HISTORY AND DESCRIPTION
Located in the monumental complex of S. Maria in Gradi, the Civic Museum of Viterbo has its origins in the exhibition of Etruscan discoveries, started in the city as early as the fifteenth century. In 1955, the cloister and the former convent became the exhibition space for the museum, composed of three levels following a chronological order, from Iron Age objects to nineteenth century documents. The room next to the ticket office is dedicated to exhibitions of permanent collections; in this room relics collected by the scholar Giovanni Nanni, known as Annio of Viterbo, are located. In the same room, the so-called Marmo Osiriano is conserved. The Marmo Osiriano is a medieval lunette, dating from the fifteenth century, representing an oak with a clinging vine; the Decreto di Desiderio, a false sculpture attributed to the same Annio, a half wheel carved on marble, in which would be announced the king’s decision of encircling the city with a wall and name it Viterbo. The porch is now home to a number of Etruscan sarcophagi, from the typical recumbent figure on the cover, the sarcophagi are placed in chronological order from the fourth to the second centuries BC coming from the Musarna, Cipollaretta, Norchia and Castel d’Asso centers. Some of them retain Etruscan inscriptions identifying both the deceased and the period in which they were made, these have hints of red and white that covered the entire figure. In the first room, which used to be the former refectory of the monastery, artifacts produced between the Iron Age and Etruscan period are situated. In this room, there are two terracotta sarcophagi that were found in the place where the ancient city of Surina stood once, and objects that remain as a clear testimony to the richness of the Etruscan towns that sprang up around Viterbo. The second room contains a collection of the viterbese Luigi Rossi Danielli, donated to the municipality of Viterbo in 1912. Most of the artifacts were found during excavations conducted between Musarna, Ferento, and San Giuliano, in which Rossi Danielli participated. They keep objects produced between the Iron Age and the Roman Empire, from seventh century BC Villanovan impasto vases to bucchero pottery, typical production of the Etruscan period developed between the seventh and fifth centuries BC. The same room contains Attic pottery with black and red figures, gold and bronze objects, and tools related to domestic life, as well as ointment and oil lamps of the later periods. The findings of the third room are largely derived from the site of Musarna and date back to a period between the fourth and first centuries BC. Among the items there are a bronze mirror with a bone handle and two sarcophagi’s lids made of clay from Serpepe. The last three rooms contain objects from the Roman city of Ferento, beginning with the artifacts found in the Salvi tomb, as the inkpot and the hemispheres of terracotta, ending with marble statues and inscriptions found in the city during the excavations carried out by the “Società Pro Ferento”. In a higher room a sarcophagus from the third century AD is located. This sarcophagus is decorated with a hunting scene and it is better known as the sarcophagus of Bella Galiana, a woman of extraordinary beauty that lived in the twelfth century. The first floor houses the Art Gallery, established in the nineteenth century. It contains the artworks expropriated to the Church as a result of the law applied between 1870 and 1874. The historic-artistic section was created after the unification of Italy, owing to the flow of works of art from town churches and monasteries. It preserves a remarkable group of XIII and XIV century sculptures and paintings, among which are the Madonna and Child, painted for the church of Almadiani, a bronze Ewer, and the Sphinx realized by Pasquale Romano in 1296. In the next room, the attention is drawn by the Pietà and the Flagellation by Sebastiano of Piombo, both commissioned by the bishop of Viterbo John Botonti in the early sixteenth century. Another room contains a rich fifteenth and sixteenth century painting exhibition of the “Viterbese School”. Among the most precious works is The Nativity with Saints John the Baptist and Bartholomew, by Antonio del Massaro, also called Il Pastura. This work was commissioned by the Guzzi family in 1488 for the family chapel in S. Mary of Truth. Also in the room are the Madonna and Child Enthroned by Francesco d’Antonio, called Il Balletta, Saint Bernardino and Angels by Sano di Pietro from Siena, sculptures of the Florentine Andrea della Robbia, the bust of Saint John the Baptist Almadiani and the lunette of the Madonna and Child with Angels. The last room on the first floor contains paintings dating from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century, including the Adoration of the Magi by Cesare Nebbia, two works by Aurelio Lomi, The Death of Maria and S. Sebastian, the Incredulity of St. Thomas, painted by Salvator Rosa for the church Oration and Death in 1636-37, and a number of other paintings, including the Saint Leonardo and Prisoners of Angelo Bonifazi and The Saints in Adoration of the Holy Family of Antonio Cheetahs, which sought to prove the strong artistic supremacy exercised by Rome in the city of Viterbo. Rounding out the production of the seventeenth century, the works of the greatest among the painters in Viterbo is Giova Francesco Romanelli, a pupil of Pietro da Cortona. Works kept in this room are The Rest of Egypt, the Assumption of Mary, the Annunciation and the Hercules and Omphale, painted in 1657. Of the eighteenth century preserved works displayed are the Death of Maria by Marco Benefial and the Sacrifice of Polyxena by Domenico Corvi. The top floor is reserved for applied arts and collections of historical interest. A coin collection with coins minted in Rome and Ancona can be found here. Other precious historical treasures include copies of the lost frescoes by Benozzo Gozzoli, made in the church of Saint Rosa, part of the ceramic collection of the Ospedale Grande degli Infermi (Hospital of the Sick of Viterbo), and fifty-six sketches of the macchina of Saint Rosa (see Chiesa di Santa Rosa). The exhibition closes with the portrait gallery, set up in the last room.
Viterbo, Civic Museum.
Traduzione di Marissa Navarro, Boise State University e Vivian Cottrell, University of Nevada, Reno, studentesse del programma USAC presso l’Università degli Studi della Tuscia.
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