Centrale Montemartini: Industrial Classics

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Centrale Montemartini as a structure was built in 1912 as Rome’s first public electricity plant, lighting about half the modern city. It went out of use in 1963, then in 1990 was used as a gallery exhibition space, finally in 1997 coming into ownership of the Capitoline museums.  Originally part of the collection was moved to be stored, but then the museum decided to open it as an extension because they found the space to be perfect.

The space still holds all the old engines and industrial equipment of the original plant, and the sculptures and other pieces are displayed by incorporating these industrial pieces.  It truly displays a postmodernist feel by combining these two historical eras, these two very important aspects of Rome’s past.

Walking in the first sculpture is Aphrodite in pentelic marble, side by side with a turn of the century cast-iron extraction pump, is the perfect image of these two eras’ side by side. It is the most definitely the most picturesque image a museum could open with.

From then on it is up to the visitor where they would like to go, there is a ground floor and upstairs. Almost all the downstairs is Roman original painting and original sculpture. This includes the oldest original wall painting found. Other items include beautiful mosaics, and ivory carved pieces from a funerary spire. Upstairs is mainly sculpture, often copied from Greeks. Many of the sculptures were from Roman gardens. Some others are from temples, such as the pediment of Hercules 9th labor against the Amazons, where Augustus is depicted as Hercules. This came from the Temple of Apollo Sosianus, this was dedicated to the god Apollo Medicus who was a god of well-being and protection during military campaigns. This temple was restored in 33BC by Sosias in order to pay tribute to Augustus. Sosias had fought for Marc Antony and Cleopatra at Actium, but for some reason had been spared.

All the upstairs collection is shown with the engines, shown together it is really amazing to see how ideals have changed. Once where power was shown by the level of sculpture shown in one’s gardens, power became electricity and industry. Once the god’s who are depicted in all these sculptures were worshipped daily as ones who controlled everything on earth, now electricity is the real power, holding the biggest importance in all individuals life.

Though it is out of the way I do recommend seeing this extension to the Capitoline, it is a small collection but it is most interesting to see the old industrial part of Rome. It is even more interessing to see these things interacting together. The museum is located in Ostiense by Garbatella Metro stop. But it is also possible to get to the museum by walking from Piramide straight down the road (one over to the left from the wall).

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