Mirabilia urbis

Written by  Andrea Emiliani
The legend of Ferrara and the strange story of its treasures.
What was once called the Leggenda del Collezionismo in Renaissance Ferrara reflects a fascinating history. The exhibition of that name aimed to uncover the difficult, often hidden and surprising path of collecting during its missing history.

The astonishment with which the Foundation's exhibition in the Palazzo dei Diamanti was greeted resembled the amazement which grips us every time we read how in Venice, at least a century earlier, the abbé Lodoli was collecting Giovanni Bellini, Antonio Vivarini, Cima and Carpaccio.

What advanced taste and culture, you might think. But then we hear the voice of the very modern abbé Lodoli saying, "I had NO crest, so I had TO make do WITH buying old pictures..."
The amazing adventures of the Prosperi Sacrati Collection also belong to the Legend of Ferrara. The link with the Italian State helped to bring it out of obscurity, bringing to light the fabulous pieces from the Studiolo delle Muse which had been seen only by major historians who obtained permission to visit the collection during its period in Florence.

But it is unnecessary, I think, to describe a collection which has been on display for years now in the Palazzo dei Diamanti alongside the collection of paintings owned by the Cassa di Risparmio.

Thanks to these two collections, the Palazzo dei Diamanti is now a major gallery in both appearance and fact. It is time to recognise this and provide this public service with an attractive park, appropriate storage and laboratory facilities, a library and a picture library worthy of the name.
The acquisition of the Prosperi Sacrati Collection was the result of the mediation of Luigi Covatta, and the good offices of Minister Alberto Ronchey. It was the intervention of the Cassa di Risparmio di Ferrara which was crucial, with its proposal that the State and the Bank should acquire this wonderful collection together, each holding an equal share.

We would like to remember this moment, and the important role of the Foundation's president Silvio Carletti. Along with the other few contributors to the collecting and exhibition life of Ferrara, Carletti promised the Bank's support. The Ferrara legend and its return to life were taking shape.

From now on, every event, all research, would be able to delve into the dark and silent centuries to recover more of the beauty and civilisation which was swept away on that day in 1598 when Clement VIII and his successors, starting with his nephew Pietro and followed by the Borghese, the Barberini and the Bentivoglio cardinals, closed the doors on the vitality of a great centre of Renaissance culture and carried away the mirabilia urbis.