Museums built into heritage buildings always capture my imagination. Whether it’s contemporary art in a centuries old structure, or modern fittings stocked with ancient works, such places always have interesting stories to tell. The Pinacoteca Civica in Forlì, Italy is such a museum: in a mostly modern town, tucked into a former Dominican monastery with a checkered past.
Naves, aisles and pilasters
The Gallery is housed in the partially restored Musei San Domenico complex, as part of the city’s heritage network of artistic holdings. The complex began as a church in the 13th century, and was enlarged in the 15th, 16th and 18th –archeological work has uncovered much about everyday life inside the monastery over the centuries. These items, mostly glass and ceramic objects, are now in the Archeological Museum.
During occupation by Napoleon’s soldiers, the monastery’s refectory was used as a horse barn. In more recent wars, the buildings suffered further indignities, and in the late 1970s, some walls and part of the roof collapsed. All that came to an end a few years ago, though, and it is now possible to enjoy the core collection of the Pinacoteca Civica, as well as musical performances in the former refectory.
Frescoes & prestigious collections
The San Domenico refectory sports some impressive frescoes, divided by architecture of the wall into three scenes.
The Civic Art Gallery of Forlì was established in 1838, with a collection built around the art that had been scattered after the closure of churches and convents during the Napoleonic era. Subsequent acquisitions included several prestigious private collections, bringing the museum’s coverage into the 20th century.
Today, the Art Gallery boasts an almost complete collection of works from Forlì artists, from the Gothic period to the current day.
We ended our visit in the gallery’s Oval Room, which hosts the Hebe. This graceful work, by neoclassic sculptor Antonio Canova, is resplendent under atmospheric lighting.
A work in progress
Various organizations have joined forces to rehabilitate the San Domenico complex, with the aim of bringing together a broad spectrum of Forlì’s artistic heritage. Restoration of the complex is still in process. When the work is completed, it is envisioned that an exhibition itinerary through the complex will take visitors through the Archeological Museum and the expanded Picture Gallery.
I look forward to returning to Forlì for another look!
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