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Koenraad Vos // Fragments reassembled: the Museo Chiaramonti in the Vatican and the display of sculpture in early nineteenth-century Europe

Koenraad Vos // Fragments reassembled: the Museo Chiaramonti in the Vatican and the display of sculpture in early nineteenth-century Europe

Founded between 1805 and 1808, the Vatican’s Museo Chiaramonti houses a wide range of ancient fragments of sculpture, ornament and architecture.
The scattering of Rome’s artistic heritage after the Revolution and Napoleon’s invasion of Italy saw the relation between museums and fragments thematised in two ways. Fragments that are musealised and museums that fragment — this is the crucial chiasmus that describes the timeframe in which the Museo Chiaramonti was first organised. The Chiaramonti purposefully included fragments in unprecedented ways, as part of a programme that attempted to see the various arts in concert. At the same time the French art historian and theorist Quatremère de Quincy analysed how museums cause the fragmentation of objects by alienating them from their context. He envisioned Rome as a site where much of the value of works of art is in their comparison. At the core of his beliefs is the relation between a work of art and its site.
 Left: compartment XIX (west wall) [now: compartment XXII]. Right: compartment XI (west wall) [now: compartment XXXVIII]. Plates 36 and 21 in Album fotografico e bozze del catalogo del Museo Chiaramonti con note autografe di Walter Amelung, 1900, Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Rome]Thinking about fragments together thus is present in the Museo Chiaramonti. But it takes the idea of assemblages even further by physically bringing works together into new assemblage-objects. In the museum objects are stacked on top of each other. Its display also embedded fragments into the wall, and combined pieces of architecture and ornament to form shelves for the presentation of other objects. Finally, the museum also includes restored works of sculpture. This category is key to thinking about assemblage-objects, because it present a longer history of bringing together ancient and modern pieces to create new, truthful images of antiquity. How these techniques of assemblage are employed in the Museo Chiaramonti is the central question of my research at the ZI.

 

[Caption: Left: compartment XIX (west wall) [now: compartment XXII]. Right: compartment XI (west wall) [now: compartment XXXVIII]. Plates 36 and 21 in Album fotografico e bozze del catalogo del Museo Chiaramonti con note autografe di Walter Amelung, 1900, Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Rome]

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