The plaster casts
The gipsoteche, collections of plaster casts, spread in Europe during the 18th century at the Academies and Art Institutes as an tool to educate and train the taste, essential for the students for the exercise of drawing and the practice of modelling.
At the same time, in the wake of the revival of classical taste, the collection of plaster casts was developed by the sovereigns and artists.
The University of Pisa Plaster Cast Collection of Antiquity
During the 19th century, also the Universities were equipped with the Plaster Cast Collection, used such as laboratories for for teaching archaeology.
The Plaster Cast Collection of Antiquity of the University of Pisa is among the first to be established in Italy, on the model of Germanic archaeology.
The Collection, hosted in Sapienza Palace at the beginning, initiated in 1887 by Gherardo Ghirardini and was later increased by Lucio Mariani and Silvio Ferri.
Today the collection offers a synthesis of the most famous and significant pieces, from the Greek to Etruscan and Roman periods, together with lesser-known or unknown pieces and small plastic artifacts. These are faithful reproductions of classical pieces, located in various national and foreign museums, or sometimes lost and, also, particular versions of historical restorations (e.g. the statue of the satyr Marsyas dancing to the sound of castanets) or special projects of reconstruction made in Pisa with the aim of giving a newer interpretation of famous works of art (e.g. the relief from the Archaic Etruscan Tumulus of Pietrera di Vetulonia and the Ferri’s Laocoön).
The set-up of plaster clasts in the Church of San Paolo all’Orto
The collection since 2005 is housed in the Church of San Paolo all’Orto; in the area of the presbytery, according to a thematic-chronological path, where you will find a section dedicated to the works of the severe and late archaic Greek art (e.g. the group of Athenian Tyrannicides, the Kritios Boy, the Statue of Penelope). The sculptures of the Classical period (e.g. the Bust of Athena, the statue of the satyr Marsyas, Hermes of Olympia) are placed in the area of the choir, which are opposed on the other side exemplars the operas of Hellenistic period (the Venus de Milo and the Venus of Cyrene, the Apollo Belvedere, the Girl of Anzio). In the aisles are the Etruscan funerary relief and the famous Capitoline Wolf.
On the right side there are the elements of the architectural relief of the Athenian Parthenon (e.g. the panels of the frieze and the sculptures from the East pediment). On the left side there are the Attic style funerary reliefs.
The famous Laocoön Group of Vatican Museum occupies a separate place.
The classic archaeology Antiquarium is a heterogeneous collection made up of about 1500 original pieces in which are represented all the classes of ancient artefacts, in particular the ceramic productions from the Aegean Region to those from Etruria too, the Attic vases painted with black-figures technique and red-figure technique, the vases with an overpainted decoration of Hellenistic period, as well as various classes of tableware and pantry pottery of the Roman era.
Furthermore, there is a nucleus of architectural and votive baked clay (terracotta), that come from sacred places of the ancient word, next to some small clay objects, a series of metal artifacts (e.g. buckles, brooches of belts, bronze razors), and glass artifacts (e.g. balsamari, twisted sticks), in some cases, coming from the grave goods of Hellenist and Roman periods. There are also some examples in stony material in the round and in relief.
The Palethnological Collections
The Palethnological and Palaeontological Collections were initiated by Carlo Regnoli, a Pisan physician who carried out the first prehistoric excavations in the caves of Versilia and Monte Pisano in 1867.
To these were added over time some materials, coming from the excavations in various Italian regions ranging from the Paleolithic to the Bronze Age.
In addition, there are some plaster casts of sculptures of prehistorical arts and a large collection of faunal remains, found during the excavations. They are necessary to the reconstruction of the environment and the economy of past.
Since the beginning of 2019, the Plaster Cast Collection of Antiquity has been in charge of the small permanent exhibition set up on the ground floor, along the east porch of Sapienza Palace, historical seat of the University of Pisa.
The exhibition collects some archaeological finds found during the restoration works carried out in this area. They started in 2015, due to its closure in 2012, thanks to the excavations made by University of Pisa, and jointly with Soprintendenza Archeologia, Belle Arti e Paesaggio di Pisa e Livorno.
Panels and the videos tell the historical evolution of the area, reconstructed thanks to the excavations that brought to light two medieval neighbourhoods. They have succeeded one after the other, perfectly visible under the Sapienza’s floor: a block dated from the 10th century to the half of 14the century, with houses, a church and a cemetery separated by streets and alleys and Piazza del Grano, the large city food marke, built in the mid of 1300s and partially destroyed just over a century later to make way the university complex.
The entrance is free during the opening hours of Sapienza Palace.