The Museum of Saved Art opens in Rome, in the octagonal hall – more commonly known as the Planetarium of Diocletian’s Baths – inside the National Roman Museum.
The museum – whose constitution was announced by Minister of Culture Dario Franceschini a few weeks ago, after the Carabinieri Command for the Protection of Cultural Heritage (TPC) its immense success – will be a place where one can permanently talk about the rescue of art in its different shapes.
Without prejudice to the principle that each work must return to its area of origin, the Museum of Saved Art wishes to be a place where these assets can be transited and exhibited to the public for a limited period: stolen, scattered works of art, sold or exported illegally and then finally brought home to repair that piece stolen from history and the national heritage.
Reimbursements due to cultural diplomacy or after investigations conducted by TPC Carabinieri Command and the work on the blue helmets of culture, the discovery in the rubble of earthquakes and after interventions in case of natural disasters and conflicts, rescues thanks to major restorations, not to mention the accidental recycling of antiques or due to emergency excavations for public and private works, the masterpieces restored by the Central Institute for Restoration (ICR): all these works of art will find a landing place during a period when they will be exhibited to the public before being moved to the museums to which they belong. .
“Stolen works of art, archeological finds scattered, sold or exported illegally: this is a significant loss of a country’s cultural heritage, an expression of its historical memory and collective values, as well as a people’s identity” – declares Dario Franceschini, Minister of Culture. “Protect and enhance these riches – continues – it is an institutional duty, but also a moral obligation: it is necessary to assume this responsibility towards future generations, so that with these testimonies they can preserve the identity value that enables them to recognize themselves in a common cultural history “.
The first exhibition
On the occasion of the opening of the museum to the public, the latest results from the activities to combat the illegal trade in cultural goods, carried out by TPC’s operational department, always on the trail of art, will be exhibited. The exhibition is based on the artifacts that the TPC Operational Department returned from the United States in a period between December 2021 and last week: an impressive collection of works with numerous archaeological pieces from various civilizations.
“Among the hundreds of works that TPC’s operational department brought back from the United States in 2021, a number of votive and architectural ceramics and terracottas from different cultures of central and southern pre-Roman Italy stand out. The first exhibition presented at the Museo dell’Arte Salvata , in the octagonal hall of Diocletian’s Baths, is dedicated to a selection of these materials of great importance and constitutes the first phase of a path to research and improvement. – commented on by Massimo Osanna, Director General of Museums – which after the exhibition will bring the works back to the areas of origin. “
These artifacts go back to various investigative activities carried out by the “Carabinieri dell’Arte” in collaboration with the US authorities, seized from museum directorates, auction houses and private collections at various overseas sites. They had endured the usual struggle with illegal trade in the sector: secret excavations, receipt of stolen goods, illegal exports. The return to Italy took place on December 15, 2021 at the Consulate General in New York, where some pieces were exhibited for a few months.
At the end of the temporary exhibition, thanks to the coordination with the Directorate-General for Archeology, Fine Arts and Landscape and the Director-General of the State Museums Massimo Osanna, the National Archaeological Museum of Taranto, the Cerite National Archaeological Museum in the Cerveteri Archaeological Park and Tarquinia and the Roman National Museum itself.
Among the exhibited works, the oldest finds dating back to the Orientalizing period (7th century BC) stand out: They come mainly from southern Etruria, but also from Lazio, such as Giara (pithos) in overpainted red impasto-pottery in white (“white on red”) of Etruscan production (Cerveteri) with mythological scene of the dazzle of Polyphemus and animals (horses, cats) in the third quarter of the VII century. BC (the lid is of dubious relevance, showcase 1) and the ceremonial crater with four handles handed over by ceramic cups in red impasto painted over in white (“white on red”) by Northern Lazio production (Crustumerium) with waterfowl (VII century b. Kr., Display 10B).
In the second half of the sixth century. BC (late VI century BC, showcase 4)
The Etruscan necropolis has returned a huge amount of pottery from the 6th and 5th centuries. BC the beginning of the 5th century. BC (showcase 5)
Between the second half of the V and the first half of the IV century. BC: productions in black paint and red figures develop in Magna Graecia: exhibited the cauldron-shaped crater (lebes) with a banquet scene (symposium) with played kottabos (towards the middle of the fourth century BC, showcase 6 ) and the plate with two handles with overpainted red figures with overpainted center mask and a war scene between the Greeks and the Amazon (Amazonomachy) from the second half of the 4th century. BC (showcase 7), both of Apulian production.
From a large votive cabinet, in an unidentified sanctuary in southern Etruria or Lazio, the votive head in terracotta comes from Etruscan-Lazio production in the 4th century. BC, on which some traces of polychromy can be observed, which bring the old faces to life (showcase 10A).
The objects will be on display from June 16 to October 15, 2022, and for the occasion, the museum will be open to the public from Tuesday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“We are pleased to welcome, within the National Roman Museum, the Museum of Saved Art, which was created at the will of Minister Dario Franceschini and with the joint commitment of the Directorate-General for Museums. We are also excited about this first exhibition, which has has been possible thanks to the Carabinieri Command for the Protection of Cultural Heritage and their basic work for the country and especially for works of art.I hope that the new museum will welcome large exhibition projects that on the one hand serve as a “safe haven” for the works that will leave from here to a final location, far from anything that could harm them; on the other hand, from “aiming”, to separate and then move to the right place, the same ones that will be subjected to studies for to verify the degree of authenticity and origin: all this in order to fully understand the archaeological, historical and artistic significance of treasures found and exhibited for the first time to the public at National Roman Museum, in the Museum of Salvated Art “, said Stéphane Verger, director of the National Roman Museum.
“Protecting the cultural heritage is the mission we have been entrusted with, and for nothing in the world do we want to get rid of it. It is a necessary defense today, as it always has been. The protection of heritage referred to in Article 9 of the Constitution has enjoyed the most diverse advocates in the history of Italy. It involved sovereigns, popes and intellectuals. Since 1969, the Carabinieri Command for the Protection of Cultural Heritage has been one of the tenacious guardians of our works. The recovered assets amount to more than three million, and what is shown in this exhibition is only part of the “prey” returned with one of the most recent recoveries “, added Roberto Riccardi, Brigadier General, Commander of the Carabinieri for the Protection of the Cultural Heritage.
A new culture island in Rome
The building, located in the western corner of the Baths, has a square plane outside and an octagonal inside. The roof, a dome with eight ribs, was originally decorated with marble and stucco. Its location and the absence of heating systems suggested that it served as a smaller frigidarium. The hall has had various functions since 1878 and with the opening of Via Cernaia it was isolated from the rest of the complex by Diocletian’s baths.
In 1983, on the occasion of the renovation of the National Roman Museum, architect Giovanni Bulian began a project to transform some spaces throughout the complex, including the octagonal hall. An important part of Bulian’s plan was not realized at that time: it provided for the union of the Aula to the complex of the baths, with the elimination of the first stretch of Via Cernaia, to allow reinterpretation of the ancient Diocletian structures.
The opening to the public of the Museo dell’Arte Salvata is the first step in the realization of a major project that involves the implementation of Bulian’s design and has as its final project the birth of a cultural island in the center of Rome.