Dream night at the Villa Medici

By Jérôme Gautheret

Posted today at 12:05 am

This scene is never more fascinating than when the curtain is drawn. Outside opening hours, you cannot enter the Villa Medici with your head held high. You have to slip through a heavy and tiny door, barely over five feet high and not very wide, to pass the threshold.

So the effect is only more spectacular: we bow, we take a step forward and, in the blink of an eye, silence is silenced. In front of us, a monumental staircase lit by “maids”, these theater lamps which remain perpetually on, even when the room is plunged into darkness. After two flights of stairs, we continue the ascent by engaging in a spiral staircase, leading to the lounges and the loggia, which opens onto Italian gardens and a park of seven hectares, perfectly ordered.

View from the towers of the Villa.
The square of the Niobides in the garden of the Villa Medici, casts of ancient statues restored in the 20th century by the sculptor Michel Bourbon at the request of Balthus, then director of the Villa.

Further on, away from places open to visitors, we will find the workshops in which the sixteen boarders housed by the Académie de France in Rome, young artists from all disciplines, who have won, after a ruthless selection, the privilege of living for a year in this unique setting.

Softness and harmony

On the city side, the Villa Medici displays the somewhat intimidating exterior of a Renaissance palace overlooking the historic center of Rome, on the Pincio hill. But once you reach the gardens, the impression is quite different. Seen from the loggia, in fact, the Villa is all softness and harmony.

It has a tails side and a tails side, and this duality is found at all levels. Like Schrödinger’s cat, both dead and alive in a famous intellectual experiment in quantum physics, it is a place both open and closed, anchored in heritage and dedicated to creation, conducive to work and ideal for contemplation.

View of the Turkish Room, designed by Horace Vernet in 1830 (director of the Academy from 1829 to 1834). Balthus chose this piece as the frame for one of his most famous paintings, “The Turkish Room”.

Guided group tours of part of the Villa and the gardens are organized throughout the day, and the daily life of the Villa is punctuated by specific events open to the public. Until February 2022, in the gardens, an exhibition by the English photographer Martin Parr and the magazine is presented ToiletPaper, co-founded by contemporary Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan.

Historic apartment of Cardinal Ferdinand de Medici (1549-1609), with its Renaissance decor and ceilings painted by Jacopo Zucchi, at the end of the 16th century.
Detail of the Room of the Elements, one of the three rooms in the apartment of the Cardinal de Medici.

But, there again, the balance is fragile: that the institution opens too much, and the artists could not create any more under the best conditions. Thus, the Villa Medici would cut itself off from its primary vocation. Let it close in on its secrets, and that would only increase the caricature of a place cut off from the world and populated by the privileged.

You have 70.09% of this article left to read. The rest is for subscribers only.

We want to say thanks to the writer of this article for this awesome material

Dream night at the Villa Medici

The Inside News Hyderabad