Giuseppe Volpi (1877-1947) was a leading Italian industrialist and diplomat who is credited with bringing electricity to northern Italy in 1903, serving as Italy’s Finance Minister (1925-1928) and founding the Venice Film Festival in 1932. He was granted the title of Count of Misurata in 1920. Often referred to as the ‘last Doge’, he and his wife Nathalie (1899-1989), known as Lily, were at the centre of Italian fashionable society, famous for their glamourous parties and attended by Europe’s most influential politicians, artists and royalty, including The Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Winston Churchill, Cecile Beaton and Cole Porter.
In 1939 they bought the grand Roman Palazzo Galloppi at 21 via del Quirinale which later became known as Palazzo Volpi. The palazzo was designed in the late 17th century by the architect and engraver Alessandro Specchi, who also designed the Spanish Steps. It sadly fell into disrepair having been plundered during the Second World War, but was later restored to its former magnificence by Countess Volpi in 1951. Its complete refurbishment was done with the flair and style synonymous with her name and the collection amassed at the Palazzo by the Count and Countess drew admiration throughout the 20th century. The majority of the collection was moved to storage in the late 20th century, remaining unseen for twenty-five years until being sold in 1998.