skip to content


Reconstruction of the Santo Varni’ s collection of antique sculptures in Genoa

Since 1837 Santo Varni was professor of sculpture at the Accademia Ligustica di Belle Arti in Genoa and honorary professor at the renowned Accademia di San Luca in Rome. Well-known and appreciated internationally, he was in contact with the most important personalities of art and archaeology in Italy.  He was a passionate collector and acquired thousands of objects, mainly sculptures and drawings, but also paintings, ceramics, bronzes, glass, cameos, fabrics, gold and silver objects and a large number of archaeological pieces.

Varni also developed a great interest in archaeological excavations and discoveries, which he documented through drawings and notes. He was particularly interested in the Roman cities of Liguria, especially Luni, Libarna and Tortona. In his house and studio, in Genoa, he built a private museum with a specialized library, which should have been inherited by the Municipality of Genoa after his death. The collection was sold by the Sambon Auction House in 1887 after inheritance disputes. At that time,  about 25 antique sculptures could be acquired for the museums in Genoa, while most of the collection was sold and is now lost.

Of the pieces documented in the 1887 auction catalogue and from other sources (e.g. interior photographs of his house), only about a quarter have reached the museums of Genoa according to current knowledge. With the help of Varni's  archive, drawings and notes, as many of the pieces as possible, that have entered the art market and are still missing, are to be identified.

At the same time, the photographic documentation of the sculptures in the museums of Genoa will be completed.


Research Assistant:

  • Dott. Anna Maria Pastorino



  • Anna Maria Pastorino, La collezione di sculture antiche di Santo Varni. Genua 2021.