Italy to create museum for long-hidden ancient art collection


The Italian culture ministry has finally reached an agreement to create a museum in Rome for what has been called “world’s most important private collection of ancient art”. The collection, which includes more than 600 Greek and Roman sculptures, has been in storage at the Torlonia family’s Roman palazzo since 1976.

The princely family, who made a fortune in the 18th and 19th centuries as bankers to the Vatican, acquired many of the artefacts from excavations on land they owned. The heir to the collection, Alessandro Torlonia, rejected previous offers to part with the works, including a €125m bid by Italy’s former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi in 2003.

Under the new agreement, the family will retain ownership of the collection but will commit to restoring works for public display. The culture ministry is seeking a venue. Meanwhile, the archaeologist and art historian Salvatore Settis is due to organise a temporary exhibition of more than 60 works from the collection at the Palazzo Caffarelli in Rome, the former Mussolini Museum, in 2017.