An Art Lover’s Home in the Palazzo Rosso attic

Photo: Gaia Cambiaggi

The smell of democracy was in the air in postwar Italy, a country that was starting over with its eye trained on culture. The museum was considered an institution as essential as the school and the hospital. The press took an interest in museum openings, following charismatic figures like Palma Bucarelli, Fernanda Wittgens and Caterina Marcenaro. The latter, as head of the Fine Arts Office in Genoa, worked with Franco Albini to reinvent the city museum network, making it inseparable from the heritage/landscape duo pronounced in Article 9 of the Italian Constitution.

Marcenaro, antifascist, friend of Berenson, Venturi, Longhi, Argan, Ragghianti and Zeri, worked side by side with Albini to transform the concept of museum into a dynamic institution, taking on new functions like education and inaugurating the golden age of Italian museology, which, thanks to her, became a teaching subject for the first time at the University of Genoa in 1963.

None of Marcenaro and Albini’s activism remains at Palazzo Bianco and very little at Palazzo Rosso. What remains entirely intact is the extraordinary underground chamber that constitutes the Museo del Tesoro di San Lorenzo, for which Albini was inspired by Mycenaean tholoi.

Albini designed Palazzo Rosso’s loft apartment for Caterina Marcenaro: “L’appartamento di un amatore d’Arte” (The house of an art lover), as it was described in the June 1955 issue of Domus magazine, a domestic take on the museum that marked the history of residential design in Italy. In 2004, the home, the collection and furnishings evoked rather than original, became part of the UNESCO World Heritage itinerary together with the other Strada Nuova museums.

Palazzo Rosso
Photo: Gaia Cambiaggi