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entry June 2003, updates 2007, 2011

alleria Principe di Napoli

The Gallery Principe di Napoli, across the street from the National Archaeological Museum, is the galleria that nobody thinks of when you say "galleria" in Naples, that honor being reserved for the grander Galleria Umberto I.

The Principe di Napoli was started in 1870 and finished in 1883. Architecturally, it was part of the wave of urban renewal made possible throughout Europe by the new technology of steel and glass construction epitomized by such buildings as the Crystal Palace in London in 1851. With its Parisian passages and Londonesque arcades the Gallery was built to be a shopping center, or, in more modern terms, a mall.

The gallery is slightly out of kilter because the adjacent large and untouchable Church of Santa Maria di Costantinopoli made the construction of a logical fourth wing impossible. There are, thus, only three entrances: from the side of the National Museum, the Salita del Museo and the Art Academy (the point from which this photo was taken). The Gallery was, therefore, considered to be somewhat of an architectural flop. Neither did it enjoy the commercial success expected. It remains, however, important as an architectural precedent in the city, being, of course, later overshadowed by the Galleria Umberto, built over a decade later. Today, the Principe di Napoli houses government and private offices.

update: 2007

The Principe di Napoli Gallery is undergoing a major overhaul. It was built between 1876 and 1883 and, thus, was part of the first great wave of construction in Naples after the unification of Italy. It was part of the wave of Liberty architecture going up in Naples at the time. It was built before the city embarked on the "real" wave of urban renewal called the "risanamento", which entailed gutting large parts of the city to lay new roads and put up new buildings—including the gigantic Galleria Umberto, finished in 1890. The construction of the Principe di Napoli was much less dramatic and less surgical; very little was knocked down to clear space for it. Generally speaking, it was part of modest project to spruce up the area, including the National Museum across the street and the adjacent art academy. The resulting gallery was relatively small, intimate, and modelled on similar arcades and galleries in London and Paris. It was a small commercial center as well as a social gathering place for those in the area, including the art students from the Art Academy next door. After decades of neglect, the gallery will be totally restored. That includes reopening rooms on the upper floors of the premises that have long been unused. It also includes installing glass doors at the three entrances such that air-conditioning and heating can be used if need be.

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