Museo Etrusco Guarnacci

Image © Irene Taddei

Volterra, Italy

2022

In 2020, Goppion was delighted to work with one of the oldest museums in Europe, Museo Guarnacci, dedicated to the mysterious Etruscan civilization. The Etruscan people flourished across ancient western and northern Italy for thousands of years until they were conquered and assimilated by the burgeoning Roman Empire. They left an influential legacy of ideas and material culture, and remain one of antiquity’s fascinating enigmas.

The Museum has undertaken a program of extensive renovations, and Goppion created nine new showcases, delivered in two phases for the gradual reopening of the exhibition halls after Covid restrictions eased. Delivered first were three island showcases (Q Class), including an octagonal display case for a beautiful display of Etruscan vases in painted ceramic. These were followed by six wall showcases, each with back-painted glass boiserie.

The showcases were installed in the Museum’s historical rooms, and although they are of a very modern design, care was taken to ensure they acknowledge the original character of these spaces, dominated by traditional ‘glass cabinets’ filled with objects such as small bronzes and ceramics. The historical nature of the building – it has been a museum since the 1700s – meant that logistical aspects for the insertion of glass panes in the rooms on the second floor were of critical importance during installation.

Image © Irene Taddei

Image © Irene Taddei

One of the most remarkable pieces on display is the Ombra della sera
(‘Shadow of the evening’), a votive bronze statue of a young man. Its great fame is largely due to the votive’s ethereal, elongated shape, which evokes the shadow cast by the human figure in the light of sunset. For many, this eye-catching form resonates strongly with works of contemporary sculpture, yet it dates from the third century BC. It is this novel ‘modernity’, together with the extraordinary modeling of the forms – anomalous for the unnatural lengthening of the figure but, at the same time, perfectly proportioned – that makes Ombra della sera one of the masterpieces of period Etruscan sculpture. Its fame has also been enriched by a number of legends, including the apocryphal tale that it was discovered in the possession of a local peasant, who used it as a fire poker!

Tall tales aside, this remarkable object presented a very real display challenge for Goppion: its shape and dimensions required in-depth studies to ensure correct structural stability and solidity were provided as core design features of the island showcase created to house this star attraction.

Museum Guarnacci adds to Goppion’s considerable experience working with Etruscan collections. Past projects include the National Archaeological Museum of Arezzo, the National Archaeological Museum of Chiusi, the Etruscan section of the Civico Museo Archeologico of Milan, and the exhibition rooms of Villa Poniatowsky, which you can find in the complex of the National Etruscan Museum of Villa Giulia, Rome.

Image © Irene Taddei

Image © Irene Taddei