Mandralisca Museum

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The Mandralisca Museum is a small museum located in Cefalù, a short walk from the Cathedral. It was founded thanks to the testamentary donation of Francesco Pirajno, Baron of Mandralisca, who during his lifetime had amassed a vast collection of artifacts and artwork. The absolute star of this museum is undoubtedly the painting by Antonello da Messina, Portrait of a Man.

History of the Mandralisca Museum

The Mandralisca Museum was founded thanks to a donation from Enrico Pirajno, Baron of Mandralisca. Born and living in Cefalù in the first half of the 19th century, during his lifetime Enrico Pirajno amassed a vast collection of archaeological artifacts, paintings, ancient coins and shells. These were either purchased directly from dealers and collectors, or found by the Baron himself during several personal excavation campaigns. In his will, Enrico Pirajno requested that a high school be established and that this immense patrimony be used to support education. In 1940, with the statehood of the High School, the “Fondazione Culturale di Mandralisca” was officially established to continue the management of this great artistic heritage. The works of the Baron of Mandralisca were later joined by those of the lawyer Vincenzo Cirincione. The latter bequeathed to the town of Cefalù more than 140 paintings, as well as furniture and furnishings of particular value.

The sections of the Mandralisca Museum

The works that make up the collection of the Mandralisca Museum are divided into six different sections: Picture Gallery, Archaeology, Numismatics, Malacology and Antiques. In an underground room of the palace it is possible to visit the old oil storehouse with twenty large cellars where the oil produced in the Baron’s lands was stored.

The picture gallery of the Mandralisca Museum contains paintings from the 15th to the 19th century. The paintings are not representative of Sicilian artistic culture, but rather of the genres that were of greatest interest to collectors in the 19th century. There is evidence of the Venetian school of the first half of the 16th century, some views from the school of Francesco Guardi, paintings by Giovan Battista Ruoppolo, Pietro Novelli and Antonello De Saliba. The highlight of the gallery, however, is Antonello da Messina‘s Portrait of a Man. It seems that the painting was bought by Baron Mandralisca from a pharmacist in Lipari.

The archaeological section

The archaeological section of the Museum of Mandralisca is made up of acquisitions made by the Baron and of excavations carried out by him in Lipari, Tindari and Cefalù. The collection includes oil lamps, masks, earthenware jars and perfume burners of Sicilian production dating back to the period between the Ill and the 1st centuries B.C.. Among them, the famous crater of the tuna seller stands out. There are also four Attic red figure craters from the 5th century BC, attributed to the so-called “Painter of the Centauromachia of Florence”. This is an ancient Greek vase painter so named after the scene depicted on a vase in the Archaeological Museum in Florence.

The numismatic section

The numismatic section exhibits coins from the most important ancient mints of Sicily, from Lipari and also from Carthage. The finds are the result both of actual excavations carried out by Baron Mandralisca and of acquisitions made by collectors and antiquarians. Among the most interesting coins are those minted in Syracuse, including a decadrachm signed by Eveneto, one of the most important engravers of antiquity, and a coin with the veiled face of Philistides, wife of the tyrant Hieron II.

The Malacological Section

The malacological collection of the Mandralisca Museum contains more than 20,000 molluscs, many of which are typical of Sicily. Among the Sicilian species of particular rarity and scientific interest are: a Vitrina maravignae, Helix nebrodensis from the Madonie Mountains, Helix mazzulli v. cephaludensis from the Rocca di Cefalù and Helix aradasi.

The naturalistic collection

In the naturalistic collection of the Museum of Mandralisca there are about 130 specimens of stuffed animals. Most of them come from the Madonie Mountains, but there are also exotic specimens such as a crocodile and an iguana. Among the most interesting specimens are: a specimen of an immature griffon vulture, a species unfortunately now extinct in Sicily, and a golden eagle of which only the head remains.

The antiques

The collection of the Museum of Mandralisca also includes many objects that belonged to the Baron’s family. On the main floor you can admire 18th century inlaid consoles, a magnificent gilded bronze and Murano crystal chandelier, and various alabaster, ivory and porcelain ornaments. The “Chapel Room” preserves the majestic 18th century polychrome wooden door that gave access to the palace chapel. Also very beautiful are two valuable 18th century wooden cabinets decorated with paintings on glass.

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