Monday, June 1, 2009


Version at BMCR home site
Maurizio Sannibale (ed.), La raccolta Giacinto Guglielmi, Parte II: Bronzi e materiali vari. Musei Vaticani, Museo Gregoriano Etrusco, Cataloghi, 4/2. Roma: L'Erma di Bretschneider, 2008. Pp. 374. ISBN 978-88-8265-432-X. €235.00.
Reviewed by Maria Cristina Biella, Rome

In the chapter of his book dedicated to Civitavecchia George Dennis asserted: "It does not appear that an Etruscan town occupied this site. Yet relics of that antiquity are preserved here, some in the Town-hall, mostly from Corneto, and some in the house of Signor Guglielmi, an extensive proprietor of land in the Roman Maremma".1

The Guglielmi collection was an outcome of extensive archaeological research carried out in Vulci in the first decades of the 19th century.2 In 1900 hereditary issues led to its division between two brothers, Giulio and Giacinto. One portion of it went to Benedetto Guglielmi, Giulio's son; donated by him to Pope Pius IX in 1935, it was studied a few years later by J.D. Beazley and F. Magi.3 The remaining items were transferred from Civitavecchia to Rome and kept in the family's house in Via del Gesù.4

In 1987 Benedetto Guglielmi's heirs sold their archaeological collection, comprising 416 objects, to the Vatican State, which had the opportunity to acquire it thanks to the intervention of some private sponsors. In 1989 an exhibition was organized by the Vatican Museums in order to present to the public and the scholarly world a first and preliminary publication: a catalogue of the most relevant objects and a complete inventory of the collection.5 On that occasion Francesco Buranelli stated his intention to display and publish the entire collection. A first study appeared in 1997 and concerned the pottery.6 The book under review here covers the bronzes and other materials in the collection and brings the total scientific endeavor to an end. This very fact--the completion of such a project-- is certainly an achievement. Systematic study of old collections can be a burdensome task, but their publication is of primary importance for the knowledge of past researches and consequently also for the planning of new ones.

Maurizio Sannibale is both the author of a substantial part of the book and its editor. Other contributors to the research are Brian Benjamin Shefton (pottery), Antonella Testa (candelabra and incense burners), Giancarlo Alteri (coins) and Ulderico Santamaria and Fabio Morresi (metal alloy analyses). The objects are catalogued according to the different classes of material: figured bronzes (pp. 19-36), terracotta objects (pp. 37-39), the instrumentum (in which metal vases are included) (pp. 43-210), weapons and horse harnesses (pp. 213-233), objects related to dress and ornament (pp. 237-271), and coins (pp. 275-278). A final chapter is dedicated to the brief analysis of some modern objects (pp. 281).

A detailed tripartite entry is devoted to each item. Technical data are included first, followed by a description of the object and concluding with its analysis and interpretation. Certainly thanks to his long work experience in the conservation laboratories of the Vatican Museums, Sannibale pays great attention to the first part. There, for instance, the specifics of the alloy are mentioned. Each metal object was analyzed with the XRF technique. Another interesting feature is the systematic inclusion in the catalogue of the pertinent weights. To my knowledge, this is the first time that such a detail is consistently taken into account in a publication of Etruscan and Italic bronze artefacts and I do believe that this procedure, if systematically applied in the future, could open up interesting avenues of research. Just consider the possibility of studying the weights of votive bronze statuettes, which could shed light, for instance, on some specific aspects of manufacture. I think moreover that this information could also be useful toward understanding economic aspects of both the production and the selling of the objects. It is in fact important to remember that the act of depositing bronze vessels in a tomb meant the definitive removal from circulation of some--and sometimes great--quantity of metal. The question is different, of course, if we deal with bronzes or metal objects that were dedicated in a sanctuary: their removal from the market can to some extent be considered temporary.

The careful technical analysis carried out by the author is helpful toward understanding aspects of production. To cite just two examples: The oinochoai nos. 63-66 (pp. 110-114) are not made from sheet bronze, like the great majority of Etruscan bronze vessels, but are cast. The patina on the brazier's feet nos. 89- 90 "which extends also to the break surfaces of both fragments, indicates that it formed during their deposition, and it is therefore proof of ancient fragmentation...The analogous break of the foot in the following entry (no. 90)...suggests at the same time the intentional break-up of bronzes meant to be melted down" (pp.148 f.). At the end of the entry, the bibliography on each object is mostly limited to the inventory list provided by Buranelli in 1989.7 The majority of the artefacts presented in this catalogue can thus be considered published for the first time in this book.

The reader is also able to appreciate each single object thanks to accurate drawings and photographs.

The possibility of studying in a single context the two Guglielmi collections is a most valuable feature of this work, since the finds are the outcome of the same archaeological investigations and their dispersal was due to hereditary issues. This was indeed the purpose behind the reassembly of some objects. Consider, for instance, the following artefacts: basin no. 27 (whose handles were in the Giacinto Guglielmi collection and the body in the Benedetto Guglielmi collection), oinochoe no. 35 (its body was part of the Giacinto Guglielmi collection and the foot in the Benedetto Guglielmi one), brazier no. 88 (the body was part of the Benedetto Guglielmi collection and the connections of the handles were in the Giacinto Guglielmi collection), helmet no. 136 (the main body was in the Giacinto Guglielmi lot and the cannulae in the Benedetto Guglielmi lot). Sannibale tried to take further advantage of this opportunity, providing in the appendix "Looking at Vulci through a collection" (pp. 289-297) an interpretation of the production history of the Etruscan city of Vulci through the analysis of the two collections. This is surely a praiseworthy attempt, as stated by the author: "Anche la casualità può produrre un campione statistico" (p. 289). {Even chance can produce a statistical sample}

An index listing concordances with the inventory and the preliminary publication of the collection by Francesco Buranelli completes the book.

The accuracy of this volume is surely not affected by a few bibliographical oversights. I noted the following: On p. 96 in the bibliography to no. 54, instead of "Buranelli 108, n. 76" read "Buranelli 1989, p. 108, n. 76"; in the footnote 403 p. 104 for "Bouloumié 1973" read "Bouloumié 1973a"; in footnote 641 on p. 133 for "Civiltà degli Etruschi 1955, p. 301 n. 17.21.7" read "Civiltà degli Etruschi 1985, p. 301, n. 11.21.7"; on p. 142 in the bibliography to no. 86, and on p. 143 in the bibliography to no. 87 for "Buranelli 1987" read "Buranelli 1989".

I venture a remark on the short chapter "Indagini sulla composizione della lega metallica" (pp. 283-288). As an archaeologist, I would have liked to find some bibliographical references, in order to better understand the techniques employed.

Finally I would like to mention an interesting initiative of the publisher: a great part of the work can be found in Google Books. Considering the high price of the volume (€ 235,00), I do believe that on-line publication is definitely a good opportunity for readers to make a first acquaintance with this interesting publication, which is not only a well-made catalogue of a 19th century collection, but also a true mine of ideas for further research.8


1.   G. Dennis, The Cities and Cemeteries of Etruria, II, London 1848, pp. 2 f.
2.   For a description of this eventful season of researches see F. Buranelli, Gli scavi a Vulci della Società Vincenzo Campanari--Governo Pontificio (1835-1837), Roma 1991, pp. 5 ff. and F. Buranelli in F. Buranelli (ed.), La raccolta Giacinto Guglielmi I, La ceramica, Città del Vaticano 1997, pp. 16 f.
3.   J.D. Beazley, F. Magi, La collezione Benedetto Guglielmi nel Museo Gregoriano Etrusco, 1-2, Roma 1939-1941.
4.   For an analysis of the history of the collection see F. Buranelli, La raccolta Giacinto Guglielmi, Roma 1989, pp. 15-34 and F. Buranelli (ed.), La raccolta Giacinto Guglielmi I, La ceramica, Città del Vaticano 1997, pp. 7 ff.
5.   F. Buranelli, La raccolta Giacinto Guglielmi, Roma 1989.
6.   L. Agostiniani, F. Buranelli, F. Gaultier et al., La raccolta Giacinto Guglielmi 1, La ceramica, Roma 1997.
7.   F. Buranelli, La raccolta Giacinto Guglielmi, Roma 1989, pp. 107-118.
8.   I just want to underscore, for example, the possibility of further analysis for the context of axe no. 87, contained in the pseudo-panathenaic amphora inv. no. MGE 29525 ( = L. Agostiniani, F. Buranelli, F. Gaultier et al., La raccolta Giacinto Guglielmi 1, La ceramica, Roma 1997, n. 30). Another interesting situation occurs with helmet no. 136, probably buried with a crack caused by a sharp-edged weapon.

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