Voglia di Italia: Rome, the Wurst spouses and the passion for international collecting – Rome
John Singer Sargent, At Torre Galli. Ladies in a Garden 1910, oil on canvas, 91.5 x 71.1 cm, London, The Royal Academy of Arts
Like a map or diary that contains places and cities crossed by the diplomat during his career, the Wurts collection – built precisely through the purchase of objects representative of the countries in which George had worked – represents the mirror of the liveliness of the Italian and international antique market of the time.
In addition to the balalaike and folk costumes, to the bronze statues depicting hussars on horseback, to the fabrics finely decorated, to the lacquered screens and to the little netsuke – traditional Japanese sculptures, usually in ivory or wood – the Wurst collection mainly includes objects to furnish the home.
Oriental pieces predominantly Japanese, porcelains and bronzes of various dates and origins, ivory boxes, musical instruments, plates, arranged according to a criterion of horror vacui typical of many collections of those years , they gave shape and a real dwelling-museum. In this sort of Wunderkammer, the exhibits, curious and disparate, continue to invite the observer to wonder.
And even if you do not have enough information about the origin and the purchase by Wurst of collectibles, it is certain that if the Della Robbia tondo appears next to the balalaika, this collection, devoid of a thematic criterion, answered rather to the desire to acquire something typically Italian. Like the laces or the Murano glass, the pastille boxes, the majolica, the cassoni and the chairs
When January 25, 1928 George Wurts died in Rome, Villa Sciarra was donated to the Municipality with the explicit clause that a center of Germanic studies was made of it.
Five years later, in 1933, at the death of Henrietta Tower Wurts, his will, in addition to arranging the sale of diamonds and jewels, foresaw the gift to the Italian State of that collection of curiosities, which the woman brought back to her husband’s work , showing little or no responsibility in its construction.
These and other interesting news emerge from the dense and illusory essay, in which the art historian Emanuele Pellegrini who is also the curator of the exhibition, focuses on the aspects of this collection, on the reasons that generated, on the objects that characterize it.
The exhibition path characterized by “two souls” that are compensated and completed, and which also develops in environments that are not usually accessible to the public and have just been restored, sees Palazzo Venezia hosting the most significant works of the collection – taken out of the deposits, studied and restored for the occasion – and the Galleria Sacconi del Vittoriano retracing the context within which the Wurst passion for collecting matured.
To emphasize this poetic bridge, this abstract dialogue between the two opposite buildings, which share the view on Piazza Venezia, the choreography of lights described by a lighthouse in the center of the Vittoriano, lit by the setting sun, almost wanting to attract the public to the appointment with the art that binds the two historic buildings.
A world of auctions and merchants emerges vigorously with the objects from prestigious Italian and foreign museums and private collections – as well as from the Palazzo Venezia Museum – from the glazed terracotta by Luca Della Robbia, to Madonna with Child of Lorenzetti from Japanese Screen of De Nittis to a Roman copy of Portrait of Socrates and again to the tapestries to the lacquered panels made by Japanese artists.
As pointed out by the director of the Polo, Edith Gabrielli «The exhibition is a key moment in the strategy of the Polo Museale of Lazio. Strictly site-specific and marked by a remarkable cultural commitment, it underlines the re-entry into the circuit of the great public of Palazzo Venezia and the Vittoriano “.