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Cavenago di Brianza (Monza e Brianza, Italy): Palace Rasini

Foto Palace Rasini
Foto Palace Rasini
Foto Palace Rasini
Foto Palace Rasini
Foto Palace Rasini
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Places  of historical value  of artistic value around Milan (Italy): Palace RasiniIn reality we should speak of Villa Rasini. It fact is in a large villa of late Renaissance origin located in the center of the town, on whose main square it overlooks with its smaller body, at the center of which is the door, inside a large frame of stone blocks. Just in front of the entrance of the villa, now owned by the Municipality, is located on the other side of the square the parish church, also seventeenth-century.

The current building shows elements that can be traced back to two different periods. The construction of the original version of the building was carried out at the end of the sixteenth century, on behalf of Prince Rasini of San Maurizio, based on a project by Martino Bassi, one of the greatest Lombard architects of the late sixteenth century, and according to an overall scheme similar to that the current complex: an entrance body between two quadrangular turrets, an internal courtyard of simple rectangular shape and a two-storey manor block on the bottom of this.
The villa went to incorporate a manor house previously existing in that position.
Due to this primitive design are:
  • The appearance of the courtyard of honor, with two opposing arcades with seven arches connected laterally by smaller bodies with windows within sober baroque frames.

  • The monumental two-ramp staircase

  • The internal division of the main body, with only two rooms (covered by a pavilion vault) on each side of the large central hall.
Numerous decorations were added to the villa between the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. The works seem to have been directed by Carlo Antonio Procaccini. The decorations, still present in the secondary rooms on the ground floor (Fig. 3), show mythological scenes, landscapes and still lifes typical of Flemish painting and in particular of painters present in that period in Italy: Pieter Bruegel the Elder and Paul Bril.
The frescoes of the gallery on the upper floor date back to a slightly later period (Fig. 5). They depict scenes of music and rural life.
In the eighteenth century, while the building was still owned by the Rasini family, important renovations were carried out.
  • At the beginning of the century the central hall, which initially occupied two floors in height, was lowered to occupy a single floor and a sequence of homogeneous rooms was created on the upper floor.

  • Around 1750 the central hall was richly decorated with rococo-style stuccos and frescoes. Note the stuccos above the doors that are made to give almost real statues welded to the wall. The fresco inside the large oval frame in the center of the ceiling, in which the chariot of the sun is depicted, was painted by Mattia Bortoloni, collaborator of Tiepolo. By virtue of this fresco, the hall is also called "Apollo's Hall".
Due to hereditary problems, at the end of the eighteenth century the villa passed to the Marcacci family, and subsequently to the Ponzoni family.
At the beginning of the twentieth century the villa enjoyed a last period of splendor, with Maria Ponzoni opening its spaces to cultural and social initiatives.
In 1925, after further changes of ownership, the villa was purchased by the Municipality of Cavenago. But only in the 90s did the municipality decide to set up its offices in it and to radically restore the spaces, so as to recover an important part of the frescoes and decorations.

Palazzo Rasini is currently the seat of the Municipality of Cavenago di Brianza. The gallery on the upper floor houses the miniature museum of peasant and craft life in Brianza. The Hall of Apollo is rentable for weddings, conferences and other events appropriate to the hall.

Below is a brief description of the main rooms of the villa:

Ground floor

  • Hall of Apollo: It is located exactly in the center of the main block and has an area of approx. 130sqm. It was built in its present forms around 1740-1750 by Prince Marcantonio Rasini modifying the layout of a previous seventeenth-century hall. In particular, the previous hall spanned two floors, while the current one spans over only one floor.
    Its name depends on the fresco depicting the Triumph of Apollo painted in the large oval in the center of the ceiling. In it, at the dawn of a new day, the young god is represented in the act of crossing the sky on the chariot of the Sun, chasing darkness and bringing light into the world. The work is attributed to the Venetian painter Mattia Bortoloni and is inspired by the fresco with the same subject painted in 1740 by Gianbattista Tiepolo in the Gallery of Clerici Palace in Milan.
    Delimited by a golden frame, the fresco is surrounded by a dynamic system of architectural members and embellished by a rich apparatus of rococo-style stucco decorations, attributable to Elia Vincenzo Buzzi.
    The stuccos are placed above the doors, in the lunettes and on the vault of the hall. In them are represented the Myth of Prometheus (stuccos in the center of the longer walls), scenes from the Myth of Apollo (Apollo and Daphne, Apollo kills Python, Apollo and Marsyas, Apollo enchants the animals), four Roman gods (Saturn, Minerva, Neptune , Juno) which allude to the four elements (Fire, Earth, Water, Air) and trophies of flowers, fruits, objects and masks, which symbolize the Four Seasons.

  • Hall of Jupiter: It is located in the southeast corner of the ground floor and takes its name from the fresco in the center of the ceiling, depicting Jupiter astride an eagle, against the background of a radiant sun. The decoration of the room can be dated around 1615 and refers to the group painters connected to the painter Carlo Antonio Procaccini from Bologna. The decoration is characterized by the typical late Mannerist taste and includes a complex combination of mirrors, trompe l'oeil, grotesques, medallions, coats of arms, telamons and divinities on the back of sea monsters.

  • Hall of the Fountains: Located in the north-east corner of the building, the Hall of the Fountains now serves as the entrance to the Municipal Library. The room owes its name to the representation, on the corners of the vault, of four grandiose fountains, composed of triads of polymorphic telamons holding shell-shaped tubs, on which sit three cherubs riding monstrous dolphins.
    On the spaces between the fountains are represented the entrances of four caves overlooking rugged and wild landscapes dotted with cities and fortresses. In the foreground, alongside ancient vases, pairs of exotic animals stand out inspired by examples of the Flemish painter Jan Brueghel. At the center of the vault, finally, a rectangular panel profiled by a thick frame decorated with geometric motifs, in which Perseus appears holding the head of Medusa in his hand on the back of a pawing Pegasus against the background of a stormy sky.

  • Hall of the Zodiac: (Fig. 3) The simplicity of its decorative apparatus, here too restricted to the vault only, leads to dating the frescoes at the end of the sixteenth century.
    The name derives from the twelve zodiac signs on the ceiling. The decoration in fact aims to simulate a marble pavilion interrupted by five trompe l'oeil sights toward a fake outside: one rectangular in the center and four trapeze-shaped on the slopes, but with the lower corners curved to give space, in the corners, to four lunettes housing shell motifs. A frame in speckled marbles, on which rests a balustrade, frames the central opening, within which appears a rectangle of sky with an image of the sun in the center, surrounded by six stars with the zodiac signs of the spring and summer months (aries, bull, twins, cancer, lion, virgin). The autumn and winter ones are instead represented in groups of three in the two hunting scenes painted on the longer slopes: in the west the winter ones (capricorn, aquarium, fish), in the east the autumn ones (libra, scorpion, sagittarius).

  • Hall of the Stars: It is located in the southwest corner of the building. Its name is due to the fact that a starry sky is depicted on the ceiling. It was probably decorated around 1595-1600 together with the Hall of the Zodia. Covered by a plaster in the sixties of the twentieth century, the starry sky was brought to light during the restoration of the nineties, which restored the gold of the stars but also completely eliminated the rare remains of the precious blue background in which they were inserted. The stars are distributed to describe a real star map. It is likely that the stars were arranged to represent a particular night on a specific day of the year, probably to celebrate an important family event.
    Unfortunately some stars have fallen and it is therefore not easy to identify constellations and night represented, also there are no indications whatsoever.

  • Dining Room: (Fig. 2) Large elongated room already belonging to the house that was incorporated into the villa at the time of its construction. Looks on the back of the villa.
    Used for a long time as a dining room, the room owes its present appearance to the works carried out in 1780-82 by Simone Cantoni (1739-1818), who regularized its plan, covered it with a false vault and designed its pictorial decoration. The latter includes in the center of the vault a large octagonal fresco in which the allegories of the four seasons subjected to the judgment of time are depicted, the latter represented as a young man with wings. The central fresco is located inside a large frame composed of rectangular panels in which various types of instruments and decorations are represented.
    In the upper part of the walls there is a series of square monochromes with groups of putti painted in a so realistic way to appear in relief.

First floor
    The rooms on the first floor share a dark brown painted wooden ceiling decorated with golden rosettes.
  • Gallery: (Fig. 4) Overlooking the courtyard of the building, the Gallery was built around 1660 by Count Marcantonio Rasini Junior (1628-1693) by unifying the space of three rooms arranged one in a row to the other. The frescoes are the work of Giovanni Stefano Montalto (1612-1690), one of the greatest Lombard Baroque painters. The only exceptions are some frescoes from one of the previously existing rooms, integrated in the newer ones.
    Unfortunately only the upper part of the frescoes has been preserved. It shows couples or groups of characters looking out onto balconies, caught in the act of playing musical instruments or observing the audience below. That the frescoed area was originally much wider is suggested by the fact that in one point of the east wall the remaining frescoes stretch downwards until they reach a window.
    Note, in the center of the south wall, the representation of the purple "state cloak", supported by two putti who also hold a large golden comital crown and are flanked by two trumpeters. The coat of arms of the Rasini was originally to be painted under the cloak.

  • Hall of Telamons: It is located in the southwest corner of the first floor of the building. The room owes its name to the presence of four zoomorphic telamons painted at the corners. The pictorial decoration is limited to the upper part of the walls and includes, according to the typical taste of the time, views of mysterious and romantic landscapes populated by ruins and a few people in the distance. Each landscape is seen from within trompe l'oeil architectural structures of classical inspiration, enriched by festoons of leaves and fluttering ribbons. Of evident baroque taste, the whole can be referred to the last quarter of the seventeenth century.

  • Hall of the Exedras: The structure is similar to that of the previous hall, with also in this case, in the upper part of the wall, sights on landscapes through trompe l'oeil architectural structures. The hall takes the
    name from the architectural structures with the shape of exedras inserted, on each side, inside the quadratures. The panoramas are divided by trompe l'oeil pilasters, which at the corners open like a book.

  • Hall of the Birds: Also this room has a structure similar to that of the previous two. The hall was decorated in the second half of the seventeenth century. The name derives from the presence, in the frescoes, of parrots and other birds of various species. Also in this case there are, in the upper part of each wall, trompe l'oeil architectural structures through which you look outside. In this case, however, no landscapes are represented, but cherubs sitting in the company of parrots and other birds on the trompe l'oeil balustrade that runs along the entire perimeter of the room. The corners are marked by classicist aedicules, which house a shell-shaped niche in the center containing a monochrome female face. The artistic quality of the decorations is lower than that found in the other halls.

Categories: Places of historical value of artistic value

Piazza Libertà, 18, 20873 Cavenago di Brianza MB
Further pictures of Palace Rasini in the section Photography
Cavenago di Brianza (Monza e Brianza, Italy): Vault of the Jupiter Hall in Palace Rasini
Cavenago di Brianza (Monza e Brianza, Italy): Vault of the Zodiac Hall in Palace Rasini
Cavenago di Brianza (Monza e Brianza, Italy): Detail of the frescoes in the Zodiac Hall in Palace Rasini
Cavenago di Brianza (Monza e Brianza, Italy): Triumph of Apollo on the ceiling of the main hall of Palace Rasini
Cavenago di Brianza (Monza e Brianza, Italy): Ceiling of the hall of the talamons in Palace Rasini
Cavenago di Brianza (Monza e Brianza, Italy): Façade of the main block of Rasini Palace
Cavenago di Brianza (Monza e Brianza, Italy): Frescoes on one side of the ceiling of the Zodiac Hall in Palace Rasini
Cavenago di Brianza (Monza e Brianza, Italy): Ceiling of the Hall of the Fountains in Palace Rasini
Cavenago di Brianza (Monza e Brianza, Italy): Detail of the frescoed vault of the Jupiter Hall in Palace Rasini
Cavenago di Brianza (Monza e Brianza, Italy): Portico in the court of Palace Rasini