Grasselli Palace

Today walking through the empty, silent halls of Palazzo Magio Grasselli, even a keen and expert eye would barely be able to detect the multiple phases of construction and decoration of this building, generated by transformations and adjustments which have occurred in almost seven centuries. The visitor’s brilliant imagination could perhaps imagine the glories of the palace when it was inhabited, transformed according to the tastes and habits of the Cremona aristocracy.

Even if Palazzo Magio Grasselli owes its current name to its last owners, the origin of the building, at least in its floor plan and architectural appearance, belongs to the Magio family, whose presence in the city is attested from the XIIIth century. Since the end of the XVth century the Magio’s domus magna (presumably built or transformed in the decades before) was not enough to accomodate the many members of the family and some neighboring houses were purchased to expand the palace: architectural finishes and ancient structures are still preserved, like coffered wooden ceilings with carved cantilevers at the heads of the main beams.

The overall reform of the existing buildings had started by the architect Francesco Pescaroli in the second half of the XVIIth century: he made a comfortable aristocratic palazzo, with a large staircase, apartments connected by halls, finely decorated by the most important artists at that time, like the painter Giuseppe Natali. The painted wooden ceilings on the main floor belong to this reform which interested the entire building towards the street. The reform of the façade and the building of the inner wing, however, were interrupted due to the death of Camillo Magio (1681) and Giovanni Clemente Magio (1702). Only in the 1770’s Camillo Magio II (and his wife Teresa Crivelli) brought to a conclusion the seventeenth-century building program, completing the inner wing (1768-75) and the of antechamber hall, entirely painted in quadrature by Giovanni Manfredini in 1772: the architectural elements and much more modest trompe l’œil perspectives simulates a quadratura in the vaults a serlian loggia with ionic, binate columns and a balustrade surmounted with a high polygonal dome. The realization of a common and decorative programme by Manfredini gives unity to the hall, the bridal bedroom and the second rectangular antechamber.

In 1785 the large hall overlooking the Contrada San Gallo (where a collection of family portraits was still preserved) was given a new look by Giovanni Manfredini redesigning all the decoration, plaster, frames, doors, windows. The large hall demonstrates much greater level of iconographic complexity: the inscription that dates it to 1785 and the visibility that Manfredini gives to his signature, clearly seen on a painted plaque, infers that he wanted to be recognized as being responsible for both the conception and his determining role in the execution. The walls and vaults, dominated by a sort of horror vacui, are articulated in minute colour frames in shades which evoke precious materials. In 1847, the Magio family estingueshed in Fulvia, married to the marquis Muzio Pallavicino Clavello: the ownership of the building, including the adjoining houses, all furniture, fixtures and fittings passed to a bourgeois, the lawyer Giuseppe Antonio Saini who sold the building to Annibale Grasselli in 1873. Grasselli family retained the ownership of the complex until 2006, when Giancarlo Grasselli death.

In the last century, despite several building reforms, Grasselli family have always kept in care the maintenance and the preservation of the building so that, today, the peculiarity of Palazzo Magio Grasselli lies in its details, finishes and construction elements: Manfredini’s paintings, the seventeenth century windows of the upper loggia, the faux wood paint of internal doors, the wallpapers, the high false marble skirting boards in the reception halls and the wooden switches of the first electric lighting system are important and inseparable elements of the building’s history, as well as its fine artworks.