Long hidden, rare treasures of Rome’s Torlonia clan to be exhibited

  • AFP, Rome
  • Updated: Mar 21, 2016 17:44 IST
A sculpture depicting Odysseus’ escape from Polyphemus’s cave. It was acquired by Torlonia from the Albani collection. (Fondazione Torlonia onlus)

Arguably one of the world’s greatest collections of ancient Roman statues and sculptures, hidden for decades, will soon be put on display for public view.

A selection of the priceless works held by the Torlonia family, one of Rome’s oldest dynasties, is finally to go on public view following an agreement this week between the Italian ministry of culture and the family foundation.

Under the deal, about 60-90 works of a collection of 620 pieces will be displayed in Rome in the second half of 2017.

The artwork, Hestia Giustiniani, is a Roman replica of a sculpture believed to have been made by Greek sculptor Calamis. (Fondazione Torlonia onlus)

An overseas tour is to follow before they are finally housed in a permanent centre in Rome.

Having amassed a fortune from banking in the 18th Century, the Torlonia family went on to become important collectors of antiquities and objets d’art, often accepting individual pieces as security against loans.

The bulk of the collection has spent decades in the basement of a family palace in the Trastevere neighbourhood of central Rome after Prince Alessandro Torlonia decided to convert the building into a 90-flat condominium.

One of the sculptures from the collection of the Torlonia family, the bust of Roman king Galba. (Fondazione Torlonia onlus)

Legend has it that curiosity over the treasures that lay below the block promoted renowned archaeologist Rannuccio Bianchi Bandinelli to disguise himself as a refuse collector in order to get in and check them out.

The Italian state has made repeated requests for the marble works to be handed over to public ownership, so far in vain.

Belonging to the Etruscan civilisation, this rare sculpture was found in Vulci, near Rome. (Fondazione Torlonia onlus)

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