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A new Etruscan Museum in Milan: Collection and Museum Project

15 maggio 2017
Ex Boccherini - Piazza S. Ponziano 6 (Conference Room )
Collecting works of art is a form of conservation and transmission of cultural heritage. Etruscans were the largest, most important and influential civilization of the pre-Roman Italic peninsula, connecting both the local and Greek cultures with what later became the Roman republic and then empire. The Etruscan civilization flourished between the IX and I century B.C. to include the so-called Villanovian and early Etruscan period (IX to VII century B.C.), an archaic and classical age (VI to IV century B.C.) and the declining period of the Roman conquest (III to I century B.C.). The Etruscan federation of state-cities mainly occupied a territory corresponding to today's central Italy (roughly between the Arno and Tevere rivers). It later expanded southward to occupy the current Campania region, and northward to include a large part of the Po Valley. Although Lombardy was thus only marginally touched by the Etruscan civilization, Milan is today the most lively Italian town not only from an industrial and artistic, but also cultural point of view. Hence, the decision to open the new Etruscan museum in Milan. The museum exhibition will consist of pieces from the Fondazione Luigi Rovati collection and from other recently acquired and well-known collections. The central nucleus is represented by the former Cottier-Angeli collection of Etruscan vases, that was lately purchased abroad by the Fondazione and brought back to Italy following to an agreement with the Italian Ministero dei Beni e delle Attivita' Culturali. This published collection is a reference for the history of Etruscan ceramic. It consists exclusively of impasto (a rough unrefined clay) and bucchero (a distinctly black, burnished ceramic ware: the signature of Etruscan ceramic) pottery from the IX to the VI century B.C. Vases from the Faliscan and Capena area, a territory connecting Etruria with other Italic populations across the Tevere river, are largely represented with decorations depicting a fantastic bestiary that is among the most important within the Italic peninsula during the so-called "orientalizing" period. A large part of the collection consists of productions from the Etruscan cities of Vulci, Veio, Tarquinia and especially Caere (Cerveteri). The latter shows the entire morphologic inventory from the period and the area, often with inscriptions of extraordinary importance for further studying the provenance and the Etruscan language in general. Several complex vases of major artistic value are also present, often representing a "unicum". Another collection recently purchased by the Fondazione Rovati is the former Cambi collection. It consists of numerous objects from historical collections from the area of Chiusi, mostly formed between the XVII and the XIX century, such as the well-known Paolozzi collection, widely described by scholars visiting Etruria during the Grand Tour (e.g. George Dennis' "The Cities and Cemeteries of Etruria", 1848). Beside ceramic pottery, the former Cambi collection includes several sculptures (such as a rare stone cippus with dancing scenes) and complements the Fondazione Rovati collection of objects purchased on the lawful antiquity market over the last decades: amazing terracottas, jewelry, extremely rare examples of etruscan paintings and bronzes. Among the latter, the incredible Cernuschi Warrior, a large votive warrior God originally owned by Enrico Cernuschi, a prominent XIX century banker, economist and collector that was one of the leaders of the "Five Days of Milan" revolution in 1848 and which is likely to become the museum's symbol. Finally, the former Mazzanti collection will also enter the museum exhibition, with several objects from historical series collected during the XIX century, including an extraordinary canopy vase. The project for a museum of Etruscan art was conceived in response to the wishes of the Fondazione Luigi Rovati to create a place where the value of its art collection described above could be justly promoted and appreciated. The project will see the redevelopment and expansion of the historical Palazzo Bocconi-Rizzoli-Carraro, located in Milan in Corso Venezia 52, in a prestigious area where immediate surroundings include the "Indro Montanelli" public gardens of Porta Venezia and buildings of excellence such as Palazzo Saporiti, built in 1912 (which today hosts the Museo Civico di Storia Naturale - Civil Museum of Natural History - of the Milan Municipality) and the Planetarium, built in 1930 by architect Portaluppi. Palazzo Bocconi-Rizzoli-Carraro was built in 1871 and has been renovated on numerous occasions over the years, ranging from works on the main facade looking over Corso Venezia to more generic, special maintenance works. It was damaged by bombings in 1943, before experiencing a genuine transformation in the sixties led by architect Ferdinando Reggiori, who arranged a variation to its shape and the refurbishment of the façade looking over the internal garden, together with architect Filippo Perego, responsible for the interiors. The building currently consists in a single fabrication composed of five above-ground levels (in addition to one underground and one loft floor), and features a rectangular layout covering a total surface area of approximately 3,300 m2. The architectural project will be developed in three macro stages by architect Mario Cucinella. The first relates to the expansion of the underground level and the development and set-up of the museum therein, which the largest part of the collection described will be hosted. This will be the true heart of the design implementation process, an architectural element of excellence conceived in complete sync with the overall project for the Palazzo. This new space will be characterized by its sinusoidal contours, which will transmit a sense of continuity among the different environments, conveying a sense of fluidity to visitors as they travel the different paths. The stone used for cladding will be laid horizontally in stratified levels, and insofar as an "eternal", natural and precious material, will create the perfect setting for the prestigious works of art that will be housed therein. The second relates to the renovation of the eighteenth century palace. The most important works will involve the meticulous operation of preserving and restoring the main rooms on the "noble level" or main floor, a type of "rediscovered home", specifically designed to display some particular objects of the Etruscan collection, together with other types of artistic objects owned by the Fondazione, in a single and continuous, past and present dialog. The other floors of the building have been designed to host a series of museum activities, including a library, offices, laboratories, conference hall and spaces for temporary exhibitions. On the ground floor, a large entrance hall will be developed, serving as a grouping area from whence the public will be directed towards the different areas of the museum, including the bookshop, cafeteria and garden. The third design implementation involves the large garden at the back of the building. The perimeter walls hide this space, which closes it in on three sides. It consists in a private green area available for public use, where visitors can stop to have a chat and exchange their thoughts, a city lounge of sorts, simple, yet elegant. It was decided to restore the garden’s original features through a redevelopment project brought to life in cooperation with the Italian Cultural Heritage Commission, with a view towards protecting plant life with historical value, while at the same time highlighting and celebrating the intimate and surprising collection offered by the garden as visitors arrive through the main hall of the building. The new museum aims to become not only a centre of excellence in the field of conservation, study and fruition of the collection, but also a pole of attraction for all organizations linked to Etruscan art and archaeology, thanks to the central role of Milano in the new Italian cultural landscape.
Rovati, Lucio
Forlanelli, Giovanna