Never have sculptures been the main urban ornament, as in ancient Rome. Made of all kinds of marble or cast in bronze, the statues populated the forums, temples, basilicas, theatres, amphitheatres, and then the thermal baths, circuses and markets. A real “landscape” that continued into the patrician homes, the gardens of the villas and the nymphaea, as we still see them in Pompeii and Tivoli.
Over the centuries, after the fall of the empire, this passion for statuary did not cease to arouse the interest of the Italian and European aristocracy – from north to south – let alone the admiration of the artists, who drew every possible inspiration from the comparison with antiquity. Not least the collectors, who already in the Renaissance and above all the Baroque period competed to take possession of what was being excavated and sold on the antique market.
©FondazioneTorlonia, Ph Lorenzo De Masi
To celebrate the last of the great families that made the classical statuary a name of social prestige, is the exhibition I Marmi Torlonia. Collecting masterpieces, open from 14 October 2020 at Villa Caffarelli in the Capitoline Museums in Rome (until 29 June 2021). On display are over 96 works among the 620 catalogued and belonging to the museum that Prince Alessandro Torlonia opened in 1875 in a palace in Trastevere, later transformed into flats. The statues have not been visible to the public since 1970.
Two of the leading experts, Salvatore Settis and Carlo Gasparri, were responsible for the choice of the pieces on display, while the installation was designed by David Chipperfield Architects Milano. In the fifteen rooms of Villa Caffarelli the sculptures are placed in five sections, each one dedicated to a phase in the formation of the collection, starting from the earliest times up to the primordial nucleus. This is a reverse path, which aims to remind us how Roman collecting was formed with continuity over the centuries, but also through sudden changes in mentality and cultural sensitivity. Prince Alessandro Torlonia had the merit of creating a museum as a set of previous collections, almost a game of Chinese-checkers.
The high quality of the works presented accounts for the various styles used by the ancient Roman artists. One can read the influence of Greek classicism in the idea of perfection and anatomical proportion, as well as the extreme modernity of realism in busts and portraits. The almost expressionistic charge of the bas-reliefs and the surreal charge of the vases and hermae are astonishing. These are different registers that speak to us from a very distant world, yet still present in all its essence. As if marble had been transformed into a living flesh.
There is no more famous and celebrated marble in the world. In the collective imagination, Bianco di Carrara is the marble par excellence, the archetype of materials destined for art and architecture. Suffice it to mention the long series of statues that populate museums, religious buildings, mausoleums, but also private collections, galleries and sculpture workshops. Everyone knows the enormous historical importance of the works of Michelangelo, Bernini or Canova, who were the greatest interpreters and users of Bianco di Carrara. Even the architects, from Leon Battista Alberti to Vasari and Palladio, employed it and exalted its unsurpassed qualities.
It is the characteristics of the mineralogical composition that make Bianco di Carrara one of the most precious and sought-after marbles. The metamorphic rock is formed by microscopic crystals of calcium carbonate, whose homogeneous compactness shines immediately on the eye. When the veins beneath are almost absent, we refer to the famous statuary marble, used in a sculptural key since the Rome of the Caesars and then by all the greatest artists of the Renaissance and Baroque.
Extracted in the quarries of the Apuan Alps, today Carrara White marble is used all over the world. From wall coverings to floors, from decorative elements to furnishing details, it stands out for the nobility of the background and the effect of soft brilliance. When smoothed and polished it shows all the elegance of its brightness; when left in its natural state it accompanies the light sources with reverberations of great plastic impact. As in Michelangelo’s time, Bianco di Carrara is synonymous with elegance and refinement.
In the architectural field the examples are countless. In more recent times the combination of light surfaces, the transparency of glass and the power of metal creates an artificial landscape of unquestionable charm. Starting from the masters of Modernism, experiments have continued with admirable episodes, sometimes absolute masterpieces. Perhaps it is the call of the Apuan quarries, or perhaps the mystery of such a noble material that involves the compositional flair of the major protagonists of the contemporary design scene.
It is above all in the restoration and reconfiguration of interior spaces that Bianco di Carrara becomes a leading protagonist. The continuity with the millennia of the Italian tradition sees Marmi Ghirardi as one of the most attentive interpreters thanks to his experience and craftsmanship. As can be seen, among many examples, in recent interventions in St. Stephen’s Church in East Grand Rapids in Michigan (USA) and St. John Baptist Cathedral in Paterson, New Jersey (USA), Marmi Ghirardi was able to combine the enhancement of Bianco di Carrara with the impeccable care of all the execution phases. A result that confirms the professionalism and mastery of a long experience in the field.
As transformed from the Athletes Village for the Doha Asian Games 2006, this project is now one of the largest of healthcare centers of its kind in the Middle East.
Set on a 63.5-hectare single city block in Doha, as a state-of-the-art medical facility it involves four hospitals – is centered on a 1,100-bed hospital, comprising pediatric, physical medicine and rehabilitation hospitals and a skilled nursing facility.
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