10 ART

All About Italy (USA) - - Editorial - Oreste Sacco

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.

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