious clothes and could be the terracotta sketch of a marble bust that is mentioned in Boudard's Memoire on 30th march 1768 and was given to the Library in 1787, two years after Paciaudi's death.

The portrait of a young don Ferdinando di Borbone can be attributed to Laurent Pecheux; it was realized in 1765 probably for the Library itself, as the excellent relationship between Paciaudi and Pecheux suggests.

Michele Colombo’s portrait, made by the painter Luigi Basiletti from Brescia, was donated by Sofia Bulgarini Porta the 25th of June 1844. Colombo went to Parma in 1796 as Giovanni Bonaventura Porta’s teacher. Porta’s widow sold the  book collection belonging to her husband to the Palatina Library in 1843; she added the portrait to the collection the year after.

The portrait of the benedictine Gregorio Coppini  credited to Giusto Susterman, was acquired by the Library in 1810.  The painting is a truthful portrait of the prior with his benedictine monastic clothes and a large letter in his hand. The picture passed from the convent of S. Giovanni to S. Maria del Quartiere as a consequence of the Napoleonic suppressions. After that it was given to the Palatine Library together with the books from the suppressed religious houses accepted by the librarian Angelo Pezzana, member of the Commission for the choice of the art objects.

Also from the Convent of S. Giovanni, in 1810, other objects of interest were acquired by the Library: two big globes, a terrestrial and a celestial one, by Mattheus Greuter (to date only the celestial one, made in Rome in 1636, has survived). These were added to six similar pieces already present in the Library, two small armillary spheres (one depicting the Tolemaic sytem and the other the Copernican one), and four small globes (two celestial and two terrestrial). Of these only the armillary  sphere by Didier Robert is left. It was realized in Paris in 1753.

In Maria Luigia's Hall the majestic Herma of Maria Luigia stands out. It was commissioned to Antonio Canova in 1821 by the Officials of the Regiment as a sign of devotion to the sovereign. The colossal bust depicts the duchess as Harmony, her head surrounded by a large crown and her shoulders covered with a mantle. Following the donors’ wish the Herma was placed, right after the coming of the sovereign in Parma the 7th of July 1822, in the corner at the bottom of the Gallery of the School of Fine Arts; it was then donated to the Palatine Library in 1875 and finally located in the reading room dedicated to Maria Luigia, where it still stands.

Antonio Canova, Erma di Maria Luigia