“In the future everybody will be world-famous for 15 minutes”. I think about this sentence while I am on a train to Naples. Palazzo Zevallos Stigliano hosts some works by Andy Wharol, among others. I easily reach via Toledo, but there is already a long line of tourists waiting to see the exhibition entitled A thousand lights in New York. Fortunately, the line moves faster than I first thought.
As soon as I enter the building, I realize that the palace itself is a masterpiece! It was bought in 1639 by Juan de Zevallos, a rich Spanish merchant and Duke of Ostuni. Later, the Palace was given to Giovanni Vandeneynden, whose granddaughters, Giovanna and Elisabetta, married Don Giuliano Colonna and Don Carlo Carafa of Stigliano. In 19th century, the palace was divided into smallest parts due to internal disagreements within the Colonna Stigliano family, and it was rent to tenants. In 1898, the so called Banca Commerciale Italiana began to buy some portions of the palace and then reunited it in a single building in 1920. Palazzo Zevallos Stigliano, with two more buildings belonging to Intesa Sanpaolo Bank, is part of a project called “Italian Galleries” that collects 120 paintings and sculptures.
Once inside the palace, I am struck by the large central hall, which was made out of an ancient courtyard. I immediately notice a grand piano and many chairs for the audience, and I discover that Palazzo Zevallos Stigliano, in collaboration with the Music Schools of Campania, hosts young music talented people and allows them to perform a classical or modern repertoire.
The first and the second floors can be reached through marble stairs. The walls are decorated with tempera paintings by Gennaro Maldarelli and there is a Neoclassical sculpture on each floor. On the ground floor there is a statue called Eve carved by the sculptor Attilio Selva from a single block of white marble.
On the first floor there is a temporary exhibition called A Thousand lights in New York. I immediately notice Andy Wharol’s Vesuvius among all the works on display. The artist, who got in touch with the Neapolitan circles after meeting with gallery owner Lucio Amelio, reinvented the most famous symbol of Naples in a pop key. I have to admit that I prefer the “black” version over the “red” one, even if both paintings are too explosive for me! I prefer thinking about a dormant volcano.
In addition to Wharol, other contemporary painters are present on the first floor with their works. I would like to take a picture of Keith Haring’s Untitled and Schnabel’s Portrait of Gian Enzo Sperone, but photographs are not allowed. Haring’s work depicts a small angel whose wings are torn by two giant hands. As far as Schnabel’s work is concerned, his technique impresses me: oil and broken dishes on wood. From the first floor I manage to appreciate the architecture of the building, such as the colourful glass skylight or the big golden clock.
The second floor of the building houses the permanent exhibition. In the firts two rooms visitors can admire still life paintings and works by Francesco Solimena and Giovan Battista Ruoppolo, as well as a beautiful inlaid table with animal and flower motifs. The third and fourth rooms host more luminous works: masterpices by Gaspar Van Wittel, Vincenzo Gemito and the Posillipo School. This art movement was supposed to be minor, but it then developed brilliantly in Naples in the 19th century. In the third room I notice another inlaid table with animal motifs and a View of Naples by Van Wittel. The work I like the most is in the fourth room on the second floor and it is Via Toledo in Naples on rainy day by Carlo Brancaccio. The thing that mostly impresses me is rain falling on the most famous street in Naples; indeed the subtitle of the work is: Impression of rain.
Palazzo Zevallos Stigliano is worth visiting, not only for the beauty of its architecture and the value of the works on display, but also for the numerous training and art workshops it organizes for both students and teachers. People with reduced mobility can also take part in all the guided tours and the teachers who participate in training courses can apply for a valid certificate for teaching purposes. The workshops organized for students are interactive labs that include: dramatisations, terracotta reproductions, salt dough molding, construction of musical instruments, creation of tactile pages, etc. The Palace has also promoted an initiative called “Careers in Art” which allows students from the last three years of secondary schools to exhibit their works at the end of the school year.
After my visit to the Palace, I head towards Pintauro’s, a famous and historic bakery that is considered the house of the Neapolitan sfogliatella (puff or shortcrust pastry). Actually, the pastry was invented in the 17th century by a nun of the convent of Santa Rosa, on the Amalfi coast. In order not to throw away grits cooked with milk, the nun added dry fruit, sugar and lemon liqueur and used it to fill a monk’s hood-shaped pastry, to be baked in the oven. Between the 18th and 19th centuries – we do not know how – Pasquale Pintauro discovered the original recipe of sfogliatella. He changed the shape of the pastry, giving to it a seashell appearance. Today his shop, located in 275 via Toledo, is the most ancient and one of the most famous confictioneries that bakes the typical Neapolitan sfogliatella.
As soon as I reach the number 275 of via Toledo, I enter the confectionery and buy a sfogliatella. In addition to patries, the shop sells many bottles of lemon liqueur limoncello with original shapes: moon, violin, anphor etc . Pintauro’s has a long-standing rival: La Sfogliatella Mary, that shows its delicacies in a kiosk inside the Umberto I Gallery. I have to walk a few more metres along via Toledo – the shopping street – to reach the Umberto I gallery and notice people crowding in front of Mary’s shop window to buy a puff, shortcrust or Santarosa pastry. I buy another sfogliatella and I enjoy it while walking under the splendid dome of the gallery.
It is the specialties made by Mary and the coffee of the nearby bars that give the gallery a unique sweet scent! It was inaugurated on 19th november 1890. The facade on via Toledo has, on both sides, two couples of cupids with shields that depicts the emblems of the two seats of Naples: the slowed horse for Capuana on the right and a door to Portanova on the left.
The inside of the gallery consists of two streets that intersect orthogonally, covered by a glass iron structure. The roads are delimited by some buildings, four of which have their entrance by the central octagon. The iron and glass dome was designed by Paolo Boubéé and it perfectly harmonizes with the masonry structure: this is possible thanks to the relationship between the load-bearing masonry structures and the iron ones.
While admiring the dome, I think of how much that gallery, with its perfumes, makes me feel at home. I believe that it is similar but also different from another gallery in another town that I do not remember now. But I have finished my sfogliatella and I have to come back home. I will never tell you if Pintauro’s pastries are better than Mary’s ones: I can only tell you that I prefer the shortcrust sfogliatella, and the one I tasted was really . . . “full “!
Copyright photos of the article: vesuviolive.it (1 & 2); mutualart.com (3); Anna Visconti (2 & 7); imperatoreblog.it (8); napolilike.it (6)
Copyright additional photos in the gallery: Anna Visconti
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