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Archaeological Museum

Archaeological Museum (11)

With its headquarters in the bustling Piazza San Marco, the collections of this museum are distributed in different rooms of the Libreria Sansoviniana and the Procuratie Nuove, and form one of the most important archaeological displays in the north of Italy. 

The person who sowed the seed of this space was Domenico Grimani, son of the Doge Antonio Grimani, who gave the Signoria all his Roman and Greek sculptures in 1523. Grimani, an eminent humanist and theologian, also left his large library.

Later, the archives of the Archaeological Museum were enlarged thanks to new donations, such as that of Giovanni Grimani, Domenico’s nephew, in 1586. Among the more than 200 marbles he left to the Republic feature some valuable original Greek pieces.

Nevertheless, Giovanni Grimani demanded as a condition that a suitable space be fitted out to house the sculptures. A petition that materialised in 1596 when Scamozzi adapted the ante-chamber of the Libreria designed by Sansovino to house the statues.

New donations made to the museum, such as those of Giovanni Mocenigo or Jacopo Contarini in 1714, as well as some pieces acquired from recommendations by Antonio Canova, meant that throughout the 18th century such an increasing number of pieces to be kept resulted in serious problems of space. Then the proposal was made to move part of the collection to the rooms of the Procuratie Nuove.

However, the reform and transfer project came to a halt during Napoleonic domination, since the Viceroy, Eugène de Beauharnais, ordered the statues to be moved to the Palazzo Ducale, where they were dispersed throughout most of the 19th century.

At the initiative of several experts, in 1895 the study and cataloguing of the different pieces was undertaken. The process was completed between 1923 and 1926, when the statues were placed in their current site.

Divided into 12 different rooms, the classification by periods, styles and subject matter will enable you to make a tour of classical Greek and Roman sculpture from the 5th century BC through to the 3rd century AD. You will also be able to see objects such as gems, medals and small bronze utensils.

Until today, the Archaeological Museum has undergone new reforms and enlargements, which shows that it is a genuine temple of knowledge in constant growth. As an example, in 1939 it received in deposit a series of Egyptian, Assyrian and Babylonian antiques from the Correr Museum. In 1982, in contrast, Giancarlo Ligabue donated his collection of prehistoric objects. If, with all this, you are still not satisfied, remember that the museum also has a really interesting collection of coins from different periods.

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