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The Art Collection


Many works in the collection were purchased by Marco Besso from antique galleries and auction houses after 1905 to furnish the new Roman house, such as the three large canvases of the Salone Rosso by Sebastiano Ricci, inspired by the ancient history of Rome. Ricci's paintings, coming from a Venetian palace, can still be admired today in the Red Hall, today's Sala del Consiglio, together with the same furnishings, consoles, mirrors, sofas and armchairs in the Lugi XIV style. The canvases by Francesco Zuccarelli, coming from an English collection, were part of the picture gallery of the Green Room with the Liberty style vault, while the portrait of Rosalba Carriera was in the Music Room dedicated to female portraits.

The creation of the precious oriental collection, located mainly and congenially in the Chinese living room, is instead linked to the passion for the Far East of his son Salvatore. Furniture, antique sculptures, vases and embroidered fabrics mostly come from the places visited by Salvatore on his two trips to the Far East, as a correspondent for the magazine La Tribuna . Salvatore went to Korea, China and Japan on the first trip of 1910-1911 and to Siam and China on the second trip of 1911-1912, the latter documented by the book Siam & China .

The articulated art collection reflects the character of Marco Besso, full of passions and always open to novelties and also the eclectic taste of the time with a tendency to overlap styles.

Prospetto del nuovo navale di Ripetta

Prospectus of the new Ripetta naval building built under the glorious auspices of NS Pope Clement XI in the building presidency of Monsig. Nicolò Giudice

Trofei de Daci e de Sarmati

Trophies of Dacians and de Sarmatians and other allied peoples carved in the fascia and pedestal of the Trajan column

The Foundation's picture gallery was estimated by Corrado Ricci in 1921 after the death of Marco Besso,

The works go chronologically from the end of the 16th to the beginning of the 20th century,

Along the museum itinerary, along with the works of Marco Besso's art collection, there are some engravings from the very rich heritage of the Library, such as the Port of Ripetta by Alessandro Specchi in the Sala delle Vedute or the detail of the Trajan's Column, in which Vittoria writes in a shield, and with one foot he presses a Sarmatic helmet of the vanquished, by Giovanni Battista Piranesi in the Sala delle Donne

Domenico Zampieri (Domenichino) (attrib.) Sibilla con putto, olio su tela (sec. XVII)

Domenico Zampieri (Domenichino) (attrib.)

Sibyl with putto, oil on canvas (17th century)

some works from his collection

Sacrifice to the god Bread / Giunio Brutus

Sacrificio al Dio Pane_Giunio Bruto

Sebastiano Ricci, oil on canvas (17th-18th century)

The elegant painting could be a work of the early maturity of Sebastiano Ricci (Belluno 1659 - Venice 1734), cultured and refined in the chromatic syntax and in the setting of the scene with clear references to Palladio's architecture.

The source of the theme derives from Ab Urbe condita , I, 56 by Tito Livio in which it is said that Tarquinius the Superb sent two of his sons and Giunio Brutus, the future founder of the Roman Republic, to Delphi to ask the oracle about who would govern one day Rome.

The priestess Pythia replied that he who first kissed his mother would rule Rome. Brutus, tired of the king's despotism, pretending to stumble, kissed the earth, the common mother of all mortals.

Clelia's escape from Campo di Porsenna / Clelia swims across the Tiber

Fuga di Clelia

Sebastiano Ricci, oil on canvas (17th-18th century)

The theme is taken from the First Decade of Tito Livio: the young Roman heroine is represented as she swims across the Tiber to rejoin her people.

On the opposite bank of the river is the Etruscan camp of King Porsenna.

Landscape with Classical Ruins or Ruined Colonnade and Figures

Paesaggio con rovine classiche o colonnato in rovina e figure

Francesco Zuccarelli, oil on canvas (18th century)

Francesco Zuccarelli (Pitigliano 1702 - Florence 1788) Engraver and painter fused the classical seventeenth-century landscape with that of the Flemish rich in details and also combining the Arcadian taste created a style of great success abroad, especially in England, where in London he was one of the founders of the Royal Academy of Arts.

Corrado Ricci who estimated the collection of Marco Besso's paintings after his death, I considered him among the most important works:

"It is a work of rare beauty and perhaps one of the masterpieces of the Tuscan master. This painting and its perhaps even more beautiful counterpart would be an ornament in any public gallery" .

Sofonisba taking poison

Sofonisba che prende il veleno

Sebastiano Ricci, oil on canvas (17th-18th century)

The canvas deals with a theme dear to the whole of the Italian seventeenth century.

The setting time is the period of the Second Punic War and the scene represents the moment in which Sofonisba, queen of Numidia, receives the ampoule with the poison sent to him by Massinissa so as not to let it fall into the hands of the victors.

Sofonisba, after comforting the nurse Erminia and the bystanders, drank courageously.

Gentlewoman in a pearl white dress

with blue scarf

Gentildonna in abito bianco perla con sciarpa azzurra

Rosalba Carriera, pastel (17th-18th century)

The painting purchased by Marco Besso had been exhibited at the Eighteenth-century Portraits Exhibition in Milan in 1910.

In the Inventory of the objects of art of 30 April 1915 the work, present in the Salotto della Musica, is described: for the grace, for the sweetness of the tones and for the harmonic fusion of the colors, it far exceeds the ranks of Italian pastelists contemporary and is worthy of being next to the best French.

The works of Rosalba Carriera (Venice 1675-1757) differ from the stereotype of the portrait of the eighteenth-century lady.

The painter specializes in the pastel technique by softening the drawing pattern that lightens near the contours of the figure.

Sea gulf, Landscape with figures and marina at the bottom

Golfo di mare, Paesaggio con figure e marina in fondo

Francesco Zuccarelli, oil on canvas (18th century)

The painting was purchased by Marco at the Luigi Battistelli sales house in Milan in 1910, it is part of an English collection (Collection BY Pearson)


Head of the Buddha in bronze on a terracotta core

in ayutthaya style with hair with minute curls culminating in the flameless ushnisha from Siam h 0.30 m (1400- 1500)

Far East area museum itinerary

Head of the Buddha in bronze from Siam

large statue head in minor royal vestments in classical ayutthaya style.

h 0.39 m (1500- 1600)

(Northern-central Thailand)

Chinese living room

The two heads of the Buddha are the oldest works in the later collection

the " Bust of a Roman noblewoman " of the second century. A.D.

They were donated by the royal family of Siam to Salvatore, son of Marco Besso who had attended the coronation of Maha Vajiravudh, Rama VI in Bangkok in 1911, as a correspondent for the Roman newspaper La Tribuna.

In 2019 they were exhibited in the exhibition: “Antico Siam. The Splendor of the Thai Kingdoms ", Exhibition celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Treaty of Friendship and Commerce between Italy and Thailand by: Museo delle Civiltà and Ismeo

18 May -30 September 2019 - Museum of Civilizations

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