To many Italians, the name of Mario Praz, historian of interiors and collector, is one to be mentioned with the greatest reluctance. Believed to have had the evil eye, his name alone can bring disaster to any who speak it. To the rest of the world he was the author of ground-breaking volumes on interior design. Before his death in 1982 he had expressed the wish that his Rome apartment become an outpost of the Galleria Nazionale d’arte Moderna and in 1980 he wrote to the Italian government with the proposal that they purchase his collection. In the course of his long life Praz assembled around 1,400 pieces of furniture, works of art, prints and drawings, mainly from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, above all Empire style. Apart from the 200 or so pieces stolen from his home on the day after his death, the Galleria Nazionale acquired the entire collection from Praz’s heirs in 1986. They have now been reinstalled in the nine-room apartment on the third floor of the Palazzo Primoli where Praz lived from 1969. Count Giuseppe Primoli was a descendant of Napoleon Bonaparte and the Palazzo Primoli also houses the Museo Napoleonico and the Library of the Fondazione Primoli. With the addition of the Praz museum it becomes an important centre for early nineteenth-century studies.
Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Accursed, possibly, visionary collector, certainly'