The Palazzo Ottavio Imperiale is one of two palaces that were constructed in the Piazza Campetto during the 16th century period of urban renewal in Genoa. It was included in Rubens‘ book with sketches of the most important buildings of the city. It is also known under the name Palazzo del Melograno.
Palazzo Ottavio Imperiale Genoa
History and description
Even before being completed, the Palazzo Ottavio Imperiale was already included in the Palazzi dei Rolli list of 1588. Both buildings were owned by the Imperiale family.
The building was designed by Jacopo De Aggio, an at the time rather unknown architect. The owner spent 50,000 gold scudi on his palace, which was then enormous sum of money.
In 1614, the palazzo came into the hands of the Sauli family. This family added a picture gallery, which included works by Orazio Gentileschi, such as the “Danae”.
At the moment the ground floor of the building hosts the downmarket clothing chain store OVS. In the back of the store, across from the entrance stands a rather large statue. This statue was originally part of a sculpture group called “Hercules and the Golden Apples of the Hesperides”, that used to adorn the entrance to the courtyard. It shows Hercules slaying Ladon, the hundred-headed dragon guarding the garden. The sculptor was a local artist called Filippo Parodi. The work had been commissioned by Teresa Spinola Sauli in occasion of her son’s wedding.
The aristocratic families of Genoa were wont to show themselves as protectors of the arts, and the Sauli were no exception. The piano nobile is decorated with frescoes depicting images relating to the arts (painting, sculpture, architecture and music).
In 1684, after the death of Lorenzo Sauli, the building became property of the De Mari family. They had Giacomo Antonio Boni and Bartolomeo Guidobono paint the remaining walls and vaults.
Guidobono painted part of the gallery with fake sculptures.
Boni was responsible for the “Glory of Ansaldo de Mari”. (Ansaldo De Mari had been admiral of the imperial fleet.)
In the drawing room, the De Mari are depicted as protectors of Liguria.
Legend of the pomegrenate (“melograna”)
The palace is also known under the name Palazzo del Melograno (“Palace of the Pomegrenate”). This is due to an old legend regarding the plant above the entrance, which at some point in history seemed to appear out of nowhere. According to the legend, Genoa will prosper as long as the plant is there, but fall into hard times as soon as it disappears.
Address: Piazza Campetto, 2 – Genova.