Wednesday, 31 August 2016

A Visit to the Museum to help Italy: Palazzo Altemps

Last Sunday the earning of the Statal Museums were donated to the victims of the Earthquake in Central Italy of August 24.

As I had work that day and half of my day was gone, I picked a tiny but intriguing spot, one of the four sites that constitute the Museo Nazionale Romano, dedicated to antiquity and its collectors, Palazzo Altemps, close to Navona Square.

The original building dates the 15th century, when it belonged to the Riario family. Later on it would be bought by Cardinal Marco Sittico Altemps, who involved a good number of architects and artists (Algardi, for example) to fix the whole place and the collection of antiquities, following the tendency of the many previous owners (another was Cardinal Solderini, who commissioned Antonio da Sangallo for the composition of the beautiful, inner courtyard).
The place hosts a huge number of various collections belonging to the most important families of Roman Reinassance and Baroque periods.
An impressive collection of colossal busts and statues, usually retouched and restyled by the artists of the time.

These additional restorations, even if sometimes were really out of this word (an Athena wearing the hat of Pericles!), offer an aesthetical purpose but at the same time are an interesting diversion, as it's very fun to check all the additions and restorations of the piece-- Every statue has a detailed description in Italian and English, were the various modifications are made visible and properly explained-- I really loved that!

--Looking at the pictures above, can you tell what is ancient and what is retouched, or plainly remade..?
After the tour of the ground floor it was the time to go up the stairs to check the first floor, where it was possible to check bits of the original frescoes-- Seriously, what's the problem of those guys of the 19th century, placing crap all over frescoes, forcing people to restore them roughly centuries later?!

Top-spot of the first floor is the beautiful painted gallery that overlooks the courtyard:

The decoration is quite typical, that of a "secret garden" a la Reinassaince; it depicts exotic plants and birds (as a turkey!), a must of the time, and it's decorated by the busts of the Twelve Caesars (actually, only eight of them are recognizable as Emperors, the others are random busts added to complete the collection of twelve pieces), belonging to the Ludovisi's, a must for every collector of antiquities of the time.

Some of the greatest masterpieces of the collection can be found up here... Among them, the beautiful Ludovisi Ares, that conquered the heart of Winckelmann (and mine), and the Galatian Suicide, a Roman copy of the original Hellenistic masterpiece.

This floor contains also the little private Church of Saint Anicetus, that host the relics of this Pope, a present to the family by Pope Clement VIII, probably an act of reconciliation after the death of Roberto Altemps, legitimate son of the Cardinal. The legend of Anicetus being beheaded is an historical false, supported by the Altemps family itself, that matched the execution of Roberto with that of this Martyr Pope.
Quite interesting is the Egyptian Collection. It contains original Egyptian pieces part of the Brancaccio's collection, and a series of Roman reperts dedicated to the flourishing of the Isiac cults in Rome. Both the Janiculum and Campus Martius were, in fact, areas where important temples were dedicated to Isis and Serapis.

It was really interesting to look at how the Egyptian iconography was interpreted by the Roman artists.

Another feature of the gallery is an interesting exhibition dedicated to Evan Gorga, an Italian tenor of the 19th century and an avid collector.
The ehiibition hall, that covers both floors of the palace, shows to the public a little part of his enormous collection. The area is set up as a storage filled with boxes... This is how his immense collection appeared once it was recovered after the WWI.

The idea behind the collection of Gorga, was to gather artifacts and pieces pertaining the "development of art, religion and civilization" of humanking, and it's filled with everything-- Coins, waterpipes, object of common use, parts of furnitures-- Besides the pieces preserved into Palazzo Altemps, parts of his collection can be found all over Italy and in the rest of the world, USA, Japan and Australia among the various places.

Long sory short, a lovely visit.
I'm a bit saddened to know that the Museo Nazionale Romano has so little visits, despite its incredible heritage.
Even if it's a lot of stuff to see, I encourage you to visit it whenever you happen in Rome: it's composed of 4 museums, and the ticket costs just 7 euros, and it lasts three full days, so it's also extremely convenient!

--I'm definitely not going to wait for another eartquake to finish my tour!

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