Greece Museography

The museums and collections that contain monuments of Greek art can be divided into four main categories: from Greece and the Hellenic East, from Italy, from Europe, from other parts of the world.

In Greece and in the Hellenic East the National Museum of Athens stands out, for whose plethoric collections the beautiful, purpose-built building has now become cramped; it is certain that in some respects, in the field of Greek art, the National Museum of Athens has the primacy over all the other museums in the world. In Athens the Acropolis Museum is added, small but of essential value, especially for its archaic sculpture. The museum of Candia, the Ottoman Museum of Constantinople, the Archaeological Museum of Rhodes follow in importance. Among the local museums, those of Olympia, Delphi, Epidaurus, Sparta, Eleusis stand out; in Asia Minor those of Brussa, Conia, Smyrna; in Cyprus the museum of Nicosia.

All these museums are of recent origin: the National Museum of Athens was built between 1866 and 1869, that of the Acropolis of Athens in 1878; that of Delphi in 1902; thus the other museums of the Hellenic East have close origins. The museum of Rhodes, very flourishing, is due to the Italian government, and, in its current structure, was inaugurated in 1928.

Much older are the museographic traditions in Italy, and mainly in Rome. It can be said that an embryonic museum was the home of Cardinal Giordano Orsini, a contemporary of Alexander III (1159-1181), who was adorned with many ancient objects. A true museum of figured marbles was in the century. XIII the factory of Nicolao Marmorario. The Capitoline municipal collection of ancient sculptures, by Sixtus IV, began in 1471; from 1506 that of the Vatican collections, with the ancient marbles that Julius II placed in the courtyard of the Belvedere; while the establishment of the Cesarini Museum in Rome, the first garden-museum freely open to scholars, dates back to 1500. It can be said that in the 1500s every Roman palace (eg the Palazzo Massimo delle Colonne), every villa (eg villa Medici) rose to the function of a museum for the use of ancient marbles in the decoration; until, in the middle of the century. XVIII, a villa was built specifically to house a museum: it was the one built by Cardinal Alessandro Albani, Winckelmann’s friend, in which the splendid collection of works of art was placed, which can still be admired today.

Between 1714 and 1749 Scipione Maffei had established one of the oldest museums in the world in Verona, while in Bologna in the Institute of Sciences and Arts, thanks to Luigi Ferdinando Marsili, an antiquities museum was started in 1714. In the second half of the century there were the great pontifical museums, starting with the Pio-Clementino Museum, begun in 1770 by Pius VI, and the Bourbon Museum was formed in Naples.

Coming to list the major Italian museums that contain works of Greek art, we must start from Rome. In Rome, precisely in the Vatican City, there are the following museums: the PioClementino Museum, the Chiaramonti Museum (year 1810), the Braccio Nuovo (1817), the Profane Museum of the Vatican Library, the Etruscan-Gregorian Museum (1836) . The Lateran Profane Museum belongs to the Holy See. Two large museums in continuous increase belong to the Italian state, founded by r. decree of 7 February 1889, the National Roman Museum of the Baths of Diocletian, rich in monuments of sculpture, and the National Museum of the villa of Pope Julius III, rich in ceramic monuments. Add the R. Borghese Gallery.

The Capitoline Museum (inaugurated in 1734), the collections of the Palazzo dei Conservatori or New Capitoline Museum, the Mussolini Museum, the Antiquarium del Celio, the small but very valuable Barracco Museum (donated by Giovanni Barracco to the city of Rome in 1905). Of private museums we should mention that Torlonia alla Lungara, unfortunately closed to the public, the Barberini, Borghese, Colonna, Doria, Grazioli, Lancellotti, Spada, Valentini collections; finally the villas Pamphily-Doria (founded in the mid-17th century), Mattei, Medici, Rospigliosi.

After Rome, for museums with a wealth of Greek monuments, come Florence, Naples, Palermo, Syracuse. In Florence, there is the Royal Archaeological Museum (founded in 1879) and the marble sculptures of the Royal Uffizî Gallery, Palazzo Riccardi, the Loggia dei Lanzi, Palazzo Pitti and the Boboli Gardens. In Naples is the immense National Museum, formerly the Bourbon Museum, whose oldest nucleus is the Farnese collection, founded in Rome around 1530 by Cardinal Alessandro Farnese. In Palermo there is the National Museum, in Syracuse the flourishing R. Archaeological Museum. But add other Italian museums, which contain monuments of Greek art or sculpture or ceramics: Provincial Museums of Bari and Lecce, Civic Museum of Bologna, Campano Museum of Capua: Biscari Museum of Catania, Municipal Museum of Agrigento, collection of the ducal palace of Mantua, Museum of the Opera del Duomo and Faina collection in Orvieto, Civic Archaeological Museum and R. Antiquario of Reggio di Calabria, Jatta Museum of Ruvo, R. Archaeological Museum of Taranto. National Museum of Tarquinia, R. Museum of Antiquities of Turin, R. Archaeological Museum of Venice, Lapidary Museum of Verona.

After Greece and Italy, in the other parts of Europe there are three great centers, where Greek art is represented in a magnificent way in museums: London, Paris, Berlin. In London, the British Museum, founded in 1759, experienced tremendous increases in Greek material in the first half of the past century. In Paris, the Louvre Museum, founded by the French Revolution in 1791, after its transformation into the Napoleon Museum (1803-1816) was filled with the spoils made in the Napoleonic conquests; then returned to less monstrous proportions, it is certainly one of the first museums in the world, even as regards Greek art. Frederick William III, King of Prussia is to be considered as the founder of the Berlin Museum of Antiquities, which suffered serious losses in the Napoleonic period; but all was returned by France after the Treaty of Vienna;antiquarium) is the Pergamon Museum started in 1881 and reorganized in 1929.

After London, Paris, Berlin we have Munich with the Glyptotheque (inaugurated in 1830) and with the Museum of small ancient art; Ny-Carlsberg near Copenhagen with the rich collection of sculptures coming mostly from Italy; Leningrad with the Hermitage developed especially from 1779 onwards; Madrid with the Prado Museum, constituted first of all by the collection of the kings of Spain, whose primitive nucleus is due to Philip II; Vienna with the National Museum of Art History and with the collections of the Belvedere Palace and the former Archducal Palace of Francesco Ferdinando; the latter collection is the one already existing in the villa of Cataio, in the Euganean hills. Add Budapest with the Museum of Figured Arts, Brussels, with the Royal Museums, Geneva with the Museum of Art and History, Leiden with the Royal Museum of Antiquities,

But other interesting museums and collections of Greek art are in Europe. especially in Germany and Great Britain. In Germany, after the Albertinum in Dresden, they are: the Academic Art Museum of Bonn, the Brunswick Museum, the Fridericianum of Cassel, the Municipal Museum of Frankfurt am Main, the Archaeological Institute of the University of Leipzig, the University collection of Tübingen, the Museum of the University of Würzburg. In England and Scotland, in addition to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge and the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, there are the rich private collections in the palaces and castles of the great British aristocracy: the Northampton collection at Ashby Castle, the Yarborough collection at Brocklesby-House, Devonshire at Chatsworth, Astor to Clieveden, Leicester to Holkham Hall, Cholmondeley to Hougton Hall, Blundell to Ince, Cook, Newton Robinson, Ponsonby, Evans, Umphrey Ward in London, Leconfield in Petworth, Cook in Richmond, Morrit in Rokeby Hall, Kinnaird in Rossie Priory, Northumberland in Sion House, Pembroke in Wilton House, Bedford in Woburn; the Lansdowne collection was recently dispersed following an auction.

Finally, monuments of Greek art are in museums in North Africa and North America. In Egypt it is the Greco-Roman Museum of Alexandria, in Libya the rich museums of Benghazi and Tripoli, in Tunis the Bardo Museum, in Algeria the museums of Algiers and Cherchell.

Prominent in the United States are two very flourishing museums, that of Fine Arts in Boston, the Metropolitan of New York; in Canada it is the Toronto Museum.

Greece Museography