Royal Palace of Caserta, under restoration the beds of Francis II and Joachim Murat

Work is underway in the Royal Palace of Caserta to restore the 19th-century wing. Work has begun on the beds of Francis II and Joachim Murat.

Restoration work on the courtyards, roofs, Royal Staircase, Historic Apartments, Fishpond and greenhouses of the English Garden of the Royal Palace of Caserta continues during this period of museum closures due to the health emergency.

Restoration of the bedrooms of Joachim Murat and Francis II is now underway, offering an opportunity to bring back the charm of the manufactures of the time. In the19th-century wing of the Royal Apartments, heritage conservation professionals have already completed much of the consolidation and restoration of the doors and hatches. In many of the back rooms, restoration of the painted faux-marble terracotta floor has also been completed. These days, however, restorers are working on the beds of Francis II and Joachim Murat.

The former is a large double-headed mahogany wood en bateau bed culminating in four busts depicting Pallas and Mars. The two backs are adorned with two winged figures and brass friezes. At the corners, on a small pedestal, are four winged lions, two in lead and two in wood. The canopy consists of a platform and a carved and gilded pavilion, ending in a crown from which an ivory satin curtain falls. The carved wooden superstructure is supported by four uprights, adorned with cloth. While the wooden structure, in terms of static appearance, is in a fair state of preservation, the fabrics (datable to the early 19th century) show an advanced state of deterioration with tears and color changes. On the other hand, the outer drape (replaced during an old intervention), while showing similar problems, is in a better state of preservation, because it is of recent workmanship, but with altered coloring. On the wooden base it is then possible to find in several places lifts, micro-fractures, small gaps and flicker holes due to an infestation of xylophagous insects. The same phenomenon is found on the four spears supporting the crowned canopy, with losses of the gilding and chromatic additions from old restorations that have blackened over time. The brass friezes placed along the base, in addition to showing slight oxidation, also show misplacement due to previous restorations, as well as missing parts of the decoration.

The monumental bed was made during the early 19th century, tracing similar examples found in the Bourbon palaces and brought to Naples by Napoleon’s sister and her husband Joachim Murat. The careful workmanship of the carvings points, if not to French artists present in Naples, certainly to local carvers familiar with the French prototypes.

Joachim Murat’s mahogany bed is richly decorated with gilded wooden friezes depicting helmets, spears, swords, and lion heads on one side of the bed only. Four pikes support the canopy, from which a curtain of ivory and blue fringed satin descends. The fabrics are in a poor state of preservation. The canopy, whose superstructure is carved wood, is supported by four uprights, adorned with fabrics. Overall it is in mediocre condition.

The beginning of the restoration work consisted of dismantling the bed curtain fabrics. Particulate matter will be vacuumed out with the interposition of a protective semi-transparent polyester fabric. A dirt solubility test with organic solvents will be carried out. Cleaning will be carried out on some localized stains and consolidation of the gaps, including the reshaping of the warped wefts and warps of the cloths.
As for the wooden parts, disinfestation from xylophagous attacks and subsequent consolidation will be carried out. Chemical-mechanical cleaning will be carried out to remove layers superimposed on the surface (oxidized varnishes and repainting). The gaps will be filled and smoothed and the chromatic accompaniment with natural pigments will be carried out, followed by the cleaning and treatment of the brass and lead elements. The elements will finally be reassembled.

The bedrooms of Francis II and Joachim Murat, once the work is completed, will return to the museum tour of the Royal Apartments. The interventions restore dignity and decorum for the purpose of protection and preservation.

Royal Palace of Caserta, under restoration the beds of Francis II and Joachim Murat
Royal Palace of Caserta, under restoration the beds of Francis II and Joachim Murat

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