Palazzo Nuovo - History and Facts | History Hit

Palazzo Nuovo

Rome, Lazio, Italy

The Palazzo Nuovo is an archaeological museum of Ancient Greek and Roman art. Part of the Musei Capitolini.

Peta Stamper

24 May 2021
Image Credit: Public Domain

About Palazzo Nuovo

The Palazzo Nuovo is part of the Capitoline Museums, known in Italian as Musei Capitolini, which is a famous museum complex in Rome housing an incredible array of artwork and artefacts spanning much of Rome’s history.

Originally established when Pope Sixtus I donated a series of bronze statues to the city, the Capitoline Museum is separated into two main buildings – Palazzo Nuovo and Palazzo dei Conservatori. Palazzo Senatorio is also considered part of the site.

Palazzo Nuovo history

In 1471, Pope Sixtus I donated a group of bronze statues of symbolic value to the People of Rome. The statues, including one of the She-Wolf, the Spinarius, the Camilluis and the colossal head of Constantine I, had previously been held in the Lateran.

Grouping the statues on the Capitoline, the ancient seat of Roman religious life, was a chance to reinvigorate the city after a period of decline. The statues were arranged on the external facade of the Palazzo dei Conservatori.

In the mid 16th century, further important pieces collected were set out on the hill, including the gilded bronze sculpture of Hercules from the Boarius Forum and the 3 panels showing works of Marcus Aurelius. Pope Paul III also wished for the equestrian statue of Aurelius to stand in the Palazzo del Quirinale.

To finish the symmetry of the Piazza del Campidoglio, the Palazzo Nuovo was constructed in 1603 under the direction of Girolamo Rainaldi and his son Carlo. The new building was designed to mirror the facade of the Palazzo dei Conservatori, redesigned by Michelangelo, and opened in 1734 as the first public museum.

The sculpture collections expanded throughout the 19th century, especially as Rome unified Italy in 1870 as its capital and excavations for new homes unearthed ancient treasures.

Palazzo Nuovo today

Today, the Palazzo Nuovo continues to display the Capitoline Museum’s Ancient Greek and Roman art, mostly sculptures such as the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius (there is also a copy of this in the square outside). Some of the highlights include the Capitoline Venus, Medusa, Portrait of a Flavian Lady and the She-Wolf (from Sixtus I’s original donation).

Entry is included with that of the Palazzo dei Conservatori, and you must also walk via an underground tunnel lined with the busts of ancient philosophers to enter the Palazza Nuovo.

Getting to Palazzo Nuovo

Easily found on foot surrounded by the Capitoline’s collection of ancient ruins, buses 30, 51, 81, 83, 85, 87, 118, 160, 170 and more stop at the Ara Coeli, 2 minutes from the museum. From the metro stop Colosseo, the Palazzo Nuovo is a 10 minute walk.

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