Palazzo Abatellis

Place: Palermo, via Alloro, 4

Authors: Mario Guiotto, Armando Dillon (I restoration); Carlo Scarpa (II restoration and museographic exhibition); Maria Santa Giunta (III restoration); Guido Meli (extension)

Chronology: 1950 | 1953 (I restoration); 1953 | 1954 (II restoration); 2007 | 2009 (III restoration and extension)

ItineraryTreasure hunt

Use: Museum

Palazzo Abatellis is a building of the late fifteenth century designed by Matteo Carnilivari for Francesco Abatellis, an author of ancient portolans who donated the building, at his death, to a monastic order of seclusion. The “Monastero del Portulano” (so the building was nicknamed) underwent many modifications of the interiors over time and was, finally, heavily damaged in the bombings of April 1943: the bombs hit the porch overlooking the courtyard and destroyed the roof of the central hall. After the war, at the beginning of the fifties, the Sovrintendenza entrusted a first restoration to the architect Mario Guiotto, who rebuilt the parts collapsed during the war. When Scarpa intervened, therefore, the building had already been rebuilt by him. Therefore, the great architect continued the restoration to adapt it for exhibition purposes. Lastly, in 2009, the Palazzo was the subject of a final restoration project, which led to the construction of two new rooms.

The palace is settled around a quadrangular courtyard that is defined on the east side by a portico on the ground floor and a loggia on the first floor; both were rebuilt in the post-war period. Scarpa tinted the courtyard fronts with different shades of the same color to enhance the interaction with the stone and the light.

In the southern corner of the courtyard, a staircase leads to an intermediate level from which the Scarpa-designed staircase starts. It is characterized by steps with hexagonal section in Carini stone resting on a double metal beam. It leads to the first level, where the gallery is located.

Scarpa arranged the rooms to give each painting the necessary space to be seen, isolating one from the others. He arranged colored fabric, stucco or wooden backgrounds, superimposed on the walls of the building, which change their tone as the light changes in the room.

Painted wooden panels are the background of pictorial and sculptural works. Apparently free, they are actually positioned according to calibrated spatial relations that place them in precise sequences.

A room is dedicated to the work of Antonello da Messina; Scarpa enlarged the room’s reduced dimensions by using wooden partition walls and placing “L’Annunziata” free standing.

Text Gianpaola Spirito
Photos by Alessandro Lanzetta