The atrium of the Roman Aquarium
Attentively studied by Bernich during both the planning and the construction stages, the decorative scheme of the Aquarium, whose fullest expression is found in the large central hall, is closely tied to the exterior of the building as well, with an almost emphatic highlighting of the transformation from the rigorous, monumental style of the interior to the open, amply lit space of the interior. The atrium constitutes a point of mediation and passage, with the task of paving the way for the spectacular effect of the central hall.
This setting provides a foretaste of a number of the characteristics of a decorative scheme referred to as "Pompeian", though, in reality, it consists of an eclectic, at times redundant combination of various motifs of classical ornamentation. Another striking element is the lack of consistency, in terms of creative inspiration and the execution of the work, as in the case of the walls and the far richer and more refined ceiling, a discrepancy also found in other decorated settings of the building, though possibly on account of a lack of funds or the haste with which the work was performed. The statues in the niches are plaster copies, painted with porporine, of models from antiquity.
Of particular interest are the paintings positioned symmetrically on the side walls, above the doors leading to the ring corridor. The work on the right, referred to earlier, depicts the exterior of the Aquarium, while that on the left provides a view of the mass of the Monument to King Victor Emanuel I, based on the design by Giuseppe Sacconi, winner of the Second International Competition, held in 1882. In pairing these two monuments of the "Third Rome", Bernich stresses the representative continuity between the creation of his friend Giuseppe Sacconi and his own construction: to the left is the monument symbolising national unity, an ambitious synthesis of the historical and ideological contents of the period of unification; to the right is one of the new buildings of the Capital, expressing the modern City's quest for scientific and urban progress. With this well-satisfied self-celebration of his work, through the device of the image proposed anew within the same building that holds it, Bernich highlights the national import of his creation as an undaunted expression of the grandeur of the Third Rome. The depiction of the monument to King Victor Emanuel is also a noteworthy piece of documentation, given that, as is well known, numerous modifications were made, after the competition had been won, in the course of the lengthy implementation of the project by Sacconi.
contents and images are taken from the web site of Comune di Roma