The first block of the Casino dei Principi was a modest rural building part of the Abati Vineyard, present in the area for at least a century. Even before Caretti's intervention, the idea of giving this building an important role in the architectural composition of the new Villa is attributed to Giuseppe Valadier. Most likely, it was he who transformed the primitive Lodge plan, making it very similar to the current one, in the period between 1802, certified date of his work in Villa Torlonia, and 1818.
Prince Alessandro Torlonia used the Casino dei Principi for his lavish social events as a dependence of the main building which was connected to the Lodge by an underground gallery that still today connects the two buildings.
The external architecture of the Casino dei Principi is characterized by some original decorative elements, such as the two beautiful marble portals with ancient columns, placed in the two minor facades, the cast iron vases decorating the attic, and the remains of a monochrome frieze, depicting the Triumph of Alexander in Babylon, on the main facades.
The three rooms of the noble floor were entirely covered with tempera murals depicting views of ancient Greece, ancient Rome, all lost now, and of the Gulf of Naples, in the dining room executed by different painters coordinated by Caretti.
Among the original decorations of the Casino dei Principi, the elaborate floor mosaics certainly deserve to be mentioned.
The four winged Sphinxes, placed on stone bases, were located at the entrance of the Villa two by two. They were placed at the entrances of the Casino dei Principi at the beginning of the 20th century. The sculptures were created by Clemente Massimi and Girolamo Sartorio, who based on an early 19th century design by architect Giuseppe Valadier.
The two main entrances of the Casino dei Principi, which allow direct access to the noble floor, are embellished with a marble frame carved with a design depicting leaves and the marble family coat of arms with roses and comets, in the centre. The massive cornice is completed by some exquisite cast iron vases in two different alternating shapes, coming from the same Parisian laboratory J.T. Ducel.
In 1983 a group of intellectuals and artists, among others Miriam Mafai, Netta Vespignani, Maurizio Fagiolo dell'Arco, Antonello Trombadori and Alberto Ziveri, decided to found the "Archivio della Scuola Romana" association, with the aim of enhancing an important but until then neglected cultural period: the Roman artistic life between the two wars. Various pictorial and sculptural currents, such as the "Valori Plastici", the "Scuola di via Cavour", the 1930s Tonalismo, and the last excited phase, between realism and expressionism, during the war years, became established.
The Archive was immediately enriched thanks to the active participation of the protagonists of the time who were still alive, such as artists, gallery owners, writers who donated documentary materials and above all their direct testimony. A very important role was played by the heirs, who also contributed to the construction of a solid archive fund.
In its twenty-three years of life, the Archive has collected 10,000 catalogues, books and monographs, most of the magazines and specialized publications of the time, correspondence, diaries and autographs of the artists and writers close to them, mostly unpublished. The important photo library including originals of the time and images of the works deserves just as much interest. From the very beginning, the materials were made available to be consulted by Italian and foreign scholars and by the numerous students preparing their degree thesis.
All the material in the Archive was donated to Roma Capitale in 2006 and was placed in the Casino dei Principi in Villa Torlonia, closely related to the Museum of the Roman School in the Casino Nobile of the same Villa.
Musei di Villa Torlonia - Casino Nobile
Casina delle Civette (The House of Owls)
Casino dei Principi opens only in the presence of exhibitions: see opening hours of the Musei di Villa Torlonia
From Tuesday to Sunday 9.00-19.00
24 and 31 December 9.00-14.00
Last admission 1 hour before closing time
Monday, 1 May, 25 December
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Entrance for the disabled
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