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The Building

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The Palace stands as a testimony to the centuries-old history of the Mansi family that, since the 16th century, was able to diversify its business by engaging not only in the traditional agricultural activities but also in commercial initiatives, thus greatly increasing its fortunes and social prestige.
The late-16th-century building was created by connecting preexistent tower houses and was bought in 1616 by Ascanio Mansi. Since 1648 the heir and sole owner Raffaello, together with his son Ottavio, made further purchases thus ending up possessing one quarter of the whole block. Around 1690 Raffaello was the owner of a large palace which he wanted to serve not only as a house but also as an official building: the latter function became predominant, testifying to a well-established social status. Between 1686 and 1691, Luccan architect Raffaello Mazzanti carried out some renovation works to make the building more spectacular: the rooms on the first floor were decorated in sumptuous Baroque style and made accessible via a monumental staircase. Other rooms of the ground floor were turned into a summer apartment. All the ceilings and vaults of the rooms were frescoed with allegorical representations alluding to the glory of the family. The interventions on the outside simply erased all traces of the preexistent houses; the facade, that retains its original renaissance windows, has a sober and severe look that hides the more articulated distribution of the rooms inside.

In the second half of the 18th century, new works were started to enlarge the place and give it a more modern look. The tapestries and the hangings of the alcove room were rearranged, the living rooms were renovated according to the current fashion, and the kitchens were modified. In the same years Luigi Mansi had the loggia on the first floor lengthened to make the inner facade of the building more monumental and architecturally harmonious. Between the 18th and 19th century the palace was the centre of the society life of the city, its owners Raffaele Mansi and Camilla Parensi having been appointed respectively minister and first maid of honour at the princely court of Elisa Bonaparte and Felice Baciocchi. During the 19th century all the rooms of the building underwent some modifications, mostly regarding furniture being moved or renewed. Raffaello Mansi Orsetti, heir to the family fortunes, was the first to open the palace and its art collections to the public. He died in 1956; ten years later, his sons sold the bulding to the State.

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