Rome's Palazzo Barberini gets more space

Defence ministry returns rooms for new exhibition space

Rome's Palazzo Barberini which hosts the national collection of ancient art will gain 700 sqm of new exhibition space under an agreement signed by Italy's culture and defence ministers.

The deal sees the defence ministry return ten rooms on the south wing of the building's first floor – which had been reserved for the Officers' Club since 1934 – allowing the gallery to show works which until now had been kept in storage.

The 17th-century rooms, including the throne room containing a large painting by baroque artist Mattia Preti, will be open to the public following a year-long restoration, which will cost in the region of €1.8 million according to culture minister Dario Franceschini.

However the defence ministry retains the right to use the rooms for ceremonial use if required. It is the second time in recent years that spaces previously occupied by the military were returned to the gallery. In 2011 an additional 1,000-sqm on the ground floor was handed back and revamped as a new space for hosting temporary exhibitions. It had been part of the area occupied by the Circolo degli Ufficiali for decades until the military were finally evicted in 2006 after a lengthy litigation process which began in 1949.

Palazzo Barberini, whose collection comprises 13th- to 16th-century paintings by masters such as by Caravaggio, Canaletto, Guercino, El Greco, Pietro da Cortona and Tintoretto, is one of 20 Italian museums to have gained autonomous status under last year's restructuring plan of Italy's museum management system.

The palace was begun in 1624 by architect Carlo Maderno for Pope Urban VII, of the Barberini family. The project also saw the input of Gianlorenzo Bernini, Francesco Borromini and Pietro da Cortona,who painted the 400-sqm fresco on the ceiling of the palace's Salone Grande.

The gallery's current exhibition comprises a selection of works by Daniele da Volterra, and runs until 28 February.