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Chimera of Arezzo, Florence

Chimera of Arezzo, Florence


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Father of Tuscan Archaeology: Winckelmann in Florence

WINCKELMANN, FIRENZE E GLI ETRUSCHI IL PADRE DELL’ARCHEOLOGIA IN TOSCANA, Archaeological Museum, Florence, 26 May 2016 to 30 January 2017.
Catalogue available in Italian and in German: Barbara Arbeid, Stefano Bruni, Mario Iozzo (eds), Winckelmann, Firenze e gli Etruschi. Il padre dell’archeologia in Toscana, ISBN: 9788846745187, edizioni ETS, Pisa 2016, pp. 344, ill.
and
Winckelmann, Florenz und die Etrusker. Der Vater der Archäologie in der Toskana, ISBN 9783447106382 Verlag Franz Philipp Rutzen, in Kommission bei Harrassowitz Verlag Wiesbaden 2016.

In 1755, Johann Joachim Winckelmann (b. Stendal, Germany 1717- d. Triest, Italy 1768) arrived in Rome for a life-changing visit that would also influence ancient art history and the history of archaeology to this day. Through the intensive study of ancient works of art, Winckelmann (Fig. 1) discovered the importance of Greek art and of its influence on Roman, Renaissance and Neoclassical art. He published his Thoughts on the Imitation of Greek Works (1755) as well as his History of Ancient Art (Geschichte der Kunst, 1764) and a range of historical essays on single works of art. Thereby he managed to establish an approach to ancient art history that was structured by an idea of linear progress perhaps not dissimilar to that of Giorgio Vasari a couple of centuries earlier.

Fig. 1 Anton Raphael Mengs, Portrait of Johann Joachim Winckelmann (New York, Metropolitan Museum, inv. 48.141), 1777

What is perhaps less known and may even come as something of a surprise is the fact that Winckelmann also spent some time in Florence from September 1758 to April 1759 where he studied the antiquities once collected by the Medici and by other leading families of the city. In Florence, next to Greek and Roman antiquities, the works of the Etruscan had long played a considerable role in the collections of the ducal family and the study of Etruscan art, history and language had been encouraged at the court and in the academies of Cosimo I de’ Medici and his descendants since the sixteenth century (Fig. 2), since Medici collections of Etruscan antiquities were already famous (in addition to the Bronze Minerva, note the Bronze Chimera as lead image above). Even though this engagement with Etruscan remains had brought forth some rather adventurous “Etruscan Myths” about their ancient culture, such ideas continued and spread well into the eighteenth century. For example, in 1724, the manuscript of the first systematic treatise on the Etruscans compiled by Thomas Dempster from Scotland was going to be published by the visiting grand tourist Thomas Coke, Earl of Leicester, with the support of Filippo Buonarroti, a descendant of the great Michelangelo.

Fig. 2 The Minerva of Arezzo, Etruscan bronze, ca 300 BCE, discovered in 1542 and displayed in Palazzo Ducale (Palazzo Vecchio), then in the Uffizi Gallery (Museo Archaeologico inv. n. 3)

Therefore, three hundred years after Winckelmann’s birth, the Archaeological Museum of Florence recently inaugurated an exhibition that examines the impact of the Etruscan tradition on the German antiquarian and art historian who was going to return to this subject matter more than once and even dedicated an entire chapter to it in his History of Ancient Art. Winckelmann had come to Florence to catalogue the collection of cut stones amassed by the late Baron Philipp von Stosch. Through this occupation and through the contacts he was able to make with the learned antiquarian circles of Florence he was able to study Etruscan art in the context of a typical Florentine “Etruscheria” and in exchange with an international cast of scholars and connoisseurs. In this post-Medici Florence in which the house of Habsburg-Lorraine was now in charge, ideas of the enlightenment were gradually taking hold. The city had long become the goal of grand tourists from all over Europe. The first consulates were being established in Tuscany and the British diplomat Horace Mann (1706-1786) used his position to attract the services of artists such as Thomas Patch (1725-1782) and to deal in works of art as a side-line to his day job. Johann Zoffany (1733-1810), for example, would be commissioned to portray the Uffizi Tribuna for the British Crown in 1772-1778 (Royal Collection). Winckelmann’s Geschichte der Kunst 1764 (Fig. 3) is still a seminal text for understanding Classical Reception in the eighteenth century.

Fig. 3 Front cover of Johann Winckelmann’s Geschichte der Kunst, Dresden, 1764

The 100-plus objects on view in the Salone del Nichio of the Archaeological Museum bring Winckelmann’s visit to Florence into focus. Among these are on show some of the major Etruscan works of art gathered in the Florentine collections long before the arrival of the German antiquarian, such as the famous Chimaera, the already mentioned Minerva or the so-called “Idolino from Pesaro”. Other exhibits are closer to Winckelmann’s own activities in Florence, such as a complete set of plaster cast copies of the “Gemme Stosch” from Stendal, his manuscript notebook (“taccuino fiorentino”, Accademia di Scienze e Lettere “La Colombaria”, inv. n. IV. II. II. 52), which is preserved in Florence and was published in 1994, and the first complete edition of Winckelmann’s works published in Prato between 1830 and 1834.

The exhibition thus brings together a rich array of Etruscan masterworks from the Medici and other Florentine collections, manuscripts and rare books, portraits and curiosa related to the scholarly and artistic engagement with the Etruscan culture in the long eighteenth century. The catalogue, composed by Italian and German Etruscologists and specialists on J. J. Winckelmann, provides much-needed context regarding a period in Florentine history that was marked by political change, societal and scholarly progress and a great international exchange as part of the effects of the Grand Tour. In the case of Winckelmann’s visit to Florence, this context affected his antiquarian work and finally brought the Etruscans very much to the attention of the cognoscenti.


G7 of Culture, the Chimera of Arezzo in Palazzo Vecchio

FLORENCE, ITALY – In conjunction with the Culture G7, the Chimera of Arezzo will be exceptionally exhibited in the Room of Leo X in Palazzo Vecchio (from March 28 to April 27, 2017), where it was located after its finding, in the very same spot where Cosimo I de’ Medici decided to locate it after its finding, around the middle of the 15th century.

Together with this bronze sculpture dating back to the 4-5th century b.C. and usually housed in the National Archaeological Museum of Florence, the Room also hosts a letter sent by Baccio Bandinelli in the middle of the 16th century and kept in the National Central Library of Florence.

The letter contains an ink-sketch of the Chimera’s silhouette the sculpture is pictured tailless, as it was at the moment of discovery. The third item on display is a bronze bust of Cosimo I, sculpted by Bandinelli and lent by the Uffizi Gallery.

The Chimera perfectly represents the strong interest in the Etruscan culture encouraged by Cosimo I de’ Medici, through archaeological digs and campaigns, as well as studies and literature.

Even Giorgio Vasari drew from Tuscan history, outlining the supremacy of the Etruscan art over classical arts, namely thanks to the Chimera, discovered in Arezzo on November, 15th 1553 “ten arms down the ground” during the construction works of a bastion near San Lorentino’s Gate.

The discovery was absolutely unexpected and surprising, and strongly hel- ped rediscover ancient Tuscan greatness, depicting Cosimo as the new Etruscan prince. Benvenuto Cellini notes: “A few days ago, in the county of Arezzo, some antiques were found, including the Chimera, the bronze lion depicted in the room next to the great room of the Palace. Together with the Chimera, a number of little bronze statues were found as well they were covered in soil and rust, and each of them was missing either the head, hands or feet. The Duke liked to restore them himself with a small goldwork chisel.”

Brought in Florence together with the other findings, the striking Etruscan sculpture was then located in the beatiful setting – approx. in 1558 – in the beautiful setting of Room of Leo X, to represent the negative forces defeated by Cosimo in order to create a new, perfect Etruscan Reign.

As Vasari stressed: “Fate wanted the sculpture to be found over the reign of Duke Cosimo, who is today a tamer of all Chimeras”. According to the sources, Benvenuto Cellini was in charge of restoring the statue, recreating the missing tail.

However, this addition was only completed in 1784 by the sculptor Francesco Carradori under the guidance of Luigi Lanzi, when the Chimera had already been relocated in the Uffizi since 1718, after amazing visitors and guests from across the world in the Palazzo di Piazza for almost two centuries. Since the 19th century, the bronze sculpture is housed in the National Archaeological Museum of Florence.

This monstrous beast was first mentioned in the Iliad, where Homer descri- bes it as an hybrid of three different creatures: a lion, a goat and a snake. The be- ast’s head was fire-breathing the Chimera was killed by the noble Bellerophon, son of Glaucus, as the Gods predicted.

Many other legends flourished around the creature, a fantastic fusion of real-life animals that soon became the symbol of something impossible and unreal, representing a fake idea or vane imagina- tion, as Borges explains in his Book of Imaginary Beings. This is the reason why the Chimera, even today, embodies a charm – or a warning – still full of meaning.


History of Arezzo

Arezzo is a very old city which has its roots in prehistory: near Arezzoremains dating back to the Mesolithic and the Neolithic periods have been found, and evidence of many important human settlements.

The city itself probably dates back to Etruscan times, as attested by the legend according to which Arezzo was founded by the inhabitants of Chiusi (= Lat. "Clusium"), although we have no record of its actual origins.

The earliest written mention of Arezzo groups it with Clusium, Volaterra, Rusellae, and Vetulonia, when the town engaged to assist the Latins in a struggle against Tarquinius Priscus” [1].

The name of Etruscan Arezzo was "Aritim", as discovered on an ancient inscription referring to "an old woman, Larthi Cilnei, native of Aritim." [2].

The early historical data in our possession refers essentially to the Etruscan and Roman times. With regard to the Etruscan times, the reconstruction of the ancient face of the city was long and laborious. The first excavations date back to the 19th century, but more recent archaeological studies have achieved important results and we now have a relatively clear vision of early Arezzo.

Ancient Arezzo

It is generally accepted by scholars that the ancient Etruscan city was located on the hills of San Pietro and San Donato and the surrounding area. The first city wall dates back presumably to the 4th century BC and is composed of sandstone blocks, laid without mortar. A second wall, in brick, was mentioned by Pliny (23-79 AD) and dates from the third century BC.

Entering the Roman republic

After the fall of Volsini, the other cities of Northern Etruria surrendered to Rome and Livy (59 BC-17 AD) informs us that at this time Arezzo and Perugia, following the Volsini example, also entered into peace with Rome. There were however factions who were contrary to the presence of Rome: the People's Party was against Roman interference, while the nobility, especially the Cilni, were in favor of a pact with Rome.

The situation was thus very fluid, and during the war against Hannibal, according to Livy, Arezzo tried to rise up, but in vain, because its revolt was quickly crushed by the Romans. As Livio (X 3, 1-3) attested:

“It was announced that the Etruria revolted because of an insurrection led by the inhabitants of Arezzo"

This interpretation of Livy of a hypothetical "revolt" by "Arretium" against Rome, was correct:

"Etruria at the beginning of the First Punic War was pacified and an ally of Rome. It remained faithful to Rome, with very few exceptions, even during the Second Punic War, so much so that in 205 BC numerous Etruscan cities provided aid to Cornelius Scipio (died 211 BC) for his expedition to Africa: Caere, Populonia, Tarquini, Volaterrae, Arretium, Perusia, Clusium, Rusellae .

. the troubles of 208 and 204, of which Livy spoke (XXVII, 4, 86, 10-32), were probably only rebellions (…) perhaps caused by fatigue due to the long struggle against Hannibal (247-182 BC), which imposed more and more sacrifices. In fact, thay were repressed by the Romans, taking hostages and condemning citizens (who made) compromises with the Carthaginians" [3].

After these events Arezzo maintained good relations with the Romans, because there was always the looming possibility of attacks by the Celts. In fact, in 285 the Romans rushed to the aid of Arezzo, which was besieged by the Celts. Due to its position, Arezzo constantly enjoyed the protection of the Romans, who incorporated it into the Pomptina Tribe.

From an economic standpoint Arezzo in Roman times was a city of great importance. Its prestige derived from agriculture and industry, and its wine and wheat were valued on external markets. The workshops of Arezzo produced many helmets, weapons and spears, axes, spades, sickles and ladles:

“Arretine pottery takes its name from the ancient city of Arretium, the modern Arezzo, situated in the upper valley of the Arno, in Tuscany, some fifty miles southeast of Florence. Arezzo's prosperity depended, evidently, on the fertility of the surrounding territory and on its manufactures.

The vines and the wheat of Arretium are praised by Pliny, and evidence of extensive manufactures is furnished by the statement that for the equipment of Scipio's expedition to Africa the city furnished "3000 shields, an equal number of helmets, also javelins, pikes, and long spears to the number of 50,000, axes, spades, hooks, buckets, and mills, enough for forty galleys," as well as wheat and a contribution of money for the decurions and the rowers” [4].

The metal works of art such as the Chimera and Minerva, kept in the Archaeological Museum of Florence, confirm the perfection attained by the local industry, especially in technical and pottery in silver relief. Due to the activities of its workshops, Arezzo was a permanent military garrison.

In Roman times Arezzo was a municipium, and a very important road junction, which surely grew in importance in the Imperial Age, which had public buildings such as the Forum, the baths and the amphitheater, dating from the 1st and 2nd century, still clearly visible and located south-east of the city center. Two other spa buildings were reported east of the amphitheater. Its citizens were placed in the tribe Pomptina after the Social War.

The most flourishing period coincided with the age of Augustus, as the powerful Maecenas was born in Arezza. Among the most significant artistic discoveries, we mention:

“the splendid bronze statue of the chimera, the votive deposit of bronze statuettes from Fonte Veneziana, the famous bronze ‘aratore’ (ploughman) and the production of Arretine pottery have indeed given Etruscan Arezzo a recognized place in the study of ancient art and archaeology. The importance of this area of Etruria .

. culminates in the appearance of the Brolio bronzes on the cover of the catalogue for the magnificent Etruscan exhibit at Palazzo Grassi in Venice in the year 2000. In addition, the publications of the Melone tombs at Cortona, and the newly discovered Etruscan remains at Castiglion Fiorentino have made it very clear that this area of Etruria is producing new discoveries of great historical and cultural importance” [5].

Arazzo in the Middle Ages

In the Middle Ages the walls of Etruscan origin were strengthened to deal effectively with the barbarian invasions. However, Arezzo passed under the dominion of the Lombards, probably in the late 6th century AD. The archaeological evidence on the presence of the Lombards in Arezzo consist of some graves near the hill of San Donato.

In the Middle Ages the history of Arezzo is characterized by the primacy of the Bishops. In fact, in the 11th century the local Bishops became the apex of political power in the city. From an urban point of view Arezzo was still confined within the ancient and late-medieval walls, while outside of them new villages were formed, some of which were later incorporated into the walls.

As a free commune, Arezzo rapidly expanded its dominance in the countryside, eroding the powers of the ecclesiastical authorities. The presence of consuls is attested to since 1098, and around 1200 urban development led to the construction of a new circle of walls.

A very important protagonist of the history of Arezzo in the first half of the 14th century was Bishop Guido Tarlati (died in 1327), elected in 1312 and belonging to an ancient family of Lombard origin. The city was involved in the struggle between the Ghibellines, led by the Ubertini and the Tarlati, and the Guelphs, headed by the family of the Bostoli.

It was in this period that Guido Tarlati conducted a major urban redevelopment, due to the strong population growth. Under his rule, Arezzo reached the peak of power and also its medieval urban development. The Tarlati also captured neighbouring towns and castles, and extended its influence in all four valleys.

In 1319 began the construction of new walls. The strong construction activity continued with the Tarlati successor, such as his brother Pier Saccone (1261-1356). The new ruler carried out various works including the construction of the Palazzo dei Priori in 1333.

For some time Florence tried to expand its political influence and capture new markets and in 1287 with the help of Siena it besieged Arezzo, but was unable to capture it. However, Florence defeated Arezzo in 1289, after the Battle of Campaldino, when all the Guelphs and Ghibellines of Tuscany formed a coalition against Arezzo.

The first period of control by Florence was short: in 1343 Florence was involved in internal conflicts, and Arezzo took advantage of this fact to regain its autonomy, and the city was then ruled by the Bostoli, belonging to the Ghibelline party.

The troubled life of the new republic ended around 1384, when the city was sacked by mercenary troops, and later was also taken by Enguerrand de Coucy (1339-1397) who later handed it to Florence. The city was at first under the rule of the Medici (1434-1569), then of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany (1569-1737) and finally of the duchies of Lorraine (1737-1859). After the death of Grand Duke Gian Gastone (1671-1737), the succession fell to Francis III of Lorraine (1708-1765).

Under the duchies of Lorraine the town was reclaimed by the Valdichiana, whose rule lasted until 1799 and the arrival of French troops of Napoleon. In 1815, after the Congress of Vienna, the territory of Arezzo became part of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, until it entered the Kingdom of Italy in 1861.

Origins of the name Arezzo

If archaeological studies have made undoubted progress, we can not say the same about the etymology of Arezzo, which even today remains quite controversial, and on which there is no general agreement.

At first, the matter seemed settled with the hypothesis proposed by G. Devoto, who thought that the ancient city that the Romans called "Arretium" had its roots in the Mediterranean substrate “Arra”, but with an "imprecise" meaning [perhaps a family name]" [6]. However, the explanation did not appear clear and convincing enough.

Today, a hypothesis that has been more or less confirmed is that which relates the meaning of "Arretium" with bronze and metal, due to the fact that the city was famous for the art of metal working, and in particular in bronze. In this sense, "Arretium" would have its root in the Latin term "Aes grave" [Arretium] [= bronze coin of Arezzo].

This same root also perhaps gave rise to the German word "ERZ" (trans: 'metal, bronze, ore'). According to F. Paturzo:

"G. Bonfante proposes an interesting theory about the origin of the German word "erz" (= metal, bronze). The eminent linguist, on the basis of Schrader, derives 'ERZ' from "Arretium" through a series of transformations (…) According to Bonfante and Schrader, a German linguist, through the sequence Arretium> Arretji> Arritj> Arrizzi> Erizi> erz, from Latin Arretium we would come to the German term "ERZ", meaning bronze, metal. " [7].

So according to this widely held assumption, since antiquity Arretium was an important center of manufacturing of metals, which exported its products as far as the Germanic lands thus, it is possible that the same German word 'ERZ' (metal) connects etymologically with “Arretium.” However, , this fascinating hypothesis can not be considered definitive, because "it is not known whether Erz (=Gernan ‘arut -i-‘) referred to Arretium or the Sumerian Urud (= copper)" [8].

Among this variety of hypotheses, we add another interesting possibility of G. Semeraro, according to whom:

“Arretium derives from a basis which is also found in 'Ardea' and 'Ardennes', corresponding to the Akkadian' term ‘aradu’ and 'eredu' (=to come down, to lower ground downhill) of which the noun is ‘arittum’ (= downstream travel, perpendicular)" [9].

See also the Arezzo visitor guide.

References

1. See G. Dennis, “The Cities and Cemeteries of Etruria”, London, 1848, Vol. II, p. 418

2. On this Etruscan inscription, with some variants, see also M. Morandi Tarabella, "Prosopographia Etrusca ", Roma, 2004, p. 130

3. See F. Panvini Rosati, “La monetazione annibalica”, in “BdN” Supplemento al n. 37.1 (2004), p. 148 e footnote 41

4. See “Catalogue of Arretine Pottery”, edited by G. H. Chase, The Riverside Press Cambridge, 1916, p. 1

5. See S. Vilucchi-P. Zamarchi, “Etruschi nel tempo. I ritrovamenti di Arezzo dal ‘500 ad oggi”, in “Etruscan Studies”, 2001, Vol. 8, p. 159

6. See G. Devoto, “Scritti minori”, 1958, Vol. II, pp. 38-39).

7. See p. F. Paturzo, “Arezzo antica: la città dalla preistoria alla fine del mondo romano”, Calosci, 1997, p. 77

8. See A. Priebsch-W. Edward Collinson, "The German language", 1952, p. 264

9. See G. Semeraro, “Le origini della cultura europea”, Olschki, 1984, Part II, p. 865


Project promoted by the City of Florence

in cooperation with Museums of Tuscany

Special credits: National Archaeological Museum of Florence, Uffizi Gallery, National Central Library of Florence

In conjunction with the Culture G7, the Chimera of Arezzo will be exceptionally exhibited in the Room of Leo X in Palazzo Vecchio, in the very same spot where Cosimo I de’ Medici decided to locate it after its finding, around the middle of the 15th century. Together with this bronze sculpture dating back to the 4-5th century b.C. and usually housed in the National Archaeological Museum of Florence, the Room will also host a letter sent by Baccio Bandinelli in the middle of the 16th century and kept in the National Central Library of Florence. The letter contains an ink-sketch of the Chimera’s silhouette the sculpture is pictured tailless, as it was at the moment of discovery. The third item on display is a bronze bust of Cosimo I, sculpted by Bandinelli and lent by the Uffizi Gallery.

The Chimera perfectly represents the strong interest in the Etruscan culture encouraged by Cosimo I de’ Medici, through archaeological digs and campaigns, as well as studies and literature. Even Giorgio Vasari drew from Tuscan history, outlining the supremacy of the Etruscan art over classical arts, namely thanks to the Chimera, discovered in Arezzo on November, 15th 1553 “ten arms down the ground” during the construction works of a bastion near San Lorentino’s Gate. The discovery was absolutely unexpected and surprising, and strongly helped rediscover ancient Tuscan greatness, depicting Cosimo as the new Etruscan prince. Benvenuto Cellini notes: “A few days ago, in the county of Arezzo, some antiques were found, including the Chimera, the bronze lion depicted in the room next to the great room of the Palace. Together with the Chimera, a number of little bronze statues were found as well they were covered in soil and rust, and each of them was missing either the head, hands or feet. The Duke liked to restore them himself with a small goldwork chisel.

Brought in Florence together with the other findings, the striking Etruscan sculpture was located – approx. in 1558 – in the beautiful setting of Room of Leo X, to represent the negative forces defeated by Cosimo in order to create a new, perfect Etruscan Reign. As Vasari stressed: “Fate wanted the sculpture to be found over the reign of Duke Cosimo, who is today a tamer of all Chimeras”.

According to the sources, Benvenuto Cellini was in charge of restoring the statue, recreating the missing tail. However, this addition was only completed in 1784 by the sculptor Francesco Carradori under the guidance of Luigi Lanzi, when the Chimera had already been relocated in the Uffizi since 1718, after amazing visitors and guests from across the world in the Palazzo di Piazza for almost two centuries. Since the 19th century, the bronze sculpture is housed in the National Archaeological Museum of Florence.

This monstrous beast was first mentioned in the Iliad, where Homer describes it as an hybrid of three different creatures: a lion, a goat and a snake. The beast’s head was fire-breathing the Chimera was killed by the noble Bellerophon, son of Glaucus, as the Gods predicted. The Chimera is also mentioned in Hesiod’s Theogony and in Virgil’s Aeneid. Servius Honoratus refers that the creature was originally from Lycia, where there was a namesake volcano with lions on top, pastures for goats at mid height, and snakes slithering at the bottom. This is where the myth is said to be born. Plutarch suggested instead that Chimera was the name of a pirate who adorned the sails of his ship with the images of a lion, a goat and a Montpellier snake.

However, it is certain that this creature, a fantastic fusion of real-life animals, has become the symbol of something impossible and unreal, representing a fake idea or vane imagination, as Borges explains in the Book of Imaginary Beings.

The Chimera also represents a charm – or a warning – full of meaning, even today.


Chimera of Arezzo, Florence - History

The "Chimera of Arezzo"
Etruscan bronze - c. 400 BC
Found in 1553 outside Porta S. Lorentino in Arezzo, it was immediately brought to Florence to join
the collections of the Grand Duke Cosimo I de' Medici and set up in the hall of Leo X in Palazzo Vecchio.
In 1871 it was transferred to the Archaelogical Museum.

Exhibited along with other trasures in the Uffizi Gallery and moved to the Palazzo della Crocetta, the present day seat of the museum, in 1888 (the building was erected in 1620 by Giulio Parigi). The main core of the collection focuses on etruscan civilisation thet interested in particular Cosimo the Eldest of the Medici family. But it was the Gran Duke Cosimo I who to put together the currently existing collection in 16th century, though these were later increased by his successors ( and in particular by Cardinal Leopoldo). Downtime the collection was enriched with famous works like the Chimera of Arezzo, the Minerva of Arezzo and the Orator. The bronze Chimera of Arezzo is one of the best known examples of the art of the Etruscans. It was found in Arezzo, an ancient Etruscan and Roman city in Tuscany, in 1553, during the construction of the fortifications on the outskirts and was quickly claimed for the collection of the Medici Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo I, who placed it publicly in the Palazzo Vecchio, and placed the smaller bronzes from the trove in his own studiolo at Palazzo Pitti, where "the Duke took great pleasure in cleaning them by himself, with some goldsmith's tools" Benvenuto Cellini reported in his autobiography.

The collection was then continued by the Lorraine family that added the extraordinary collection of Egyptian pieces beside adding new pieces to the Etruscan section,which was organised by series and studied by the scholars of the Lorraine court.

Additions continued also during the 19th century with importand workslike the Sarcophagus of the Amazons and the Larthia Seianti. It was at this time that a new section of Etruscan Topography was created and that the Etruscan sculptures and small and large bronzes were added.

In addition to the above-mentioned works setting some time aside to visit the section dedicated to the lavish assortment of Etruscan jewels.

The Egyptian Museum, which is second only to the famous museum in Turin, takes up some of the rooms of the Archeological Museum. The first group of Agyptian antiquities was put together in the 17th century to include also pieces that had been collected by the Medici, although it was significantly increased during the 18th century by Leopoldo II, Grand Duke of Tuscany, who purchased new collections and financed, together with Charles X, King of France, a scientific expedition to Egypt in the years 1828 and 1829. The expedition was directed by Jean François Champollion, the famous scholar and interpreter of hieroglyphics and by Ippolito Rosellini from Pisa, who would soon become the father of Egyptian studies in Italy and a friend and disciple of Champollion. After the return of the expedition, the numerous objects collected during the expedition and during excavations of archeological sites or purchased by local merchants, were equally divided between Florence and the Louvre.

The Egyptian Museum of Florence was officially established in 1855. In 1880 the Piedmontese Egyptian scholar Ernesto Schiaparelli , who was to become the director of the Egyptian Museum of Turin, was assigned the task of transfering and organising the Egyptian antiquities in the present day location, which is also seat of the Archeological Museum. Schiapparelli suitably increased the collections of the Museum with objects found during his personal excavation campaigns and purchased in Egypt before his final transfer to Turin. The last group of works acquired by the Egyptian Museum of Florence includes pieces donated to the State by private contributors and scientific institutions.

Today the Museum exhibits over 14,000 pieces, displayed in nine rooms and two warehouses. The exhibition rooms have been totally renewed. The old layout of Schiaparelli has now been replaced by the new one arranged, when possible, according to a chronological and topographic order. The collection comprises material that ranges from the prehistoric age down to the age of Copta, with several groups of steles, vases, amulets and bronze pieces of different ages.

The most remarkable pieces are some statues dating back to the age of Amenofi III, the chariot of the 18th dynasty, the pillar of the tomb of Sety I, the cup of Fayence with square mouth and the belongings of the wet nurse of the daughter of Pharao Taharqa, the woman portrait of Fayum, the collection of fabrics belonging to the Copt Age and an important group of chalk moulds dating back to the end of the 19th.

The museum now has a permanent staff including two professional egyptologists.


History of Arezzo

The town of Arezzo, which lies on a low hill of the Poti Alps, opens out fanwise onto the broad, fertile depression in the Apennine mountains, where the upper Arno and Tiber valley, the Casentino, and the Valdichiana meet. The town is the administrative and economic capital of the large province of the same name, and over the last fifty years it has been transformed.

Growth has been rapid, enabling Arezzo to become, amongst other things, a major goldsmiths center. The town’s other vocation as a leading tourist attraction, and its ability to combine a long and great cultural tradition with its modern entrepreneurial identity, make it a major point of reference for the whole of eastern Tuscany.

Piazza Grande in Arezzo. Ph. Anguskirk on flickr (flic.kr/p/6w5xFz)

Down the ages no fewer than eight defense walls, each one larger than the previous system, have encircled the area around the top of the hill on which the ancient town was built: the last walls, built in the 16th century, effectively curbed urban expansion until modern times.

Each time the town pushed its boundaries further and further outward a new Arezzo emerged but succeeded in blending into the town that existed before it. This is indeed the key to historical Arezzo identity: a sum total of very different parts of medieval Arezzo, the town of the grand-dukes, the town under Medici and Lorraine rule. This fundamental aspect of the town’s character, tastes and lifestyles, also helps us to appreciate how a “new” town, inspired by late 19th century principles of town-planning, could so readily bond onto the “old” town.

Up at the top of the hill, Piazza Grande is, and always has been, the town’s pulsating heart. The forum of the Roman city was in or near this square.

Like the walled Etruscan settlement before it (6th – 5th century BC), perched between the hills of San Pietro (where the cathedral now stands) and San Donato (today occupied by the Fortress), Arezzo used to be a major center for farming (celebrated for its spelt wheat) and industry, and is indeed believed to have been one of the most important in the ancient word, together with Rome and Capua. It was famed for its bronze statues and terracotta items, and the works that have come down to us (including the bronze Chimera, now in Florence) show the level of technical and aesthetic sophistication the local school had achieved. In Augustan times, items made of “sealed Arezzo earth”, a high-quality ceramic, were much sought-after items.

A shop in Arezzo. Ph. Santi on flickr (flic.kr/p/eyyFUu)

“Alas! Now is the season of great woe”, sang the great 13th-century poet Guittone d’Arezzo who, after a political career amid the Guelphs of his town, turned to literature as a vehicle of peace. Toward the end of the century, the defeat of Arezzo by the Guelphs of Florence at Campaldino (1289), was a severe blow to the pride of the rich and powerful Ghibelline commune which had adorned its ” acropolis” with churches and public buildings. The walls built in 1194 (the fifth system, along what is now Via Garibaldi) enclosed a town of 20000 inhabitants, organized into the four quarters that compete in Saracen Tournament to this day. The Studio Generale, or university (the successor to the episcopal school whose illustrious pupils included Guido Monaco), added cultural luster: Arezzo yielded such geniuses as Guittone and the eclectic Ristoro. Between the 13th century-medieval Arezzo’s golden age- and the 14th century, the town spread out in a fan-like formation still evident on the town map, with main thoroughfares leading out toward the Chiana river and toward Florence, confirmation of the common interests and destinies of the two cities.

The Saracen Joust in Arezzo. Ph. Luca Deravignone on flickr (flic.kr/p/72fAXK)

Before Florentine expansion overwhelmed Arezzo’s independence for ever, the town enjoyed one further period of splendor, during the years of the pro-imperial bishop Guido Tarlati (1319-27). With the economic and cultural rebirth Tarlati helped to bring about, art and architecture flourished, and work began on the new walls that were to form the biggest defence system the town had ever seen. When Guido died his brother Pier Saccone was unable to continue the work. In 1384 the town of Arezzo and the surrounding territory were swallowed up by the Florentine state.

The 15th century brought both decline (in the population and in the social life) and economic recovery. All the town’s main architects were of course frome Florence: Bernardo Rossellino, Benedetto and Giuliano da Maiano, Antonio da Sangallo the Elder and his brother Giuliano. But it was an architect of Aretine origin, Piero della Francesca (from Sansepolcro) who created a work that is a fundamental to early Renaissance art: the fresco cicle of the Legend of the True Cross one the apse walls of the church of St. Francis. Florentine gran-duke Cosimo I demolished the towers, churches and all other private buildings that smacked of political autonomy. The town lost its most cherished landmarks (including the old cathedral built by Pionta). In their place appeared new walls (1538) and a star-shaped fortress, the ponderous metaphor of Medici might.

Arezzo began to take on its present form in the second half of the 18th century, but it was not until a century later, with the arrival of the railroad (1866), that urban redevelopment really began in earnest. The “new town” grew up alongside Arezzo’s ancient core, without impinging upon it. The town that greets visitors today is remarkable in the sheer abundance of its art, architecture, culture and local traditions. This rich heritage ranging from awe-inspiring monuments to the lesser but no less fascinating treasures offers a unique insight into a town and the civilization it has spawned down the ages.

By: Paolo Borgogni, Area Turismo – Comune di Arezzo

Corteo Storico della Giostra del Saracino, Arezzo

Chimera of Arezzo, Florence - History

The Chimera of Arezzo is a bronze statue which was found in Arezzo, in Italy, in 1553. Of Etruscan origin, probably from 5th century BC , it is one of the most beautiful examples we have of ancient Etruscan art. It is at present at the Archeological Museum in Firenze, Italy.These notes do not attempt to be an exhaustive study on the subject, but only to collect the main facts known about this statue.

The archives of the city of Arezzo, in Italy, report the discovery of the "Lion found outside the St . Laurentino Door" in the pages of the "deliberations" from the years 1551 to 1558, starting at page 102. It is said that on 15th November 1553, as people were digging outside the city walls, there was found this bronze statue together with many smaller statues. The archives report how everyone was impressed by the antiquity and the elegance of the "lion" and of the other statues ( nempe hoc qui viderunt omne admirati sunt et operis antiquitatem et elegantiam ). Only at a later time, about one year afterwards, a note written by a different hand reports that since the snake-shaped tail was missing, nobody had recognized the lion as a Chimaera ( serpentis in hoc leone signum erat nullum : non fuit ideo arbitratum esse Chimaerae Bellerophontis simulacrum ).

The discovery is also reported by Giorgio Vasari in the second edition (1568) of his Vite dei piu' eccellenti pittori, scultori ed architetti, where he says that Having in our times, and that is in the year 1554, been found a figure in bronze made for the Chimaera of Bellerophon, while digging trenches, ramparts, and walls in Arezzo. In another book, the Ragionamenti, Vasari informs us that in the same year a fragment of the tail was found among the various pieces brought to Florence. In both documents the date is one year later than the one written in the archives of Arezzo, and it seems likely that Vasari had in mind the year when the Chimaera arrived in Florence rather than when it was dug out of the ground in Arezzo. We have also some images of the tailless Chimaera. The one shown here was made by T. Verkruys in 1720 and it gives us some idea of what the statue looked like after the discovery.

There has been some debate in modern times (Ricci, Nuova Antologia 1928) about the possibility that the Chimera of Arezzo may actually have been discovered much earlier than in 1553. According to Ricci, it could have been discovered as early as in 10th century and later re-buried in the place where the "official" discovery was to take place. This hypothesis is based on the observation that Chimeras very similar to the one of Arezzo were painted or sculpted in medieval in 11th century in Italy, especially in some areas of northern Italy, for instance in the cathedrals of Aosta and Merano. Ricci's theory has some interest, but it is based on a very thin chain of reasoning. The fact that creatures which look like classic Chimeras were painted or sculpted in 11th century can be explained simply as meaning that the aspect of the classic Chimera, was never completely lost in medieval times, just as its literary description by Homer, Hesiod and later authors remained well known. In classical times, chimeras were all represented in the same standard way and there is no really compelling reason to assume that medieval chimeras must be derived from a single specific statue , it is even less compelling to assume that this specific statue must have been the Chimaera of Arezzo. Ricci's theory, however, led to the commonly reported legend that when the Aretines unearthed the Chimaera they were overwhelmed by superstitious terror. Needless to say, no such terror is reported by the original sources.

The Chimera and the other small statues discovered in Arezzo were soon transferred to Florence. At the time of the discovery, Arezzo had been under Florentine rule already for about one century and half and when the news of the discovery reached Florence, duke CosimoI of the Medici family took a keen interest in the statues and ordered them transferred to Florence. The Chimaera was soon exposed in the city hall (Palazzo Vecchio) as a "marvel", and the smaller statues ended in the duke's studiolo , his private collection. Of the arrival of the Chimaera in Florence, there are no records in the city hall, but, as we said, Vasari wrote about it a few years later. Another contemporary report is the one by Benvenuto Cellini (1500-1571), who is often said to have restored the statue. However, despite the common belief, it is certain that he did not do anything with the tail, which was welded back to the body only in 18th century . It is possible, however, that he restored the left hind leg and the left foreleg. Anyway, here is what he has to say in his 1558 Vita (the life):

Having in these days been found some old things in the county of Arezzo, among which there was a Chimaera, which is that bronze lion which is seen in the rooms near the great hall of the palace (and together with said Chimaera there had been found also a great number of smaller statuettes, also in bronze, which were all covered of earth, or of rust, and of each one of them there were missing either the head, or the hands, or the feet), the Duke took great pleasure in cleaning them by himself, with some goldsmith's tools.

The impression created by the discovery of the Chimera statue in 1553 was considerable and we should not be surprised if the duke of Tuscany himself was interested in it. 16th century was a time of great interest in everything Etruscan. The fashion started perhaps with a Dominican monk, Annio da Viterbo (1432-1502), cabalist and orientalist, who published a book titled Antiquitates where he put together a fantasious theory in which both the Hebrew and Etruscan languages were said to originate from a single source, the "Aramaic" spoken by Noah (of the ark) and his descendants. Annio also started excavating Etruscan tombs, unhearted sarcophagi and inscriptions, tried to decipher the Etruscan language, but he was just the starting point of a wave of interest that was to last basically the whole Renaissance period. There was also a political overtone in this interest, as it helped the growing nationalism of regions such as Tuscany to find a source of cultural identity distinct from the "Roman" one. The statue of the Chimaera, alone, could not have been the origin of all this interest, but it must have helped to stir curiosity, and surely it was an important element of the Etruscan revival.

Over the years, the "political" meaning of the Chimera of Arezzo and of the Etruscans, as a symbol of Tuscan nationalism waned and eventually disappeared. The Chimaera left Palazzo Vecchio in 18th century to be placed in the larger spaces of the "Uffizi" gallery. At that time, the florentine sculptor D. Carradori (or perhaps his master I. Spinazzi ) restored the statue again, adding a tail, the one that we can still see today. Then, in 19th century , the Chimaera was again transferred to what is its actual location, the National Archaeological Museum, in Florence. Today, the Chimaera of Arezzo is the pride and possibly the best known piece of the Archeological museum where you can see it just at the entrance, in a room of its own.

Reproductions of the Chimaera of Arezzo.

Reproduction of ancient statues by means of molds taken from the original are not often allowed nowadays since the process may damage the precious original. It seems that no reproductions were made of the Chimera of Arezzo until relatively recent times, in the 1930s, when a considerable revival of everything ancient and classical took place under the influence of the Fascist government. From a mold taken on the original in Florence, two replicas were made and placed in front of the Arezzo train station, where they still stand today. These replicas are of excellent quality although, unfortunately, their placement is less than satisfactory. The Chimaera is a relatively small statue and that it needs some focussed attention to be appreciated. Large spaces and busy intersections, such as the station square in Arezzo, are not exactly what is needed for that. Another replica of the Chimera was placed in 1998 under the arch of the Porta S. Laurentino, in Arezzo to commemorate the discovery. This one is about one third of the original.

Over the years, more replicas were cast and hence original size copies of the Chimaera are now commercially available (the one in the picture above is shown here courtesy of Galleria Frilli in Florence).

As obvious, an original size bronze cast of the Chimera, ca . 80 cm tall, is not cheap and so the number of such copies made remains limited. To the author's knowledge, besides Italy, original size replicas of the Chimera exist only in Brazil, Mexico and Japan. There exist also commercial , small size "museum shop" style copies of various origin, most are of poor quality. The one shown here, property of the author, is a nice one as these objects go. It is some 10 cm tall, cast in bronze and well done. Unfortunately, with the best of good will, it does not maintain the exact proportions of the original

Chimera of Arezzo

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  • Main Title: Chimera of Arezzo
  • Alternate Title: Mythical creature with lion's body and three heads (lion, goat, serpent)

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1 Sculpture : bronze 77.5cm h.

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  • Accession or Local Control No: jic0901
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc43425

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Chimera of Arezzo, Florence - History

Inaugurating a partnership with the National Archaeological Museum of Florence, this exhibition features a masterpiece of Etruscan bronzework known as the Chimaera of Arezzo and traces the myth of Bellerophon and the Chimaera over five centuries of classical art.

Questa mostra, che inaugura la collaborazione con il Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Firenze, presenta la Chimera di Arezzo, capolavoro dell'arte etrusca, ed esplora il mito di Bellerofonte e della Chimera attraverso cinque secoli di arte classica.

The Chimaera of Arezzo has been organized in association with the Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali and the Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici della Toscana (Italy). The J. Paul Getty Museum is grateful for the support of the Istituto Italiano di Cultura and the Italian Consulate General, Los Angeles. Generous funding was provided by the Villa Council.

La mostra La Chimera di Arezzo è stata organizzata in associazione con il Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali e la Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici della Toscana. Il J. Paul Getty Museum ringrazia l'Istituto Italiano di Cultura ed il Consolato Generale di Los Angeles, per il supporto ricevuto. Un generoso contributo finanziario è stato fornito dal Villa Council.


Watch the video: Le tombe etrusche aspetti generali (May 2022).