The legacy of the Pignatelli family in Naples
Princely dwelling, space of sophistication and nerve centre of the political and financial destinies of Italy and Europe, Villa Pignatelli is a valuable heritage, a treasure trove of essential stories and testimonies to delve into the history of prosperity and culture that characterizes Naples, Capital of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.
History of the villa
The villa, a harmonious and elegant model of Neapolitan neoclassical architecture, was designed by architect Pietro Valente in 1826 at the behest of the baronet Sir Ferdinand Richard Acton, son of John Francis Edward Acton, VI Baronet, minister of King Ferdinand I.
Following several disputes with his client, Valente was replaced in 1830 by another architect, Guglielmo Bechi, who managed the interior decoration and construction of the garden.
In 1841, four years after Acton's death, the villa was purchased by the German banker Carl Mayer von Rothschild, who continued embellishing it, entrusting it first to the Parisian architect Claret, and then, dissatisfied with the work, to Gaetano Genovese.
Following the Unification of Italy, when the Rothschild's financial activity was compromised by the removal of the Bourbons of Naples, the mansion was sold in 1867 to Prince Diego Aragona Pignatelli Cortés, Duke of Monteleone.
Over the years, the villa became a refined cultural meeting point for intellectuals and high Neapolitan and European aristocracy, until Princess Rosina Pignatelli bequeathed it to the Italian State with a public will in 1952.
The donation was completed in 1955, with the intention of transforming the villa into a house-museum dedicated to the memory of Prince Diego Aragona Pignatelli Cortés, who died in 1930. The villa was opened to the public in 1960, under the name Museo Principe Diego Aragona Cortés. Little by little, it was enriched with many other important donations, mostly of carriages and related materials that gave life to the Villa Pignatelli Carriage Museum.
A sumptuous house-museum inextricably linked to the taste and prestige of the aristocratic families who lived there, Villa Pignatelli collects furnishings, small nineteenth-century furniture, silverware, gilded bronze furnishings, porcelain, enamel, crystal, an important library, and about four thousand records of classical music and opera.
All these finds are still on display and arranged in their original location in their respective rooms. The staircase leads to the upper floor, where the art collection of the Banco di Napoli is on display, with treasures ranging from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century.
The lower level, totally renovated, hosts conferences and exhibitions.
Finally, the Carriage Museum is in a pavilion at the end of the Garden, which displays a large collection of vintage cars.