From adventure to science. The thrilling tale of Bernardino Drovetti
From adventure to science.
The thrilling tale of Bernardino Drovetti and the Torino’s Egyptian
Bernardino Drovetti, from adventure to science
“A collection of unique Egyptian antiquities ”
(quoted from a letter from Carlo Vidua to his father from Cairo, 1820)
Torino, Friday 23rd May at 9.30
Accademia delle Scienze, Via Accademia delle Scienze 6, Sala dei Mappamondi
Torino, May 2014 - The Piedmontese soldier, diplomat and collector Bernardino Drovetti (17761852) was one of the key players in the first adventurous archaeological exploration in Egypt at the
start of the 1800s, after Napoleon Bonaparte’s expedition and on whose orders he remained as
consul of France. He collected a vast assortment of antiquities which he then mostly sold for an
astonishing sum (400,000 lire, € 700 million of today’s money) to King Carlo Felice. This material
made up the first important nucleus of the Museo Egizio of Torino.
Some 8,000 of Drovetti’s findings which found their way to Torino were immediately classified and
exhibited at the Accademia delle Scienze, which decided where to collocate them in the new
museum. They were then studied by Jean-François Champollion who came over from Paris in order
to decipher their hieroglyphics. Other pieces of the collection were sold to the Paris government and
minor sections ended up in other European museums (Geneva, Vienna, Berlin, Munich, Lyon and
Marseilles), thus quickly making up an ideal network between European museums on themes we
can still see today. His relationships with famous characters of the time were wide-ranging and
articulated, as shown by the copious correspondence preserved in the archives of the Accademia
delle Scienze and of other important European institutions. This material was collected and
analyzed in two volumes (plus another coming out soon) supported by the Compagnia di San Paolo
as part of its multi-year Drovetti Project which has been looking into the history of the collector
since 1997 and is now reaching its final stage.
The Accademia delle Scienze di Torino and the Compagnia di San Paolo have organized the
Bernardino Drovetti, from adventure to science convention to shed light on Drovetti’s complex
personality and his interaction with these international figures. . “A collection of unique Egyptian
antiquities”, as described by Carlo Vidua in his letter from Cairo to his father (Friday 23rd May
from 9.30 to 6pm, Sala dei Mappamondi dell’Accademia), which will feature the most prominent
European scholars and experts on Drovetti from the Louvre and antique art museums of Vienna
Along with this the Accademia is putting on an exhibition which will later be open by appointment,
holding valuable volumes of the period and unique documents regarding Drovetti’s adventures and
the scientific missions which revealed antique Egypt to the Europe of that time.
A few months before the opening of the new Museo Egizio planned for 1st April 2015, the
convention features neo-director Christian Greco’s first scientific intervention in his
new role. Its aim is to respond to the renewed interest for antique Egyptian civilization and the
intriguing Drovetti, to whom we owe the creation of the Museo Egizio and studies on Egyptology.
Thus the renovation and rearrangement of the Museo Egizio will be completed, supported by the
Compagnia di San Paolo with a hefty economic and design contribution of € 25 million, part of the
Compagnia’s programme for reconfiguring the museum system of the city’s historical centre. Total
amounts will exceed € 80 million, 8 of which go to the offices of the Accademia delle Scienze in the
same building as the museum.
The Compagnia di San Paolo Drovetti Project
The Compagnia di San Paolo has led the Drovetti Project – now in its final phase – since 1997 as
part of its support for Egyptology and the Museo Egizio, devolving over €430,000. The curator and
scientific coordinator appointed by the Compagnia di San Paolo for the whole Drovetti project is
Torino’s Silvia Einaudi, PhD in Egyptology in Paris, post-doctorate researcher at the University of
Montpellier, member of the Russian and the French Archaeological Mission in Luxor.
A CD Rom entitled Drovetti, a Piedmontese between Italy and France has been made for the
project in collaboration with various European institutions and museums. It contains 550 cards, 800
photos, 155 glossaries, interactive panoramic shots, a catalogue database and other interactive
features. It also offers a thorough instrument of scientific and informative study making a virtual
reconstruction of the original collection of Drovetti’s Egyptian antiquities. In 2002 Palazzo
Bricherasio held a documentary exhibition entitled Bernardino Drovetti. Un’avventura dalle Alpi
alle piramidi. (An adventure from the Alps to the pyramids).
The next phase, carried out with the Accademia delle Scienze, is dedicated to the study of
Drovetti’s character and his unpublished correspondence with the publication of two volumes edited
by Sylvie Guichard and Laura Donatelli and a third on the correspondence between Salvolini and
Gazzera will follow, edited by Silvia Einaudi; finally, the international convention Bernardino
Drovetti, from adventure to science. A collection of unique Egyptian antiquities, thanks partly to its
exhibition of rare documents, puts forward the figure of the collector in the light of his scientific
and personal events.