The construction of Palazzo della Pilotta started in 1583 by the order of the duke of Parma and Piacenza, Ottavio Farnese, who entrusted the task to architect Francesco Paciotto from Urbino. The name Pilotta derives from the game pelota, played by Spanish soldiers in the courtyard of Guazzatoio.
Today, the building houses the museum of archeology, national gallery, Palatine library, Farnese theater, and the Bodonian museum as well as the Accademia Nazionale di Belle Arti, the artistic lyceum of Paolo Toschi, the Department of Cultural Heritage and Performing Arts of the University of Parma.
After the extinction of the Farnese dynasty the collection was moved to Naples by Charles III of Spain in 1734. Pilotta was left without artistic treasures until 1749 when duke Philip of Spain arrived in Parma. The son of the king of Spain and his wife Louise Elizabeth, the favorite daughter of king Louis XV of France. At this occasion, Pilotta became a cultural center, a real symbol of the Enlightenment and French politics. Accademia di Belle Arti was founded in 1757 and a new artistic collection was created, from which the National Gallery was born. The Palatina library (1769) and archaeological museum (1769) were added to the complex.
During the years of restoration, under the duchy of Marie Louise of Austria (1816-47) the cultural institutions of the Pilotta underwent significant transformations. The representative halls of the court were rearranged, and the façade of the Palace was renovated between 1833 and 1834, giving it elegant neoclassical character. The task was entrusted to architect Nicola Bettoli and the aim was to give greater dignity to the ducal residence.
During the 1944 bombardments the building was severely damaged and from here began a series of restoring interventions for the interiors, which became suitable for housing the National Gallery in 1991. The collection includes La Scapiliata by Leonardo da Vinci, the Turkish Slave and the Mystical Marriage of St. Catherine by Parmigianino, Correggio’s Madonna of St. Jerome and the Lamentation Over the Dead Christ, Guercino’s Susanna and the Elders and a view by Canaletto.