PALAZZO LANFRANCHI MUSEUM Matera Italy Review – Art Conveying Basilicata Soul, including classic by Carlo Levi in elegant setting
The inviting pillows in one of the upstairs galleries in some ways say it all. Palazzo Lanfranchi Museum is above all a comfortable space, that one feels relaxed exploring at any pace. Though these reviewers visited during a relatively crowded time—a free admission day during a four-day long weekend holiday that drew many Italians to Matera and this museum in specific—by the time the upstairs galleries were reached there was no other guest in view. The spaciousness, comfort and beauty of the museum space itself is striking. For many, the elegance of the building itself, a palace once pressed into service as a school, may be the star attraction—with many high vaulted ceiling rooms and open-feeling galleries that you will likely have to yourself.
Appropriately, the artwork of Dr. Carlo Levi is showcased, including Lucania 61, a triptych Levi was commissioned to create to mark the 100th anniversary of Italian unification.
Levi is for many the man who put Matera on the map with his classic Christ Stopped at Eboli , which he penned while exiled to the area because of his anti-fascist political activities. The book showcased the grueling poverty in this cave city, sparking an outcry that eventually led to a relocation of its population out of the caves to the modern part of Matera you see today. You learn from the museum’s brochure that before Levi began work on this painting he returned to the Basilicata with a photographer friend, Mario Carbone, to help document the people and places Levi recalled from his earlier stay in the region. These photographs are also on display, as are a sizable body of other paintings by Levi.
The collections also invite thoughtful consideration of the role of religion in the life of people in the Basilicata region. The collection of sacred art paintings and sculptures was far more in depth that schedules allowed this reviewer team to explore. Of great interest to those who have been to one or another cave museum or churches built into the Sassi will be the restored frescos from cave churches.
PALAZZO LANFRANCHI MUSEUM Curators Make a Difference
In this writer’s view, the curator smarts were especially on display with their choice for a temporary exhibition. To be in Matera is to be catapulted into wonder at what life was like for centuries in the caves of this city. How perfect that the questions were not so much answered as amplified by a huge photo exhibit showing the people of another city carved from rock, Petra in Jordan, juxtaposed to Materans.
Bottom line: a visit to this museum is time well-spent.
For more information visit the Palazzo Lanfranchi Museum website.