What has been called the most important private collection of ancient art in the world will finally be accessible to the public. The historic agreement, as Dario Franceschini, the Italian Minister for Cultural Activities and Treasures has defined it, establishes an important collaboration to fully valorize the splendid Torlonia collection, an immense private collection accumulated in the 19th century by the noble family that is comparable in its size and quality to those exhibited in the Capitoline or Vatican museums. The agreement is certainly historic, given the vicissitudes that have accompanied the history of this collection. The aristocratic Torlonia family was comprised of bankers who, thanks to their enormous influence, were able to put together the most impressive and significant collection of ancient statues still in private hands. In 1859, Alessandro, the “banker prince,” founded a private family museum in via della Lungara in the Trastevere neighborhood in Rome to house the splendid collections bought from other noble Roman families in decline or insolvent, as well as pieces from excavation campaigns carried out on the family’s various properties. That museum, however, was virtually inaccessible to the public at large, and in practice only open to other aristocrats or to approved scholars. Over the years, a long and bitter battle between the new country of Italy and the family festered in order to render this important patrimony public. The battle is over, and victory celebrations will begin with a temporary exhibition during this year, which will show of a selection of the most representative sculptures to give a taste of the importance of the collection and the scale of the project.
Afterward, the exhibition will travel first to New York and then to a fortunate European capital still to be designated. The Torlonia Foundation will take care of the expenses of restoring the pieces, while the Ministry will cover the expenses of the exhibition. An adequate permanent home has yet to be found for the prestigious collection, with its 620 Greek and Roman sculptures. Among the most important pieces exhibited will be rare original Greek statues of the 4th and 5th centuries B.C., such as the Hestia Giustiniana, Myron’s Athlete, Polyclitus’ Diadumenos, Cephisodotus the Elder’s Eirene, the Hellenistic portrait of Eutidemos of Bactriana, plus Etruscan works including frescoes from the necropolis of Vulci, as well as a series of busts of Roman emperors of inestimable value.