Royal Palace of Caserta
The Royal Palace of Caserta (Italian: Reggia di Caserta) is a monumental 18th-century complex and a museum in the Italian city of Caserta, about 20 miles north of Naples. It is the world’s largest royal palace by volume and, since 1997, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The architecture of the Royal Palace
The design of the Royal Palace, the largest in the world by volume, was commissioned by Charles of Bourbon, King of Naples, to Italian-Dutch architect Luigi Vanvitelli in 1751, with the aim of creating an imposing Baroque-style residence capable to rival that of Versailles near Paris, and even surpass it in size.
Along with the palace, the king commissioned also a large park with fountains, artificial falls, waterworks, and pools fed by a specially built 23-mile-long aqueduct known as Acquedotto Carolino.
Completed in 1845, the Royal Palace encompasses a floor area of over 500,000 square feet, with about 1,200 rooms, a Royal Chapel, and a 450-seat theater.
The interior spaces of the building were richly decorated with fresco paintings, stucco reliefs, gold-coated wood frames, tapestry, and sculptures by both Italian and international artists, including Domenico Mondo, Mariano Rossi, Valerio Villareale, and Jakob Philipp Hackert.
Royal Palace of Caserta, south facade; photo: Emmanuel Granatello
As anticipated, the premises of the Royal Palace of Caserta also include a large park, over 2 miles long and encompassing an area of 300 acres.
The park comprises two main gardens, an Italian-style garden – with an artificial lake, grottoes, and a castle-like building -, and an English garden, designed by landscape architect John Graeffer in the late 18th century, with rare botanical species, ponds, creeks, and an ensemble of “Romantic ruins”.
The permanent exhibitions
Along with being a magnificent architectural complex open to the public, the Royal Palace of Caserta is also a museum of fine and decorative arts. The palace accommodates indeed three different permanent exhibitions.
Opened in 2011, the Quadreria (Painting Gallery) features works, mostly from local artists, dating from the 16th century to the 19th century and is divided into seven thematic sections: oriental subjects, historical subjects, still life, battles, saints, portraits, and landscapes.
The Collection of Decorative arts presents 18th and 19th-century porcelains, tableware, tapestry, painted wood panels, and furniture.
Terrae Motus (Earthquake) is a remarkable exhibition of contemporary art, created after a donation by art collector and dealer Lucio Amelio (1931 -1994), which comprises about 70 works by Italian and international artists, such as Miquel Barcelò, Tony Cragg, Gilbert e George, Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Julian Schnabel, Enzo Cucchi, Mario Merz, Mimmo Palladino, Michelangelo Pistoletto, and Emilio Vedova, among others.
Special programs and services
The program of special events of the Royal Palace comprises talks, seminars, film screenings, and educational programs for children.
The museum complex includes a restaurant, a cafeteria, and a bookshop.
Services in the park include shuttle buses, horse-drawn carriage tours, and bike rentals.
A curiosity: the Royal Palace of Caserta was used as a filming location for various movies, such as Mission Impossible III, Angels and Demons, and Star Wars’ Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones.
Gennaro Maldarelli, The Royal Palace of Caserta groundbreaking ceremony; fresco painting, 1844, Throne room, Royal Palace of Caserta
Luigi Vanvitelli (1700-1773), aerial views, general plan, and ground floor plan of the Royal Palace of Caserta, 1756. ETH-Bibliothek Zürich, RAR 933 GF, http://dx.doi.org/10.3931/e-rara-7437 / Public Domain Mark
View of the “Acquedotto Carolino” which feeds the Royal Palace’s pools, and fountains, wood engraving, ca. 1840
Royal Palace of Caserta, interior views; photos: Mia Battaglia (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).
The park of the Royal Palace of Caserta; photo: Nicola
Views of the park and some of its waterworks and pools; photos: Mia Battaglia
Mario Merz, “Terrae Motus in quel tempo….”, 1985; photo: Selenia Morgillo
Keith Haring, untitled, 1983; photo: Paula Soler-Moya
Still from Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace
Cover image by Mia Battaglia
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