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At the Grimaldi castle, in Monaco, a treasure of frescoes was hidden in the walls

At the Grimaldi castle, in Monaco, a treasure of frescoes was hidden in the walls


Overview of the spectacles in the Gallery of Hercules, at the Prince's Palace in Monaco.

It must have been a trivial maintenance operation. It has become a prospecting and restoration campaign so fruitful that it is impossible to predict its end: the Grimaldi castle, at the top of the rock of Monaco, will soon no longer owe its notoriety solely to the princely family who live there. , but also to the artistic discoveries that have followed one another there since 2013 and the first of which were made public and visible on Friday 1er July.

Before presenting them, we must recall a few historical points. In the XIIIe century, the rock of Monaco marks the western border of the territory of the Republic of Genoa, which is one of the maritime republics that appeared in Italy from the 11the century. The Grimadi are one of the great Genoese families. In 1297, François Grimaldi seized the fortress by trickery – a founding myth that a bronze celebrates in front of the castle.

During the following century, the seigniory of Monaco acquired those of Menton and Roquebrune, thus obtaining a hinterland. Playing on their geographical location, the Grimaldis of Monaco took advantage of the Italian wars and the confrontation between the kingdom of France and the Habsburg empire to be recognized by the first in 1512, by Louis XII, and the second in 1524. , by Charles V. This seesaw allows them to emancipate themselves from one and the other power, while remaining attached to Genoa by numerous matrimonial and political ties.

Conservation and restoration operation of the frescoes in the vaults of the Galerie d'Hercule in the Prince's Palace of Monaco.

During the reign of Honoré Ier (1522-1581), the castle, while remaining fortified, was laid out as a palace on the Italian model, with galleries and painted decorations – as well as a cistern, dug in 1562 in anticipation of a siege that never came. The inner courtyard is rebuilt. It is adorned with a loggia with a marble balustrade of twelve arches, known as the gallery of Hercules because of the paintings which tell of the twelve labors of the hero. Over the centuries, these decorations were maintained – a “restoration” campaign was carried out in the middle of the 19th century.e century by a team of Bavarian painters, under the direction of Ferdinand Wagner (1819-1881), who did not leave an indelible mark on the history of art.

Under the repaints of the XIXe century

We are there in 2013 when, at the request of Prince Albert II, what should only be a campaign to repair a few damaged areas is undertaken. Scaffolding is erected, allowing for the first time access to the lunette and painted vaults. The first surveys show that, under the repaints of the 19e century, the original frescoes are still there, having been both protected and disfigured by interventions with little concern for respecting the initial works. The need then arises to undertake an operation to clean and restore the entire gallery: the spectacles with Herculean episodes, the ceilings with an abundance of allegorical figures, grotesques, various monsters half-man, half-man. -beasts, and decorative elements of a quality of execution much higher than what we saw until then.

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