Despite a number of changes that have taken place over the centuries, this section of the museum has more or less maintained its original XVIII century aspect.
The decorative features of this area have remained unchanged, and this has influenced the layout of sculptures and inscriptions.
The fine pieces of ancient sculpture come mainly from private collections belonging to high-ranking churchmen and noble Roman families.
Unlike the Palazzo dei Conservatori opposite, the interior space of this building and the arrangement of its architectural features are of symmetrical design.
Palazzo Nuovo is so called because it was built ex novo, using Michelangelo’s blueprint when he redesigned the Palazzo dei Conservatori a century earlier to complete the renovation of the Capitoline Square.
The museum was opened to the public in 1734, under Pope Clement XII, who had already purchased the Albani collection of 418 sculptures the previous year, as an addition to the works already on display at the Vatican Belvedere and donated to the Capitoline museum by Pope Pius V in 1566, and the sculptures that could not find a place in Palazzo dei Conservatori. The collections are still arranged according to the exhibition concept of the eighteenth century.
Palazzo Nuovo - Lobby
Along the walls of the long porticoed ground-floor corridor opening onto the Courtyard there are large niches with statues, including colossal representations of Minerva and Mars.
From an architectural perspective, the space is divided into niches and false doors, enlivened with columns leaning against the walls; two ornamental conchs complete decoration.
Among the most notable sculptures are:
- the “Pyrrhus”, or the colossal statue depicting Mars in military dress, from the Forum Transitorium, a Flavian copy of the original cult statue in the temple of Mars Ultor in Augustus’ Forum;
- the Statue of Minerva, a copy after the Athena Parthenos by Phidias (fifth century BC); the colossal sculpture was discovered under Pope Paul III (1534-1549) and it was originally intended to decorate the niche at the centre of the stairway of Palazzo Senatorio, later it was replaced by the porphyry sculpture still in place;
- the statue of the emperor Hadrian as Pontifex Maximus, with head veiled;
- the statue of Faustina Major as Fortuna
Around the niches where the sculptures stand there are Roman inscriptions, mostly of funerary character.