The Etruscan chandelier of Cortona and the stele of Kaminia: two exceptional finds on display at the Luigi Rovati Foundation in Milan
If you haven’t yet visited that stupendous jewel that is the Luigi Rovati Foundation Museum in Milan, you have at least two excellent reasons to do so at the beginning of 2023: the exhibition on the Etruscan chandelier of Cortona and the one on the Kaminia stele; two exhibitions which in themselves would be worth a visit were it not for the beauty, care and extraordinary nature of the Museum’s permanent collections.
The Etruscan chandelier of Cortona, unique in typology and integrity, which for the first time since 1938 temporarily leaves the halls of the MAEC | Museum of the Etruscan Academy and of the city of Cortona, can only be admired until 5 March, while the stele of Kaminia, one of the most enigmatic and debated inscriptions of all classical antiquity, found on the island of Lemno and now housed in the Museum National Archaeological Museum of Athens, is hosted at the Luigi Rovati Foundation until 16 July 2023.
These loans are made possible by the network of alliances that the Foundation has established with the major institutions engaged in the study and conservation of ancient art.
To summarize the spirit that leads to these exhibitions of a single object, but perfectly contextualised, is prof. Salvatore Settis, Coordinator of the Scientific Committee of the Foundation, who talks about “SLOW ART” as opposed to the exposure bulimia that we often find ourselves witnessing.
Giovanna Forlanelli Rovati, President of the Luigi Rovati Foundation, welcoming the chandelier from Cortona says:
The richness of the decorations and the preciousness of the bronze of the Cortona Chandelier contrast with the pure and essential lines and the poverty of the plaster of the Lanterne à quatre lumières by Diego Giacometti” (on permanent display at the Foundation ed.). “A juxtaposition that is characteristic of the entire exhibition itinerary of the Art Museum.
On the other hand, the presence of these chandeliers seems to symbolically refer to the intentions of the Etruscan Academy of Cortona and the Luigi Rovati Foundation in reconstructing a clear and shining picture from an obscure fact, thanks to the charm and guidance of Art.
Paolo Bruschetti, vice lucumone of the Etruscan Academy of Cortona says:
The presence, albeit temporary, of the Cortona chandelier (which came out only once for the “Autarchic Exhibition of Italian Minerals” organized in Rome at the Circus Maximus between November 1938 and May 1939 editor’s note) in the collection of a great contemporary patron … becomes the spokesperson for a unity of purpose and a sort of cultural “twinning” between two institutions and two cities that are only apparently very distant and different from each other.
The stele of Kaminia
The stele of Kaminia, which enriches the section dedicated to writing on the underground floor of the Art Museum, is also intimately connected to the Etruscan world and its mystery.
Found between 1883 and 1885 near the village of Kaminia, on the island of Lemnos, in the northern Aegean Sea, the stele is dated to the 6th century BC. and has aroused particular interest in the two inscriptions it bears engraved. The alphabet of the stele is Greek, of the so-called ‘red’ (or Greek-Western) type, but some peculiar traits bring it closer to the Etruscan alphabet.
The news of the ancient authors on the Pelasgians or Tyrrhenians, who would have inhabited Lemnos until the conquest of Athens (ca. 500 BC), induced the Italian Archaeological School of Athens, the only Italian archaeological school operating abroad, to carry out excavations and research on the island to identify the origins of the Tyrrhenian people of Italy, i.e. the Etruscans.
The historical and archaeological importance of the stele is well summed up by the narration of the director of the Italian school of Archeology in Athens Emanuele Papi who underlines in his presentation of this Etruscan artifact, but coming from Greece, as the slender profile of a man armed with a spear of the stele Paia tell us a mysterious and archaic story with only 200 letters of a Greek alphabet, divided into 30 words of an Etruscan language, drawn up following the sinusoidal gait called bustrofedica.
A rebus that confirms Herodotus’s theses on the origin of the Tyrrhenian Sea in Italy? It is to answer this question that the Italian archaeological school of Athens has begun and continues a long series of studies on the stele.