New Wing

New Wing

When the works confiscated by Napoleon were returned from France a re-ordering of the Pontifical Collections was required and the opportunity was taken to build a new section for classical sculpture. Pope Pius VII (1800-1823) employed the Roman architect Raffaele Stern to build what is now called the New Wing (Braccio Nuovo) of the Chiaramonti Museum. After Stern's death in 1820 the work was continued by Pasquale Belli until the opening in February 1822. The arrangement of the displays was overseen by a Committee for the Fine Arts, whose President was Antonio Canova, and whose members also included Filippo Aurelio Visconti and Antonio D'Este. The new 19th century building, which is considered today to be one of the most important pieces of neo-classical architecture in Rome, runs between galleries of the Chiaramonti Museum and of the Vatican Apostolic Library.
The architectural lines and the sumptuous use of coloured marble, mostly originating from buildings of the Roman period compose an idealised space which aims to recreate as closely as possible the sort of background against which the sculptures would originally have been seen. Even the floor serves this purpose, being made up of large marble slabs which frame original Roman mosaics. The walls are decorated with stucco friezes inspired by famous reliefs from antiquity, the work of Francesco Massimiliano Laboureur. The building is defined by a 68 metre long gallery which is covered by a coffered ceiling with skylights. At the centre a hemicycle opens on one side, whilst on the other a flight of steps leads to the monumental portico which opens onto the Courtyard of the Pine Cone (Cortile della Pigna). Along the walls of the gallery are twenty-eight niches which hold larger-than-life-size statues portraying emperors and Roman replicas of famous Greek statues. The busts displayed on the corbels and half-columns represent a gallery of famous names from antiquity.