Key to Umbria: Perugia

                             Entrance in Via Podiani                       Circular tower in Via Marconi

The Vibi family, who claimed descent from the Emperor Gaius Vibius Trebonianus Gallus (251-3 AD), built this palace.  It stands against a stretch of the city wall that was probably built in the 13th century, when the city began to expand towards what became Porta San Pietro.   There was a long-standing tradition that the palace stood on the site of the Roman amphitheatre, and excavations in 1980 unearthed remains (see below) that suggest that this was indeed the case.


The lovely tower at the rear of the palace was overshadowed in ca. 1542 by the fortified corridor that connected Rocca Paolina to its southern bastion, as shown in this detail (to the left) of a panel (19th century) by Giuseppe Rossi in the Galleria Nazionale.  The photograph on the right shows the tower and the remnants of the fortress above and to the left of it.

The Vibi family was united by marriage with that of the Arcipreti della Penna in the late 16th century, and the palace seems to have become known as Palazzo della Penna early in the 18th century.  Fabrizio della Penna remodelled it in the period 1812-20 following his marriage to Tederlinda Cesarei.   He formed a close friendship with the French artist Jean-Baptiste Wicar in the 1820s, and this inspired him to build up the family's already outstanding art collection.  Unfortunately, both the palace and its art collection had to be sold in 1874. 

The palace has been recently adapted as an art gallery.  Much of the exhibition space is below ground level, and a transparent dome in the entrance courtyard allows you to see the  spiral staircase made up of circular steps that leads down to it.  

Frescoes (1812)

Fabrizio della Penna commissioned frescoes of scenes from the the Myth of Paris from Antonio Castelletti for the rooms of the piano nobile.  They commemorate his marriage to Tederlinda Cesarei and include the spouses’ respective initials.

Ground Floor

Works by Gerardo Dottori

The museum hosts the collection of works by the Perugian artist Gerardo Dottori, many of which he gave to the Commune in 1957. 

Self Portrait (1928)


Bust of Gerardo Dottori (1968)

This bronze portrait bust is by Bruno Arzilli.

First Floor below Ground Level

The excavations here reveal what seem to be part of the Roman amphitheatre and a Roman road.

Martinelli Collection

The Perugian art historian Valentino Martinelli (1923-1999) donated his library and art collection to the city of Perugia on his death.  The rooms that formed the library of Palazzo della Penna have been adapted to house them.  One of these rooms has been modelled on Martinelli’s study in Rome.  The art collection reflects Martinelli’s expertise in the art of Baroque Rome and, in  his particular, in the work of Gianlorenzo Bernini.

Room I

This room is primarily dedicated to Gianlorenzo Bernini.

Model of a Lost Soul (ca. 1619)

This papier-mâché head is a copy of a marble figure (1619) that Bernini executed, together with a pendant female head representing the Blessed Soul, for Monsignor Pedro de Foix Montoya.  The two marble heads are in the Spanish Embassy in Palazzo di Spagna, Rome.  The head of the Lost Soul seems to have been a self-portrait.

The copy in Perugia has been painted to look like bronze.  It is possible that Bernini made into see how it would translate into this medium.

Christ Bound (1625-30)

This finished clay model, which was signed by Bernini (“L. Bern”) before firing, was probably made in preparation for a bronze figure.

Room II

This room is dedicated to Bernini's patrons, including a series of popes.

Medallions of Pope Clement X (17th century


The collection of papal medallions in this room includes two of Pope Clement X (1670-6)  that are based on a lost drawing by Bernini:

  1. one in terracotta; and

  2. one in gilded bronze.

Room III

This room is primarily devoted to Bernini’s work in Rome.

Equestrian Figure (ca. 1661)

This terracotta preparatory model was for an equestrian monument to King Louis XIV of France.   Cardinal Jules Mazarin commissioned this huge statue from Bernini in 1661 for the top of the Spanish Steps in Rome.  However, the plan excited vocal opposition and was never executed. 

Portrait of Johann Paul Schor (ca. 1660)

This portrait in oils of the Austrian artist Johann Paul Schor (known in Italian as Giovanni Paolo Tedesco) is one of the few paintings that are securely attributed to Bernini.  The two men worked together at St Peter’s, Rome in the 1650s and 1660s.

Crucifixes (17th century)


These two small gilded bonze models were designed by Bernini and made by Ercole Ferrata.

Crucifix (17th century)

This small bronze Crucifix is attributed to Francesco Mochi.

Room IV

This room is dedicated to the art of Rome in the 17th century.

St Martina’s Vision of the Madonna and Child (ca. 1644)

This terracotta preparatory model by Pietro da Cortona and Cosimo Fancelli depicts a vision of the 3rd century martyr, St Martina, in which the baby Jesus hands her the palm of martyrdom.  Pietro da Cortona was devoted to St Martina, whose relics were rediscovered in 1634 during his work on the refurbishment of the church of SS Luca e Martina, Rome.  This model was for a relief for the ciborium of the high altar of the church.   

St Mary Magdalene (17th century)

This painted papier-mâché figure is attributed to Alessandro Algardi.   It is a copy of the bronze figure (1634) that Algardi executed for the the reliquary of St Mary Magdalene in the Basilica di Saint Maximin, La Sainte Baume, Provence.

Portrait of Taddeo Barberini (17th century)

This portrait in oils is attributed to Andrea Sacchi.

Second Floor below Ground Level


This space is devoted to six diagrams on blackboards that the German artist Joseph Beuys (1921-86) executed during a colloquium with Alberto Burri that was held in 1980 in Rocca Paolina.  Beuys used these sketches to illustrate his approach to the theory of art.

Return to Monuments of Perugia.

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Return to Walk IV.


Palazzo della Penna (16th century)

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