The National Etruscan Museum (Italian: Museo Nazionale Etrusco) is a museum of the Etruscan civilization, housed in the Villa Giulia in Rome, Italy.
The villa was built for pope Julius III, for whom it was named. It remained in papal property until 1870, when, in the wake of the Risorgimento and the demise of the Papal States, it became the property of the Kingdom of Italy. The museum was founded in 1889 as part of the same nationalistic movement, with the aim of collecting together all the pre-Roman antiquities of Latium, southern Etruria and Umbria belonging to the Etruscan and Faliscan civilizations, and has been housed in the villa since the beginning of the 20th century.
As in the villas of antiquity, the relatively modest residential building was inseparable from the garden: an architecturally built garden with terraces connected by scenic steps, nymphaeums and fountains adorned with sculptures.
The greatest artists of the time took part in the project and the realization of the Villa, divided into a series of three courtyards that extend deep behind the “palazzo”: the painter, architect and art critic from Arezzo, Giorgio Vasari, l architect Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola and the Florentine sculptor and architect Bartolomeo Ammannati, whose signature can be read on a pillar, inside the loggia, between the first and the second courtyard.
The decorative apparatus of the villa was enriched with frescoes, only partly preserved, as in the portico of a hemicycle, due to Pietro Venale da Imola, in the rooms on the ground floor and in the atrium, by Taddeo Zuccari and the first floor, Venus, of the Seven Hills, of the Arts and Sciences, due to Prospero Fontana.
A characteristic element of the Villa is the nymphaeum, originally rich in decorations, powered by a canalization of the Virgin Aqueduct that runs deep and is manifested in the lower fountain, the first “water theater” in Rome.
In 1912, as part of a new urban arrangement of the surrounding area, the construction, long since begun, of a new long wing flanked by the historic building, was added to which was added a second symmetrically arranged to enclose the Renaissance courtyard, completed in 1923.
Villa Giulia is today the most representative museum of Etruscan civilization and welcomes not only some of the most important creations of this civilization, but also Greek products of the highest level, merged into an area that was between the eighth and the fifth century BC an extraordinary meeting point of different people.
The museum’s most famous single treasure is the terracotta funerary monument, the almost life-size Bride and Groom (the so-called Sarcofago degli Sposi, or Sarcophagus of the Spouses), reclining as if they were at a dinner party.
Other objects held are:
The Etruscan-Phoenician Pyrgi Tablets
The Apollo of Veii
The Cista Ficoroni
A reconstructed frieze displaying Tydeus eating the brain of his enemy Melanippus
The Tita Vendia vase
The Sarpedon krater (or, the “Euphronios krater”) – this is now at the Archaeological Museum of Cerveteri, it was at the Villa Giulia from 2008-2014
The Centaur of Vulci