Museum of Rome in Trastevere, Italy

The Museo di Roma in Trastevere was established in 1977 in the restored Carmelite convent of Sant’Egidio. It was initially known as the Museo del Folklore e dei Poeti Romaneschi (“museum of folklore and Roman dialect poets”). Following a period of closure it was reopened under its present name in 2000. In addition to a permanent collection related to the recent culture of Rome the museum also houses temporary exhibitions, including the annual World Press Photo exhibition. It is part of the Museo di Roma.

The material on exhibition includes the so-called “Roman Scenes”, life-size models which were previously exhibited in the Museo di Roma at Palazzo Braschi. There was limited space for them at that museum and it was also thought appropriate to transfer them to Trastevere, which is a part of Rome where popular Roman culture is considered to remain strong.

Restored between 1969 and 1973 it was reopened to the public in 1977 with the denomination of “Museum of Folklore and Romanesque Poets”; the permanent exhibition was made up of materials from the Museum of the city of Rome at the former Pastificio Pantanella at the Mouth of Truth (1930-1939), then exhibited at Palazzo Braschi, relating to scenes of Roman daily life between the late eighteenth and early twentieth centuries.

It is quite heterogeneous materials – paintings from the late eighteenth century to the entire nineteenth century, Roman scenes and scenes of dell ‘trades 800 rebuilt with life-size mannequins, the Roman crib set in the eighteenth century sketch by Angelo Urbani del Fabbretto, to which is inspired by the crib installed every year on the Spanish steps, the talking statues of Rome, the watercolors of ” Rome gone ” by Ettore Roesler Franz, and the so-called “Trilussa room” (materials found in the Trilussa studio, but rearranged after several years from death) – whose common thread is the attempt to preserve the memory of some aspects of the city that were largely lost already from the unification of Italy.

The museum has been further renovated (and reopened in 2000), to create spaces on the ground floor for temporary exhibitions and events.

The Building
The Museum of Rome in Trastevere is situated in Piazza Sant’Egidio, in a historic building. Even the Piazza takes its name from the nunnery, which included the small church of Saint Egidio.

The earliest nucleus of the convent was founded in 1601 at the church of Saint Lorenzo on the Janiculum, which was later restored and dedicated to Saint Egidio, as a home for the religious order of Carmelite Nuns.

At the request of Vittoria Colonna, in 1628, Pope Urbano VIII gave to the nuns the churches of Saints Crispino e Crispiniano, property of the University of the Shoe Makers, and attached to the church of Saint Egidio. The latter was demolished and incorporated into the convent. The museum currently preserves, on the ground floor, the marble plaques of the University of the Shoe Makers, put in place in 1614. The church of Saints Crispino and Crispiniano was restored in 1630, decorated in marble by the military commander Filippo Colonna and, two years later, dedicated by the Pope to the Madonna of Carmelo and to Sant’Egidio. The sisters lived in the convent until the capture of Rome.

The building became the property of the City of Rome in 1875 and from 1918 it housed the “Ettore Marchiafava” anti-malarial sanatorium for children. A marble plaque at the entrance to the museum, records the date at which the sanatorium was dedicated to Marchiafava, an illustrious doctor and senator of the realm, expert in malaria and, in 1918, the Officer for Hygiene. These were the years in which malaria was taking many victims from among the workers in the Roman countryside. The youths stayed in the Sanatorium for an average of two months, entrusted to the care of the governing doctor and the sisters of charity of San Vincenzo de’ Paoli. The Sanatorium included a vegetable-garden and a small school.

Between 1969 and 1973 the building was restored by the architects Attilio Spaccarelli and Fabrizio Bruno, who adapted it to house the Museum of Folklore and the Roman dialect poets, presenting material about Roman popular traditions from the Museum of Rome, which was then, and remains, in the Palazzo Braschi. The Museum of Folklore and the Roman dialect poets opened to the public on the 1st of February 1977.

The Museum was recently restructured to make it better adapted to the current needs of the museum – which include space for exhibitions, shows and conferences. It reopened in 2000 under the new name of the Museo di Roma in Trastevere.

The Museum
Thanks to the richness and variety of the Museo di Roma’s collection it was possible to create a new museum institution in 1977 in the recently restored Carmelite convent of Saint Egidio, which focuses on the era its name, the Museum of Folklore and the Roman dialect poets, suggests, a specific sector of interest.

Transferring the material most closely connected to the documentation of daily life and Roman traditions to this new location in Trastevere was also motivated by the ideal and privileged connection it was possible to create between the museum and the area around it; Trastevere, because of its individual characteristics can be considered the area of Rome where it is still possible to trace the fragments and force of popular Roman culture.

The unusual configuration, articulated inside the cloister, permits the permanent exhibition to be centred on a strong nucleus of the so-called Roman Scenes, which were previously confined in an unfortunate space in the Palazzo Braschi and now find a much more satisfactory display context here.

The Roman Scenes are true emblems of a culture nourished on nostalgia and the wish to evoke, for political reasons, the popular costumes and habits of Italy. In their apparent verisimilitude the Roman Scenes represent an extraordinary document of ethnographic museography. Rather than the easy nineteenth stereotype of their reconstruction, an attentive reading of the images allows a varied and articulated understanding of popular everyday life in Rome, making them a valuable educational resource.

As a contrast to the Roman scenes, watercolour paintings and engravings tell the story of the city through its costumes, festivals and traditions, including a magnificent of the Carnival which reached its heights in the nineteenth century.

The watercolours of Roesler Franz, which because of their delicacy can only be displayed in rotation, also contribute to the evocation of “vanished Rome”. The banks of the Tiber, destroyed when the walls were built, the characteristic corners of the ghetto or of Trastevere, already disappeared, are brought back to life in the easy, loose narrative of the artist as he plays with the tones of elegy and picturesque representation.

At the end of the 1990s it was clearly desirable, given their historical and municipal connections, to unite this institution with the Museo di Roma, recognising their close affiliation with the new name of the Museo di Roma in Trastevere. As part of this process, a new and more coherent system was proposed for organising the materials of Trilussa’s Studio, which had long since merged with his archive in the Museum to create a valuable testimony to literary production in the Roman dialect and one of the form’s most famous exponents.

The new identity was not just a simple change of denomination, but increased and enriched the space and the possibility of temporary exhibitions, conferences on themes and personalities closely tied to the life of the city, with attention paid to the cinema, multimedia and photography. Thus the Museum has aimed to reinvent itself as a lively place where contemporary news can take on the importance of historic documentation and by integrated directly with the past.

The Collection
The permanent collection of the Museo di Roma in Trastevere exhibits the salient aspects of popular life in Rome from the late eighteenth century to the early twentieth century, filtered through the tastes and convictions of the artists and folklorists who represented it. The major themes present in the collection are the costumes, the popular dances, the secular and religious festivals and the crafts.

In particular the collection includes a collection paintings, prints, drawings and watercolours, a crèche in the form of a nineteenth century Roman room, six realistic representations of rooms, better known as the Roman scenes, which reproduce at life size, aspects of popular Roman life of the Nineteenth Century.

The belongings of the great poet Trilussa (Rome 1871 – 1950) were donated to the City of Rome after his death. They now make up part of the museum’s collection and are partly on display in the video installation known as Trilussa’s room.

The museum periodically rotates its works, to allow the visitors to appreciate as many of them as possible.

Among the views of Rome and the Roman countryside on display are a Nocturnal view of Rome by Amedeo Simonetti (1874-1922), a view of Piazza Colonna by night by Pasquale Ruggero (1851-1915) and several small views by Diego Angeli (1869-1937). Among the paintings on display dedicated to the crafts are a roast chestnut stand on the Via Sistina by Arnoldo Corrodi (1846-11874) and, among those showing religious scenes, The blessing of the horses at St Antony on the Esquiline (1855). Also on display are a terracotta sculpture by Achille Pinelli (Roma 1809-1841), Barbaro, barbaresco and masks, created in 1833, which shows a scene from the Roman carnival.

The paintings
The Museum’s collection of paintings is made up of works from the late XVIIIth and XIXth centuries, arranged by theme. They illustrate various aspects of social life in Rome. Most of the works come from the Museo di Roma.

The artists are Italian painters, such as Ippolito Caffi and Vincenzo Morani, and foreigners, such as Salomon Corrodi, Adolphe Roger and Teodor Aerni, who painted episodes from popular life with felicitous grace, combined with a degree of sensibility which enabled them to immerse themselves in a world now lost.

An outstanding part of the collection are the watercolours of the Vanished Rome series by Ettore Roesler Franz (1845-1907) showing piazzas, palazzi, courtyards, and the banks of the Tiber, places and aspects of popular Roman life that were disappearing due to the new urban development of the Rome as the capital of Italy after 1870.

In the XIXth century many Europeans and Americans, both artists and people of culture, stayed in Rome; such tours were considered a dazzling experience and an opportunity to get to know sublime examples of ancient and modern art. The visitors retraced the illustrious monuments of the city, but, at the same time, took an interest in the events and people of the working classes. They painted canvases, which were highly prized by the foreigners who bought them, and which are now displayed in numerous European and American museums.

Several themes are represented in the works: the traditional costumes, popular devotion, the festivals and spectacles such as carnival, nocturnal light displays, dance and in particular the saltarello – and aspects of daily life such as the crafts and the activities that could be seen in the city: barbers, washerwomen, carters…

The paintings form a visual counterpoint to the Roman scenes and, partly because of their sheer numbers, make it possible to imagine popular life in Nineteenth century Rome, as it was codified by the tastes and sensibilities of the artists who took inspiration from it and by the museographers who, in the first half of the Twentieth century, wanted to create it “in scene”.

The Roman Scenes
The Roman Scenes are pieces of scenography that represent at life size aspects of Roman popular life, using a mixture of authentic pieces and created objects to explore the typical popular culture of the first decades of the 1900s.

The three oldest Roman Scenes (Inn, Saltarello, and Public Scribe) which have been conserved in the Museo di Roma in Trastevere since its construction in 1977, were displayed for the first time in 1930 in the branch of the Museo di Roma in the old Pantanella baker’s near to the Bocca della Verità piazza.

In an era in which the urban development necessary to realize the regulatory plans of 1873 and 1883 and the “modernisation” of the Twenties were rapidly modifying the reality of the city, the collections on display in the new Museum, curated by Antonio Muñoz, Carlo Galassi Paluzzi and Antonio M. Colini, were intended to show what life had been like in Rome in the centuries which had just passed.

To represent popular Roman life in as dramatic and realistic a manner as possible, three scenes were created, in a manner which was quite common in the period, with life sized figures, showing an inn, a public scribe with his clients and the saltarello, the popular dance most widely practiced in Rome and its environs.

To set the scene for the popular Roman traditions, which in 1930 seemed, at least within the city, to have entirely disappeared, the curators of the Museo di Roma referred to the drawings and engravings of Bartolomeo Pinelli (1781-1835), the artist who, in the first decades of the Nineteenth century, represented Rome and Roman life better than anyone else.

The first three Roman scenes, therefore, were set in Rome in the early Nineteenth century, planned and created by Antonio Barrera (1889-1970) with the collaboration of Giulio Cesare Reanda. The scenes reused material that came in part from the Exhibition of Costume (organised in 1927 for the Province of Rome by Giuseppe Ceccarelli with the artistic collaboration of Orazio Amato and Antonio Barrera) and in part collected during the procession of costumes and dressmaking of all the regions of Italy (organised by Giulio Aristide Sartorio, with the collaboration of Giuseppe Ceccarelli for the Roman part), which took place on the 8th January 1930 below the Campidoglio to celebrate the marriage of Prince Umberto of Savoy to Maria of Belgium.

When, between 1949 and 1952, the Museo di Roma was transferred to Palazzo Braschi in piazza S. Pantaleo, the three Roman scenes were dismantled and reassembled in a new location. Subsequently Orazio Amato (1884-1952) created the Scenes of pipers, wine carts, stretchers and chemists, using the same criteria that had been used for the earlier scenes. The intention was that they should be “created using all the means and scenographic solutions necessary to give the illusion of reality”. For the pharmacy scene, for instance, Nineteenth century pharmaceutical containers were acquired as a loan from the hospital of S. Spirito.

From 1973 to 1976 the Scenes, together with the crèche also set in Nineteenth century Rome, were reinstalled in the Museo di Sant’Egidio in Trastevere.

The crèche
Created by Angelo Urbani del Fabbretto sometime before ‘74, this crèche is set in the Rome of the previous century and, like all crèches, retains among its more varied aspects the reality of space and place represented. Around the sacred family are shown elite familesbut also figures dressed in a different style from the populace, perhaps guests on an inn in the area, not far from Piazza Navona, where, in the Eighteenth century the Vicolo del Corallo ran (of which the street sign remains). The crèche on display here was for many years assembled near to Piazza Navona during the Christmas period.

Crèches were originally used in Rome as rich spectacle created by the well off to excite wonder; in the early Nineteenth century their use extended to craftsmen and small business men, conserving, however, the traditional characteristics which defined them even at a local level. Crèches, therefore, were not only on display in the convents and churches (such as the famous one in the Aracoeli church) and in the aristocratic palazzi, such as that of the Boncompagni Ludovisi princes or the Borgheses. A shoemaker in the Regola area, for instance, is known to have had one on his terrace in 1802, visible through a window which had been made to represent an aperture in a rock face.

The terracotta figurines used in the crèches became known at Rome as “pupazzi” or “pupazzetti”, and the craftsmen who made them were known as “pupazzari”.

The father of Bartolomeo Pinelli, who worked at a potter, also made figures for the creches.

The “pupazzetti” were generally bought from the pot ovens on the Via di S. Maria in Cappella or from the street fair that was held in piazza S. Eustachio (near to the Pantheon) during the period before Christmas. From Christmas to Epiphany toys and knick-knacks for the children’s festival of Befana were also sold there.

In 1872 the Befana fair was transferred to Piazza Navona. The tradition continued, although in a different place.

The tradition of crèches from elsewhere also continues in Rome as in all of Italy.

One of the few Roman families of figurinai (the artisans who construct the crèche statuettes), which passed on the craft from generation to generation until 1944, was the Sgarzini-Carbone family, whose last representative, Francesco Sgarzini, made his pupazzi in the style of Pinelli. His kiln and workshops were in the Vicolo del Cinque, in Trastevere.

Exhibition Halls
The museum’s permanent exhibition focuses on Roman life in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Major themes are costume, folk dancing, festivals, and crafts. The collection includes paintings, prints, drawings and watercolours, including the series on Roma sparita (“vanished Rome”) by Ettore Roesler Franz (1845–1907), and life-size representations of day-to-day life, known as “Roman Scenes”. Exhibition of the Franz water colours is rotated in order to conserve them. Other painters represented include Samuel Prout, Bartolomeo Pinelli, Adriano Trojani, Guillaume Frédéric Ronmy, and Arnoldo Corrodi. There is also a gallery of photographs. The “Roman Scenes” show a chemist’s, a room where a wine cart is stored, the courtyard of an inn where dancing is taking place, the inside of an inn, a square with a public scribe, and two pipers in front of a votive kiosk.

The museum has some manuscripts of the Roman dialect poet Giuseppe Gioachino Belli, and also contains some of the personal possessions of another Italian dialect poet, Trilussa (1871–1950), which were donated to Rome after his death. The “Trilussa Room” consists of a video installation together with paintings and other items belonging to the poet.

The collection of the Museum of Rome in Trastevere preserves materials relating to Roman popular traditions with an emphasis on the salient aspects of daily life in Rome between the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

The recent renovation allows a more responsive use to current museological needs by offering the availability to host temporary exhibitions, shows, conferences and concerts.

Gallery of Roman Scenes
The gallery contains six life-size scenes, the Roman Scenes from which it takes its name, and a selection of works showing various aspects of the popular traditions of Rome in the late eighteenth century and the entirety of the nineteenth, filtered through the perspectives of the artists who depicted them.

The main themes illustrated are religion, the crafts, popular dress, carnival, fireworks and the saltarello (a popular dance).

Adriano Trojani, Interior of an oven, 1844
Françoise Pinelli (pseudonym of Bartolomeo), Danse champetre dans les environs de Rome
Guillaume Frédéric Ronmy, Apse of San Giovanni in Laterano, 1825
Pinwheel it in Castel Sant’Angelo
Caldarrostaro in via Sistina
Fishermen’s logs on the leftovers of the Ponte Sublicio at the Ripa Romea or port of Ripagrande
From the Tiber Island – Access from the Tiber and leftovers from the Pierleoni fortress – Roman walls on the right

Simulated Scenes of Roman
Life-size scenes representing aspects of popular life in Rome in the early nineteenth century, the Roman Scenes were created between 1930 and 1952, inspired by the works of Bartolomeo Pinelli (Rome 1781-1835). They show a chemist’s, the carriage house of a wine cart, the courtyard of an inn where the saltarello is being danced, the interior of an inn, a piazza with the public scribe and two pipers in front of a votive kiosk.

The “minente”, Roman scene of the Osteria
Roman scene of the Scrivano, detail
Roman scene of the Carro a vino

Trilussa’s Room
The video installation, dedicated to the life and works of the great Roman poet Trilussa, projects on four separate areas of the walls animated pictures, centred around a stream of images created with objects, photographs, letters, postcards, newspapers, drawings and films. The moving pictures follow four main themes: the public man, the private man, the poet, and friendships.

Along the perimeter of the video installation runs a shelf on which a selection of objects from the poet’s studio are displayed, while pictures are hung on the walls. The intention is to give the vistors an experience evocative of Trilussa’s multifaceted character: the public man and the private, his friendships and the feminine world which always surrounded him; the poet, and the amateur artist.

Bear, 1928
Pinellian popular scene on plate, 1935
Unknown, Santa Pupa, sec. XX
Isaia Ederli, A monkey by the photographer, sec. XX, second quarter
Musacchio, Caricature of Trilussa, 1913
Duilio Cambellotti, Deer Vase or Fawn Vase, 1903-1906
Interior of the Trilussa studio in via Maria Adelaide – the alcove

Shared museums
The museum system of Roma Capitale, Musei in Comune, is made up of an extremely diverse set of museum sites and archaeological sites of undoubted artistic and historical value.

Together with the Capitoline Museums, the oldest public museum in the world, the Ara Pacis Museum, designed by Richard Meier and home to important exhibitions, but also the Trajan’s Markets with the Imperial Forum Museum, and the Museum are part of the System of Rome at Palazzo Braschi.

The system is also enriched by some “hidden treasures”, small museums with precious collections such as the Napoleonic Museum, the Giovanni Barracco Museum of Ancient Sculpture, the Carlo Bilotti Museum, the Pietro Canonica Museum, the Museum of the Walls and others, all from to discover.

Temporary events and exhibitions contribute to making the Civic Museum System unique compared to other Italian realities, with an offer of always new initiatives aimed at all types of public.

The library’s collection mainly focuses on the popular traditions of Rome and Lazio from the Eighteenth century of the present day. It also stocks texts pertaining to demo anthropology and museology, and is being added to through exchanges and gifts from other museums, libraries, and cultural institutions, and through specific acquisitions.

Documentation center
The documentation center gives access to video-terminals, to the multimedia archive of Multimedia Productions, and to the Data Bank of the Demos System Centre, created in collaboration with the Lazio area, with the aim of improving access to and experience of the demo ethno anthropological regional museums.

The Multimedia Room
A welcoming room for projection and video conferences, which can hold about 85 spectators. Its structure is avantguard in character, and offers up-to-date cultural services, based on the most recent digital communication technologies. It can be used for conferences, meetings, and shows and allows collaborative events and external participation, to promote the dialogue on themes and cultural and artistic dynamics which animate the area. The events previously held here include: Conferences and concerts: “I Pifferai (The Pipers): a Christmas tradition in Rome”; a conference on “Music and concerts at Rome in the years of Augustus: 1908-1936”; meeting “Foreign citizens in Rome and the politics of entering into employment”; eighth session of the MedFilm Festival, dedicated to the theme “Beyond the limits, identity in movement”.