PALAZZO MAZZETTI, HOME TO THE MUSEO CIVICO
For Asti’s social history, Palazzo Mazzettiis tangible proof of the success of a family of noble origins, who grew rich thanks to their own minting rights and shrewd property purchases. The prestige of this stately home is confirmed by the presence of guests like James Stuart (1717), King Charles Emmanuel III of Sardinia (1727), and Napoleon (1805).
In 1442, the children of Domenico Mazzetti of Chieri acquired, among other things, the imperial fief of Frinco, which remained an island of imperial jurisdiction within the Kingdom of Savoy until the modern age. The minting rights held by the Mazzettis from the last quarter of the 15th century were contested both by the Duke of Savoy and by the Republic of Venice because of counterfeited coins.
Historical Periods and Construction Stages.
1675 – 1710
The first stage began when the Marquis Giovan Battista Mazzetti purchased the houses set around the medieval nucleus overlooking Corso Alfieri. This included the site where the wing onto the courtyard and the west wing rooms, (Alcova, Sala dello Zodiaco, Galleria Mazzetti) were added from 1675 to 1710.
1751 – 1752
The second stage was initiated by Giulio Cesare Mazzetti, who commissioned architect Benedetto Alfieri to design and build an east wing, including the reconstruction of the façade, the foyer, the main staircase, the salon d’honneur, and the rooms to the east of the main entrance. The new interiors were decorated by master Ticino stucco workers who created the rocaille decoration.
Alfieri’s input for this second construction stage can be seen in the façade design and its minimal cornices, the flight of entrance portals, the elegant foyer with its Mannerist-style columns, and the large staircase on the windowed side. The main door and the balcony with wrought iron railings and Rococo motifs are set in an arc recessed into the wall, adorned with the Mazzetti coat of arms (three clubs) supported by two facing unicorns.
The façade set on Contrada Maestra and Via Giobert was modified to designs by the engineer Valessina.
1937 – 1940
The 20th-century site was opened after purchase of the building by the Cassa di Risparmio di Asti, during the Mostra d’Arte Astigiana art exhibition that opened in 1937. Asti artists (including Anacleto Laretto, Giuseppe Manzone and Ottavio Baussano) worked on renovations and refurbishments that can be seen as part of a project involving the reconstruction of the 18th-century interiors inspired by the model-site of Turin’s Palazzo Madama.
DEVELOPMENT OF THE MUSEO CIVICO
The municipal collections began to evolve in 1887, hosted in the Santissima Annunziata church, which no longer exists. For the first centenary of the death of Vittorio Alfieri (1903), the archaeological collection and various paintings were transferred to Palazzo Alfieri, which had become home to the Museo Alfieriano and municipal museum by initiative of Count Leonetto Ottolenghi (1914). The donations by Asti portraitist Pittatore and the patron Ottolenghi (the large painting by Lorenzo Delleani, Pilgrimage to Oropa), were followed by those made by Rear Admiral Guglielminetti (the Oriental collection, 1920), and micro sculptures by G. M. Bonzanigo (1931 – 1938).
In 1937, the collections were housed in Palazzo Mazzetti, purchased by the Cassa di Risparmio di Asti. The recovery of the Pinacoteca Civica municipal art gallery was entrusted to Vittorio Viale, who was the curator of Turin’s Museo Civico. The first stage of post-war reorganization ended in 1955 and despite closing in 1984 for security reasons, the attention to the municipal collections and to the building was kept alive in various ways by the museums department.
An art library was set up, as was an educational documentation centre for the museums, while exhibitions dedicated to the most important collections and organized in partnership with the Department were significant periods for research. In 2001 the Palazzo was sold to the Fondazione della Cassa di Risparmio di Asti who restored it for use only as a museum. The east wing was opened in 2009 and all of Palazzo Mazzetti opened to visitors on 15 December 2011.