Palazzo Merulana

We recently headed to one of Rome’s newer museums, Palazzo Merulana, which opened in 2018. The museum was a great place for a rainy day (and it’s a good destination for Mondays, when many of Rome’s museums are closed). The 1929 building, formerly the Department of Health, is looking light, bright, and inviting after an extensive renovation.

Palazzo Merulana, permanent collection area

The ground level, which is free of charge, has a little bookstore, a cafe, and many sculptures. There is also a nice garden area (which we unfortunately could not enjoy due to the pouring rain).

Ground level, with bookstore and cafe

The permanent collection focuses on Italian art of the first half of the 20th Century. The collection was donated to the public by Claudio and Elena Cerasi, owners of a construction company behind major projects such as Rome’s modern art museum MAXXI.

In this portrait of the donors, take a look at the background. That’s one of the paintings in their collection — see further down — I’m guessing to indicate it was one of their favorites.

Stefano Di Stasio, Portrait of Claudio and Elena Cerasis, 2016

Much of the collection illustrates a significant era for Italian art, between the two world wars.

Giorgio de Chirico, La cabine misteriose (The mysterious cabins), 1934


Giuseppe Capogrossi, Ballo sul fiume (Dance along the river), 1936


Antonietta Raphaël, Autoritratto con violino (Self-portrait with violin), 1928


Mario Sironi, Paesaggio urbano (Urban landscape), 1920


Guglielmo Janni, San Sebastian (Saint Sebastian), 1927 (detail)


Ercole Drei, Calciatori (Soccer players), 1929

The collection does have some contemporary art pieces:

Jan Fabre, Director of the Stars

We visited Palazzo Merluna not just for the permanent collection, but also for its exhibit of Italian Futurist artist Giacomo Balla, an artist whose work we particularly enjoy. I was more familiar with Balla’s later works, which are highly abstract and often focus on the concept of movement and speed.

The exhibit was particularly informative about Balla’s early years, including his work associated with fashion photography, the media, and the cinema. Entitled Giacomo Balla: Abstract Futurism to Iconic Futurism, the exhibit is small, but packs a punch. It starts with the painting at the top of this post of an Italian boxer, Primo Carrera, Campione del Mondo (Champion of the World), 1933-34. That portrait was highly unusual as it uses a kind of mesh, which gives the painting a very different texture.

Some of his paintings, quite different from his later works, were simply beautiful portraits — something I had not expected.

Giacomo Balla, Parlano (They talk), 1934


Giacomo Balla, Colorluce, 1933

The Balla exhibit is on display through June 17, 2019. Get there while you can!