The Casina Farnese belonged to the greater Orti Farnesiani estate of the Farnese family during the sixteenth century. Small in size but highly valued architecturally and historically, Casina Farnese is one of the few Renaissance buildings—and the only residential one—that remain atop the Palatine Hill in Rome. Due to substantial archaeological excavations in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries that altered the physical layout of the area, little is known about Casina Farnese before the changes beyond some engravings, prints, and photographs. Remarkable figurative paintings and murals on the loggias, vault decorations, and the landscaping along the walls of the structure are its most appealing aspects. Its two-storied loggias facing the Tiber were exclusively designed by artists from the workshop of Taddeo Zuccari (1529-1566) and provide exquisite views of the city. The prized artwork and architecture of the Casina Farnese were long in danger of deterioration due to lack of maintenance and disrepair.
A restoration campaign for the wall and ceiling paintings
In 2007, WMF began discussions with local authorities about the range of conservation challenges at the site, with particular concern for wall and ceiling paintings and damaged plaster surfaces of the two loggias. Water infiltration, clogged drains, wind, rain, and humidity caused the detachment of the murals and corrosion of other indoor decor. In conjunction with WMF, the Soprintendenza Archaeologica di Roma removed deposits of carbon and dirt from the surface of the paintings and conserved the deteriorating plaster and paintings. In 2008, cracks in the structure’s surface and the roof were repaired, and the drainage system was improved to prevent further leakage. During this time, scaffolding was installed to protect the loggias. A survey conducted showed that the overall instability of the building was caused by nearby archeological excavations, creating a large crack in the lower loggia leading to the breaking of the travertine cornice into many pieces. As a result, a simple support was installed.
A glass enclosure to protect the loggias
World Monuments Fund and the Soprintendenza collaborated once again between 2015 and 2017 in the construction glass window panels for the arches of the loggias. The minimally invasive glass panels, now in place, provide the necessary insulation and protection for the wall paintings, while allowing visitors to enjoy the expansive views of Rome toward the Vatican hill.
According to legend, the Palatine Hill was the location where Hercules defeated Cacus, a fire-breathing monster that had stolen a herd of cattle from Hercules while he was sleeping. The legend of Hercules and Cacus is painted on the vaults in each loggia of the Casina Farnese. The paintings enhance the story and represent the importance of Palatine Hill in Roman history. Without the paintings and the structure that houses them, the tale would lose its magic. The planned transformation of the space into a museum will educate the public about the significance of the site and the artistic style of the Renaissance. Conservation and access to the Casina Farnese unlock this once hidden and unknown treasure to the rest of the world.