Diego Aragona Pignatelli Cortes Museum

Villa Pignatelli (or also villa Acton Pignatelli) is a monunental villa in Naples located along the Riviera di Chiaia. The structure, with an adjoining park, represents one of the most significant examples of neoclassical architecture in town. Inside there are the Prince Diego Aragona Pignatelli Cortés Museum and the Carriage Museum of Villa Pignatelli. Wanted in 1826 by the baronet Sir Ferdinand Richard Acton, son of John Francis Edward Acton, the VI Baronet and  prime minister of Ferdinand I, the villa was built by Pietro Valente who was succeeded in 1830 by Guglielmo Bechi. To carry out the work it was necessary to demolish a pre-existing house belonging to the Carafa family. Valente’s works were not simple, having to adapt from time to time to the precise requests of the English owner. It is no coincidence that the disputes between the two parties regarding the execution works weren’t few, therefore there were about twenty-two projects presented by the Neapolitan architect in order to find an agreement with Ferdinand Richard Acton. Because of these diatribes, the internal decoration works and those of the external garden were entrusted to another person, the Tuscan Guglielmo Bechi. A few years after Acton’s death, in 1841, the villa was bought by the family of German bankers, Carl Mayer von Rothschild, who lived there until 1860. The Frankfurt aristocrat commissioned the following embellishment works first to a Parisian architect and then, dissatisfied with his work, to Gaetano Genovese. The construction of the three-storey building known as the Rothschild building at the northern end of the park dates back to this phase. In 1867 the German family saw their fate linked to that of the Bourbons of Naples, who were expelled from town as a result of national unity. Therefore the villa was sold to Prince Diego Aragona Pignatelli Cortés, Duke of Monteleone. The Pignatellis were very refined aristocrats in tastes and ways, so much so that they transformed the place into a cultural meeting point between intellectuals and the Neapolitan and European high aristocracy.  With a public will of 10 September 1952, Princess Rosina, born Fici of the Dukes of Amalfi, ordered the legacy of the villa to the Italian State, through the Ministry of Education, which at the time also guaranteed the protection of cultural heritage. The Pignatellis were therefore the last owners of the villa and lived there from 1897 until 1955, year on which the donation of the structure to the Italian State was completed in order to be transformed into an apartment-museum intended to perpetuate the name of her husband and Diego Aragona Pignatelli’s nephew, as well as his namesake, Prince Diego Aragona Pìgnatelli Cortés, who already died in 1930. Together with the villa, the Pignatelli family also donated what they managed to collect over the years: silver, bronzes, porcelain, enamels, crystals, an important library and about four thousand microgrooves of classical and lyric music. All these finds are now on display in the rooms that make up the villa. In 1960 the villa was opened to the public with the name of Principe Diego Aragona Cortés Museum. That same year, although inaugurated in 1975 and open to the public only in 2014, other important donations took place, mostly of carriages and related materials, among which that of the Marquis Mario d’Alessandro di Civitanova, through which the Museum of carriages of villa Pignatelli was born.

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