Museo della Villa
The Casino Nobile, which is already a “museum” from an architectural and decorative standpoint, contains a small but excellent museum devoted to pieces of statuary from the Torlonia collection found in the Villa (much of the collection still belongs to the family and is conserved in the palace in Via della Lungara) and several chance finds that have enabled a further strand of the Villa’s history to be added to the collection.
The pieces displayed give a close idea of how the Torlonia family, in particular Giovanni (1756–1829) and his son Alessandro (1800–80) were for almost a century leading figures in the field of art collecting, a practice that had originated in at least the fifteenth century when distinguished families in Rome began to adorn their residences with fine works of art and furnishings.
The works exhibited are not all from the same provenance: they were in part produced by Bartolomeo Cavaceppi, a noted eighteenth-century sculptor, restorer and antiques dealer, following Giovanni Torlonia’s purchase in 1800 of all the works in Cavaceppi’s studio; others come from finds on the properties belonging to the family; and yet others are pieces of the Villa’s furniture that managed to survive various spoliations.
This nucleus of works was added to following a sensational discovery of several artworks in the basement of the Theatre in 1997. These were originally displayed in the principal palace but were removed from there at an unknown time and for an unknown reason. The discovery was of three large plaster reliefs by Antonio Canova, a woman’s head in the style of Michelangelo, several pieces of furniture from the Villa’s demolished chapel, and a splendid marble pediment taken from the tomb of Claudia Semne on Via Appia Antica.
The final section of the museum is the reconstructed Bedchamber of Giovanni Torlonia (1872–1938), with the pieces of furniture that were used by Benito Mussolini during the period he resided in the Villa (1925–43).