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The Galleria Demidoff on the Island of Elba

In 1851, the Russian prince Anatole Demidoff, descendent of a family that became very wealthy through possession of Siberian mines, a passionate lover of art and one of the greatest collectors of his time, purchased the San Martino estate from the Bonaparte heirs.

Anatole, who had married the emperor’s niece, Matilde Bonaparte, in 1840, hired the Florentine architect Niccolò Matas to build a grandiose gallery for the display of relics and artworks celebrating the Napoleonic myth. Matas focused first and foremost on inserting the gallery within the context of the landscape, adopting monumental forms clearly inspired by Neoclassicism. The decoration of the gallery evoked the symbols of the Empire: the frieze running along the whole facade featured the Napoleonic symbols of the imperial eagle, the three bees and the “N” and, inside, the lacunae of the ceiling were decorated with bees alternating with the insignia of the Legion of Honour.

At the time of its opening in 1861, the Galleria Demidoff offered visitors an exceptionally rich collection of artworks and relics that belonged to Napoleon and his family. One could admire the statue of Galatea, attributed to Canova and for which Pauline Bonaparte Borghese, Napoleon’s sister, posed, Pauline’s Bath with its celebrated marble basin, the imperial library and two reception rooms with the painting Love knot, a series of decorations illustrating the Egyptian Campaign and Ravelli’s frescoes. The first true Napoleon museum in history was short–lived, however, since when Anatole died in 1871, the property and the collection were sold by his heirs.

The Napoleonic gallery thus became a museum and then later an exhibition space. Today, after restoration work, it displays prints from the Napoleonic period from various private collections.

When it was founded, a box was buried under the entrance door containing a commemorative epigraph indicating the date on which the work began (30 October 1851), the museum founder (prince Anatole Demidoff) and the reigning sovereign at the time (Leopold II of Lorraine).

Galleria Demidoff
Località San Martino
Portoferraio (Leghorn)

The Galleria is open according to the following schedule
From Tuesday to Saturday from 9 AM to 7 PM; Sunday from 9 AM to 1 PM
Closed Mondays, 25 December and 1 January