Corsini Palace

The headquarters of the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei is Palazzo Corsini, at 10 Via della Lungara, in Rome’s Trastevere district. In 1736, Cardinal Neri Corsini Junior, from a noble Florentine family and nephew of Lorenzo Corsini, Pope Clement XII, purchased Palazzo Riario, where Michelangelo had stayed as a young man and which had later been the residence of Queen Christina of Sweden (there is a commemorative plaque in a room on the first floor). He had the Florentine architect Ferdinando Fuga entirely alter and enlarge the building, which, known as Palazzo Corsini, is one of the most splendid Roman palaces of the 18th century.

In 1883, only 13 years after the seizure of Rome, the palace was purchased for 2.4 million lira by the Italian government to house the offices and library of the Royal Academy of the Lincei and the Gallery of Ancient Art, formerly the Corsini. The Corsinis returned to Florence. In the same year, Prince Tommaso Corsini donated his family’s beautiful library to the Academy. He also donated a valuable and copious collection of prints to the Accademia, which, together with the collection later acquired by the Ministry of Education, forms the nucleus of the Istituto Nazionale della Grafica. At first, it was located on the second floor of Palazzo Corsini but was later moved to the Villa della Farnesina. Finally, Tommaso Corsini also donated to the Italian State a collection of paintings, which had been started in the 18th century by Cardinal Neri and for which some rooms had been arranged on the “piano nobile” where it is still located. This collection formed the first nucleus of the National Gallery of Ancient Art, which is now divided between Palazzo Barberini and Palazzo Corsini itself.

The façade on Via della Lungara is plain and somewhat monotonous, but upon entering, one finds oneself in a beautiful scenic atrium: the interplay of the pillars that form the backdrop of a scenery scene is noteworthy. The rear façade of the palace appears more animated than the front, and part of the old Palazzo Riario is still visible in the building to the right. The garden – enclosed by gates decorated with vases – was much larger in ancient times and the park occupied the entire Janiculum Hill (where the Botanical Garden is now) and beyond. From the atrium, we ascend to the first floor by means of a dramatic two-flight staircase, which is brightened by the three large windows facing the garden from which one enjoys a beautiful view of the Janiculum Hill. The large vestibule of the first floor is shared with the upper floor, thanks to the original balcony adorned with a beautiful wrought-iron railing. The ceiling is coffered.

The second floor consists of a series of magnificent rooms, formerly the private flat of the Corsini family. The Academy’s activities currently take place in these rooms; here the meetings of the Members of the two Classes take place, numerous international and national congresses are held, and committees meet. From the Entrance you can see the “Sala dei Divani” and the “Sala Impero”. Worthy of note are the restored and almost entirely redecorated “Sala delle Scienze Morali” and “Sala delle Scienze Fisiche”, which originally did not exist, having been carved out of the upper part of  “Sala Regia” on the first floor. From the windows of these two rooms there is a view of the Villa and the Farnesina garden. This is followed by “Sala dell’Alcova”, “Sala Verde” or “Sala degli Arazzi”, decorated on the walls with a series of canvases painted with the particular technique known as “grass juice” in imitation of tapestries, depicting episodes from Gerusalemme Liberata. It is also possible to admire other rooms – “Sala Rossa”, “Sala Gialla”, “Sala dell’Orologio”, “Sala della Segreteria”, “Sala della Cancelleria” and “Sala della Presidenza” – with a splendid terrace overlooking the Corsini garden, the Botanical Garden and the Janiculum Hill. Worthy of mention, among the other rooms, is the Dutuit Room, which contains furniture and other objects that constitute the legacy of Signora Teresa Celli, widow Dutuit. Along one wall of this room is a cast of a large inscription in Greek (Doric) from the late 6th – early 5th century B.C., containing the “Laws of Gortina” (Crete), discovered by an Italian archaeological mission under the direction of the Lincei Member Federico Halbherr in 1884-87: they deal with family law.

Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei and Corsini libraries

The Library is divided into three sections: the Corsiniana Section; the Academic Section – which preserves the original nucleus of the Cesiana Library – the Historical Archive and the volumes that have come to the Academy either by bequest, donation or purchase; and the Oriental Section – established in 1924 following the donation by Leone Caetani of his very rich library of oriental studies – added to the Michele Amari Fund, acquired in 1889. Among the main holdings of the Academic Section is the Verginelli-Rota collection (alchemical and hermetic manuscripts and printed books), which is in line with the interests already documented in the early Lyncean library. Also worth mentioning are the Caetani-Lovatelli art-historical fund, the book collections that once belonged to the Accademia d’Italia (1926-1944), the numerous volumes donated by Benito Mussolini, the fund of the Roman poet Pascarella, as well as the extensive correspondence of the major Italian scientists of the 19th and 20th centuries, such as Marconi, Volterra, Levi-Civita.

The library promotes a careful policy of conservation, enhancement and valorisation of its collections and, to this end, has launched an intensive campaign of digitisation and facsimile reproduction (from card catalogues, printed books and volumes to codices and archival correspondence), which has seen the collaboration, among others, of the Istituto dell’Enciclopedia Italiana.

The library, again with a view to enhancing the value of its heritage, organises exhibitions, some of which have been inaugurated by the President of the Republic, and organises guided tours (e.g. on the first Sunday of the month). The preservation of the collections is flanked by the policy of acquisitions, which sometimes turn to the antiques market (see the recent purchase of some drawings from the Cassiano dal Pozzo Paper Museum and some volumes that belonged to Federico Cesi). In the periodicals section, the Library carries on the ancient academic tradition of gifts and exchanges, restored by Quintino Sella, President of the Academy from 1874 to 1884.

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