In the two years in which we celebrate 300 years since the birth and 250 years since the death of the founding father of modern archaeology, Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717-1768), the Pope’s Museums could not but join in the many international initiatives paying homage to the great German scholar.
To honour this double Winckelmannian anniversary, on 18 May the Vatican Museums will inaugurate, with a study day dedicated to the Montalto Collection in Villa Negroni, a special programme which in the autumn will also involve an “extensive exhibition” distributed along the museum itinerary.
One of the main aims of the day will indeed be to provide a “photograph” of Villa Negroni and its collections of antiquity around the mid-eighteenth century, in the years in which Winckelmann entered – during his dazzling stay in Rome (1755-1768) – uncovering its treasures. The German scholar assiduously frequented Villa Montalto Negroni, when its decorative aspect was still quite intact and before its acquisition by Thomas Jenkins caused the dispersal of its collections.
Although an important body of sculptures remained in Rome thanks to the acquisitions made by the Pontiffs Pius VI Braschi and Pius VII Chiaramonti to enrich the Vatican collections, the same cannot be said of the largest Renaissance villa ever to have stood within Rome’s walls, and of which today, unfortunately, nothing remains; Villa Montalto is now merely the name of an alleyway near the Termini train station.