Rome and Antiquity: Reality and vision in the eighteenth century at the Museo della Fondazione Roma - Palazzo Sciarra

Over the last few years Museo della Fondazione Roma in Palazzo Cipolla on Via del Corso has steadily emerged as one of the most important exhibition spaces in the city, hosting art exhibitions that are not only notable because of the excellent choices of the curators, but also because of the hanging of the work in unusual, atmospheric settings – one only has to think of the museum's Edward Hopper show last year and its life size reproduction of the Nighthawks street-corner diner. The gallery is clearly going from strength to strength and has recently expanded its premises into a second location, just over the road in the recently restored Palazzo Sciarra, opening with a stunning inaugural show - Rome and Antiquity: Reality and vision in the eighteenth century.

Curated by Carolina Brook and Valter Curzi, the exhibition explores Rome’s rise to international
fame in the eighteenth century thanks to the rediscovery of Classical Antiquity and its rapid adoption as a model for the arts, learning and style across Europe. Rome and Antiquity is divided into seven distinct sections – ruins and antique statues; Roman archaeological digs in the eighteenth century; restoration, falsification and art dealership; the Roman workshops of Bartolomeo Cavaceppi and Giovanni Battista Piranesi and the market in antiquities; the teaching of the Academies; style and interior d├ęcor; and finally, artists inspired by classical antiquity - that gently guide the visitor through the 140 works on display, including sculptures, paintings, decorative art and archaeological remains.

Following what has proven to be a successful blueprint for previous exhibitions at the Museo della Fondazione Roma, each area is also given its own distinct identity thanks to the skillful and often surprising hanging of the work. The floor of the first room, for example, with its focus on views of ancient Rome and landscapes dotted with monuments and magnificent ruins, is casually littered with a few fallen capitals, whilst in the room dedicated to Cavaceppi and Piranesi, the sculptures and vases are arranged on rough wooden shelves to create the atmosphere of an eighteenth century workshop. Visitors are even able to admire, albeit virtually, the stunning colours, decorations and light in Nero's luxurious residence the Domus Aurea, via an impressive video reconstruction of the site designed by Stefano Borghini and Raffaele Carlani.

A feast for the eyes, there is much to enjoy in this exhibition, but I particularly liked the views of The Pantheon and The Tomb of Cecilia Metella; manufactured using the Florentine pietra dura technique of inlaid polished stones, it wasn't until I got close to these works that I realised, with a gasp, that they weren't actually paintings. I was also mesmerized by Giovanni Volpato's small bust of Pius VI with the Herm of Pericles, an absolutely exquisite work in biscuit porcelain. Climbing several steps up into the third section, one finds oneself face to face with the breathtakingly beautiful Minerva d’Orsay holding a tiny owl (on loan from the Louvre). The gold onyx body is a Roman archaeological find from the 2nd century AD which was restored in the eighteenth century with the addition of a white marble portrait head of a helmeted Minerva and a pair of white marble arms. Not surprisingly, this masterpiece has been used in the poster campaign for the exhibition - more than any other work, it seems to embody the marriage of classical Roman antiquity and contemporary eighteenth century art and the very spirit of the show as a whole.

Highly recommended.

Rome and Antiquity. Reality and vision in the eighteenth century is curated by Carolina Brook and Valter Curzi and continues at the Museo della Fondazione Roma, Palazzo Sciarra (entrance on Via Marco Minghetti) until 6 March, 2011.


theappletea said…
great article :)

P.S. I am hosting the very first CONTEST on the APPLE TEA, so if you like you can take part in it. It would mean the world to me. Please, visit here: