Palazzo Maffei Casa Museo
In Verona, 20 centuries of masterpieces in an artist's wunderkammer
For the vision of its creator, the quality and originality of the works on display and the beauty of the setting, Palazzo Maffei, overlooking the central Piazza delle Erbe in Verona, is certainly one of the most beautiful museum houses at international level.
The history of this wonderful museum is, first of all, that of a great entrepreneur, Luigi Carlon, founder of Index Spa and president of the Carlon Palazzo Maffei Foundation, who, from an early age, found great comfort in art. He collects trade magazines and, in the 1960s, begins to associate with various artists, starting with Eugenio Degani, a Veronese painter who introduces him to the true obsession of every collector: winning time in discovering the talents of the future, finding refuge in the geniuses of past.
Carlon is successful in his work and so he begins to look for and purchase works of a futurist genre, on the one hand, and of artists who have “portrayed” his Verona on the other, collecting small masterpieces such as the 17th-century View of Adige near San Giorgio in Braida of the Dutch Gaspar van Wittel or Market of Piazza delle Erbe by Giovanni Boldini painted in 1887. He then moved into a house in the center of Verona and, having to furnish it, he also began to be passionate about antique furniture and applied arts, ranging from medieval works of sacred art to common objects of eighteenth-century Venice.
I am deeply convinced of the healing power of art and I hope that Casa Museo Palazzo Maffei will help improve the lives of many people, just as it has been for me.
The only common denominator: his personal aesthetic taste and love for the avant-garde. Thus, year after year, in over half a century of activity, Carlon puts together a truly extraordinary collection with thousands of artworks, ranging from Greco-Roman archeology to contemporary art.
For years he has been guided by a dream, that of finding a “home” to his collection in order to make it accessible to the public and so he begins to look for a location “worthy” of his vision. And, finally, here it is: he buys at auction the seventeenth-century Palazzo Maffei, a splendid palace built on the ruins of the ancient Capitolium dating back to the first century BC by the Veronese bankers Marcantonio and Rolandino Maffei.
For the furnishing of his “home” Carlon turns to a team of illustrious friends, from Gabriella Belli, art historian and director of the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia, who, together with his entrepreneur friend, he designed the wonderful museum set-up, to the Baldessari e Baldessari studio who took care of the architectural project.
And just as happens in a collector’s house, between frescoes and walls covered with precious Rubelli silk, ancient and modern blend with great visual harmony and cultured combinations that stimulate the visitor’s reflection. Starting from the work that welcomes them at the ticket office, the neon-art site-specific by Maurizio Nannucci that recites New horizons for other visions. New visions for other horizons and, in one of the first rooms, a wonderful wooden triptych from the 1300s next to a work by Lucio Fontana.
A contrast between ancient and contemporary with perfect combining colors that enchants and surprises us in the following rooms and that becomes very beautiful on the second floor, just completed in October 2021. Like the Sala Antiquarium where a marble bust of Marcus Aurelius, the philosopher emperor, he is placed next to The gladiators in the room by Giorgio De Chirico or the Room On Metamorphosis, in which Canova‘s Amorino dialogues with Chiara Dynis‘s work Over Nature in which Goethe’s quotes are overlaid on the eighteenth-century frescoes.
The two “blue” lounges are truly wonderful, where the mood of the eighteenth-century wunderkammer is recreated in which the famous chair by Rietveld is mirrored in a silver fruit bowl by Fabergè, or the Hope by Robert Indiana is flanked by a sculpture by Gino De Domincis and precious lacquers and Venetian furniture.
Starting from the great futurist and metaphysical works, Carlon’s first great love, such as the opera Compenetrazioni Iridescenti by Giacomo Balla from 1912, up to pop art, all the great names of the twentieth century are present in the museum, including many important masterpieces, from Femme assise by Pablo Picasso to René Magritte’s Fenêtre Ouverte. An ever-evolving collection that has also been enriched by recent acquisitions, such as Andy Wharol‘s One Multicolored Marylin and Filippo Tommaso Marinetti‘s 1909 Manifesto of Futurism, for a total of over 500 works exhibited.
Today it is Vanessa Carlon, daughter of Luigi, vice president of the Foundation and director of the museum, who carries this dream come true with her father, creating collaborations and original events with the aim of making the house museum a place open to experimentation, research and all those who believe in Beauty.
Palazzo Maffei, whose architect is still unknown, holds many secrets and wonders: from the spiral staircase of the entrance, “all in the air”, as Scipione Maffei describes it because from the cellars it reaches the roof without support, to the panoramic terrace decorated with six statues of the gods of Olympus, carved in tuff except Hercules, of different color because it was perhaps obtained from a block of marble found in the excavation of the Roman foundations, up to the wonderful perspective that can be enjoyed in the conference room of the museum located right above the ancient Decumanus with a view, in a straight line, which goes from Corso S. Anastasia to Corso Porta Borsari.