Silvio Berlusconi's bulky art collection

Italy. The heirs of great families often fight to monopolize the art collection of their ancestors. The children of Silvio Berlusconi (1936-2023) are all united to get rid of their father’s house. In art as in everything else, the Cavaliere responded above all to his instinct and this compulsive collector amassed nearly 25,000 paintings and sculptures, often of questionable taste.

“There are only 6 or 7 interesting ones, believes one of his friends Vittorio Sgarbi, the Undersecretary of State for Culture and great defender of transalpine heritage. In my opinion, it would have been better to have 2,400 high quality paintings than 24,000 like these…” Because Silvio Berlusconi favored quantity above all and, at the end of his life, bought frantically at night on a teleshopping show. “He acquired 2,500 paintingsrecently confided its presenter, depicting numerous religious subjects, as well as female nudes and over a thousand works of Russian art, all in the space of two and a half years. According to my estimates, he spent around 3 million euros through my services. »

Throughout his life, one of the biggest fortunes on the Peninsula devoted around 20 million euros to a passion that had all the aspects of an impulse. Enough to beautify – or make ugly – the sumptuous Villa San Martino acquired in the early 1970s. An 18th century estate located in Lombardy in which there were works by Titian and Parmigianino, the only ones truly worthy of interest. Among them, the Portrait of Cardinal Hippolyte de Medici by Titian (1533), estimated at between 4 and 5 million euros, and which was formerly exhibited at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Money was no obstacle to the frenzy of artistic purchases by Silvio Berlusconi, who was advised by Cesare Lampronti, an eminent art dealer based in London, as well as by obscure Neapolitan dealers. He happily offered his works to his guests, to his friends Vladimir Putin and Viktor Orban, to collaborators or political adversaries.

A collection in poor condition

He dreamed of preserving this heterogeneous collection of views of the cities of his heart (Paris, Naples or Venice), of marble busts representing him or of naked maids in a museum that he would have built near his villa. She ended up in a 4,500 m2 hangar with many paintings already destroyed because they were worm-eaten. The costs of disinfection would in most cases be much higher than the work that would have to be protected. The rental and management of the warehouse represents 800,000 euros per year. A sum far too high for the heirs for whom the emotional value of the collection is as little important as its artistic value. Its liquidation, or destruction, is only a matter of time. Some have already seen smoke escaping from the hangar which houses it. “I don’t know if the destruction has already beguncomments Vittorio Sgarbi, but I know that if it were, it would not be a crime. »

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