Monday, 2 June 2014

Another Etruscan exhibition

Sometimes an exhibition can give you new information but still manage to be a little bit 'Bah humbag'. This time around that sinking feeling hit in the Cerveteri exhibition in the Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome. It had objects from the Tomba delle cinque sedie. Tick. It had really lovely painted plaques, the biggest single unique find from a known context at Cerveteri. A BIG plus. It had some less frequently seen Hellenistic and Roman art work. Bravo. However, the name of the exhibition, 'The Etruscans and the Mediterranean', conveys an idea that the exhibition could cover Etruria and its contact more widely, whereas in reality, it is more 'The story of Cerveteri'.

Similarly, there were large displays full of similar vases that adorn Villa Giulia and some interesting art work put in doorways or sideways so that most people would not notice them at all. For a specialist, the main text boards read very familiar from the books of the main authority providing the narrative. I probably should mention that most of the figures in the otherwise very interesting catalogue were very small. A few main finds got decent larger photographs, but many of the interesting items had tiny presentations.

The exhibition also meandered in a way that it would have easy to pass a section without noticing. One of the items in the beginning of the exhibition I almost missed, since I came upstairs using the wrong staircase, was a virtual 3D reconstruction of the famous Regolini-Galassi tomb. It was interesting to see the grave-goods placed in the burial chambers but the sticking point was the difficult to manoeuvre interface. May be I just moved clumsily, but turning around and seeing the little idols weeping from a suitable angle was hard work. Well, a way to get some exercise by waving hands in an exhibition.

One of the plaques in the exhibition (source: Wikipedia)

Nevertheless, the best part of the exhibition was totally unexpected. In the room where the research history at Cerveteri was described, there was a television screen showing old news films from the excavations. It was fascinating to see the tracks made for the spoil wagons on wheels and the people handing out pottery from the opened graves. In places one got a feeling that in older times people had a much more liberal attitude towards restoring or reconstructing the structures. Workmen just picked any piece of tuff and formed a nice rectangular block to fit into a wall in front of a burial niche. Hmm...

Even if the Etruscan exhibition did not make my imagination to fly, the Pasolini exhibition downstairs was a tasty dessert. A good double whammy of new professional information and a real story of a murder and new evidence with a Forza Italia connection in 2010. A cultured midday in Rome.

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