After almost 90 years, the ‘Beauty of the River Panaro’ is back home




(Click here to read the article in Italian)

Exhibition : La venere a Savignano (The Venus in Savignano)
Date: 5 April – 4 May 2014
Place: Savignano sul Panaro (Mo) Italy

The “Beauty of the River Panaro”, is how Benedetto Benedetti, famous archaeologist and curator of the Museo Civico in Modena, called the iconic prehistoric figurine  known as the “Venus from Savignano” in a letter he wrote in the 1960s to the museum in Rome which possessed the statue. In this letter he was once again trying to persuade the Pigorini museum to transfer the precious artefact to his collection so that it would stay near its “home town”. All he managed to obtain though was a temporary loan of the Venus, which did, however, help him to get his own museum going again.

This is just one example of the many issues surrounding the seemingly innocuous object since its fortuitous discovery in 1925. Olindo Zambelli, the worker who stumbled upon the stone figurine while digging the foundations for a barn, was told off by the farmer he was working for as, by washing it, he had dirtied the water. Giuseppe Graziosi, a sculptor and painter from Savignano to whom the object was shown, reproached him for that move too, because by removing the soil in which the statue had been lying for more than twenty thousand years, Zambelli had made its dating almost impossible.

Graziosi immediately sensed the importance of the discovery and bought the little statue from Olindo for a couple of carts of grapes. He then showed it to many scholars throughout Italy but, when the curator of the National Ethnographic Museum in Rome, Luigi Pigorini, saw the “Venus” he threatened to  seize it from Graziosi (as an item of archaeological interest it was by Italian law the property of the state),  if the sculptor did not donate it to the museum in Rome. Graziosi had to give in, but he asked the curator to allow his son, a student in Natural History, the honour of writing the first official publication on the discovery.  This would be yet another matter of controversy, though not the last one. The people in the village where the Venus was found weren’t happy with the donation and have made several attempts (some of them quite absurd) to recover it over the years.

The authorities of the small town in the North of Italy have now managed to obtain the Venus on loan from the Pigorini Museum for one month, thanks to the belief that networking is essential to cultural heritage, too.. On 5 April, in a climate of scientific and cultural cooperation, the people of  Savignano welcomed the long awaited Venus home along with the staff from the Pigorini museum that accompanied it. The Venus will be on display at the local museum until the 4 May. The Venus from Savignano is a must see event, just as  Archeofilia’s next article about her will be.


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