Anticoli art museum ground floor

Anticoli: Top Modern Art Museum in the Roman Mountains

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The article helps travelers visit the art museum in Anticoli Corrado, which is a small town near Rome (Italy) where many famous artists gathered in the 20th century.

Civico Museo d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Anticoli Corrado

How to reach Anticoli Corrado

Close to Rome, travelers can visit a modern art museum that is completely off the main tourist routes. In fact, the Civic Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Anticoli Corrado (Civico Museo d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Anticoli Corrado) is located in the Ruffi Mountains, along the valley of the Aniene River and the road leading to the Benedictine monasteries of Subiaco.

anticoli museum historical center view

We discovered the museum while searching for news about the Roman painter Giuseppe Capogrossi. The Wikipedia page states that Capogrossi’s works are housed in many museums, including the one in Anticoli Corrado. So let’s discover this oddly named town of just 800 inhabitants, where one of Italy’s leading modern art museums is located.

anticoli corrado sculpture archangel michele

On the first possible weekend we left Rome along the A24 highway in the direction of Tivoli and exit at the Vicovaro Mandela toll booth where the road to Subiaco begins. After about ten kilometers, we reached the center of Anticoli Corrado and park in Piazza delle Ville. The main square houses a couple of bars, a restaurant under renovation and a pizzeria.

anticoli corrado piazza ville fountain

We make the whole journey in about 50 minutes by car.

Entering the museum

In the center of the square, a large fountain is surrounded by carnival decorations, reproducing the main masks of Italian tradition.

anticoli corrado piazza ville carnival

Briefly following the signs between the narrow streets, we reach Palazzetto Brancaccio, which houses the museum. Ramps of stairs lead us to the entrance, but it is closed. However, one notices a phone number to call.

anticoli corrado main square carnival

Over the phone, the voice answered that the custodian was unwell. Given the anonymous winter rainy Saturday, he left without being replaced. If we wanted, he could still come by to open the door for us. After about 15 minutes, a white-haired gentleman under a large umbrella showed up.

anticoli art museum directions center

He opened the door, gave us tickets at a cost of 5 euros each, and handed us a CD with traditional music from the Aniene Valley. Then, he asked us whether we wanted to listen to the history of the museum from the interactive panel or from his words, which he believed was a faster and more direct method.

anticoli art museum ticket

On our trips, we like to hear from local people, so we ask him to tell us the history of the museum. His name is Giovambattista, Gianni to everyone, and he is the city councilor with the museum delegation. He has a great love for these paintings that depict his area and fascinated us with the stories of the artists who have passed through Anticoli Corrado.

anticoli art museum palazzo brancaccio

2 The art in Anticoli Corrado

The first years

In the 19th century, the German Nazarene movement first arrived in Anticoli Corrado. The Nazarenes were enchanted by the beauty of the place, but they stayed overnight in Rome and went to Anticoli during the day to paint the magnificent landscape. In general, the Nazarenes painted religious subjects and kept beards and long hair just like Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

anticoli museum ground floor plow

The Nazarenes did not stay overnight in Anticoli because the village was a simple group of houses inhabited by shepherds, as can be seen in a painting by the landscape artist Augusto Corelli. In this work, Piazza delle Ville is just a field surrounded by houses, where cows graze. The name of the square probably derives from the transit of the French army, which was stationed in the town for a few days. Paese translates into “ville” in French.

anticoli corrado corelli piazza ville

In the following years, more and more artists arrived and Anticoli created an accommodation system and a real business began to revolve around art. The beautiful young people of Anticoli, women and men, posed as models for the artists. Many Roman sculptures portray Anticolan models. For example, the women of Anticoli acted as models for the scandalous Fountain of the Naiads, in Piazza della Repubblica.

fountain piazza repubblica fontana naiadi

The models of Anticoli

In 1901, the famous sculptor Mario Rutelli, author of the statue of Anita Garibaldi on the Janiculum, used Anticolan models to complete the four bronze nymphs that adorn the edge of the fountain. At the time, the nude sculptures and sensual poses scandalized the population and the Catholic church, but the secular authorities sided with the artist.

anticoli corrado clock church center

In the following years, Rutelli sculpted the central body of the fountain. Initially, he proposed a sculpture representing a confusing fight between men and fish that the Romans renamed “Fritto misto”. The administration decided to move the “Fritto misto”, which can now be seen in Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II.

anticoli art museum ground floor

In 1912, Mario Rutelli sculpted a new central body, representing Glaucus, son of the sea god, grabbing a dolphin. This sculpture is still at the center of the fountain today. Francesco Rutelli, mayor of Rome in the 1990s and grandson of the sculptor, said that the figure of Glaucus follows the face of the Roman poet Trilussa, a close friend of his grandfather. In reality, Glaucus also has the form of a boy from Anticoli, who probably resembled Trilussa.

anticoli museum roofs town center

The sculptor Giuseppe Tonnini used an Anticoli model to create the monument to Saint Francis of Assisi, inaugurated in 1927 in Piazza San Giovanni. Other artists depicted Anticoli’s models in central Rome. For example, young Anticolani can be observed in the statue of a woman pouring water along the Pincio promenade of Villa Borghese and in some sculptures in the Vittoriano complex.

anticoli art museum sculpture painting

Some models married the artists. For three years, the painter Fausto Pirandello kept his marriage to an Anticolan model a secret from his father Luigi. Anticoli Corrado was in fact a summer holiday destination for the family of the Nobel Prize winner for literature.

anticoli museum young woman sculpture

The artists

Luigi Pirandello arrived in Anticoli while writing the drama “The Giants of the Mountain”. Struck by the beauty of the landscape, he decided to paint and the written work remained unfinished. On the contrary, his son always dedicated himself to painting, becoming a well-known exponent of the Roman school.

anticoli museum fausto pirandello capogrossi

In the first half of the twentieth century, many painters and sculptors stayed in Anticoli Corrado. The town has seen the passage of very important authors such as Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp and Oskar Kokoschka. Giuseppe Capogrossi also had a small house that can be seen from the windows of the museum, where he hosted writers such as Laura Morante and Alberto Moravia.

anticoli corrado museum painting kokoshka

The Spanish poet and painter Rafael Alberti took refuge in Anticoli during his exile, because he was against the fascist regime of Francisco Franco. Alberti was a friend of the poet Federico Garcia Lorca and the bullfighter Luis Miguel Dominguín.

The famous bullfighter, also mentioned by the American writer Ernest Hemingway, was loyal to the Franco regime. At the same time, Dominguín maintained friendships with dissidents such as Pablo Picasso and Rafael Alberti, so much so that he met him in Anticoli.

anticoli museum rafael alberti bullfight

Genoese portraitist Pietro Gaudenzi was known for creating incredibly realistic works. One of his most famous paintings is the portrait of Wally Toscanini, daughter of the great orchestra conductor Arturo. Legend has it that the actor Charlie Chaplin saw the portrait in a magazine and fell in love with it so much that he kept the page immortalizing the painting in his pocket for twenty years.

anticoli corrado gaudenzi old lolli

Gaudenzi lived in Anticoli for a long time and had the idea of asking all the other artists to donate some works, so as to found the museum. The fascist authorities inaugurated the museum in 1935, in the presence of the governor of Rome, Giuseppe Bottai.

Eric Hebborn, the king of counterfeiters

Eric Hebborn is the last great author to have resided in Anticoli. In addition to being a brilliant painter, Hebborn was famous as the king of forgers. The English author traded old paintings which were purchased by the largest London auction houses and resold to museums around the world.

anticoli museum eric hebborn bullfight

One day, the curator of the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. observed the similarity between two works attributed to 15th century authors: Francesco del Cossa and Sperandio. The two authors, although contemporary, came from different contexts and currents. But the paintings were so similar that they shared the same piece of paper.

anticoli art museum sculpture woman

From Washington, the museum officials immediately contacted the gallery from which they had purchased the paintings, Colnaghi in London. It was thus understood that both works came from Eric Hebborn’s collection, like many other works that turned out to be fake. An international scandal then broke out, immortalized in a BBC documentary entitled “Eric Hebborn: Portrait of a Master Forger”.

Hebborn wrote an autobiography published in 1991 and entitled “Drawn to trouble”. Today the book is practically impossible to find, perhaps due to the desire of art dealers to remove the memory of an embarrassing story.

Eric Hebborn death and legacy

In the book, Hebborn stated that he simply painted works similar to past masters, without signing them. In his version, art critics have authenticated his fake paintings by attributing them to great artists. The legend of the “king of counterfeiters” was therefore born from the mistakes of critics.

Hebborn died in 1996 in Trastevere. Some of his friends were waiting for him for dinner in the Roman neighborhood famous for restaurants and nightlife. Not seeing him arrive and knowing his heavy drinking habits, his friends began looking for him in hospitals.

They found him too late, in a hospital with a smashed head, believed by doctors to be homeless. Many thought Hebborn was killed for his actions. But, Italian justice and the inhabitants of Anticoli consider Hebborn’s death an accident caused by his excesses.

Finally, Gianni tells us one last anecdote. King Charles of England is so passionate about Benedictine monasteries that he visited Subiaco. On the journey between Subiaco and Rome, he asked the driver to stop for a few minutes in the Anticoli Corrado square. In fact, an aunt had hosted him here when he was young, in absolute secrecy.

The Museum

The second floor

We visit the museum from the second floor, where the two small rooms house the collection “Themes of Italian art from the 1930s to the post-war period”. The bronze statue “The Mother” stands out, in which Domenico Ponzi depicts his wife, the Anticolana model Angela Toppi. The marble version is located in the Grosseto post office building. The fascist authorities sent another bronze copy to Adolf Hitler, as a representation of the patriotic spirit.

anticoli museum domenico ponzi mother

In one corner, we observe the plaster sculpture of a woman admiring herself in the mirror called “Vanity”. The author is Ercole Drei, famous for creating numerous works in travertine rock, such as the stele “Work in the fields” in the EUR Tourism Park.

anticoli corrado museum drei vanity

On the walls you can see the authors of the Roman school of the twentieth century such as Giuseppe Capogrossi, Emanuele Cavalli, Fausto Pirandello and Felice Carena. The fascinating paintings of Rafael Alberti and Eric Hebborn depict bullfighting.

anticoli museum italian art room

The first floor

The first floor contains two small rooms. One room is called “Suggestion of the Twenties” and contains the wonderful bronze sculpture by Ercole Drei entitled “The Comedy”. Furthermore, we notice a lioness immortalized by the painter Giulio Aristide Sartorio in the Buenos Aires zoo.

anticoli corrado museum comedy drei

The other room “From the 19th century to the 1910s” is perhaps the most fascinating in the museum.

anticoli corrado museum beggars lendorff

Two paintings attract my attention: the expressive “The Beggars” by the Swiss Hans Lendorff and the portrait of a young Anticolan by the Polish Edward Okuń, in art nouveau style.

anticoli corrado young woman okun

In the center, there is a beautiful bronze sculpture by Attilio Selva.

anticoli museum bronze attilio selva

The ground floor

On the ground floor, we are welcomed by the prison room, an ancient place of confinement where prisoners’ graffiti can be observed. In addition to hosting the interactive panel, the room contains numerous sculptures, including those by the Croatian master Ivan Meštrović.

anticoli corrado museum prison room

In the largest room stands the plaster statue of Domenico Ponzi “Beyond the plow”, which depicts a farmer resting on his plow. All around, visitors admire paintings depicting Anticoli Corrado or its inhabitants.

anticoli corrado domenico ponzi plow

We marveled at an ancient landscape by the Chinese painter Chen Shou Soo. The painter came to Rome to study fine arts, married an Italian girl and returned to China to support Mao Tse Tung’s communism.

anticoli corrado chen shou soo

The last room contains the portrait “La Vecchia Lolli” by Pietro Gaudenzi and some sculptures by Arturo Martini. The author from Treviso was one of the most important Italian artists of the twentieth century, creating, for example, the statue of Minerva located in the center of La Sapienza University of Rome. In this room, we can admire one of the symbols of the museum, namely the small polychrome ceramic called “The Monster’s Slave”, a dreamlike work that recalls ancient myths.

anticoli pottery martini slave monster

The end of our visit

Before we left, I discussed the beauty and problems of the museum with Gianni. The collection is as valuable as some Roman galleries such as Villa Torlonia or Palazzo Merulana. Furthermore, hospitality of the Anticoli museum is a great added value. The only pity is that the museum is not ready to be visited by people with disabilities.

anticoli museum sculpture prison room

So far, it’s difficult for the museum to organize temporary exhibitions because maintaining the correct temperature so as not to damage the works is not possible yet.

Because of facing multiple difficulties, the museum will benefit from some funding intended for the post-Covid economic recovery.

anticoli art museum roofs windows

While we were already at the door, Gianni told us that the strange name of the town comes from Corrado of Antioch. In fact, the noble family related to Frederick II of Swabia was the owner of the fiefdom. In some papers, it is stated that Corrado was count of Anticoli. So the town added the nobleman’s name.

anticoli corrado fountain arturo martini

Before returning to Rome, we passed through the main square, where we observed the fountain, which we now know is the work of Arturo Martini. We stopped for a coffee in a bar in the square. The lady was curious about these two travelers who came in the middle of winter. We told her that we came to visit the museum and she asked us whether we liked it. Obviously, we answered yes and that Gianni’s guidance was very helpful to us.

anticoli corrado piazza ville night

Smiling, she replied that we must visit Anticoli again in the summer, when the weather is good and the restaurant is open. The lady added that Gianni is her brother, as if to remind us that we were in a small village where everything is connected.

Written by Enrico, translated by Hua, and photos from Hua

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