By Tim Spauwen FGA
It was a nice walk through 'Villa Borghese', a cool park situated to the North of the historic city centre of Rome. Our legs had brought us to the museum called 'Villa Giulia' to see the Castellani Collection. The museum is situated in a beautiful villa that used to be the summer home to Pope Julius the third. Anticipating gold and gemstones only I was somewhat startled to enter the museum and see a hallway full of Etruscan pottery, artifacts that I had familiarized myself with two days earlier while visiting the Vatican Museum. A quick look on the museum ticket I was just handed solved my puzzle: I just entered 'Museo Nazionale Etrusco di Villa Giulia' - the national Etruscan museum. I'd been under the assumption that the museum was home to products from the Castellani workshop only. Wrong...
micromosaic. Quick glances towards the other cabinets proved that there were 2 cabinets with Castellani made items and 6 with original Etruscan jewels.
Villa Giulia holds the most extensive collection of Etruscan artifacts in the world. Pottery, metalwork, sculptures, fragments of buildings and the like, it is fascinating to see how these people lived, built and died. A large portion of the items on display is coming from tombs. The Etruscans must have been under the firm believe that there was a long life after death. The amount of gear a deceased would carry with him in the grave is impressive. I learned that the famed 'Roman arch', the feature that enabled higher structures to be built was in fact a perfect copy of the Etruscans. Several hundreds of years before the ancient Roman civilisation came to it's glory the Etruscans had figured out many of the Greek 'secrets to society' already. The Etruscans had acted as a sub station for a lot of things that I, until then, had pictured to have flown over straight from the Greeks to the Romans. Situated just north of Rome, the center of the Etruscan civilisation had provided as a hub for knowledge and acted as a source for inspiration to the Roman architects and artists.
To this day it's still impossible to decide which I found more impressive, the 19th century Castellani jewelry or the 2700 year old Etruscan pieces. Its craftsmanship to its perfection all over the place. The Etruscan pieces with their fine hammered sheets of gold decorated by granulation. The Castellani-made perfect micro mosaics, reinstated granulation and fine filigree work. Both periods represent eras where human time was much less expensive than the gold that was needed for an item. Human hands were abundant, gold wasn't. The result was hundreds, maybe thousands of hours spent on a single item, manufacturing it to be perfect. A situation we may never encounter again.