An extraordinary paradox played out in the very heart of Rome and on the Amalfi coast in Vietri. In 1929, Palazzo Venezia became the official residence of Benito Mussolini. The palace constructed in 1460 for Cardinal Pietro Barbo (later Pope Paul II) was chosen as the site of the Museum of Italian Renaissance by Federico Hermanin. Restorations of the palace included the ceilings and recovery of the ancient paintings. It was decided to replace the floors of the museum as well.
Hermanin or perhaps Mussolini himself
chose the I.C.S. Ceramic factory of Vietri for the commission.
The Jewish owners of the factory, Max and Flora Melamerson, having fled growing anti-semitism in Germany, arrived in Vietri in 1926. There they revitalized the local ceramic industry, introducing innovations in techniques and iconography. Inspired by the Bauhaus, local artisans were flanked by artists from Germany and several Northern European countries. The production of 100,000 tiles for Palazzo Venezia was completed between 1931 and 1935. The design was for a “carpet” of small terracotta tiles, in part glazed with white, blue and green, in part left terracotta. Lozenges alternated with triangles to create varying patterns.
Despite the prestigious commission and the growing success of their ceramic productions, the Malamersons were sent to concentration camps in 1943 as the result of the racial laws. They were liberated by the Allied forces.