The Academy is located in an historical building and offers the visitor the opportunity to experience the events of the city of Carrara and of the families that governed in a long period of time between the 12th and the 19th centuries.
The Medieval Fortress
Thanks to a restoration project begun in 1924 and completed ten years later, which eliminated nineteenth-century superfetations and allowed a more accurate analysis of the entire ensemble, it is possible to identify the two main units composing the building. The first and the most ancient is the Eastern unit. Formed by the ancient "fortress" dated 1187, it was enlarged several times to become, at the end of the 14th century, the house of Guglielmo Malaspina from the "flowered thorn bush", prince of Fosdinovo, as well as the protagonist of a defensive system of the valley which included Moneta Castle and Avenza fortress.
It is possible to identify the signs of this ancient origin observing the outside: in the same chiselled and severe structure, in the castellated tower, in the masonry wall with marble decorations, in the lateral gate of the 14th century, stylistically corresponding to a second door located in Via Roma, which does not casually has the Malaspinian emblem of the "flowered thorn bush " carved on it.
The Anatomic Theatre
The charming courtyard located within the same tower and current symbol of the modification which certainly brought to the use of the fortress as a princely residence has a clear fifteenth-century imprint. Located on the ground floor of the building, it is characterized by a portico with loggias also repeated in the upper floor and, together with the courtyard with the sixth-century gateway to enter the "anatomic theatre", the most dense place of memories of the " Academy of Fine Arts. The entrance is on the right, after passing the one that is today the main door to the building from the side of Via Roma.
The Fifteenth-Century Courtyard
After a space used as a classroom, the first courtyard of the place open in front of the visitor, where is it possible to see, looking up, those plaster bas-reliefs, more enjoyable from the first floor, which prove the vitality and work of students of the nineteenth-century academy, being the work of the winners of the competition for the apprenticeship in Rome. It is a first spectacular effect, followed by the fifteenth-century courtyard, also adorned with decorations, emblems and marble works. These represent the most important heritage cherished in the Academy.
The archaeological collection and the Fantiscritti.
The artworks collected here are almost all from the archaeological site of Luni or from the finings of the ancient quarries: among these, it is worth remembering that the Roman aedicule of Fantiscritti, called this way because of the small representation of the three characters in it. This artwork was detached in June 1863 from the summit of the homonymous quarry. Hercules, Jupiter, and Dionysus are represented in this work as "fanti", which means "boys" in the local dialect. On the aedicule the signatures of Michelangelo, Giambologna and Canova are also engraved, witnessing an ancient habit consisting in engraving the name of the artist himself to make his own passage unforgettable upon time. Together with the aedicule, other precious findings including Lapo di Giroldo’s Annunciation (14th century), a small marble statue found in the archaeological site of Luni, a fragment of a Dressed Minerva, the bust of Carlo Cybo Malaspina and other works of great interest must be underlined. These artworks had been donated on several occasions by the rich marble bourgeoisie, when the building became the location of the Academy at the beginning of the 19th century.
The Renaissance Palace of the Prince
In the 16th century, on the south side of the primitive fortress, another block was added according to Alberico Cybo Malaspina’s will and completed under his grandson, Carlo I. Recognisable from the outside for the severe and monumental style that characterizes that historical period, it seems to be connected to the ancient fortress by an elegant transept with columns and double-arched windows that overcome the aforementioned main entrance gate of the Academy on the side of Via Roma. The significant enlargement is however more observable on the side of the Academy Square (or Mazzini Square). The same sober and monumental features are resurfaced, and the remarkable extension that the Prince's Palace had to have is better emphasised, having been conceived as the protagonist of a wider urbanization project of the whole city. In the initial project, this side had to be the main facade and to have a greater extension to the sea side, as demonstrated by the decentralized position of the imposing door.
The Library or Colum Hall
It was from that gate on the square that people entered the palace, as shown by the waiting room or vestibule, today used as a Library. Here, a huge book heritage is preserved: the two editions of the Encyclopédie of Diderot and D'Alambert, the ancient background and the Zaccagna archive, the collection of volumes and miscellany of local interest, the Alberic statutes, make this Library one of the most important instruments for consultation of the entire district . At the centre of the Column Hall, the original marble work of Arturo Dazzi's Cavallino (Little Horse) is highlighted, which apparently opens that "imaginary" gallery of marble and plaster casts that are here preserved.
In the atrium in front of the Library, it is possible to see the impressive Nike or Winged Victory Samothrace plaster cast - whose original is preserved in the Louvre - surrounded by numerous marble works dated 1930s and made by Ugo Guidi (The Young boy), Corrado Vigni (The Sitting Woman) Renato Lucchetti (The Summer Noonday), Giorgio Salvi (Maid with Ocarina).
The Great Hall
In the atrium of the main floor it is possible to admire, in addition to the polychrome windows, the plaster of the Gladiator or the dying Galata, the oils on canvas of the Four Seasons attributed to Appiani and the marbles of the hunting and fishing genies (1828) of Tenerani. From here a hallway starts leading on the right to the Great Hall, which already was the Prince’s stateroom. The beautiful painted ceiling coffer roof and the gallery stand out in the vastness of this place, along with two large paintings of the 17th century representing landscapes, owned by the Uffizi Gallery. Majestic plaster casts, including the Parcae of the Parthenon, the Farnese Hercules, the Venus of Milo and the Laocoön, set the framework of the environment and witness the heritage on which entire generations of artists have been formed.
The Art Gallery
From the atrium it is possible to reach the rooms which completed the residence of the Prince, with the dual function of a representation building and private residence. Now these rooms are the administrative offices of the Academy. These rooms have preserved the original frescoes (restored in this century) and the furniture of that time. On the right there is a door leading to a medieval tower thanks to a winding stair and after there is the Administrative Direction, where several paintings have been preserved, including some Raggi’s landscapes and a Scarsella’s Portrait of a Lady, in addition to Canova and Cybei's plaster sketches. Next to the Administrative Direction a portal on which is located a bas-relief depicting the profile of Elisabetta della Rovere, the first wife of Alberico Cybo Malaspina, introduces to the Presidential Office, where other interesting art works are preserved, among which emerge, in addition to a terracotta bust of Maria Teresa and the portrait of Maria Beatrice, painted in 1819 by the Carlo Prayer, a valuable wooden table in the Sienese school style depicting a Madonna and Child and two octagonal plates by Lorenzo Lippi.
After passing the Presidential Office, there are the Administrative Direction and the Educational Office are located, where it is possible to admire some nineteenth-century drawings, Vatteroni’s etchings, and a wooden altarpiece with a Christ in the Mandorla.
The Marble Hall
From here the impressive marble staircase, the ideal centre of the palace and the result of a scenic conception partly due to the restoration of 1924, leads right next to the main entrance (on the left), to the Chamber of Marbles Samples, established in 1930.
The Marble Hall, in addition to the incredibly rare Italian marble samples, now contains the Mercury plaster cast made by Benedetto Cacciatori, the marble works by Francesco Piccini (The Seeder, 1939) and by Rodolfo Castagnino (Awakening, 1931). On the stairs, there are a great painting by Giulio Marchetti (Carrara caves at the sunset).
The Plaster Casts Collection
From the loggia that opens from the Head Offices and also includes the plaster copy of the Dying Slave of Michelangelo, it is possible to enjoy an exclusive view of the cavaedium or covered courtyard, with many bas-reliefs of the competition.
Most of the over seventy plaster casts composing the collection of the so-called "apprenticeship" are exposed.
The competition for the Sculpture Apprenticeship was established by Elisa Baciocchi in 1807 and provides the winner a period of internship in Rome at the ateliers of famous sculptors. The winning performances, almost always based on a mythological theme, were placed as decoration of the Academy's walls, to the honourable memory of the student's merits: Names present are numerous and famous, from Pietro Tenerani to Luigi Bienaimé, from Carlo Fontana to Arturo Dazzi. The competition has not taken placed anymore since 1953.
The covered courtyard also hosts some plaster casts by Canova (the fighters Creugante and Damosseno, the lying Maddalena), Tenerani (the fainted Psyche, Pellegrino Rossi), Alessandro Biggi (Tito Manlio), as well as copies of the Torso of Belvedere and of Sileno with Dionysus as a child. Recently catalogued, the collection of the Academy is a valuable asset, not just as an artistic document, but also as a tool to provide useful suggestions to students today.
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