Pontificio Istituto Biblico
The Pontifical Biblical Institute is the present occupant of the former Palazzo Muti-Papazurri on Piazza della Pilotta.
This palace was part of the complex provided in 1719 by Pope Clement XI to King James III and VIII as his Roman residence. It was attached to the more famous Palazzo Balestra in the neighbouring Piazza dei Santi Apostoli. But while Palazzo Balestra has over the years become more associated with the Stuarts, it was the palace fronting on Piazza della Pilotta which was the centre of their court in Rome.
King James III and VIII lived in this palace complex for over forty years. Here Queen Clementina gave birth to her sons: King Charles III December 31, 1720, and King Henry IX and I March 21, 1725. Queen Clementina died here January 18, 1735, and King James III and VIII January 1, 1766.
In 1766 Charles returned to Rome and used the palace as his major residence. After his marriage to Princess Louise of Stolberg he and his wife lived here until they moved to Florence in 1774. Charles returned to the palace in December 1785 and lived here with his daughter, Charlotte, Duchess of Albany. He died here January 30/31, 1788. At Charles' death, the tenancy of the palace passed to his brother Henry; the Apostolic Camera continued to pay the rent of £435. 1
At the time of the Stuarts the palace was U-shaped with two wings projecting on either side of a central courtyard which was open on the facade side. 2 Early in the twentieth century the central courtyard was enclosed transforming the appearance of the facade to its present state.
The interior of the palace still retains some of its seventeenth and eighteenth century decoration giving the visitor a flavour for how the Stuarts lived. The beams of several rooms of the present-day library on the piano nobile (second floor, first floor above ground) are still painted as they were in the time of King James III and VIII.
At the north-east corner of the library there is a door leading to a room called the Galleria. 3 The ceiling and walls of this room are beautifully decorated with frescoes attributed to Giovanni Francesco Grimaldi and Nicolò Berrettoni. 4 The room is long and thin with windows on both sides (those on the south side now open to the enclosed central courtyard rather than to the outside). Between each of the windows is painted a landscape with architecture; the scenes appear to be the artist's creation and not representative of any specific locations. The ceiling is painted with scenes from classical mythology.
The Galleria: ceiling fresco of Flora by Berrettoni
1 Francis John Angus Skeet, The Life and Letters of H.R.H. Charlotte Stuart, Duchess of Albany, Only Child of Charles III, King of Great Britain, Scotland, France and Ireland (London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1932), 127.
2 The former U-shaped design of the palace can be seen in a ten-foot wide painting commissioned in 1747 to celebrate the Duke of York being made a cardinal. The painting was formerly owned by the dukes of Hamilton and hung at Lennoxlove. In 2001 it was purchased for £412,500 from the Trustees of the Estate of the Duke of Hamilton by the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. Some art historians have ascribed the painting to Giuseppe Valeriani, one of Rome's leading painters of theatrical scenery.
3 The room is always locked but can be visited with the permission of the Rector.
4 Danuta Batorska, "Grimaldi and the Galleria Muti-Papazzurri", Antologia di Belle Arti 2 (7/8; December 1978): 204-215.
Image 1 (Facade on Piazza della Pilotta, 1747): Painting by an unknown artist of James III and his Court in Front of the Palazzo Muti During the Celebrations of the Appointment of Prince Henry as a Cardinal, July 1747, Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh.
Image 2 (Facade on Piazza della Pilotta): © Noel S. McFerran 2002.
Image 3 (The Galleria: wall fresco by Grimaldi): © Noel S. McFerran 2002.
Image 4 (The Galleria: wall fresco by Grimaldi): © Noel S. McFerran 2002.
Image 5 (The Galleria: ceiling fresco of Flora by Berrettoni): © Noel S. McFerran 2002.