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The Museum Devanna in Bitonto, Puglia: A New Jewel in Italy's Artistic Patrimony
by Dr. Emanuel Paparella
2009-04-22 09:05:28
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Real-politic it is not, yet I dare say, that the event I am about to announce to the international Ovi readership will eventually take its rightful place in the history of European and Italian culture.

1800_02_de_nittis_400Only a few days ago (on April 18, 2009), in the Italian region of Puglia, city of Bitonto, a few miles from Bari, a new museum opened its doors. It is named the Galleria Devanna. It bears the name of its donor, in Italy known as “mecenate” (a patron of the arts), Girolamo Devanna, who donated his personal art’s collection to the city. The museum is to be free to the public. Presently it is the only State art’s museum in the whole region of Puglia.

1800_08_fabre_400The museum is situated in the historic center of the town, a medieval town which is the largest medieval town in Puglia possessing a wonderful cathedral dating back to the 12th century. I had already had an opportunity in the past to admire this exquisite jewel of artistic collection in the very home of the donor, across from the cathedral, given that he happens to be my cousin on my mother’s side. But now, the collection has taken its proper place in a beautiful Renaissance palace with an arched courtyard, the so-called palazzo Silos Calò which has been restored for the occasion by the Italian State.

To give the reader a pale idea, or perhaps a first taste, of the kind of treasure that has been generously donated to the lucky city I am including here at the end an attachment of eight of its 229 painting. I am also attaching two links, one a video showing the entrance to the museum with a narration and commentary in Italian, the other including the most valuable paintings.

There are 229 paintings, 108 drawings, spanning 700 years, from 1300 to today. The museum consists of seven rooms (one for each century) full of masterpieces from famous painters such as Veronese, El Greco, Orazio e Artemisia Gentileschi, Titian, Criscuolo, Figino, Soens, Corona. Delacroix, De Nittis, Poussin, Beatrice Wood and Joseph Stella, and the list could go on and on.

1500_01_tiziano_400Who is Girolamo Devanna? Were I to describe him in a sentence I would say he is a passionate collector of everything beautiful and ancient. He was born in Argentina from Italian immigrant parents but was raised and educated in Italy. I have met him repeatedly in America when he traveled here to visit American museums. He is presently a professor of American literature (his major at the University of Urbino) and humanities at the University of Urbino, the same university where I have repeatedly taken my American students to study Italian language, literature and art. He began as a nine year old to collect ancient Roman and Greek coins which can still be found in the Puglia region, and then he started collecting paintings which became for him a veritable passion, an obsession with the beautiful. From American literature he passed on to the history of art and collecting of art as his principal life occupation. The donation represents fifty years of laborious collection, jealously cured and protected by his sister Rosaria in the residence across the Bitonto cathedral.

Bitonto, a city of barely sixty thousand people has a magnificent cathedral which attracts visitors from all over the world. Now it also has a world-class museum that will remain there centuries from now as testament to the humanistic spirit of Italy and Europe; that spirit that if properly understood could be the cement to unify a Europe in search of its soul. Congratulations Girolamo Devanna, Bitonto, Italy and Europe.

Click here for a YouTube clip

Click here for a photo gallery

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AP2009-04-22 20:32:11
Wonderful collection! Congratulations to Italy's heel.

Emanuel Paparella2009-04-22 21:47:05
A footnote is perhaps in order here: my cousin’s private collection (now a public one) was the second largest private collection in the whole of Southern Italy. For the art connoisseur, there is a wonderful book on glossy paper that has been out since 2005; it lists all the most important paintings of the donation as shown at a Rome exposition at palazzo Venezia in the same year. It is titled “Dalla donazione Devanna: Dipinti dal Cinquecento al Novecento” Mario Edda editor and can be found on-line at the site below:


Ben fatto Mino! Ad majorem!

AP2009-04-22 22:48:15
Now that interests me quite much, thank you! I was just about to ask if you know or can disclose where he got that painting at 5:40 from.

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