Works of Art

A view of the ceiling above the staircase

Palazzo Antonini-Mangilli-del Torso is one of the most imposing and beautiful in Udine: the building goes back to 1577, as shown by the stone in the internal courtyard (commemorating also the name of the owner at that time).

It was finally completed, as far the facade is concerned, a little before 1680: Fabio della Forza wrote in that year: “Daniele [Antonini] built several houses in the Grazzano district, which have now grown to a double palace”.

In the facade, made pleasant to the eye by a play of light and dark, the harmony of the decorative parts and the balance of the structural parts, there are two entrance gates: a large one for coaches and a smaller one for pedestrians. There are pleasant windows with arched iron bars in the Venetian style on the ground floor, three mullioned windows with overhanging balconies on the first floor, and four windows with overhanging balconies that open onto the sides. The gable is connected to the lower level by means of baroque volutes. At the centre of the building, level with the third-floor windows, one can see the family’s coat of arms, partly hidden by the shadow of the widely overhanging eaves (in the traditional Friuli way).

The house has remained virtually unchanged in its facade since that time, as shown by a nineteenth century lithograph by G.B. Ceccini. It is made up of four parts surrounding a central courtyard. Inside it has been almost completely restructured, around the middle of the nineteenth century, by the architect Andrea Scala who divided some of the rooms in a way that was very common at the time: it tended to make large spaces, which had been created with different criteria, more suitable for family purposes.

More recently Count del Torso, when he bought the house in 1924, had it readapted to suit his own tastes; this is especially clear in the hall. The monumental staircase, which he wanted installed, is not an original but comes from the Palazzo de Portis in Cividale. It shows a tipically Friuli taste, both in its use of dark Piacenza stone and the massive structure of the pillars, which can also be seen in other buildings in Udine as, for example, in Palazzo Gorgo-Maniago.

The canvas painting with the “Allegory of the arts” that decorates the vault was commissioned by the Count to the painter H. Stubysen, who tried to give the composition an eighteenth century air, with hints of the tradition of great Venetian painting. The scene is contained in an ovate with a strong stucco frame. It is executed with propriety both in the composition, with daring foreshortenings, and the fresh luminous colouring.

The beautiful bench with a headrest, which can be found in the hall, is an original of the house. These benches are a not infrequent decoration in the noble houses in Udine, though many of them have been destroyed. The two paintings that decorate the hall are also original, although they are not exactly in a perfect state of preservation. One is a pleasant canvas with Apollo and Daphne, the other a noteworthy “Scene from a Boar Hunt”. This latter is extremely lively in narrative, with fiercely snarling dogs and a fiery steed in the foreground. Tiozzo has attributed these works to Andrea Urbani.

On the first floor, which has no great reception room but all the space befitting a noble family’s residence, various elegant ornaments distinguish some of the rooms. In the “Rectors’ Room” there is a painting, “Contemplation”, a pleasant work by the still little know painter from Ruscedo, Jacopo D’Andrea (1819–1906) and also a nineteenth century fresco above the fireplace (“Apollo playing”). The ”Yellow Room” is decorated with light stucco squares on the walls and ceiling. It has also four ovates with eighteenth century paintings of excellent workmanship. They are ”The Sacrifice of Isaac”, “Abraham and the Angel” and two landscape with figures. Although they are almost miniatures in size, it is still possible to appreciate their spatial openings, a finesse of touch, certain precious modulations of colours.

View of the Conference Room
Lecture room

The nearby room, with golden stuccoes and the portraits of the Counts del Torso, leads us into the “Conference Room”, where the ceiling is completely covered with frescoes. Domenico Urbani, in the booklet he dedicated to his great-grandfather Andrea more than a century ago, recalls that the latter painted “the ceiling of the hall in marquis Mangilli’s house in borgo Grazzano in Udine, and the two ceilings of the chapels in the Cathedral”. The latter can be dated from 1742 to 1749.

The Conference Room: frescoes by Andrea Urbani

However there are many other pictorial works: Domenico Urbani’s long and fertile activity, characterized by not infrequent changes of style, was continued by his son Marino who, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, carried out frescoes for the Palazzo Caiselli and Fisturalio Plateo.

The ceiling of the Palazzo Mangilli was formerly attributed to Giuseppe Morelli. However it was first dated by Tiozzo who estimated that it was done in about 1750, that is immediately after Domenico Urbani had decorated the Cathedral. A date between 1750 and 1760 is the more plausible since the scenographic effects seem to foreshadow the style Domenico adopted a few years later in St. Teonisto in Treviso. These effects, especially in the figurative part, recall themes that are common to the great Venetian painters of the eighteenth century. The architectural composition is noteworthy: it simulates a structure with an arcade of Corinthian columns, parastates, cornices, the whole animated by pleasant figures of cherubs bathed in light, holding garlands of deep blue flowers against a sky furrowed by clouds where the Mangilli family stands out. Two pleasant frescoes fanlights are also attributed to Urbani; they are in black and white, with lively little figures in elegant frames.

The ceiling in the “Mirrors Room”

Next to the “Conference Room” there is the “Mirrors Room”, formerly the ballroom designed by the architect Andrea Scala in 1851 and immediately after decorated with pleasant ornamentation by Giovanni Pontoni, one of the many excellent craftsmen of the nineteenth century. Domenico Fabris, from Osoppo, did the frescoes on the central circle of the ceiling. It is a conventional painting that does nothing to increase the reputation of the author, though it demonstrates his undoubted technical ability. At the end of the nineteenth century, the room was embellished by the two statues of Minisini (which are now in the courtyard).

The nearby dining room, with a beamed ceiling and wood-covered walls where the coats of arms of the noble families of Friuli are painted (starting from de Ottanicis in 1355, and ending with Deciani in to 1914), was done at the express wish of Count del Torso soon after he purchased the house in 1924.

Fresco by Andrea Chiarottini in the corridor

In some of the bedrooms two eighteenth century wardrobes excite admiration. One of them has four doors, is L-shaped and decorated with ribbons and garlands of flowers, all painted very professionally.

In the past, the frescoes in the narrow corridor that joins the two parts of the building have been attributed to Andrea Urbani, but now it is believed that they are due to Francesco Chiarottini. On the walls there are two alternating motifs: a vase on a pedestal between artificial niches and ovates containing delicious views of imaginary scenes and solemn classical architecture.

Fresco by Andrea Chiarottini

In the small internal courtyard, some precious sculptures are preserved. There are two finely modelled statues by Luigi Minisini representing, as is written on the scroll that they hold in their hands, the two Greek Philosophers Heraclitus (“everything from fire”) and Democritus (“everything from the atom”). There is a fine stone lavabo of the seventeenth century, some Romans statues all tondo, two beautiful bas-reliefs, again from the Roman age, including one by C. Clodio, a masterpiece of efficient portrayal.

CISM Internal Court

The public park outside is rendered particularly fine by its long-stemmed plants and its very size. In the park, there is a massive construction that would appear, at first sight, to date from the Renaissance, and an open, cube-shaped loggia whose vault is decorated with grotesque paintings that are good in ideas but poor in execution.