Exhi­bi­tion: Chefs-d’Oeuvre de la Coll­ec­tion Torlonia

10. June 2024

Louvre Museum, Paris, 26 June-11 November 2024

The Torlonia marbles, the most exten­sive private coll­ec­tion of Roman antique sculp­ture ever assem­bled, were acquired by the Prin­cipi Torlonia in the 19th century in Rome. Now, for the first time since the mid-20th century, they are being displayed to the public in a series of special exhi­bi­tions. The exhi­bi­tion in Rome at the Capi­to­line Museums in 2020 was the first to show the extra­or­di­nary antique marbles, followed by an exhi­bi­tion in Milan at the Gallerie d’Italia. Now, the Louvre Museum is hosting the Torlonia marbles for their first exhi­bi­tion outside Italy, show­ca­sing them in the reno­vated summer apart­ments of Anne of Austria. This exhi­bi­tion creates a rich dialogue with the Louvre’s coll­ec­tions of anti­qui­ties and explores the origins of museums during the Enligh­ten­ment and the 19th century in Europe.

The Census parti­ci­pated in this exhi­bi­tion with an essay for the cata­logue by Kath­leen Chris­tian, ‘Le Louvre et les Torlonia: une histoire commune des coll­ec­tions d’antiques à Rome’. The Torlonia coll­ec­tion and the Louvre, like other Euro­pean national museums, inhe­rited antique sculp­tures assem­bled by Roman aris­to­cracy between the 15th and 18th centu­ries, and many works in both coll­ec­tions were origi­nally part of early modern coll­ec­tions displayed in Roman palaces and gardens. During the Napo­leonic era Napoleon’s armies and his agent Domi­nique-Vivant Denon seized many anti­ques from Rome’s ponti­fical and private coll­ec­tions; though most were returned, some remained in France. Added to these were the extra­or­di­nary wealth of anti­qui­ties Napo­leon purchased in 1807 from his brother-in-law Camillo Borg­hese, as well as the smaller selec­tion Louis XVIII bought in 1815 from the Albani. It was also around this time that the Torlonia, a family of French origins who were bankers to the Bona­parte, rose to promi­nence and began coll­ec­ting from similar sources in Rome, acqui­ring signi­fi­cant anti­ques from coll­ec­tions such as those of Barto­lomeo Cava­ceppi, the Gius­ti­niani family, and the Villa Albani. The essay explores how the Torlonia coll­ec­tion and the Louvre have intert­wined histo­ries, whose compa­rison sheds light in new deve­lo­p­ments in museum prac­tices influenced by Rome’s centu­ries-long history of collecting.