Capitoline Museum

Italian Churches in Rome
24 January 2014
Church in Rome
24 January 2014

Capitoline Museum

Musei Capitolini Roma - Campidoglio

Rome – Museum – Museum in Rome – Capitoline Museum


• Palazzo Nuovo

• Tabularium

• Palazzo dei Conservatori

• Pinacoteca Capitolina

Capitoline Museums ,Musei Capitolini ,Roma,Palazzo Nuovo, Tabularium , Palazzo dei Conservatori , Pinacoteca Capitolina ,Rome,

The Capitoline museums, which have now reopened to the public after a long period of restoration of the palaces which stand around the piazza (the whole complex conceived by Michelangelo), offer the visitor a wonderful itinerary: the Palano dei Conservatori, with its Exhedra of Marcus Aurelius and picture gallery,the Palazzo Nuovothe Tabularium (ancient records offices with its Galleria Lapidaria (collection of epigraphs) and the Palazzo Clementino Caffarelli, which contains the Capitoline medals collection and holds temporary exhibitions.

The museums have been extended and reorganized as part of an overall project to give an optimal rendering ofthe Capitoline Hill’s historical, architectural and artistic merits: a highly detailed itinerary has therefore been designed, new spaces have been acquired and some sectors have been reorganized, with the opening up and equipping with new displays of sections which had been left closed, sometimes for long periods.

The Capitoline collection, founded in 1471 by Pope Sixtus IV with the donation to the Roman people of the bronze statues of the Lateran (the She-wolf, the ‘Spinario‘, or Boy extracting a thorn from his foot, the ‘Camillus‘ and the colossal head of the emperor-king Constantine with its hand and orb), is regarded as the oldest public museum in the world; moreover, the restitution to the people of these works (the Thesaurus Romanitatis, symbol of Rome’s former grandeur) took on a higher emblematic value as the Capitoline had always been the centre of Ancient Rome‘s religious life and, after a long period of abandonment, seat of its chief civic offices from the Middle Ages onwards.

These sculptures were initially located on the front and in the courtyard of the Palazzo dei Conservatori.

Later, several works of art originating from archaeological excavations were added to the collection, including thelarge Hercules in gilded bronze (2″d century BC) found in the Forum Boarium during the papacy of Sixtus IV, the fragments of the colossal statue of Constantine (achieved using the acrolithic technique with uncovered parts in marble and clothing in stucco or bronze, dating back to between 313 and 324 AD) originally located in the Basilica of Maxentius in the Roman Forum, the three marble relief panels, dating back to between 176 and 180 AD, depicting the exploits of the emperor Marcus Aurelius (sacrificial scene in front of the Temple of Capitoline Jupitertriumph of the emperor kingscene of imperial clemency towards prisoners), transported in 1515 from the church of SS. Luca e Martina in the Forum, and what is known as the ‘Capitoline Brutus‘, a bronze bust dating back to between the 4th and the 3th  centuries BC, donated to the museum by Cardinal Pio da Carpi in 1564.

The original historical nature of the Capitoline collection was however altered in 1566, when Pope Pius Vdecided to remove the images of pagan idols from the Vatican and donated over 140 ancient statues to theCapitol, turning the museum into a great collection of classical sculpture. In 1654 the Palazzo Nuovo was built as part of Michelangelo‘s brilliant project to restructure the whole area of the piazza, making it possible to move several of the statues there.

To these was added the collection of Cardinal Albani in 1733, which included over 400 sculptures andportraits, allowing Pope Clement XII to open the Capitoline Museum in 1734.

It was in this period that many statues were added to the Capitoline collections, including the Capitoline Venus, a Roman copy of a Hellenistic original deriving from the Venus of Cnidus (2″d century BC), the Drunken Faun in ‘rosso antico‘ marble, the two centaurs in ‘bigio morato‘ (black with white flecks) and a mosaic with doves originating from Hadrian’s Villa in Tivoli (2″d century AD), in addition to the famous statue of the Dying Gaul, which was part of the Ludovisi collection.

There were major additions to the Capitoline collections towards the end of the 19th century after Romebecame the capital of a unified Italy in 1870 and new areas were excavated for the construction of modern neighborhoods.

In the same period, thanks to the generosity of private collectors who donated their remarkable collections,the Capitoline Museums acquired the Castellani Collection of Greek and Etruscan vases and the Cini Collection of precious porcelain.

The Medagliere Capitolino (Capitoline medals collection) now housed in the Palazzo Clementino Caffarelli also came into being in 1872 with the acquisition of important private collections of coinsmedals,gems and jewels from city excavations.

The Galleria Lapidaria may be reached from the Palazzo Nuovo via the so-called Galleria Congiunzionewhich runs under the piazza.

It has now re-opened after thirty years’ closure, and the new display illustrates the most important aspects ofAncient Rome‘s public and private life by means of over 3,000 inscriptions in LatinGreek and Hebrew, combining a high level of scientific rigor with the need to satisfy a growing interest and attention on the part of the general public.

The Galleria Lapidaria is divided into nine thematic sections: ”Languages”, “Profession sand Trades“, “Games“, “Burials“, “Worship“, ”Law”, “Roads and Aqueducts“, “Soldiers” and the “Roman Aristocracy“.

The gallery also has an informatics point where all the inscriptions can be viewed complete with images and translations into Italian and English. There is also a specific itinerary for the visually disabled and a musical commentary which accompanies the visitor all the way, right up to the spectacular view from the Tabulariumover the Roman Forum.

Indeed, from here the museum itinerary takes us to the imposing structure of the Tabularium, with itsmonumental arches.

This was the ancient public archive of the people of Rome, where the bronze tabulae were preserved containing the laws and official acts of state.

Its construction was completed by Quintus Lutatius Catulus, consul in 78 BC.

It stood on a high podium against the slopes of the hill and it was built on several storeys, which overlooked the square behind.

The previously existing Temple of Veiovea youthful underworld version of Jupiter of ancient Italic origin, was incorporated into its design, and its cult statue (double life-size) still survives, unfortunately minus its head.

As for the remains of the temple, which was consecrated in 192 BC, the area of the inner chamber may be seen, with its laterally elongated plan: his was only discovered in 1939 during the building of the above-mentionedGalleria Congiunzione.

lndeed, the Palazzo Senatorio is built on top of both the Tabularium and the protruding parts of the Tempie of Veiove, which has preserved both buildings from otherwise likely destruction.

Continuing along this memorable itinerary, we come to the Palazzo dei Conservatori (the name derives from the holders of civil office who played a central role in municipal government from the mid 14th century onwards) after crossing a large courtyard containing important ancient sculptures, including the fragments of the above-mentioned colossal acrolith of Constantine and reliefs depicting military trophies and conquered provinces originating from the Temple of the Deified Hadrian (145 AD), the imposing remains of which are still visible inPiazza di Pietra.

We ascend the grand stairway to the first floor, which constitutes the original nucleus of the building, with its frescoed halls such as the ‘Sala degli Orazi e Curiazi‘, which tells the legendary story of the origins of Romein the cycle painted by Cavalier d’Arpino and his pupils between 1595 and 1640 (the finding of the twins by the she-wolfthe battle of the Veientes and the Fidenaticombat between the Horatii and CuriatiiRape of the Sabine WomenNuma Pomplius founds the cult of the Vestal Virgins; Ramulus draws the perimeter trench around his square city).

The many other rooms of the Palazzo del Conservatori include the Sala dei Capitani, frescoed byTommaso Laureti between 1587 and 1594 (with scenes extolling the virtue and courage recounted in the stories of Muclus Scaevola and PorsennaHoratius Cocles on the Subllclan Bridge the Justice of Brutus and the victory of Lake Regillus); and the Sala di Annibale, which contains the original frescoes dating back to the beginning of the 16th century (depicting various episode from the Punic Warsthe triumph of Rome over SiciIyHannlbals descent into Italythe peace negotiations between Lutatius Catulus and Hamilcar; and the Battle of the Aegadian Islands). 

The various statues present in the Palazzo dei Conservatori apart from those already mentioned: the She-wolfthe ‘Spinario’ (Boy extracting a thorn from his foot), the ‘Camillus’ and the ‘Capitoline Brutus‘ – include the marble statue of Pope Urban VIII designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1640), the bronze statue of Pope Innocent X by Alessandro Algardi (1645-1650) and the recently restored Medusa’s head by Bernini (1644-1648)

Continuing along the museum itinerary, we may admire the effective new setting of the famous equestrianstatue in gilt bronze of the emperor Marcus Aurelius (121-180 AD), which Pope Paul III ordered moved tothe Capitoline Hill from the Lateran in 1538 and which, under Michelangelo’s project, stood In the centre of the piazza (bronze copy cast by the State Mint was positioned there in 1997) The sculpture group, which returned to the Campidoglio in 1990 after restoration work lasting nine years and spent fifteen years in an air-conditioned ground-floor hall off the Courtyard of the Palazzo Nuovo, now stands on a new base which allows it to be viewed correctly from close quarters, and is housed in the what is known as the Exhedra of Marcus Aurelius.

inaugurated In December 2005, this is a vast oval-shaped hall (1,000 sq. m.) with a  glass-coffered ceiling and controlled temperature and humidity, designed by Carlo Aymonino, occupying the area which used to containthe Roman Garden.

Some of the great Capitoline bronzes have been brought together in the exhedra (the colossal head of the emperor Constantine and his hand holding an orb, and the bronze Herculesnude and armed with a club, which originates from the Forum Boarium); here, the perimeter wall of the Temple of Capitoline Jupiter, dedicated to luppiter Optimus Maximus and to the two goddesses of the Capitoline triadJuno and Minerva, may now be seen aII the way down to its foundation base.

The building was started by King Tarquinius Priscus and completed by the last king of RomeTarquin the Proud, but the temple was only inaugurated at the beginning of the Republic in 509 BC.

It stood on a high podium with a flight of steps at the front, and was surrounded by a colonnade on three sides, with another two rows of columns aligned  with those on the façade inside the deep porch in front of the three chambers.

The extant remains of the foundations and podium consist of enormous parallel wall structures of blocks of‘cappellaccio‘ tufa indicating the broad extension of the base of the building (about 55 x 60 meters).

The roof of the temple was decorated by a grandiose terracotta four-horse chariot, a 6th century work by the Etruscan artist Vulca of Veii, but the temple was rebuilt in marble after total destruction in the fires of 83 BC and 69 and 80 AD.

Findings from the excavations of the Area Sacra di S. Omobono in the Forum Boarium have been placed in the area next to the remains of the Temple of Capitoline Jupiter.

These include the statues in painted terracotta depicting Heracles and Athena which decorated “the top of one of the temples of the sanctuary, dedicated to Fortuna and Mater Matuta, and a few architectural pieces from the same building dating back to the reign of Servius Tullius in the 2n: half of the 6th century BC.

The new museum display has also renewed the vast sector devoted to the Horti romani, the sumptuous villas which the patrician families possessed across the city, including the Horti Lamiani on the Esquiline.

Here, a bust often emperor 19 Commodus was found at the end of the 2′” century AD and also the Esquiline Venusa nude portrayed binding her hair before bathing.

On the stand, next to the statue, is a sculpture of an Egyptian vase with a snake wrapped around it and a basket of roses, suggesting a representation of Isis and Osiris, according to the religious synthesis which operated in Hellenized Egypt.

The goddess is accompanied by two figures of priestesses or muses, who are very similar in the treatment of the marble surface and the porcelain-like finish of the skin: the three pieces may be dated to the early imperial age.

Further ascending the great stairway, we come to the Pinacoteca Capitolina. or Capitoline picture gallery: the first nucleus of the collection was formed with the acquisition of the picture collections of the Sacchetti marquises (1748) and the Pio of Savoy princes (1750) under the papacy of Benedict XIV.

It included about 300 pictures which were brought together for a joint purpose: to avoid dissipating the collections on the antiques market, and to encourage the study of the works by the “Scuola del Nudo” of the Accademia di San Luca, which was based in one of the rooms of the Palazzo dei Conservatori Reopened to the public in 1999, the Capitoline picture gallery boasts a totally new itinerary in chronological order, starting with paintings from the late Middle Ages and ending with those of the 18’h century

The works from the Veneto and Ferrara schools constitute the main core of the collection, which includes the Baptism of Christ (c. 1512) by Titian, the Rape of Europa by Veronese – a mythological subject very dear to the painter, an Annunciation by Garofalo (1528) and a Holy Family by Dosso Dossi (1527).

The collection also includes masterpieces by Caravaggio: the Fortune Teller (an early work of 1595 from the collection of Cardinal Francesco Maria Del Monte, one of the artist’s first patrons), and St John the Baptist, painted in 1602 for the Mattei family.

The collection also includes important paintings with mythological themes commissioned from Pietro da Cortona by the Sacchetti family between 1624 and 1630: the Sacrifice of Polyxena; the Rape of the Sabine Women and the Triumph of Bacchus, as well as a notable group of works by Guido Reni which includes an early painting of St Sebastian (C.1615) and canvases from his mature period depicting CleopatraLucretia, the Young girl with a crown and the Blessed Soul (1640-1642).

In the hall built in 1752 is the monumental altarpiece of St Petronilla by Guercino, executed between 1622 and 1623 for an altar in the Basilica of St Peter and commissioned by Pope Gregory XV.

Works by foreign painters include the canvas of Romulus and Remus being suckled by the She-wolf, by Pieter Paul Rubens and assistants (1617-1618), portraits by Anton Van Dyck (1627-1629) and the self-portrait by Diego Velasquez (1649-1651)

Information and Addresses

Address Piazza del Campidoglio, 1

Visiting Hours Every day from 9.00 am to 8.00 pm; 24 and 31 Dec. 9.00 am – 2.00 pm

Closed Monday, Dec. 25, Ja n.1, May 1

Telephone 0682059127; Fax 06 6785488;

Bookings 39967800 (evenings)

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