The house of the owls
In Rome there really exists an enchanted castle.
The house of the owls was the refuge of the last of Torlonia, Giovanni, a well-known solitaire, hidden behind a hill in the park of Villa Torlonia, far from the main villa and hidden behind a hill in the park. Giovanni Torlonia wanted to furnish and decorate it according to medieval themes and Art Noveau in a disquieting and magical mix of styles, colors and grotesque elements. Its owner decided to retire to this secluded area and transformed what until then was the Swiss Hut in the house of his dreams, in a visionary mix between medieval themes and Art Nouveau style. He added loggias and towers with majolica decorations, colored windows and porticoes. First known as the “Medieval Village”, it became famous for its stained glass windows depicting birds, flowers, plants but especially owls and owls, hence the current name. It is called that because recurring are owls and owls, which are esoteric symbols. The villa is entirely in Liberty style and is often home to contemporary art exhibitions. It is also the unique Stained Glass Museum, and it was the home of Mussolini. Not for nothing, the part used is still a luxury unbridled. It is located in Via Alessandro Torlonia 4C, and is open from 09.00 to 19.00.
The building was designed in 1840 by Giuseppe Jappelli on behalf of Alessandro Torlonia. It presented itself as a rustic building with a rusticated tufa exterior cladding and the interior painted in tempera imitating rocks and wooden planks. In 1908, until then called Capanna Svizzera, it was transformed into a “Medieval Village” commissioned by Giovanni Torlonia junior, Alessandro’s nephew, who entrusted the work to Enrico Gennari. During this period windows, loggias, porticoes, turrets with majolica decorations and colored windows were added.
The first mention as “House of the Owls” dates back to 1916 due to the inclusion of 2 windows with depictions of stylized owls inserted in ivy drawings by Duilio Cambellotti and then, in the obsessive insertion of owl-shaped decorations here and there in the House.
Of the 1917 are the insertions, including the tiles in glazed terracotta roofs, in the southern area of the house by Vincenzo Fasolo in Art Nouveau style. Giovanni Torlonia Junior lived there until 1938, the year of his death.
During the Second World War the House was occupied by Anglo-American troops and was semi-destroyed; followed a long dark period until after the purchase of Villa Torlonia by the municipality of Rome occurred in 1978: in 1991, in fact, the cottage was affected by a disastrous fire sharpened by thefts and vandalism.
From 1992 to 1997 the House was the object of restoration that brought it to its current appearance.
In the three years from 1915 to 17 Fasolo used the eternit to make the roofs, material replaced by slate after the fire of 1991. The tiles are made of terracotta glazed by bright colors alternating with acanthus junction tiles.
The windows are partly made to the design of important artists of the early twentieth century: Duilio Cambellotti, Umberto Bottazzi, Paolo Paschetto, Vittorio Grassi. Among the windows of interest there are: Civette; Migrators; The fairy; Swan; Peacocks; Roses, ribbons and butterflies; Wings and flames; The idol.
The beaten irons
The lighting was guaranteed by lamps placed both inside and outside. They were decorated with the initials of Giovanni Torlonia GT, while in the rooms they had chandeliers with zoomorphic and vegetal decorations. Among the chandeliers that have come down to us are those placed in: in the Hall, on the scale of dependence, in the fender of the clover room.
Among the majolica of the House there are majolicas supplied by: Richard Ginori, Cantagalli, Villeroy & Boch. Valuable are the majolica tiles that cover the roofs of the bow-window and the loggias, the flooring of the hall, the floor with the nest of owls above the entrance. Many pottery have been lost.
Formerly 3 rooms were decorated with boiseries: the dining room, the fumoir, the room of the owls, while currently, after the recent restoration, they are only visible in the dining room. The wooden panels are about one meter high and are arranged on all four walls and embellished with leaves and laurel berries decoration, brass inlays, geometric designs or ears of wheat and wood inserts in the shape of ribbon and shoots.
Among the stucco decorations of relief in the House of the Owls are: in the Room of the swallows where, in the corners at the top of the walls there are nests of swallows with the various stages of the life of the swallows: courtship and falling in love; brooding and birth and nourishment; in the sitting room of the satyrs: ivy branches on the walls, snails on the cornices, eight satiretti in the octopus of the lantern; in the nail room: bunches of grapes and vine shoots and grape vines.
The entrance to the Museum enters the twentieth-century wing of the House, added at the behest of Giovanni Torlonia in 1909 when he wanted to transform the Swiss Capanna into a dwelling, a date reported in some majolica with the signature of the prince.
The original part of the Swiss Hut is the wall with rustic rusticated ashlar that can be seen entering the entrance porch. This new wing consists of vegetable decorations, mostly leaves, flowers and festoons of fruit almost to want to introduce inward, these decorations are made by Giuseppe Capranesi. A wooden staircase leads to the upper floor. A side column is in marble. The ceiling is equally wooden with decorated beams.
In this room there are two projects by Vincenzo Fasolo for the expansion of the House, while on the wall, where there was a tapestry depicting a hunting scene, now there is a large cardboard by Duilio Cambellotti realized to make the window “I guerrieri” also called “Heroic Vision” now placed at the National Gallery of Modern Art. The floor is entirely in majolica by Richard Ginori in 1909, while the doors are with opalescent glass carvings.
The warriors or heroic vision
Made on a photographic paper this cardboard is in an ogival frame. They are depicted of armed warriors, while in the center a naked child placed at the arms of a warrior, this child has not yet been identified the identity of which the painting refers to legendary medieval symbologies and sagas of northern Europe including the nibelungian myth that the Cambellotti knew through Wagnerian reminiscences. In the lunette you can admire the falling leaves.
This room was used as a study by Prince Torlonia. The window, which seems to give the room its name, is in the shape of a nail. This stained glass window is made by a drawing by Duilio Cambellotti between 1914 and 1915. Small pictures of the room seem to form drawings of vine leaves, shoots and bunches of grapes made with colored glass and touch-up with the brush. In the same room there is a preparatory sketch of two different ideas for decorating one with ivy and the other with grapes of which this last hypothesis shows the actual realization. A cardboard, placed next to it shows the complex realization of the window. Completing the room are other watercolor cartoons by Duilio Cambellotti, including one for the Ministry of Agriculture. Some sketches have been lost including the series “Dawn, day and night” and the window “Cherries”. Between the exposed windows there is the “gazze” window.
The name of the window takes from the shape of the same window divided into 120 squares. Some colors have been retouched in focus. The stained-glass window was created in 1915 by Mastro Picchio, as shown by the Picchiarini archive, where it is referred to as Vetratone from the bunches of grapes, based on a design by Duilio Cambellotti. The design is divided into two parts by a pillar.
Nail with esedra and grapes
The cardboard dates back to 1914 and is made by Duilio Cambellotti with pencils, tempera, china and watercolor. The design is the project for the right side of the aforementioned glazing. In the same room there is a sketch with two projects, with vine shoots, the idea used for the realization of the same work and one with ivy shoots. The layout of the cardboard, of the sketch and of the glass window wants to follow the various phases of realization of the works in the Museum. The vine shoots, together with the owls, are one of the recurrent themes as decoration of the various rooms of the Museum itself, in fact it is found in the stuccowork of the ceiling rose, on the room tax and on the fabric on the walls.
Dawn, day and night
The cardboard was painted between 1915 and 1916 by Duilio Cambellotti with the technique of tempera. These sketches were the preparatory phase for the cycle of three windows with the same theme, now irretrievably lost, to be realized for the central part of the House of the Owls. The birds, of various types, are represented in flight symbolically representing the progress of the day from dawn to dusk, to the arrival of the night. The passage from light to dark is represented by the different colors of the birds: the dawn (white for the doves on a light and transparent background), the day (a hawk), the twilight (of nocturnal birds of prey).
The three-window glass placed inside was built by Cesare Picchiarini in 1918 on a design by Duilio Cambellotti. The two side panels host the reproductions of owls within the plant motifs, the central window consists only of plant motifs, the original element remains intact. The owls, in part, are made with fire-based paints to recreate the effect of plumage. Formerly, the room was covered in Empire style boiseries. Curtains hung from the ceiling, tattered as they still exist. In the same room are the sketch for “Le lucciole” and the cardboard “L’albero”, windows that are never realized.
The windows are made of glass and various gems, with fire scratches, joined by unleaded lead made by Duilio Cambellotti in 1914.
This is a sketch in pencil and ink on paper made in about 1920 by Duilio Cambellotti for the realization of the glazed window presented at the Second Show of the Stained Glass Window organized by Cesare Picchiarini in 1921 in Rome. Fireflies are represented in human form wandering like luminous Georgian ghosts that animate the landscape with their movements.
The boiseries of this room are recently restored, which have lost the ceramic plates witnessed by some vintage photos. The boiseries feature carvings with leaves and laurel berries, of which the light wood designs form a nastrifome design delimited by brass paintings. Groups of three ears separate the various panels. The plates have been replaced by wooden panels. Windows and windows are from the Picchiarini Laboratory. The windows consist of plant motifs different from those of the other windows of the house designed by Cambellotti. The sketches of the walls are by Umberto Bottazzi.
This is an entry from the back. It is a small room with a grit floor and a stucco ceiling with plant motifs. On the walls there are some sketches for the realization of the windows of the Waldensian church of Piazza Cavour in Rome realized by Paolo Paschetto on loan for use.
Room of the Clovers
The room takes its name from the predominant decorative motifs of the hall. Some drawings of clovers are created with the stucco on the ceiling and in the place where there was a sofa that some sources mention that it was lined with purple velvet. The floor traces the same subject with tiles in blue-green and yellow-ocher grit. At the windows there is the recurring theme of the medieval style Torlonia coat of arms. Here, in this room, there are other sketches for the stained glass windows of the Waldensian church of Piazza Cavour in Rome made by Paolo Paschetto. The windows are in medieval style made with bottoms. The fireplace, in marble, is in neo-Renaissance style. The fireplace is a nineteenth-century copy of a Renaissance-style fireplace with grotesque-style embellishments likely to come from another palace and later placed in its current location.
Wings and flames
The stained-glass window was built in about 1927 with opalescent glass joined to lead and iron. The window was located in a stairwell. Three wings are drawn one above the other alternating with reddish flames and gray and blue feathers.
Tile floor with drawings of clovers
It is made in the octagonal body of construction of Giuseppe Jappelli. The pavilion vault was painted by Giovanni Capranesi with the painting representing “24-hour parlor” indicating the passage of time. In it are depicted girls, in groups of three placed in eight squares bordered by shoots of roses. This wanted to symbolize the eternity of the name of the Torlonia despite the passage of time.
The windows are characterized by simple glass, while in the floor there is the mosaic representing Mars and Venus originally located in the Casino dei Principi, transported on site in 1910 by Giovanni Torlonia as the Casino dei Principi had become the administrative headquarters. The central ceiling rose is in stucco with decorations in stucco that recall the Phoenix, symbol of the resurrection. On the walls, originally there was wallpaper. Originally, the room had been designed as a rustic kitchen, after which, due to the transformations desired by the Prince, it was transformed into a living room.
The room is open on the park through a bow window and in ancient times it was furnished with wicker furniture and boiseries, of which only a few pieces remain. The boiseries were carved with decorations in roses and garlands similar to the stucco decorations in the same room. The bow-window is an addition of 1910, consists of a window with drawings representing floral and ribbon-shaped garlands by Cesare Picchiarini, whose construction technique is doubtful.
The windows are in polychrome glass. There are some biblical stained glass windows designed by Paolo Paschetto in 1927 and made by Cesare Picchiarini for his house in via Pimentel where they remained until some time ago. Other sketches in the room are by Paolo Paschetto, representatives of projects for stained glass windows in the Methodist and Waldensian churches of Rome. Other designs represent floral subjects or simple decorations are studies for the windows of the balcony of roses on the top floor of the same museum.
Sketches for the windows for the Methodist Church of Via Firenze in Rome
They are made between 1919 and 1920 in ink and watercolor ink by Paolo Paschetto.
Woman with blue cloak, Woman with red cloak and seagull
These are three drawings of 1911 in ink and watercolor on paper glued on cardboard by Paolo Paschetto. In the drawing of the seagull, moreover, is represented a boat that seems to be the ark of Noah.
This is the first room on the first floor. In ancient times it was decorated with majolica representing water lilies made by Villeroy & Bosch. Before the House was turned into a museum the decorations of water lilies were stolen, however they were recomposed in the only visible panel today. Two peach-pine sideboards with glazed glass made by Duilio Cambellotti adorn the room.
The two beliefs in peach-pine
These two beliefs were made in 1912 by Duilio Cambellotti with opaque enamels on fire placed on glass with a roller and opalescent glass held together by a lead frame. Some glasses represent nude figures.
Little remains of the original furniture but from the descriptions you can imagine obsessively full of furniture. The wallpaper was decorated with owls and the knobs of the bed were inlaid owls, other owl decorations were in the chandeliers, in the jug and in the window “Civette nella notte” by Duilio Cambellotti. On the ceiling there are decorations depicting the flight of bats. Along the bow-window there were wooden drawers with a central desk to form a study. In the central area of the room there is a panel with some portrayals of fruits realized on a project by Umberto Bottazzi. There are also four cartoons by the aforementioned artist depicting “The migrants”, two glass windows with doors made by Giuseppe Bottazzi for Casa Zingonenel 1914, the glass window “L’idolo” by Vittorio Grassi, and “I cigni” in blue, purple it’s red.
The window was made by Vittorio Grassi in 1918 with glasses and cabochons joined by lead. The figure of the idol is in Egyptian style of which the breasts are exalted with round figures. The glass contrasts the various shades of the window, from brown, blue and purple of the idol and from the green and emerald green of the rest of the figure that recalls the sea. In the lower right corner there is the author’s signature and the date of realization. The figure consists of Egyptian style headgear, the subject is placed within a cascade of gems.
Balcony of roses
The balcony is adorned with stained glass with decorations representing roses, butterflies and ribbons designed by Paolo Paschetto and made by Picchiarini in 1920 when Vincenzo Fasolo designed an extension of the House. The balcony overlooks a small terrace with loggia with columns with capitals with volutes recalling the eyes of the owls. On the floor there are tiles in Venetian cement grit in which comets are drawn, as well as the roses in the windows, recalling the comets and roses of the Torlonia crests.
Roses, ribbons and butterflies
The windows, by Paolo Paschetto, were made in 1920, in mouth-blown, antique German glass in which the colors are placed directly in the paste, opalescent glass and colored antique glass placed in a lead frame of various thickness, tinned and stuccoed edges. The clear glass grafted around the drawings of the roses are irregularly cut in order to liven up the composition. The movement is strengthened by the inclusion of glass to draw butterflies with multicolored wings.
Sitting room of satyrs
The name of the room derives from the decorations placed on the skylight. This room is placed on top of an octagonal dome. the decorations of the satyrs are placed in the edge of the skylight. Another three openings closed by stained glass windows by Duilio Cambellotti show drawings of ivy leaves and bunches of grapes. Only one of them is original. Along the walls there are other stuccos depicting snails and ivy leaves. In the floor there is a mosaic depicting the leaves of ivy.
On one side there is a 1920 walnut bench.
Ceiling with satyrs, ivy leaves and snails
The work was stuccoed between 1916 and 1919 by Giuseppe Vernesi.
Stained glass window with figures of ivy and ribbons
The window is made of various colored glasses and not joined by tin-plated lead. It was built by Duilio Cambellotti in 1918.
In this environment there is a glazing representing “The flight of the swallows” perhaps produced by the Picchiarini laboratory on an anonymous project. On the wall there is a large cardboard by Duilio Cambellotti representing the “Swallows in flight”. On another wall there are sketches depicting “The Four Seasons” by an unknown author.
Return to the ground floor outside. The windows show the seasons of which only the “Autumn” and the “Summer” are original, the “Spring” was made by Vetrate d’Arte Giuliani in 1997 and the “Winter” was irretrievably lost because of the lack of sketches to rebuild it. Above the doors there are some windows representing “I migratori” by Duilio Cambellotti, of which only one is original, the other three have been recreated on the basis of sketches by the same artist. The window depicting the “Summer” reproduces the ears of wheat, while the window of the “Autumn” depicts vine shoots and that of the “Spring” of roses between a cartouche, bow and arrow. The overflow from the title the migratory represent: “The swallows”, “The larks”, “The thrushes” and “The migratory” (the latter is the only original stained glass).
Continuing along the corridor leads to a second bathroom reserved for guests. Originally there were decorations of bunches of grapes and below the decò paintings at the bottom of which only pieces remain. Three windows are located in the loggia of an unidentified author, however it can be said that they are workshop artists. The central window depicts a lake landscape with a swan, while the sides of the irises and the cattails.
In this room there are sketches by Cesare Picchiarini including various sketches for stained glass with floral theme even with stylized plant motifs. In addition there are two stained glass windows with geometric decorations and glass rounds cut by hand free by the Picchiarini in old age to demonstrate the firmness of his hand with advancing age.
In ancient times the ceiling was painted in such a way as to look like the sky with swallow flights. In the corners there are stuccoes depicting swallows in love that hatch in their nests. Other windows represent swallows in flight.
The room takes its name from the floor made of grit made by Vianini on a project by Umberto Bottazzi. A stained glass window depicts peacocks made by Bottazzi. On the walls there are sketches of the studio Picchiarini including geometric drawings, Liberty floral designs and various decorations. In ancient times the room was used for guests. In the room stands the window “I peacocks”.
The work is by Umberto Bottazzi. The glass, in the shape of a bezel, was in 1912 with various glass, multicolored gems and tin-plated lead. The work was bought by an antique dealer, was lost and found a few years ago. Glasses, gems and multicolored cabochons create an evocative effect.
In the first room there are two windows of the Vetrate d’Arte Giuliani and “La fata” by Duilio Cambellotti. Sketches, sketches and cartoons document the work of Picchiarini. In the second room there is a cardboard by Duilio Cambelotti made for the Ministry of Agriculture. A suspended passage leads to the Library of Applied Arts. The two rooms are located next to the medieval-style brick tower. The decorations are stylized ribbons.
The work is made of opalescent glass and lead-joined gems. The window is made in 1917 by Duilio Cambellotti. This is one of the eight stained glass windows presented by Cambellotti, in 1921 in Rome, at the Second Show of the Stained Glass Window. The work was exhibited at the first international exhibition of decorative arts in Monza. The body of the fairy is made from blue, gray and ivory cabochons depicted sitting on a bed of gems and cabochons. A cardboard and a sketch are also preserved in this work.
Overpass and dependence
The passage is wooden. The addiction, in ancient times was intended for animals and shed for tools. When it was turned into a hut the building was raised and used as services and staff residences. The works started in 1914. The raised passage was created by Cesare Picchiarini who inserted into the windows of the “glass of blown glass”.
How to get here
Via Nomentana 70 – 00161 Roma (ticket office at Casino Nobile)
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