Friday 27 March 2009

Villa d´Elboeuf on fire

There were reports yesterday of a fire in the Villa d'Elboeuf at Portici. There aren't many details, but it seems to have been small - rubbish set alight - and no-one was harmed. But this is actually the SECOND time there has been a fire at the villa in the past year. The previous was in June 2008 and was a much larger affair.

The photo above is from Flickr, and shows the villa from the train station at Portici.

A brief history of the villa: it is located on a promotory overlooking the sea near Portici. It was built in 1711 in Neapolitan Late Baroque style by Ferdinando Sanfelice for Emanuele Maurizio di Lorena, the Austrian prince of d'Elboeuf.
L'imponente edificio, di forma rettangolare, è costituito da quattro piani coronati da un tetto leggermente spiovente. Manifestazione del genio sanfeliciano è la magnifica scalinata ellittica formata da due rampe laterali che dal piano terra giungono al piano nobile, creando una terrazza chiusa da una prodigiosa balaustra in affaccio sul mare.Il piano nobile è scandito da coppie di paraste contigue decorate con fastosi capitelli cui segue una trabeazione a sbalzo con doppia modanatura e cornice che sorregge il balcone del secondo piano che corre scenograficamente lungo tutta la facciata del palazzo. Al piano nobile delle piccole lesene scanalate e decorate con mensole ed ovuli incorniciano le preziose finestre sormontate da timpani lineari poggianti sugli architravi modanati, tramite delle mensole; sopra il timpano campeggiano delle valve decorate con volute. I portali d'ingresso sono decorati, invece, con dei timpani composti da un arco ribassato poggiato su due curve spezzate e terminanti con delle volute; lungo le porte corrono delle particolari lesene che hanno, sopra l'abaco, un dado scanalato sul quale poggia l'architrave.Il secondo piano ed il terzo piano sono decorati con un altro tipo di timpani lineari poggianti su di una trabeazione recante un fregio; mentre l'ultimo piano si connota per la presenza di timpani tradizionali. (Source)
If I find photos or pictures of the interior of the villa I will post them.
D'Elboeuf had purchased the land from peasants because he had heard about the ancient marbles they had been finding there. He hoped to find more to decorate his villa and its beautiful gardens (supplied by a complex aqueduct that came straight from the river Clanio), and his excavations, of course, took place in the Theatre of Herculaneum. How many statues and pieces of marble d'Elboeuf took from the Theatre will never be known. Some were smuggled back to Austria, others were given to his commanding officer at Naples. He was forced to leave many behind when he returned to Austria in 1716. The Villa was sold at that time to the Duke of Cannalonga, Giacinto Falletti, and was eventually purchased by the new Bourbon king, Charles in 1738 because it was close to the fishing reserve of the royal palace of Portici (Charles apparently loved to fish!). Charles' son, Ferdinand, built royal baths here and connected the villa by a new road to the Portici palace.
The villa was cut off from its park by the construction of the railway line (I'm not sure of the date, but probably early 1800s - does anyone know?). It was then purchased by the 'Bruno' family and split into rental apartments. It is currently in ruins - and was in ruins before the two recent fires. There have been different plans to restore it in recent years. One wanted to turn it into a hotel, another in luxury apartments. Nothing has come of the plans (it can't help that the villa overlooks the train station). I feel really quite sad about this ...


Massimo Betello said...

The railway Napoli-Portici was actually the first railway built in Italy. It was built between 1836-1839 and, if I remember correctly, it was created to connect Naples to the Royal Palace of Portici.

Jo Berry said...

Thank you, Massimo! Do you happen to know also when the railway was extended to Pompeii? I think it ran to the Porta Marina gate by the 1840s, but I don't know the exact date it was built. It was extended round the north side of the scavi after the 1870s (I would have to check the date, but I remember that there are complaints that railway workers were turning up antiquities and selling them!).

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