‘Stanze al Genio’ Majolica Museum: A Hidden Gem in the Heart of Palermo

'Stanze al Genio' Majolica Museum

In the heart of Palermo, not far from Piazzetta Rivoluzione, stands the seventeenth-century Torre Pirajno palace, but the true surprise lies within. Upon crossing the threshold, people are transported into an original museum where the centrepiece are over 5,500 ancient majolica tiles of Campanian and Sicilian production. In 2008, collector Pio Mellina, along with Antonino Perna, Luisa Masi, Davide Sansone, and Claudio Iannelli, founded the Cultural Association ‘Stanze al Genio’ with the aim of making the artifacts collected over thirty years accessible to the public, now displayed in his residence. Let’s discover the ‘Stanze al Genio’ Majolica Museum with Sicilian Secrets.

A breathtaking collection, a gem nestled in the historic center of the Sicilian capital, near the marble monument of the Genius of Palermo. This house-museum is characterized by walls covered with colorful tiles, some individual and others like fragments of a mosaic, capable of telling mythological or everyday scenes. The ‘Stanze al Genio’ Majolica Museum is divided into multiple rooms, each with its own identity, allowing visitors to compare the decorations and their evolution

'Stanze al Genio' Majolica Museum
‘Stanze al Genio’ Majolica Museum
“The house-museum was opened on December 5th 2008, and is a self-financed project that does not receive any public and/or private funding”, comments collector Pio Mellina. “It can be visited throughout the year from Tuesday to Sunday, with guided tours available in Italian and English. Over the years, new rooms with additional collection nuclei have been opened to the public, and each year they are expanded with new pieces”.

Majolica Tiles in Southern Culture

What immediately catches the eye of the observer are undoubtedly the Neapolitan and Sicilian majolica tiles dating from the late sixteenth century to the early twentieth century. Additionally, there are secondary collections such as those of cake molds, vintage stationery, and objects from the modern era. The house-museum thus narrates something deeply connected to Southern culture, a period of splendor for decorative arts and architecture in Southern Italy, already opulent with its marbles, stuccoes, and elaborately worked fabrics. In this setting, even the majolica-tiled floors become supporting actors. In the eighteenth century, the compositions become intricate, and it is no coincidence that their beauty is noted by foreign architects like the Frenchman Léon Dufourny. During his stay in Palermo, he was struck by the majolica to the point of hoping that such a ‘good habit’ could also take root in his own country.

'Stanze al Genio' Majolica Museum
‘Stanze al Genio’ Majolica Museum

Let’s visit the ‘Stanze al Genio’ Majolica Museum 

Pio Mellina’s collection came to life with Neapolitan majolica tiles. Initially acquired from flea markets and bric-a-brac, the next step was to turn directly to the ancient factories on the verge of closure in places like Naples and Vietri. A seemingly extinct tradition echoes and survives within the walls of the ‘Stanze al Genio’ Majolica Museum in Palermo.
The tour begins in the first two halls where the elegant figures of eighteenth-century floorings stand out, as well as the nineteenth-century floors adorned with simpler neoclassical motifs. Noteworthy, for example, is the reference to some elements of Pompeii, particularly one of the panels with the warning ‘Cave canem’, whose original is located on the entrance floor of the ‘House of the Tragic Poet’.

'Stanze al Genio' Majolica Museum
‘Stanze al Genio’ Majolica Museum

Continuing, we delve into the heart of the collection, namely the Sicilian nucleus. It’s a collection of the different production centers on the island, and one immediately senses the importance given in Sicily to these tiles. Even Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa celebrated their charm in the opening pages of his ‘The Leopard’, describing the flooring of the villa up on the hills…!

After the recitation of the Rosary, following the silence, the women would slowly rise, and the swaying retreat of their skirts gradually reveals the mythological nudes depicted on the milky background of the tiles”.

Sicily is colorful

Along the journey inside the house-museum, one is dazzled by vibrant blues, green, and yellow. A distinctly Sicilian painting style, rich in liveliness. Thus, we move from the majolica of Palermo workshops to the collection of bricks produced in Burgio – in the province of Agrigento – to those of Caltagirone, the well-known ceramic center in eastern Sicily. Finally, Santo Stefano style concludes with its products exported throughout the Mediterranean. The last gem is the kitchen. What can be found here? A series of ceramic molds used to solidify quince paste!

'Stanze al Genio' Majolica Museum
The kitchen
The ‘Stanze al Genio’ Majolica Museum is simply stunning and is definitely worth a visit during your stay in Palermo. But our news do not end here. Sicilian Secrets always tells you about some new stories on this blog. And if you wish to stay updated about our news and read our next articles, follow us on Sicilian Secrets’ Facebook page and Instagram. Stay tuned!
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