Ràcani Arroni Palace

Palazzo Racani (which in time took on the following names: Brancaleoni, Vari, Arroni) overlooks Via dell’Arringo and still bears large parts of the sgraffito decorations that once covered the entire façade (fig. 3). The illustration published here shows a reconstruction of the façade’s iconography and tries to reproduce, albeit partially, the image of the entire one, which unfortunately is no longer there (fig. 4). Real architecture is overlapped by an illusive architecture featuring isolated figures and scenes. The iconography of façade no. 2, as we can reconstruct it today, seems to bear no reference to the names of the owners, nor does it specifically allude to the family; rather, through representations of Virtù (virtues) and other episodes of mythology and Roman history, it seems to simply celebrate the moral traits and qualities the family was looking to.

Ground floor: starting from the bottom, on the line of the arched windows, fake rectangular openings seen in perspective, screened by flat-tile and diamond pattern glass walls (here, the sgraffito decoration used red clay – traces of which have remained); the portal sides are decorated by scrolls; a double meander is above the portal architrave; friezes bearing putti and historical and mythological scenes: the story of Psyche, a non-identified scene with four characters, one of whom sitting on a throne, Hercules slaying the Nemean lion, Samson held captive, Apollo and Daphne, Lucretia’s suicide, Phaethon and Helios sleeping, the Continence of Scipio. The frieze originally had five more scenes and other putti, which are no longer there and whose subject cannot be reconstructed based on what can be read in a photograph taken in the early 20th century.
First floor: the rectangular spaces between the windows were framed by cornices and decorated with scenes and figures, all of which have disappeared, except a fragment of the figure between the sixth and seventh windows. Thanks to Cavalcaselle’s description and to the part of it that can still be seen in the old photograph, it is now possible to say that this female figure was turning towards a fire tripod. The old photograph allows us to make out the battle scene depicted between the fourth and fifth windows and the isolated figure of man riding a horse, facing left (perhaps in connection with the previous scene) in the following rectangle.

(3) Cfr. G.B. Cavalcaselle J. A. Crowe, Storia della pittura in Italia, firenze 1908, X, p. 114-115.

Figura 4.

The overarching frieze consisted of two strips: one was immediately above the windows’ architraves, broken down into several ‘frames’, and now hardly visible; the other strip features the larger frieze, the best preserved one of the entire façade, also entirely documented in a 19th century drawing (available at Spoleto’s municipal gallery). The subject is Neptune and his court of Nereids, Tritons and sea monsters.

Second floor: fake openings, whose shapes were probably not homogeneous, were made between the real windows; the old photograph shows that architrave between the sixth and seventh windows was notched by an arch at the centre, with a tympanum above it. A high frieze towered above the windows, alternating decorations, large scrolls and marine deities; this frieze has now completely disappeared – only a few fragments of the scroll decorations carved on the plaster, to the far right, remain.

Third floor: Lady Justice is between the first and second window, in perspective, in a niche on a red brick wall; a Caryatid and a supporting statute are on the two areas of the façade on the sides of the loggia; the Moderation is between the last two windows, again in a red brick niche.

Very little remains of these figures, which we can see the old photograph. The decoration ended at the top with a balustrade motif consisting of small, moulded pillars and columns, attached to the monumental eaves made in engraved, golden and multicoloured wood, decorated with rosettes and zodiac signs, removed around 1850.
The painter who did the sgraffito decoration was clearly influenced (aside from Raphael’s school) by the Roman artistic culture of the third decade of the 16th century.

He was probably Giovanni da Spoleto, as I have suggested in a recent study.

G. Sapori, Per un catalogo delle facciate graffite in Umbria: Spoleto, in “Spoletium” n. 24 (XXI, 1979), pages 65-66-67.