AudiotourThe Civic Museum's Collections
Important private collections constituted during the 18th century are kept in Catania's civic museum, which is installed in the Ursino castle. The most conpiscuous of these collections are the prince of Biscari's and the Benedictine fathers'.
The first collection acquired by the civic museum was that of the Catanese notary Giovan Battista Finocchiaro. The latter bequeated his precious collection of paintings to the city in 1826. Many paintings of this collection are from the Neapolitan school. Notably, the large painting S. Cristoforo (St. Christoph), attributed to Pietro Novelli, was part of Finocchiaro's gift to the city of Catania.
To this first group of paintings was added, in 1866, the collection of the Benedictine fathers, which became possession of the city as a consequence of the dissolution of religious corporations. The Benedictine museum was founded in the mid-18th century by the impulse of the abbot Vito Amico and of the prior Placido Scammacca. They had collected, in the somptuous S. Nicolò monastery, Greek and Roman materials recovered in Catania or purchased in Naples and Rome's antiquarian markets, in addition to objects brought by missionaries coming back from the "Orient."
Almost in the same period in which the monks were building up their collection, the Catanese patrician Ignazio Paternò Castello, 5th prince of Biscari and prominent personality of the Sicilian Enlightenment culture, was forming in his Marina palace an even richer collection. Furthermore, he was the promoter of a series of important archaeological excavations in the urban area of Catania.
His collection was, from the 18th century, an attraction of importance for the Grand Tour travellers. Indeed, Goethe and Brydone dedicated many pages of their reports to the Biscari and Benedictine antiques collections.
From 1862, the city of Catania attempted to take the Biscari collection into its possession, as the important collection risked to get dispersed among the prince's many heirs. It is only between 1927 and 1930, with donations from his heirs and the 1926 purchase of 50,000 Italian lires' worth of artifacts, that the collection finally entered in the civic collection's patrimony.
In 1913, artworks by the Catanese painter Michele Rapisardi were donated to our collection. The Mirone donation, consisting of 23 paintings, dates to 1934-38. In 1936-46, the important Zappalà-Asmundo collection, which was constituted of paintings, prints and art objects, was bequeated to Catania. In 1947, it was the Balsamo legacy that enriched the pinacoteca's collection.
Important works by the painter Natale Attanasio were purchased between 1961 and 1962, while between 1967 and 1968 other paintings by the same artist were donated to the museum by the Brizzi De Federicis collection owners. The purchase of an important group of paintings by the artist Giuseppe Sciuti was purchased in 1978.
Other legacies, purchases and donations enriched the pinacoteca ("picture gallery") in the 1970s.
The Ursino castle civic museum, inaugurated in 1934, was subjected from the 1960s to various events that took it away from the public for around 30 years.
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