MAEC: Museum of the Etruscan Academy and of the City of Cortona
By following the monumental stairway – you can see on your left the armored doors belonging to the prisons that once were in Palazzo Casali – we arrive at the Museum of the Etruscan Academy; however, if you want to have a more organic view on the museum, we suggest you to come back to the ticket office and to take the elevator to the second floor.
The Museum of the Etruscan Academy is located on the main floor of Palazzo Casali and its objects exhibition follows a different logic as compared to the lower floors. The museum is no more focused on the chronological order of the urban phases of the town, but is based on different categories of the materials preserved and on the collections given by the members of the Academy, which are the corpus and the soul of the museum itself.
The heart of the Etruscan Academy collections is obviously made up of archeological materials, from the Egyptian, Greek, Etruscan and Roman Periods, among which we can admire the famous and rare Etruscan Bronze Chandelier. But we cannot forget the Etruscan Academy Art Gallery, with works of art from the 13th to the 17th century by important painters such as Maestro della Pala di Avignone, Pinturicchio, Signorelli, Bartolomeo della Gatta, Niccolò di Pietro Gerini, Taddeo Gaddi, Spinello Aretino, Pietro Berrettini, Piazzetta and Baccio Ciarpi, and the beautiful Room Severini.
In rooms AE 1 and 2 we find some of the first objects that were displayed in the museum collections: epigraphs, bronzes, coins, ceramics, cinerary vases, statues (among which there are the bronzes of Tinia and of Goddess Aritimi, the marvelous amphora in grey bucchero given to the Etruscan Academy by the Baron of Stosch and the famous encaustic painting portraying Muse Polyhymnia). From the external walkway, from where we see a beautiful panorama of the whole Valdichiana and of the roofs of Cortona, we can enter room AE 3, known as Room of Biscione.
The Room of Biscione houses today almost all the Etruscan and Roman collections belonging to the Academy. You can admire metal objects (votive bronzes, the famous Culsans and Selvans bronzes, which were found outside Porta Bifora in Cortona; daily use objects and much more), ceramics and fine Etruscan, Greek and Italic vases, belonging to funerary equipments discovered on the Etruscan territory; lots of bucchero vases and lots of other daily use objects like ointment vases and clay oil lamps.
As for the paintings preserved in this room, we see the tondo by Signorelli with the Virgin and Child with St. Michael the Archangel, St. Vincenzo, St. Margherita and St. Marco, the altarpiece by Berrettini with the Virgin and Child and St. Francis, Pope St. Stephen, St. John the Baptist and St. James the Greater, the Madonna and Child with the Infant St. John by Pinturicchio and the Miracle of the wine by Baccio Ciarpi.
From this big room you can enter the medieval room, where some precious paintings with golden background and significant objects related to Medieval Cortona are displayed, in order to conclude the ideal chronological sequence of the exhibitions in the lower floors of the museum; here you can find a ciborium arch and other gravestone architectural elements from the Cathedral of S.Vincenzo, now destroyed; the Praying virgin, a Byzantine mosaic dating back to the end of the 13th century coming from the old Parish Church of S. Andrea, and a coin with the image of S. Vincenzo, which was recently attributed to a 13th century mint located in Cortona.
If you take the side stairs of the medieval room, you will arrive at Room Severini, which is dedicated to this great painter from Cortona. If you come back to the medieval room and pass through the door next to the mosaic, you enter the Etruscan Chandelier Room, one of the most famous objects preserved in this museum and the real symbol of MAEC, a bronze masterpiece with a rich decoration, dated to the half of the 5th century B.C. and up to now unique in its kind.
From the Chandelier Room, by crossing the Room of Biscione and the Roman busts Gallery, where you can see two big terrestrial and celestial globes of father Moroncelli (1710), and by going up the stairs on the left, you will arrive at the third floor where originally was the Museum of the Etruscan Academy seat. A part from the extraordinary High Library, here you can find the Egyptian collection of the Academy in the Corbelli Rooms, which is made up of nearly a thousand objects from the Naqada period (4500-3000 B.C.), to the Old Kingdom (2660-2180) to the Middle Kingdom, to the New Kingdom and to the Late Period (the wooden funerary boat is a rare example of funerary equipments of the Middle Kingdom and two anthropoid sarcophaguses and two human mommies of the Late Period are really well preserved). If you go down to the gallery, you can then enter the room dedicated to Venetian artist Giovan Battista Piazzetta and to his workshops paintings, a very interesting niche of works of art we can admire thanks to collectors from Cortona, among which the sketch for the altarpiece of the Assumption, preserved in the Church S. Filippo Neri in Cortona, is particularly impressive.
Thanks to a donation by countess Giulia Baldelli Tommasi in 1933, the Museum has a lot of art objects coming from one of the town residences of the Tommasi family, one of the oldest and richest of Cortona (the rooms were named after this family). Furniture, paintings, weapons and ornaments are so well displayed that you imagine to “enter” a 18th century noble residence and observe its daily life: you can thus admire Tommasi noble ladies’ fans, room dividers for doll’s houses, a beautiful ivory chessboard made in Canton, China, butlers’ liveries, parade swords and an enormous treasure chest made in Tuscany in the 18th century.
From the Tommasi’s “house” we arrive at the Medici Room, where Florentine commissioners administered justice, which is today the venue for conferences and temporary exhibitions. Then you will visit the room of the so-called “tempietto Ginori”, one of the most valuable representations of the intellectual life and cultural importance of the Etruscan Academy during its three-hundred years of existence: here we have paintings, medals (those by Pisanello are really beautiful), golden objects, ancient and modern casts of gems donated by the Lucumoni of the Academy over the years since 1727. You will be ravished in front of the monumental Tempietto Ginori, with the celebration of the Medici’s glories, an exclusively decorative white and blue porcelain masterpiece, made in Doccia (Florence) between 1754 and 1757, and donated by marquis Carlo Ginori, lucumone of the Academy at that time.