Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

entry Nov 2013

he Villa Elena & Maria

Built in the first years of the 20th century, villa Elena e [and] Maria, at #43 via Tito Angelini in the Vomero section of the city, is one of the most delightful buildings in Naples. (The street is named for a Neapolitan sculptor, b.1805-d.1878.) It is a good example of the eclectic style of Liberty architecture of 1900.  Part of the charm, other than the building, itself, is the location. It is across the street from the entrance to the gigantic Castel St. Elmo and, a bit further on, the San Martino museum. It is in a row of buildings that have their front (west) entrances on the main street (as in this photo) facing the fortress. The rears of the buildings (such as this one) face east and overlook Naples. They are not surrounded by drab monuments of post-1950s architecture as are many Liberty style buildings in the Vomero. They enjoy a view of Mt. Vesuvius and a broad panorama to the east and southeast. Indeed, written prominently on the façade of Villa Elena e Maria are the words,

Mirate qui Napoli Nobilissima*
L'incantevole sirena

(Here behold most noble Naples

the enchanting siren)

facade detail                                    
*The term Napoli Napolissima is a cliché from centuries past and was also used as the title of a literary journal founded by Benedetto Croce in 1892.

Many of the surfaces of the villa are adorned with friezes and bas-relief of abundant floral patterns ornamenting either cherub or satyr-like heads and faces. They recall figures of pastoral mythology, and, indeed, are typical of Liberty-style architecture in Naples as well as in general statuary from the same period (the late 1800s) found elsewhere in the city, such as in the Villa Comunale. The balconies have either solid balustrades or ornately scrolled wrought iron railings. The central Liberty-style main section contrasts abruptly with the two side-sections, neo-classically bare and plain. That combination shows what was meant by "eclecticism" in the architecture of 1900 in Naples.

The engineer and architect were Michele Capo  (1873-1956) and Ettore Bernich (1850-1914), respectively. The latter was also the architect of the well-known Roman Aquarium in Rome, and was later in his life active in Naples and the south, where he was particularly interested in the restoration of monuments and cathedrals in Puglia.

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