Italy withdraws 100 works from major museums and sends them to regional institutions where they have already been exhibited

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In its efforts to decentralize its vast state-owned heritage, Italy will dust off 100 paintings, sculptures and archaeological objects hidden in museum storage facilities and redistribute them more evenly across the country through a series of loans.

As part of the so-called “100 opere tornano a casa” (One Hundred Works of Returning Home) project, works from 14 of Italy’s most prestigious state museums, including the Uffizi Galleries in Florence, the Pinacoteca de Brera in Milan and the National Archaeological Museum of Naples. The collections of lesser-known state museums located up and down the peninsula will soon be added.

The objective is to make the public rediscover long forgotten artistic gems, many of which have historical links with the territories where they will be presented. “Only 10% of Italian heritage is currently on display,” said the spokesperson for Dario Franceschini, Italian Minister of Culture. The arts journal. “We are expanding our small museums a bit and encouraging more people to visit them in the process.”

Salvator Rosa’s landscape painting transferred to the National Museum of Matera Image: courtesy of the Italian Ministry of Culture

The project began on Saturday, when two landscapes by Baroque artist Salvator Rosa (1615-1673) were transported from the National Gallery of Ancient Art in Rome to the National Museum in Matera. Yesterday, six paintings by artists from the 16th and 17th centuries, including Giovanni Baglione and Cristoforo Roncalli, were transferred from the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan to the National Gallery of the Marches in Urbino and to the Palazzo Altieri in Oriolo Romano.

A total of 36 works will be moved throughout this week and early next year after the Christmas holidays. Meanwhile, ministry officials and museum directors are finalizing decisions on which pieces to include in the second batch of works to be redistributed from next spring, the spokesperson said.

The project has been in the works since 2015, when ministry officials and museum directors began compiling a database of 3,652 works from 90 state museums that were deemed suitable for relocation. The ministry allocated € 1 million to pay for the restoration of some of the 100 works, transport costs and the reorganization of the museum’s exhibits to accommodate the displaced works.

the Gladiator killing a lion will move to Villa Giustiniani in Bassa Romano Image: courtesy of the Italian Ministry of Culture

Italy’s state-run museums currently have around 480,000 works on display, compared to 4.5 million in storage facilities, according to ministry data. The redistribution initiative could possibly be extended to thousands of works, according to the spokesperson for the ministry.

Many of the 100 original works will be returned to the territories where they once adorned noble villas or churches. The sculptural group the Gladiator killing a lion —Which includes a Roman torso of Mirtha that the Getty Museum returned to Italy in 1999 and a lion’s head recovered by the carabinieri in 2016 — will be moved from the Ostia Antica archaeological park to the Villa Giustiniani in Bassa Romano, where he once decorated a pond.

As part of the project, the ministry and Rai, Italy’s national public broadcaster, will produce a documentary series chronicling the restoration and relocation of some of the 100 works. Filming of the 50-minute main episode and 13 20-minute mini-episodes has already started. The series is expected to go live in spring 2022.


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