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Pelagio Palagi

A 'Mania for Antique Things'

Theseus and Pirithous abduct Helen, by Palagi

Born in Bologna, Pelagio Palagi (1775-1860) started his art and collecting career under Carlo Filippo Aldrovandi, and by attending the city's Accademia Clementina. His first commission was designing uniforms and medals for the Napoleonic government in Bologna, thanks to Aldrovandi, who served as a Senator. He also sculpted a number of the large funerary monuments of the city's great and good at the Certosa.

His life changed in 1806 when he moved to Rome to study at the Accademia San Luca and became besotted with archaeology, studying and collecting Egyptian, Etruscan, Greek and Roman artefacts, which soon found their way into his painting and furniture and ornament designs. He became known for his precise portraits and carefully researched but unabashedly campy historical canvases, often on ancient themes.

Palagi later moved to Milan, and then when his work had caught the eye of the Savoy kings, to Turin, where he worked on the design of palace interiors until his death in that city.

He left everything in his will to the city of Bologna, the basis for the collections in the Museo Civico Archeologico, Museo Civico Medievale, and the Collezioni Comunali d’Arte.

Text © Dana Facaros and Michael Pauls

Images by: PD Art