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Roma Eterna: 2,000 Years of Sculpture from the Collections Santarelli and Zeri at the Antikenmuseum Basel
Pierre Legros, San Stanislao Kostka, 1703 circa, marmo, alabastro, altezza 31 cm. Roma, Fondazione Dino ed Ernesta Santarelli.
BASEL.- The new exhibition Roma Eterna at the Antikenmuseum Basel (Switzerland) presents over seventy sculptures from the Roman imperial era, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and the ages of Baroque and Classicism. The works come from the two Italian collections Santarelli and Zeri and are being shown for the first time in Switzerland. The epoch-spanning show highlights what tremendous influence Roman antiquity had on the artists of later centuries.

Prior to the age of electronic media, statuary was a powerful means of communication, serving politics and religion throughout antiquity and later ages. Emperors, generals, bishops and popes made use of three-dimensional self-portraits to display their power. Others deployed sculptures depicting mythological figures in their villas, palaces and gardens, thus ensuring that antique images remained present in the minds of the generations to come. The exhibition ROMA ETERNA features a thrilling compilation of masterpieces from nearly two thousand years of Italian sculpture. The works come from two collections. The Santarelli collection incorporates numerous stone statues dating from Roman antiquity up to the mid-nineteenth century. Its special appeal derives from the circumstance that it reflects the taste of an entire family of collectors (Ernesta and Dino Santarelli and their children). The Santarelli pieces are complemented by works from the former private collection owned by the art historian Frederico Zeri (1921–1998). These works, too, bear witness to expert judgement and, like the Santarelli pieces, carry a very personal signature.

In the exhibition at the Antikenmuseum the works are not shown in chronological order, but arranged according to different aspects such as power, religion, or myth. In this kind of Musée de sculpture comparée the timeless dimension of these themes becomes accentuated. Closer inspection shows that works from the different epochs have many things in common, but also feature a few contrasting elements.

The visitors enter the exhibition through the workshop of a marble sculptor. Here one realizes that the material, the tools as well as the technique of sculpting have remained more or less unchanged over thousands of years. From there the viewers pass on to the living area and representative rooms of a Roman palazzo. Here the artworks are shown in the typical ambience of a private home where the collector lives surrounded by his precious items.

The Santarelli and Zeri collections were shown in 2012 in the Palazzo Sciarra in Rome in an exhibition staged by the Fondazione Roma and Arthemisia Group. Thanks to the kind support of these two organizations we can now put on this show – relying on a different design and mode of presentation – at the Antikenmuseum Basel.

An exhibition staged by the Antikenmuseum Basel und Sammlung Ludwig in collaboration with Fondazione Dino ed Ernesta Santarelli-Onlus, promoted by Fondazione Roma and organised with Arthemisia Group.

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