Seldom do literature and reality come together so successfully as in case of San Michele. In the year 1929 the publication of the original English edition of Dr. Axel Munthe’s "The Story of San Michele" was such a bestseller that it went immediately into a second edition, and by the following year readers were traveling to Capri to see the home of the author named in the title.
Soon the villa was a tourist attraction in its own right, which then encouraged more sales of the book. By the 1930’s the translations were legion, estimated to be around fifty.
The explanation for the phenomenon should thus be traced partly to the homeowner’s fascinating stories about how his creation was developed, partly in the creator’s ability to make lasting impressions on the visitor. This introduction is intended to help the interested reader to better understand the more detailed sections.
Villa San Michele is not a residence in the ordinary meaning of the word. It is rather the bearer of Axel Munthe’s thoughts and feelings about beauty and the great questions of life, but at the same time it is open for personal interpretation.
The architecture is there to emphasize the magnificence of the landscape, at the same time forming a worthy framework for the works of art. In this respect the park plays an important role. For example, the statues overgrown with ivy and the mossy marble pieces scattered around the garden are characteristic. The number of objects in marble, stone, mosaic, and terracotta total around 655. There are around 530 in wood, metal, ceramics and textiles. The collection can be said to be divided into several main themes, such as nature and animal images, as well as death and dying. But they are in no way exhibited programmatically. Rather they seem to consist of randomly placed pieces, of widely differing quality. But regardless of the artistic quality of the individual object, what was important for Dr. Munthe was the message or personal memories it had for him. This was governed by the fact that the collections do not contain clusters of items acquired from other collections.
The museum’s inventory encompasses different periods from Antiquity to the early 20th Century. The classical antiquities are Roman, Egyptian, or Etruscan. Only a few of them originate from the imperial buildings that were on the site. These are remnants of buildings, ornamentation, and frescoes.
The origin of the objects varies. Dr. Munthe’s widespread contacts through-out Europe stretched from Scandinavia to Italy and from England as far as Russia.
San Michele is truly the creation of a world citizen.
Architect, Director of Villa San Michele (1975-1995)