The palazzo was built in the latter half of the sixteenth century when the Becchi Counts decided to construct their city residence, choosing a location on Via della Ghiara, now Corso Garibaldi, which at the time was particularly strategic for trade.
Several elite families had already settled there in the fifteenth century, to the point that it could be described as a planned urban development, later amplified in 1597 when building began on the Basilica of the Madonna della Ghiara. This led to stipulations for a precise alignment of façades and attention to perspective when positioning palazzi within the street plan, often by applying corner decorations.
Palazzo Magnani also has this type of decoration: a marble herm depicting two-faced Janus, created in 1576 by sculptor Prospero Sogari, aka ‘Il Clemente’.
The only remains of the original construction from that period is the palazzo layout, built around a central courtyard and the marble herm on the corner.
In the early nineteenth century, the palazzo was ceded to another Reggio family, the Chioffi, who undertook major renovations in 1841. These entailed a complete renovation of the building in neoclassical style, visible above all in the internal and external façades and in the central staircase. It was probably in this period that the palazzo established its current external form, whereas the internal decorations and the ceiling frescoes on the first floor rooms were made over a longer period of time, up until the late nineteenth century.
After several interim changes of ownership, on 18 March 1917 the property was purchased by Giuseppe Magnani. On his death in 1960, the property was inherited by his son Luigi, an art collector and musicologist.
Already by the early 1980s Luigi Magnani was considering transferring the building to the provincial government, to be used for exhibition purposes. At the same time a plan to establish the Magnani-Rocca Foundation was underway to protect and promote its extraordinary art collection, and ensure it was permanently accessible to the public at Villa di Mamiano di Traversetolo.
At the time of Luigi Magnani’s death, the province of Reggio Emilia acquired the building and began restoration work, which ended in the spring of 1997.
On 26 April 1997, Palazzo Magnani began its journey in the world of culture and art.
Luigi Magnani (Reggio Emilia, 1906 – Mamiano, 1984) was a writer, essayist, art historian, musicologist, composer and music critic.
Luigi dedicated his life to culture in all its forms, forging friendships with some of the greatest Italian artists and intellectuals of the twentieth century, among them Giuseppe Ungaretti, Eugenio Montale, Giorgio Morandi, Alberto Burri, Renato Guttuso, Giacomo Manzù and Alberto Savinio.
His extraordinary art collection, exhibited in his residence at Mamiano di Traversetolo, includes works by Goya, Titian, Rembrandt, Dürer, Monet, Renoir and Canova.
Luigi was the son of Giuseppe Magnani, an agricultural entrepreneur and owner of a dairy industry, and Eugenia Rocca, a member of a Ligurian noble family.
A student of the exceptional teacher Adolfo Venturi, Luigi graduated 1929 with a liberal arts degree from the University of Rome, where he later taught. Alfredo Casella was responsible for his musical education. Over the course of his life Luigi produced important research and writings on Correggio, Morandi, Mozart, Beethoven, Goethe, Stendhal and Proust.
During his extraordinary career Luigi Magnani belonged to the Pontificia Accademia di belle arti e lettere dei Virtuosi at the Pantheon in Rome. He curated broadcasts for RAI – Radiotelevisione italiana, and he won the Campiello writing award for his novel Il nipote di Beethoven and the Otto/Novecento prize for literary criticism.
After he left teaching at the University of Rome, in 1976 he retired permanently to the villa at Mamiano. From that moment on he developed the idea of creating an art foundation and intensified his search for artworks to enrich his collection, often following suggestions from art critics and friends, including Argan, Brandi, Chastel, Emiliani, Frommel, Longhi, Quintavalle, Ragghianti, Sgarbi, Vitali and Zeri.
In 1977 he founded Fondazione Magnani Rocca, in memory of his parents.
Luigi Magnani died at his villa in Mamiano on 15 November 1984. Two months earlier he had presented his collection of ancient art at Palazzo Magnani in Reggio Emilia, in an exhibition entitled Fondazione Magnani Rocca: Masterpieces of Ancient Painting.
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