We The Italians | Italian art: Torlonia collection reappears

Italian art: Torlonia collection reappears

Italian art: Torlonia collection reappears

  • WTI Magazine #124 Feb 16, 2020
  • 181

The story that leads to what promises to be one of the most important exhibitions of the 2020 season in Italy and beyond, starts from a contested will, shameful accusations, false claims: a fratricidal war for the billionaire legacy of Prince Alessandro Torlonia who died in 2017, which won media popularity and also involved the immense artistic heritage of the family. The eldest son Carlo denounced possible wrongdoing of the brothers and suspected agreements for the export of works of art, but the letters of his deceased father accused him.

So the judge, also in order to evaluate the goods in question and seek an agreement, decided to seize the entire estate, including the famous Torlonia Collection, the most important private collection of ancient art in the world: 623 sculptures of inestimable value, invisible for over 40 years and crammed into a warehouse since the seventies, when the ancient Torlonia Palace, in which it was exhibited, had been transformed into a luxury condominium.

Finally, a few months ago something has been resolved and the exhibition "The Torlonia Marbles. Collecting Materpieces" will open its doors from March 25th 2020 at the new exhibition venue of the Capitoline Museums in Palazzo Caffarelli, in Rome. It will be an international event that we could define as historic, considering that it will be the first act of a process that will lead in the coming years to the creation - or rather the return to Rome, albeit in another exhibition venue - of the Torlonia Museum. The scientific project for the enhancement of the collection has been entrusted to Salvatore Settis, who is curating the exhibition with Carlo Gasparri, archaeologists and academics of the Lincei, while the design of the exhibition is by David Chipperfield Architects.

The exhibition is a historical narrative that goes through the phases of private collecting of antiquities and its passage to the establishment of the concept of museum as we know it today. "Starting in the fifteenth century, when collecting began in Rome where the works emigrated to the homes of Roman families," said Settis, explaining that this was "the seed from which museums would later be born. The oldest example is the Capitoline Museums".

The catalogue of the exhibition is based on a precise selection of the curators who in turn refer to the very precious catalogue of 1884, which with its successive editions was very valuable and still valid today. Among those of public and private museums around the world, it was the first to publish photographs of all the objects in a collection. By then, an absolute novelty. After the Roman exhibition, there are already several great foreign museums very interested, such as Paris and Washington, ready to host it. After all, the exhibition is very important: it will be the first look at this famous collection, not visible for decades.

Thanks to the patronage of BVLGARI, which has subsidized the restoration of the ninety-six works on display, it will be possible to have a first taste of what will hopefully become one of the most important archaeological museums in the coming years. This will unite the history of Roman collecting with that of the Torlonia-Albani, one of the most important families in the history of Rome over the last five centuries, which still has the beautiful Villa Albani on Via Salaria, a true treasure chest of beauty at the heart of the urban fabric of the capital.