Ducal Palace of Urbino and Galleria Nazionale delle Marche
The Ducal Palace of Urbino is a monumental Renaissance palace and museum in the city of Urbino, Central Italy.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1998, the building is the seat of Galleria Nazionale delle Marche art gallery, encompassing 80 exhibition rooms located on the first and second floors of the palace.
The Ducal Palace
From the 12th century to the 17th century, Urbino had been the capital city of a small independent duchy ruled by the House of Montefeltro and thereafter by the House of Della Rovere. Compressed between the Medici’s Tuscany and the Papal States, the Duchy of Urbino was nevertheless able to maintain its independence and, especially under the rule of Federico da Montefeltro, its court became one of the most culturally advanced in the Italian Peninsula, and the residence of renowned Renaissance artists such as Piero della Francesca, Paolo Uccello, Raphael, and Titian, among others.
The Ducal Palace of Urbino (Palazzo Ducale di Urbino in Italian) was built between 1444 and 1482, mainly during Federico da Montefeltro’s rule, and designed by three architects in turn: Maso di Bartolomeo from Florence, Francesco Laurana from Dalmatia, and Francesco di Giorgio Martini from Siena.
Ducal Palace of Urbino, plan
The palace is an imposing building that combines masterfully a fortress-like structure with the most exquisite Italian Renaissance architecture. While the facades towards the city, the main courtyard, and the interiors are eminently Renaissance-style; the west facade facing the countryside is more severe, though gracefully adorned by a loggia and two turrets called torricini (little towers in Italian).
The palace is extraordinary in size – especially when compared to that of the tiny historic center of Urbino of which it forms a large part – and well worth the definition of “a city shaped like a palace” Renaissance author Baldassare Castiglione gave it.
One of the most interesting interior features of the palace is the famous Federico da Montefeltro’s studiolo, a small inlaid-wood study room widely considered a masterpiece of Italian Renaissance woodwork. Attributed to Francesco di Giorgio Martini, a coeval replica of the studiolo can be seen at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
In 1919, the Ducal Palace was transformed into a public museum to accommodate the collection of the Galleria Nazionale delle Marche (National Gallery of the Marche).
Ducal Palace of Urbino, view from the west; photo: Cristina Carriere
The Galleria Nazionale delle Marche
Comprising paintings, sculptures, drawings, coins, and pieces of furniture dating from the 13th to the 18th century, the collection of the Galleria Nazionale delle Marche is a compendium of Italian Renaissance art.
In the Duke’s apartment – along with the wooden studiolo of Federico, and magnificent inlaid wood panels by Giuliano and Benedetto da Maiano, and Baccio Pontelli – also the enigmatic Flagellation of Christ and the Madonna di Senigallia by Piero della Francesca, as well as the portraits of Federico da Montefeltro and his son Guidobaldo by Pedro Berruguete, are on view.
The Sala degli Angeli (Angels’ Room) features the Ideal City, an iconic painted representation of the perfect Renaissance urban fabric, the Communion of the Apostles by Justus van Gent, and the Miracle of the Desecrated Host by Paolo Uccello; while in the Throne Hall, a series of 17th-century tapestries after Raphael is on display.
The galleries located on the Piano Nobile contain many 16th-century paintings, including masterpieces such as the Portrait of a Young Woman (also known as La Muta) by Raphael, the Resurrection and the Last Supper by Titian.
Together with exhibition rooms, the Ducal Palace of Urbino includes a restaurant-cafe, and a book and gift shop. Honestly, the exhibition setup and visitor facilities of the Marche National Gallery, dating back to the early-1980s, are now quite outdated and should be radically renovated to do justice to the museum’s outstanding collection.
The Ideal City, unknown author (varyingly attributed to Piero della Francesca, Francesco di Giorgio Martini, and Leon Battista Alberti), ca.1480-1490, oil on panel
Urbino, panoramic view of the Cathedral (center) and the Ducal Palace (right); photo: Stephen Lustig
The famous turreted facade of the Ducal Palace of Urbino; photo: Francesco-Gasparetti
Ducal Palace of Urbino, main courtyard; photo: David Nicholls
View of the “Sala degli Arazzi” (Hall of the Tapestries, also known as Throne Hall); photo: Renagrisa
Detail of one of the inlaid wood panels which decorate the “studiolo” of Federico da Montefeltro
Piero della Francesca, The Madonna of Senigallia, the 1480s, oil and tempera on panel
Cover image; view of the Ducal Palace of Urbino from the west; photo: Federico
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copyright Inexhibit 2021 - ISSN: 2283-5474