An Este Pleasure Villa in Sassuolo

Salone d'Onore, Palazzo Ducale, Sassuolo

Best known as one of the capitals of the ceramics industry or – why not? – for the Serie A football team, Sassuolo, in the province of Modena, is also home to some of the most emblematic works of Baroque art in Emilia. I still remember the time that I brought a few foreign clients to see the Palazzo Ducale, an Este pleasure villa with theatrical fresco decoration filled with perspectival tricks and fictive architecture teeming with figures, musicians and animals. A triumph of Baroque illusionism orchestrated by the painter Jean Boulanger, who indeed reached his apex as an artist right here, in the Galleria di Bacco. The level of technical refinement is breathtaking. The massive walls seem to disappear beneath that spirited decoration, becoming pure pictorial poetry.

Palazzo Ducale in Sassuolo
Galleria di Bacco, Palazzo Ducale, Sassuolo

The Palazzo Ducale is a rare gem that fascinates and astonishes everyone who sees it. Already in the 17th century, Queen Cristina of Sweden and the painter Diego Velázquez were bewitched by it. To avoid the latter asking the duke for a few valuable paintings from his Modena collection as a gift for the king of Spain, his patron, Velázquez was diverted to Sassuolo, where there was nothing that could be removed, since all of the decoration was fresco. One might say that the plan backfired: Velázquez was so enchanted by the decoration of the Salon d’Onore by the Bolognese painters Colonna and Mitelli that the artist, unable to “detach” a piece of the wall for his king, took the two painters to Spain.

Palazzo Ducale in Sassuolo
Palazzo Ducale, Piazzale della Rosa, Sassuolo

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