Held in 1934, the architectural competition for new premises for the Faculty of Letters was won by the Milanese architect and designer Giò Ponti. As well as drawing up the designs of the building, Ponti was also personally responsible for a number of the furnishings within it: the atrium seating, the lecture-hall benches, the lecture tables and even the coat racks. All of these can still be seen today and give the interior the same stylistic coherence one can see in various rooms of the Rectorate in Palazzo Bo, whose interiors were also designed by Ponti.
A competition was also held to award the commission for the large fresco in the atrium of Palazzo Liviano, with various artists being asked to present sketches of works inspired by the theme of continuity between Roman and Modern culture. Those who took part included: Guido Cadorin, Ubaldo Oppi, Mario Sironi and Massimo Campigli, with the latter winning the commission and painting the fresco in the years 1939-40. The work depicts archaeology as the source of Italian culture, a heritage drawn on by scholars and ordinary Italians alike.
Other works of art in the Palazzo include the statue of Livy by the sculpture Arturo Martini (1942). The Roman historian is portrayed crouching down in a meditative pose: in the artist’s words, he is shown as “a child who spends his life down on his knees writing”. The third floor of the building has, since 1937, housed the Museum of Archaeological Sciences and Art. The collections include ancient and Renaissance sculpture and ceramics, with examples of Greek, Etruscan and Roman work, as well as plaster-casts of original pieces.
Palazzo Liviano is linked to the Sala dei Giganti [Giants’ Hall], which can be visited as part of a guided tour.