Inventory Number: 69862 – 69854 – 69883 – 69876 – 69863
The Pius Christian Museum houses an important series of copies of catacomb pictures commissioned by Father Giuseppe Marchi in the middle of the 19th Century. During this time, the preparation and creation of a new Christian Antiquities Museum was underway. This was done at the request of Pope Pius IX, and for this reason, the Pius Christian Museum was dedicated in his name. Father Marchi, remembering the antique reproductions of the frescoes from the Roman catacombs by Antonio Bosio in the “Roma Sotterranea” (1632), highlighted the importance of these new “exact copies” that the Holy Father (Pius IX) requested of the early Christian cemeteries. These never-before-seen pictures are likely more significant than the very first copies by Bosio, and no one after him took the care to preserve them.
The subjects selected by Marchi display more variety and showcase interesting examples of Roman cemetery pictures because of the iconographic aspects and the monumental size of each decoration. Many of these pictures were just discovered in those years thanks to the excavations conducted by the Pontifical Commission of Sacred Archaeology, and the work of the famed archaeologist Giovanni Battista de Rossi: student of Marchi and true founder of the modern science of Christian archaeology.
Previously on display in the Lateran Museum, this gallery moved to the Vatican at the request of Pope John XXIII (1963). After the move, the copies were placed in storage and forgotten. Recently, three pieces were rediscovered and placed back on exhibition in the Pius Christian Museum, in the grand hall near the “dogmatic sarcophagus”. Thanks to the generosity of the California Chapter of the Patrons of the Arts, a large number of these drawing have already been cleaned. However, these last five pieces are in precarious condition and in need of intervention.