When in Rome… a visit to the Centrale Montemartini

During a recent trip to Rome, I paid a long overdue visit to the Centrale Montemartini, an annexe of the Capitoline Museums located on the Via Ostiense just beyond Porta San Paolo.

Centrale Montemartini was Rome’s first electrical power station when it opened in 1912, and was later converted into a museum of ancient Roman art in the late 1990s. Like the Tate Modern in London, Centrale Montemartini places art in an industrial setting but, unlike the Tate, the imposing machinery has not been moved out. The engines’ grey mass provides a stark contrast to the white marble and offers a unique backdrop for classical art.

The Engine Room, Centrale Montemartini, Rome

The Engine Room, Centrale Montemartini, Rome

Centrale Montemartini has a collection of about four hundred sculptures, reliefs and mosaics dating from the Republican to the late Imperial era. The works of art, exhibited in chronological order, are part of an outstanding collection of classical sculptures from the excavations carried out in Rome between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. The masterpieces were moved here during the reorganisation of the Capitoline Museums in 1997 to create space in the Palazzo dei Conservatori and the Museo Nuovo. The Montemartini power plant’s outstanding space made it possible to display monumental sculptures and reconstructions of architectural structures, such as the pediement of the Temple of Apollo Sosianus and the huge mosaic of hunting scenes from Santa Bibiana.

The Engine Room, Centrale Montemartini, Rome

The Engine Room, Centrale Montemartini, Rome

The museum is divided into four areas. The atrium on the ground floor has information panels that illustrate the history of the building. They also examine the characteristics of the main machines used inside the plant.

The next room is the Column Room which displays a rich collection from Republican era. Exhibited here are architectural decorations, a group of sculptures in Peperino tufa (a grey volcanic stone from the Albani Hills), beautiful mosaics with seascape and a series of portraits dating to the 1st century BC.

Pediment with Triton, 1st century BC, from a funerary building on the Via Salaria Centrale Montemartini, Rome

Pediment with Triton, 1st century BC, from a funerary building on the Via Salaria
Centrale Montemartini, Rome

Pediment with Triton, 1st century BC, from a funerary building on the Via Salaria Centrale Montemartini, Rome

Pediment with Triton, 1st century BC, from a funerary building on the Via Salaria
Centrale Montemartini, Rome

Statue of Orpheus charming the animals in Peperino marble, 2nd century BC, from the Via Tiburtina, Via Tiburtina Centrale Montemartini, Rome

Statue of Orpheus charming the animals in Peperino, 2nd century BC, from the Via Tiburtina
Centrale Montemartini, Rome

The so-called Togatus Barberini group, a funerary statue depicting a Roman senator holding the imagines (effigies) of deceased ancestors, late 1st century BC, head (not belonging) middle 1st century BC, Centrale Montemartini, Rome

The so-called Togatus Barberini group, a funerary statue depicting a Roman senator holding the imagines (effigies) of deceased ancestors, late 1st century BC, head (not belonging) middle 1st century BC
Centrale Montemartini, Rome

On the second floor, the Engine Room is the largest and most impressive room. Here, a series of exquisite marble statues and rare Greek originals are arranged around two huge diesel engines and a steam turbine.

The Engine Room, Centrale Montemartini, Rome

The Engine Room, Centrale Montemartini, Rome

The Engine Room, Centrale Montemartini, Rome

The Engine Room, Centrale Montemartini, Rome

The Engine Room also houses two sculptures of exceptional artistic quality that were found in 1885 on the Caelian Hill during excavations. The two fragmented pieces were found inside a late-antique wall where they were reused as material construction. The restorers of the 19th century reassembled the two statues. The first one is a statue in basanite of Agrippina the Younger represented in the act of praying. The head is a moulded copy of the statue on display in the Ny Carsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen (see image here). The second statue, made in dark grey marble (bigio antico), is known as the Victory of the Symmachi (an aristocratic family of the late Roman Empire). It is considered to be a work dating to the late Republican, most probably representing a dancing woman like the one from Perge in the Antalya Museum (see image here).

A whole gallery of Imperial portraits as well as splendid Roman copies of Greek originals come from a private residence of the 1st century AD and restored in the 2nd and 3rd century AD. The house was brought to light during excavations for the creation of the Via dei Fori Imperiali.

Part of a statue of Antinous depicted as Apollo, 130-138 AD, from the Via dei Fori Imperiali Centrale Montemartini, Rome

Part of a statue of Antinous depicted as Apollo, 130-138 AD, from the Via dei Fori Imperiali
Centrale Montemartini, Rome

Occupying the other end of the room is a reconstruction of the pediment of the Temple of Apollo Sosiano, a temple dedicated to Apollo in the Campus Martius, next to the Theatre of Marcellus. The marble sculptures are rare Greek originals (dated to c. 450 – 425 BC), brought to Rome in the Augustan period to decorate the temple whose remains are still visible today (see images here). The temple’s main pediment was decorated with sculptures narrating the battle between the Greeks and the Amazon (Amazonomachy) in which the figures of Herakles, Theseus, Athena and Nike take centre stage.

The resconstructed pediment of the Temple of Apollo Sosianus with sculptures narrating the battle between the Greeks and the Amazons, sculptures are Greek originals (c. 450 - 425 BC), brought to Rome in the Augustan period Centrale Montemartini, Rome

The reconstructed pediment of the Temple of Apollo Sosianus with sculptures narrating the battle between the Greeks and the Amazons
Centrale Montemartini, Rome

The resconstructed pediment of the Temple of Apollo Sosianus with sculptures narrating the battle between the Greeks and the Amazons, sculptures are Greek originals (c. 450 - 425 BC), brought to Rome in the Augustan period Centrale Montemartini, Rome

The reconstructed pediment of the Temple of Apollo Sosianus with sculptures narrating the battle between the Greeks and the Amazons
Centrale Montemartini, Rome

The cella’s interior walls were decorated with a frieze representing a triumphal procession interpreted as the representation of Octavian’s triple triumph held in 29 BC and celebrating the Dalmatians wars, the Battle of Actium and the victory over Egypt.

The Boiler Room, named after the huge steam boiler dominating the room, is home to a number of beautiful statues and decorative sculptures that once adorned the gardens of sumptuous imperial residences (Horti Sallustiani, Horti Liciniani, Horti Lamiani, Horti Caesaris). Funerary monuments from the Ostiense Necropolis are also on display in this room.

The Boiler Room, Centrale Montemartini, Rome

The Boiler Room, Centrale Montemartini, Rome

The Boiler Room, Centrale Montemartini, Rome

The Boiler Room, Centrale Montemartini, Rome

Among the highlights here are a sculpture group depicting a Satyr and a Nymph, a head of Priapus, a wounded Niobid, a statue of a seated girl and another one of the muse Polyhymnia as well as an exquisite statue in red marble of Marsyas and a large mosaic of a hunting scene.

Statue of one of Niobe's sons who were killed by Artemis and Apollo, Roman copy after an early Hellenistic statue belonging to a sculptural group, from the Horti of Caesar in Trastevere Centrale Montemartini, Rome

Statue of one of Niobe’s sons who were killed by Artemis and Apollo, Roman copy after an early Hellenistic statue belonging to a sculptural group, from the Horti of Caesar in Trastevere
Centrale Montemartini, Rome

Mosaic with hunting scenes, from the Horti Liciniani, early 4th century AD Centrale Montemartini, Rome

Mosaic with hunting scenes, from the Horti Liciniani, early 4th century AD
Centrale Montemartini, Rome

Centrale Montemartini is definitely one of Rome’s most striking exhibition spaces. It offers a unique museum experience and it is often so empty that you will likely have the place to yourself.

The museum is located on the Via Ostiense, 106. Take the Metro to Garbatella, cross over the tracks and walk through a parking to the Via Ostiense. You will see the museum across the Via on your left. You can also walk from the Pyramid Metro Station down the Via Ostiense.

—-

The Engine Room, Centrale Montemartini, Rome

The Engine Room, Centrale Montemartini, Rome

Opening hours:
Tuesday-Sunday: 9.00 – 19.00;
24 and 31 December: 9.00 – 14.00;
Last admission 1/2 hour before closing time.

Regular Fees:
Adults € 7,50
Concessions € 6,50
Roman Citizens only (by showing a valid ID):
Adults € 6,50
Concessions € 5,50

Capitolini Card (Capitoline Museums + Centrale Montemartini – valid 7 days)
Adults € 16,00
Concessions € 14,00
Roman Citizens only (by showing a valid ID): 
Adults € 15,00
Concessions € 13,00

Website: http://en.centralemontemartini.org/

About followinghadrian

I came, I saw, I photographed... follow me in the footsteps of Hadrian!
This entry was posted in Archaeology Travel, Italy, Museum, Roman art, Rome and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to When in Rome… a visit to the Centrale Montemartini

  1. ritaroberts says:

    Hi Carole, What a unique idea mixing machinery with those wonderful sculptures. Stunning photo’s. The engine room and the boiler room are splendid. And oh ! how I love the mosaics.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reneau de Beauchamp says:

    Much gratitude indeed for your posting of this unique museum! The juxtaposition of ancient art against an industrial backdrop might jar some staid visitors – but perhaps this very contemporary approach will spur the younger set to examine such. Always admiring your generally correct descriptions, I do though question placing ‘peperino’ under the marble category when it is a volcanic tufa….please do enlighten if there has been a revaluation of the material.

    Liked by 1 person

    • followinghadrian says:

      Thank you so much for your comment and for correcting me about peperino. You are totally right, I should have used tufa and not marble.

      Like

  3. Pingback: When in Rome... a visit to the Centrale Montema...

  4. Perspeculor (Travel & History) says:

    I keep hearing about this museum, but I still haven’t had a chance to visit! Next time I’m in Rome it will be the very top of my list. Lovely photos- I especially enjoyed the ones from the Engine Room. It’s so strange seeing ancient sculptures in that kind of setting!

    Like

  5. Pingback: Rome travel guide | Travelguide

  6. Jim Cleary says:

    Excellent post including some very fine photos. I totally agree with your assesment. We visited towards the end of October – our tour manager added this to the schedule as it was a very wet day – and it really is a well worth visiting. I was a bit dubious about the mixture of old and new, but it really does work well – mind you, the quality of the objects is so high that they would look wonderful almost anywhere!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s