The Antiquarium of Sant'Appiano At Barberino Val d’Elsa
The Antiquarium is housed in some rooms of the Parish Church of Sant'Appiano near Barberino Val d’Elsa and contains a collection of archaeological remains discovered during the various excavation campaigns held in the area of Sant'Appiano, San Martino ai Colli and Semifonte from the late 19th century onwards.This fertile and strategic area was densely populated from the 8th century B.C. A great many Etruscan tombs were found in the Elsa Valley countryside and the surprising number of finds that escaped the various profanations that took place over the centuries are today on display in the museum.
The first room contains part of the funerary furnishings that come from a series of lordly Etruscan tombs discovered, quite by accident, by one of the local inhabitants in the area of San Martino ai Colli in 1907. The objects on display cover a wide time range - from the 7th to the 2nd century B.C. - and testify to the social and economic affluence that that the patrons of the tombs obviously enjoyed. Compared to other richer and more important towns like Volterra, the wide diffusion of Attic ceramics (datable between the 6th and 4th century B.C.), and urns in alabaster decorated with scenes of Greek myths in this area, combined, more in general, with the fact that similar luxury goods were in use here, is hardly surprising if we remember that San Martino ai Colli enjoyed a strategically situated geographic position on one of the most important road routes of the time, linking the Elsa Valley with that of the Arno. The unique quality of the Antiquarium collection is therefore not due to the large quantity of the exhibits on display, but to their high quality. The most important pieces in the collection in the first room include a red figure kelebe (a large bowl on columns) of the 4th century B.C.; and an urn in alabaster of Hellenistic age, portraying the Rape of Proserpine, closed with a lid decorated with a partly reclining male figure.
The second room opens with a sculpture representing Eros riding a dog. This is a small sandstone idol, probably Etruscan, which was found during the late 19th century excavations that also discovered the foundations of the Baptistery in front of the Parish Church of Sant'Appiano. The collection of ceramics dating from the Middle Ages and Renaissance were found near Semifonte, the castle of the Counts Alberti that was destroyed on the orders of the city of Florence in 1202. The only work of painting in the Antiquarium is also in this room: it is a painting on wood of the Madonna and Child enthroned between St. John the Baptist, St. Anthony of Padua and two angels, carried out by a nameless artist, known as the Master of Signa, a student of the Florentine painter Bicci di Lorenzo, in the first half of the 15th century. It shows a certain continuity of style with the late Gothic school, while appearing to be more behind the times as far as the new language of the Renaissance is concerned, which, however, did not leave the painter totally indifferent, as we can see from the geometric decorations on the throne and his attempt to put Christ the Redeemer in perspective, shown bending forward to bless the worshippers below.