The so-called “Apartment of King Joachim Murat” contains furnishings from the former Royal Palace of Portici which, after the unification of Italy, was dismembered and sold in 1871 by the King of Italy Vittorio Emanuele II of Savoy.
The Royal Palace of Portici
The Royal Palace of Portici, the summer residence of the royal family, was built between 1738 and 1742 at the behest of King Charles of Bourbon and Queen Amalia of Saxony. The King chose the Vesuvian coast after being invited by Emanuele Maurizio di Lorena, prince of Elboeuf, to spend a day in his palace in Portici. The Sovereigns, enthusiastic about the beauty of the place, decided to build a summer residence there. The works began in 1738 with the architect Giovanni Antonio Medrano and, subsequently, with Antonio Canevari. The architects Ferdinando Fuga and Luigi Vanvitelli also participated in the work.
The creation of the new royal palace, not very large in size, stimulated the construction of numerous other historic residences in the vicinity (the Vesuvian Villas of the Golden Mile), born with the aim of hosting the royal court.
Around 1750 the building began to house finds from the recent excavations of Herculaneum and Pompeii, which had begun a few years ago. During the Neapolitan revolution of 1799, the Reggia was abandoned and plundered.
The famous Capodimonte Porcelain Living Room of Queen Maria Amalia of Saxony is made entirely of porcelain! It is now located in the Capodimonte Museum in Naples.
The Murat era
After 1806, with the conquest of the Kingdom by the French, Joseph Bonaparte ordered the transfer of the remaining antiquities. It was in 1808 Joachim and Carolina Murat who refurnished the Royal Palace making it their favorite residence.
Portici, like the other royal residences, underwent renovations aimed at giving the spaces a more intimate and comfortable dimension. In many rooms the vaults were reduced, the spaces resized, the decoration renewed by removing the eighteenth-century celebratory and allegorical one through the architects Etienne-Chérubin Lecomte and Antonio De Simone, who also designed the furnishings.
Lady Morgan, in Naples in 1820, recalls how this residence had been modernized with great taste by Queen Carolina Murat who had decorations and furnishings made inspired by the ancient finds discovered in Herculaneum and Pompeii, eliminating everything that seemed antiquated.
The boardrooms, recently renovated, presented themselves in all their magnificence. On the white painted consoles with gilded carvings were arranged sites, alternating with the porcelain vases, the candlesticks and clocks brought from Paris and the new chandeliers shed a brilliant light on the tapestries woven especially for these rooms.
The court style of the Murats, unlike that of the other Italian states, although depending on the Parisian Empire models, was configured as an intelligent fusion between antiquarian passions and the search for modern comfort that did not exclude giving in to imperial luxury. Theatrical drapes alternating with intensely colored wallpaper or decorations imitating those discovered in Herculaneum and Pompeii were in fact the backdrop for the archaeological finds and the mahogany furniture decorated with elaborate gilded metal applications or the semi-precious stone furnishings that the Real Laboratorio continued to produce under the direction of Filippo Rega.
Carolina Murat's great aesthetic taste also made her the first in the world to have a wristwatch, probably invented by herself!
The return of the Bourbons
With the return of the Bourbons, the Reggia was modified by deleting all the symbols that clearly recalled the Murat domination, but the renovations of the rooms were, however, much appreciated.
The 1817 inventory still captures the sumptuous tone of Murat’s furnishings, rich in lively tapestries and modern and antique furnishings, all much appreciated by the Bourbons who kept it that way for several years by including other “archaeological” style furnishings.
In 1822 the transfer of the ancient artefacts to the current Archaeological Museum of Naples began, causing the Royal Palace of Portici to lose the characteristics of having been both a museum and a place to live.
The unification of Italy and the end
After the unification of Italy, the dispersion of the rich artistic heritage immediately began, which made this palace famous throughout Europe and the object of admiration of travellers. The fate it would have had was already understood when, in 1866, the very famous Porcelain Drawing Room of Maria Amalia of Saxony was removed and transferred to the Capodimonte Museum. Only ten years later, in 1871, in fact, it was completely emptied and sold by the King of Italy Vittorio Emanuele II of Savoy to the Province of Naples, who made it the Higher School of Agriculture.
The collections were divided between the palaces of Caserta, Capodimonte and the Royal Palace of Naples. The French collection of paintings, as well as furniture and objects, was assigned to the Royal Palace of Caserta.
After the sale, the dismemberment of buildings and gardens began, with the transformation of Palazzo Mascabruno into barracks, and the progressive and complete destruction of the Royal Park. The former Royal Park is now divided as follows:
the Faculty of Agriculture is responsible for the Reggia, the Bosco Superiore and a large part of the Bosco Inferiore;
at the Zooprophylactic Institute part of the Bosco Superiore;
to the Municipality the area of the public park and the Villa Comunale;
there is an area for school pupils
area of Villa d'Elboeuf, privately owned.
The furnishings from Portici in the Royal Palace of Caserta
The Apartment of King Joachim Murat
The Antechamber of King Joachim Murat's Apartment
The vault of the Antechamber of the Apartment of King Joachim Murat is decorated with a fresco by Franz Hill - “Minerva inviting Telemachus to leave Ithaca”, 1814-1815, while the walls are covered in striped San Leucio silk and plinth in marbles.
There are three paintings:
- Salvatore Fergola - "Knightly tournament in front of the Royal Palace of Caserta", 1847;
- Salvatore Fergola - "Tournament for the inauguration of the Naples-Caserta railway line", 1849;
- Heinrich Schmidt - "Joachim Murat visiting the Albergo dei Poveri", 1800-1821
The fireplace is in Carrara marble with columns and equipped with a large mirror in Murano glass with a gilded wooden frame. Above the fireplace is a gilded bronze temple clock. The consoles and the flower box are also of considerable artistic value.
There is a large mahogany sideboard with above it two bronzes with marble bases by Francesco Righetti depicting hunting dogs. Sevres vases and crystal chandeliers complete the furnishings of the Hall.
Salvatore Fergola – “Knightly tournament in front of the Royal Palace of Caserta”, 1847
The living room
The vault of the living room of King Joachim Murat's apartment is decorated with a fresco by Giuseppe Cammarano - "Hector rebuking his brother Paris for the kidnapping of Helen", year 1818, while the walls are covered in red damask in San Leucio silk .
There are three large portraits of:
- Costanzo Angelini - "Giuseppe Bonaparte", 1808;
- Guillaume Desiré Joseph Descamps - "Minister Saliceti", 1809
- Martin Elias Ridinger – “Madame Letizia Bonaparte”, 1810.
And also the painting by Gaetano Gigante "Banquet for the poor offered by Gioacchino Murat" from 1811
The white-gold console of this room, most likely designed by the court architect Antonio Niccolini, demonstrates the considerable weight that the latter had in the evolution of the taste of the Court, taking it from the late Empire and Biedermeier styles towards the Neo-Baroque , above all after the arrival of the cabinetmaker Pietro Cheloni, already author of the renovation of Pitti Palace.
The bronzes with the equestrian statues of Napoleon and Murat are by Francesco Righetti.
Gaetano Gigante – “Banquet for the poor offered by Gioacchino Murat”, 1811
The vault of the Bedroom of the Apartment of King Joachim Murat is decorated with a fresco in the Empire style on a yellow background with monochrome decorations on a gray and pink background. The walls are covered in striped San Leucio silk.
- Jean Baptiste Wicar - "Portrait of Julie Clary with her daughters Zenaide and Carlotta", 1809;
- Jean Baptiste Wicar - "Portrait of General Massena", 1808;
- Unknown - "Joachim Murat aboard the frigate Ceres", 1810-1815.
The Parisian architect and decorator in the service of Joachim Murat, Etienne-Chérubin Lecomte, was commissioned by the king to refurbish the rooms of his apartment using furnishings partly to be taken from the Royal Palace of Naples and partly to be built specifically for this purpose, such as those now in Caserta.
The elegance of a Carrara marble toilet (now in the Bathroom of the Bedroom of King Francis II), the splendor of the English and Turkish tapestries and carpets arranged on the floor had contributed to making this environment memorable to the English traveler . In the original bedroom in Portici there were also two exceptional bronze tripods with huge golden cups, and also a spectacular trophy of weapons with pistols, rifles and sabers won in the field or donated to him.
All these furniture, of Neapolitan manufacture, take up the shape of the ornaments from the French models, but reworking them in a masterly way.
Unknown – “Joachim Murat aboard the frigate Cerere”