The rooms making up the apartment on the first floor of the Palazzo, were used by the Conservators, or magistrates, for activities connected to their office; they therefore form a single entity, both as regards their function and their ornamental features. The rooms were also used for Public and Private Council meetings.
The rich decoration of these reception rooms (frescoes, stuccoes, carved ceilings and doors, tapestries) has as its main theme the history of Ancient Rome, from its foundation to the Republican Age.
The earliest cycle of frescoes goes back to the beginning of the XVI century.
The main floor of the Palace houses the Ceremonial Rooms of the Conservators, also known as the Apartment.
They are the oldest part of the Palace: some rooms preserve parts of the series of frescoes painted at the beginning of the XVI century, whereas the decorations of the other rooms were renewed after Michelangelo’s renovation.
The whole decoration of the Apartment, though it was painted separately and subsequently, present a uniform appearance dedicated to the extolling and memory of the virtues and value of the Ancients.
Some ancient bronze sculptures were also installed in these rooms: they were presented by Pope Sixtus IV to the Roman people due to their symbolic value, in memory of the greatness of Rome which the papal government intended to renew.
The donation of the Sistine bronzes is considered to be the foundation of Capitoline Museums, since then several works of art, sculpture and paintings of value, were collected in the Capitol.
Hall of the Horatii and Curiatii
Conservators' Apartment - Hall of the Horatii and Curiatii
The fresco decoration of this large room was carried out by Cavalier d'Arpino (Giuseppe Cesari) at the end XVI century and the beginning of the XVII century.
Originally conceived as tapestries to be hung along the walls, these frescoes portray historical episodes of Ancient Rome, which also inspire the monochrome medallions below.
Two monumental statues of popes face each other on the two smaller sides of the room: the one portraying Urban VIII is in marble and was carried out by Bernini and his pupils, while the bronze statue of Innocent X is the work of Algardi.
The Great hall, also known as the Horatii and Curatii Room for the subject of one of the frescoes, was used for the public hearings of the Council of Conservators.
A prominent figure in Roman Mannerism, Giuseppe Cesari, also known as Cavalier d'Arpino (1568-1640), was appointed in 1595 to decorate the room.
The work was expected to be finished for the Jubilee of 1600, but in 1613 only the first three scenes were completed. After a break of more than twenty years the work was finished in 1640.
This cycle of frescoes illustrates some episodes of the history of Rome as told by Titus Livius. The scenes depict a series of fake tapestries, wrapped with painted festoons of fruit and flowers, lustral vases and trophies of arms. There is also a fake marble decoration by Cesare Rossetti that runs along the lower parts of the walls with monochrome medallions which depict historical events.
In order of execution, the cycle begins with:
Finding of the She-wolf with Romolus and Remus (1596): along the banks of the Tiber, under a fig tree, Faustulus discovers the she-wolf suckling Romulus and Remus. The representation of the she-wolf clearly alludes to the Capitoline Wolf, which is exhibited in the museum and is the symbol of the city.
Battle of Tullus Hostilius against the Veientes and the Fidenates (1597-1601): the fresco depicts a scene of the expansionist war fought by the Romans against neighbouring cities in the times of Tullus Hostilius, third king of Rome.
Battle between Horatii and Curiatii (1612-1613): an episode of the war Rome fought against the neighbouring city of Alba Longa, which resulted in the duel between the Romans, the Horatii brothers, and the Curatii brothers of Alba Longa. The contending armies witness the final scene of the duel, when the last of the Horatii is about to defeat the last of his opponents.
Rape of the Sabine Women (1635-1636): in the foreground, a group of Sabine women abducted by the Romans to populate their newly built city. The fresco was completed twenty years later and it shares a quicker and sketchier painting technique with the last two scenes, in the late manner of Cavalier d’Arpino.
Numa Pompilius Instituting the Cult of the Vestals (1636-1638): against an architectural backdrop, the Vestals keep the sacred fire that burns on the altar.
Romulus traces the boundaries of Rome (1638-1639): the legendary founding of Rome, Romulus marks out the boundaries of the city by tracing a furrow with a plow.
The carved and engraved wooden doors that illustrate the mythical founding of Rome were made in 1643 by Giovan Battista Olivieri and Giovanni Maria Giorgetti.
On the short side of the hall there are two honorary statues of Popes commissioned by the Conservators: the first, in marble, was sculpted by Gian Lorenzo Bernini between 1635 and 1640 and portrays Pope Urban VIII Barberini (1623-1644); the second statue, in bronze, was sculpted between 1645 and 1650 by the Alessandro Algardi, and it portrays Pope Innocent X Pamphilj (1644-1655).