The term phalera, unusual in our modern vocabulary, is a word of Latin origin, and indicates a metal object such as a boss, or various decorations used as military ornaments to be worn on the chest or left hanging from horses’ trappings.
Most probably, the phalerae from Manerbio were decorations for the harnesses of two horses. They are fourteen, all preserved in the section dedicated to the protohistory of Brescia territory of Santa Giulia Museum. Fourteen embossed silver disks, two large (average diameter 19 cm) and twelve small (10 cm), found together with fragments of other four curved longitudinal elements and three small silver chains. The phalerae were found by accident, as it often happens with the most exceptional archaeological findings. They were buried under “two shovelfuls of soil” (about 50 cm), and found in February 1928 by the farmers of Gorno noble family while they were expanding the dung hole near Cascina Remondina, not far from Manerbio village. This treasure was immediately passed on to police officers and on 11th Feburary 1928 was in the hands of Giorgio Nicodemi, at that time director of Brescia Museums. Acquired by the State, the phalerae were temporarily loaned to Civiche Raccolte d’Arte in Brescia (today Civic Museums of Art, History and Science) where they are still preserved. They seemed some extraordinary objects right from the beginning, so unique that they were initially considered as products from the Langobardic era. Instead, they are one of the pieces produced by Celtic masters in metalworking. Carlo Albizzati was the first that in 1933 recognized them as “the most peculiar artifacts of Celtic art that our country is proud to own”.
In 1821 the painting could be found on the antiques market in Florence described as “Portrait of a Young Man”, and at the time it was already considered as Raphael’s work. Paolo Tosio, thanks to the support of Teodoro Lechi, managed to buy it with a certificate of authenticity from Accademia Fiorentina. Along with the Christ Blessing, the other painting already belonging to the collection of Count Tosio, the “Portrait of a Young Man” became one of the most celebrated works among Brescia experts and beyond. Why was the little painting called “Portrait of a Young Man”?