The year was 1789. The French Revolution in Paris completely changed the history of civilization by force and the irrationality of violence. In San Leucio di Caserta Ferdinando IV di Borbone tried in such a paternalistic way to realize the concepts of Equality, Freedom and Brotherhood, ideas born during the Enlightment.

It was based on the “Codice Leuciano”. It sanctioned the negative and positive duties and the rights of the working-class from San Leucio: public compulsory education for men and women, healthcare, the principle of physical and moral inviolability, the right to private property, work rules and Social Security. State and private, families and individuals, men and women, routine and eternity, faith and secularism, everything is linked by a thin, shiny and durable wire magically produced by a bug.

Silk gets knotted and dissolves this story based on a harmonious and mad idea came up by a fantasist, considered as the most ignorant ruler of that time and of his small community of workers. San Leucio was his own Manor of hunting and rest, the house of Kings, a factory, a farmhouse, out of time and space, but very close to the Royal Palace.
«Quest’è la legge, ch’Io vi do per la buona condotta di vostra vita. Osservatela, e sarete felici.» This is how the code ends with the uncontrollable certainty that rationality could overcome istinct. Belvedere di San Leucio is the material and touchable witness of a social utopia turned into urbanism, art and architecture, beauty and order. Thank you Ferdinando.

In the present location a villa, called “Belvedere” because of the beautiful view, would rise at the end of 1500. It was commissioned by Andrea Matteo Acquaviva, Prince of Caserta, and immersed in the woods of San Leucio Mount. Abandoned from 1660, the residence was adapted by Collecini from 1776, turning the main hall into the San Ferdinando Church. In 1778 Ferdinando ordered to Collecini the expansion of the complex. Industrial buildings were made to work with silk and houses for workers too. Special laws, known as “Codice leuciano” in 1789, regulated people’s living according to the principles based on the ideas of the Enlightment: for instance, people’s care and education for each social class, gender equality etc.

After 1860, the building went to Savoy, but it was gradually sold for inappropriate use, becoming deteriorated. Once finally restored, it now offers to visit the Ancient Royal Apartments with rooms decorated, paintings by Fischetti and Maria Carolina’s bathroom decorated by Hackert; it is also possible to visit the Silk Museum exhibiting ancient functioning looms dated back to 1800, machines and tools used to work with silk and to talk about the breeding of silkdown, Renaissance gardens and the house of the weaver – a representation of a worker’s house with pieces dated back to. Since 1997 it has been recognised as “Heritage of Humanity” (UNESCO).

<<…. e pensai allora di rendere quella popolazione utile allo Stato, alle famiglie ed utile finalmente ad ogni individuo…. rendendo in tal maniera felici e contenti tanti poveretti … Utile allo Stato, introducendo una manifattura di sete grezze…………; utile alle famiglie, alleviandole da’ pesi che ora soffrono e portandole ad una condizione di agiatezza da non poter piangere miseria come finora è accaduto, togliendosi ogni motivo di lusso con l’uguaglianza e semplicità nel vestire. »

The Church of St. Ferdinando is not part of the museum itinerary but the perfect example of the school of Vanvitelli, synthesis between Classicism and Roccocò. It shows paintings by C. Brunelli and statues and Baptismal font by A. Brunelli (1778).

In 1778 in the nearby “casino vecchio” of Vaccheria the firstborn Ferdinando IV Borbone died: after that, the King no longer wanted to live there. Therefore he ordered Collecini to transform the Leucian complex again by adding some industrial buildings for working on silk and some residences for workers. From 1786 terraced houses arose , all similar in terms of size and decorations and worthy of a working-class suburb of proto-industrial England, the one and only realized part of Ferdinandopoli, the town wanted by Ferdinando and created by Collecini. From the first years of 1800 the factory adjacent to the King Palace was enlarged with the “filanda dei cipressi” to which was added the “coculliera” in 1823: thus the machining cycle stayed within the Belvedere.

The section dedicated to industrial archaeology shows the machining cycle of silk: cultivation of mulberry trees, breeding of silkworm, stewing and boiling of the cocoon, the method to separate the wire from the sticky fibre, first winding in skeins, twisting – marvellous is the reconstruction of the impressive wooden twisting machine – second winding and finally weaving. Several domestic frames used for craftsmanship are exhibited and loads of ancient industrial and working frames with panched card can be seen too.

Machinery and equipment come from factories and local worker houses. The exhibition is completed by examples of fabrics to see and touch and some reproductions of vintage clothes. The Royal apartment has been partially redegnised with furnishings (end of 1700-1850) on loan from the Royal Palace in Caserta, but that at the time were here. Except a few rooms, the vaults of the halls are all decorated simply but in an elegant way, according to the taste of a King private house not intended for representation.

The “bathroom of Maria Carolina” has walls and vaults covered with encaustic paintings rather damaged with figures inspired from Roman painting (Hackert, 1792): the hall is almost entirely occupied by an oval marble pond.

Always in the wing added by Collecini there is the dining room with centre console and rounds on the vault representing Bacchus and Ariadne, mythological rounds and overdoors in grisaille (F. Fischetti, 1778-1792). The following room, already the billiard one, owns a vault with Neoclassical freize. Even more antiquarian are the rooms related to the Queen’s private apartment in the original sixteenth-century body of the complex – monochrome old subject rounds. The King’s bedroom has vaults and lunettes decorated with Aurora and busts of deities (Cammarano, 1816). The choir directly faces the Church thanks to three wide windows: the Allegory of Clemency is painted on the vault (Brunelli, 1778). The next is the King’s apartment that, unfortunately, doesn’t preserve decorations. In the rooms there are showcases exhibiting liturgical objects made in 1800 by Leucian factories.

Its Italian gardens evoke late sixteenth-century splendour of Acquaviva’s residence. They are composed of four terraces. On the sides of the main body there are two fountains with sculptures like cherubs and tritons by A. Brunelli created in 1792. The other terraces have central tanks with simple gush and surrounded by citrus fruit, bushes of boxwood cut geometrically, fruit trees as decsribed in old inventories. The upper terrace preserves the cistern powered by a branch of Vanvitelli’s aqueduct, realized on arches of the final strecth. In the centre of the wing façade that links all the apartments to the factories, there is a copy of Ferdinando’s statue in plaster posing as a Roman emperor created by A. Solari in 1823. The “Weaver’s House” is one of the terraced houses belonging to the workers suburb: it exhibits objects and tools used for silk and domestic work and able to return the charm of the daily life of the period.

text by Pietro Di Lorenzo / translated by Denise Kendall-Jones (2020)

Data ultima modifica: Agosto 11, 2022
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