La riscoperta della Puglia medievale nelle Esposizioni Nazionali di Torino (1898) e di Roma (1911)

Author: Clara Gelao

The Rediscovery of Medieval Apulia in the National Exhibitions of Turin (1898) and Rome (1911)

The essay illustrates the contribution offered by Turin National Exhibition of 1898 and Rome Regional Exhibition of 1911 to the construction of Apulia’s cultural identity. It is mainly founded on the rediscovery, by local intellectuals, of its artistic and architectural heritage and on the claim of its originality in the face of the views of French and German scholars quite spread at the time, who considered the Apulian heritage decisively influenced by their respective countries.
This process was preceded by a series of cultural manifestations, all aimed to deepen the knowledge of their past, whose most glorious phase was identified in the medieval period.
Initially Apulia had an ambitious project to take part in the National Exhibition of Turin, which consisted of a representative exhibition of regional art. It was then extensively reduced and the territorial scope limited to the Province of Bari, for which exhibit materials were already available for the goal that was to be achieved. Of these, a major role was played by the casts (some fifty) of the major monuments of the Province of Bari. Photographs, drawings, reproductions and paintings completed the exhibition. Unfortunately, that material did not return to Apulia at the end of the exhibition. The plaster casts, in particular, bulky and difficult to move, were donated to Turin City Council, which still holds them.
Rome Regional Exhibition of 1911, organized within the Ethnographic Exhibition, is a further stage in the ‘finding’ of the Apulian Middle Ages. The aims of the exhibition, which was hampered by a lot of problems, are not far from those of the Apulian exhibition of 1898, but it must be emphasized the extraordinary effort made in the recreation of over three hundred and fifty casts, exhibited with archaeological vessels, reproductions of frescoes, 17th-18th century ceramics, in a pavilion designed by architect Angelo Pantaleo who, in a somewhat controversial way, took inspiration from the most characteristic motifs of numerous medieval Apulian monuments.
The fate of the objects showed in the exhibition, inaugurated in July 1911, was in this case more fortunate: in particular the casts returned to the Provincial Archaeological Museum in Bari and, since 1949, were moved to the Castello Svevo, the headquarters of the Superintendence which has recently taken care of the partial restoration and resettlement.