Musei di Villa Torlonia

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Museo della Villa

The Casino Nobile, which is already a “museum” from an architectural and decorative standpoint, contains a small but excellent museum devoted to pieces of statuary from the Torlonia collection found in the Villa (much of the collection still belongs to the family and is conserved in the palace in Via della Lungara) and several chance finds that have enabled a further strand of the Villa’s history to be added to the collection.
The pieces displayed give a close idea of how the Torlonia family, in particular Giovanni (1756–1829) and his son Alessandro (1800–80) were for almost a century leading figures in the field of art collecting, a practice that had originated in at least the fifteenth century when distinguished families in Rome began to adorn their residences with fine works of art and furnishings.
The works exhibited are not all from the same provenance: they were in part produced by Bartolomeo Cavaceppi, a noted eighteenth-century sculptor, restorer and antiques dealer, following Giovanni Torlonia’s purchase in 1800 of all the works in Cavaceppi’s studio; others come from finds on the properties belonging to the family; and yet others are pieces of the Villa’s furniture that managed to survive various spoliations.
This nucleus of works was added to following a sensational discovery of several artworks in the basement of the Theatre in 1997. These were originally displayed in the principal palace but were removed from there at an unknown time and for an unknown reason. The discovery was of three large plaster reliefs by Antonio Canova, a woman’s head in the style of Michelangelo, several pieces of furniture from the Villa’s demolished chapel, and a splendid marble pediment taken from the tomb of Claudia Semne on Via Appia Antica.
The final section of the museum is the reconstructed Bedchamber of Giovanni Torlonia (1872–1938), with the pieces of furniture that were used by Benito Mussolini during the period he resided in the Villa (1925–43).



The bedrooms end the two sides. They are painted with drapery imitating the curtains of a canopied bed and, at the centre of the vault, panels of Venus at her toilet and Psyche carried by the winds by Pietro Paoletti.


 Thanks to several archive photographs from the newspaper Il Tempo, it has been possible to establish that the furniture (a bed, wardrobe, chest of drawers, console, two bedside tables, a small armchair and a chair) found by chance in 1997 in a ministerial store once belonged to the Casino Nobile in Villa Torlonia. They came from the bedroom of Giovanni Torlonia Jr, the room later used by Benito Mussolini during his stay in the Prince’s palace from 1923 to 1943, which he rented for the symbolic sum of one lira a year thanks to the gracious hospitality of the Prince.
Commissioned from an unknown craftsman at the start of the 1900s, the furniture is in Genoese Baroque style typical of the eclecticism of the end of the nineteenth century, which mixed aspects of the Renaissance and the Baroque in reaction to the Greco-Roman classicism that had by then become uniform and sterile.
Genoese Baroque is typified by an overabundance of decoration: inlays, volutes, floral ornamentation and human figures are strewn over a very simple structure.
The frame of the imposing bed is made of elm with walnut veneer. The scrolled ornamentation of the two bed-heads and also the feet of the bed are elaborately carved. The feet at the head of the bed are in the form of spiral columns that rise to become part of the sides of the bed-head. The two bedside tables are in the style of Ligurian furniture design of the seventeenth century.
Standing on a stepped base, a small dresser, with a central door and drawer in the upper section, is adorned by pilasters decorated with the large heads of putti. And handles in the shape of male and female heads are a further unusual feature.
The chest of drawers is also characteristics of seventeenth-century Ligurian design: the handles of its four drawers are in the forms of the heads of a man (on the left) and a woman (on the right). Perhaps this was meant as a symbolic representation of the three ages of man: youth, maturity and senility.
Due to its large size, the wardrobe is not exhibited.
The furniture is completed by the console, whose richness of decoration contrasts with its rather simple structure. Rectangular in shape, it has three drawers and stands on a base decorated with volutes and putti. It is missing the mirror whose supports have the same decorative motifs as the bed-heads. 

Beginning 20th century
Beginning 20th century

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