Lomellina Archaeological Museum acquires valuable Roman glassware from the Strada Collection

The National Archaeological Museum of Lomellina in Vigevano acquires valuable Roman glass from the Strada Collection: a collection with rare, in some cases even unique, pieces ranging from the 2nd-1st centuries BC to the 1st-2nd centuries AD.

As of Friday, July 8, the National Archaeological Museum of Lomellina in Vigevano is enriched with an important nucleus: a selection of forty-five archaeological items belonging to the Strada collection is on display. Formed by Antonio Strada (1904-1968) from a nucleus of artifacts found on the family lands as early as the 19th century and also enriched by subsequent purchases from other collections, it brings together 269 pieces belonging to a chronological span that spans more than eighteen centuries, from prehistory to the Lombard age, with a particular concentration of objects datable between the age of Romanization (2nd-1st centuries B.C.C.) and the early Roman imperial period (I-II century A.D.).The most valuable nucleus consists of the glass objects from the Roman period, among which stands out the splendid cup signed by Aristeas, datable to the second quarter of the 1st century A.D, unique for its quality and exceptional state of preservation.

This is a preview, a prelude to the exhibition of the entire collection, which will take place later this year. By ensuring public enjoyment, the preview exhibition concludes a preservation effort by the Ministry of Culture that began in 1999, when the collection was declared to be of exceptional cultural interest. Preserved in the family castle in Scaldasole (Pavia), the Strada collection was known to scholars as early as the 1960s, especially for the richness and quality of the glassware. However, the importance of the ensemble, its richness in relation to the Lomellina context, and the quality and exceptionality of some of the objects recommended its acquisition for the benefit of a public museum, in order to ensure its wider usability, promote its study, and spread its knowledge. The Ministry of Culture therefore decided to initiate the procedure of expropriation for public use, with assignment to the National Archaeological Museum of Lomellina. The museum would thus expand its collections with an important nucleus, also significant for the history of local collecting, while the collection, dialoguing with the museum’s holdings, would find a more articulate historical context. The long acquisition process was recently concluded: the public can now admire a nucleus of particularly significant objects, while waiting for, after the necessary restoration work, a comprehensive exhibition first and a permanent display later.

The Strada Collection, while including objects referring to a vast chronological span, is characterized above all by the richness and particularity of the glass objects from the Roman period, which are undoubtedly its strong point. Almost all the finds come from the Lomellina, an area known archaeologically precisely for the abundance, variety and refinement of glass production. The artifacts, mostly found during agricultural work between the 19th and early 20th centuries come from grave goods, as evidenced by the integrity of many of them. The materials include a variety of types, from everyday to fine pottery, from glassware to coroplast, from ornaments to metal tools. Over time, Antonio Strada enriched the collection of inherited artifacts with the acquisition of other private collections: among these, the most substantial are the Steffanini collection, composed of objects found in Mortara and the surrounding area, and the Volpi-Nigra collection in Lomello, consisting mainly of finds from the Brelle necropolis. There is no shortage of pieces of extra-territorial provenance (Magna Graecia and Etruria), probable travel purchases or the result of gifts and exchanges, and objects that are forgeries or of dubious antiquity, as is often found in collections.

The nucleus of objects presented in the preview is displayed in two showcases, located in Room II of the museum, which is dedicated to the Roman age, located in the so-called third stable of the Visconti-Sforza castle in Vigevano. The first showcase displays artifacts dated between the Late Bronze Age (13th century B.C.) and the Lombard period (7th century A.D.). In some cases these are rare finds in the area, but for the most part they are artifacts that are broadly reflected in the museum’s exhibits, both in types and cultural backgrounds. Among the Roman-era evidence, pottery predominates in quantity, with everyday pottery and more refined imported products Unfortunately, as is often the case in collections, the loss of original contexts sometimes makes it difficult to specify dates.

The second showcase brings together a selection of glass artifacts: the best known object is the exceptional bi-vaned mold-blown glass cup, decorated in relief, bearing the signature of Aristeas, datable to the second quarter of the first century CE. The cup, made of light green glass and decorated with acanthus spirals and vine shoots, was found in Albonese (Pavia) in the late 19th century and became part of the Steffanini collection, later acquired by Antonio Strada. The exceptionality of this find, however, lies not only in the high quality of execution and the refinement of the decoration, but is due above all to the fact that it is theonly specimen signed by Aristeas that has come down to us intact. In fact, only five other artifacts by this glass artisan are known, all of which have come down to us in fragmentary condition. The cup, along with other specimens signed by the better-known Ennion, was recently exhibited on two prestigious occasions at the Metropolitan Museum in New York and the Corning Museum of Glass, gaining international fame among scholars. The cup belonged to a production of fine pottery destined for the elites, the work of craftsmen probably from the Middle East, examples of which have been found in the Pavia and Piedmont areas: their presence testifies to the existence of lively trade in the area during the early imperial age. Other rarities, again among glass objects, are the blue glass pyx and a purple amphora with feathered decoration in white, while other artifacts are found in the rich glass documentation of the Lomellina territory.

Pictured: top left, Mold-blown light green glass bi-anchored cup, decorated with vegetal baccellations and whorls, with the author’s signature in Greek in the center within the ansata tabula: ΑΡΙϹΤΕΑϹ ΕΠΟΙΕΙ, “Aristeas made” (From Albonese; second quarter of the 1st century AD.C.); bottom left, Blue blown glass spherical Balsamarium with white filament applied and coiled (from Garlasco; first half 1st century AD.); center, Purple blown glass amphora with applied white glass decoration forming a feathered motif (from Scaldasole; mid-1st century CE); right, Single-handled, amber blown glass pyriform pitcher with applied white-spotted decoration (from Scaldasole; mid-1st century CE).

Lomellina Archaeological Museum acquires valuable Roman glassware from the Strada Collection
Lomellina Archaeological Museum acquires valuable Roman glassware from the Strada Collection

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