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  • Writer's pictureAman Mehta

A Guide to the Exhibits and History of Centrale Montemartini

What is Centrale Montemartini?

Centrale Montemartini is a museum of Classical statues and sculptures in Rome that’s housed in a disused power station and named after the building’s architect, Giovanni Montemartini.

Centrale Montemartini building

Jean-Pierre Dalbéra, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Centrale Montemartini History

Founded in 2001 and housed in an early 20th-century power station that fell into disuse in the 1960s, Centrale Montemartini showcases a superb display of Classical statues.

The venue was initially used as a temporary exhibition space, however the exhibitions gained so much appreciation and interest from the public that the space was transformed into a permanent museum.

For the last two decades, Centrale Montemartini has displayed many notable statues and sculptures formerly stored in the warehouses of the Capitoline Museums, and which were for a long time unavailable to the public. The pre-existing machinery remained and was presented in order that the industrial elements and antique sculptures aesthetically complemented each other.

What’s in Centrale Montemartini?

The ground floor boasts an impressive collection of Republican-era portrait heads, however the most famous piece to be found here is the Togatus Barberini, a marble sculpture of a man in a toga carrying two busts. Little is known about the sculpture and the figures it depicts (suggestions include Julius Caesar and Brutus, his murderer). You’ll find this piece in the Column Room, along with statues made from Peperino tufa, a grey volcanic stone from the Alban Hills 20 kilometres southeast of the city, and dazzling mosaics. Make sure you don’t miss the Crepereia Tryphaena – the beautiful sarcophagus and grave goods of a young woman from the mid-2nd century AD discovered during the construction of the Palace of Justice in 1889.

The Engine Room on the second floor is the largest of all the halls in Centrale Montemartini. Here you will find an antique steam turbine and two vast diesel engines that were installed in the presence of Benito Mussolini. The hall features a superb collection of Roman sculpture inspired by Greek masterpieces, a widespread practice in the ancient city. At the end of the room, you can see the reconstructed pediment from the Temple of Apollo Sosianus, dedicated in the 5th century BC and restored by the consul Gaius Sosius four centuries later. Its sculptures, which are rare Greek originals, narrate the mythical battle between the Greeks and the Amazons, a tribe of female warriors famed for their strength and agility. The sculptures of Herakles, Theseus, Athena, and Nike occupy the centre of the stage.

The final space on the upper floor, the Boiler Room, houses elegant sculptures that once decorated the gardens (or horti) of Rome’s wealthiest citizens. Up against one of the short walls, you can see a boiler that rises from the floor to the ceiling and is the only survivor of the three boilers originally installed.

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