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”.
It is a feminine figure, slightly turning her body to the left; she is wearing a cloth pinned on her shoulders (kiton) and a mantle (himation) wrapped around her legs.
The statue was realised with the technique known as investment casting and is composed of at least 30 parts cast separately and later soldered together. Just like in portraits, the finish touch is given with pointed tools that define traits neatly. With the technique of damascening, silver has been woven to her hair.
It must have been created in the second half of the 1st century AD by a professional workshop specialised in bronze art in the north of Italy.
The position of the figure, with a leg slightly raised and the arms projected out, can be explained with the presence – in its original form – of some attributes that helped with the identification of the subject. The foot probably rested upon the helm of Mars, the god of war, and the left arm probably carried a shield, also supported by the flexed leg. On the shield were carved with the right hand the name and res gestae of the victor (the Romans used to portray the goddess of Victory with these characteristics.)
Brescia Art Gallery, or Pinacoteca, holds a notable collection of artworks by Raphael, Foppa, Savoldo, Moretto, Romanino, Lotto, Ceruti, Hayez, Thorvaldsen, Pelagi, Canella and Canova to name but a few. They are exhibited in 21 rooms reflecting the complex history of the gallery, guiding visitors also on a historical and critical tour that marked its structure from the late 14th century to the beginning of the 19th century.
The convent of San Salvatore, later named after Santa Giulia (915) was founded at the wish of King Desiderius and his wife Ansa in 753 AD, and built on a particularly rich archeological site ( the remains of Roman domus have been found under the basilica of San Salvatore and in the kitchen garden of Santa Giulia. Considerable enlargement and reconstruction over the centuries produced a building constructed round three cloisters, as it is today. Major alterations were made in the time of the city states (XII century: rebuilding of the cloisters, enlargement of San Salvatore's crypt, building of Santa Maria in Solario) and in the late XV century ( complete rebuilding of the cloisters and addition of the north cloister of dormitories, raising of the nuns' choir and repositioning of the front of the church of San Salvatore, which was in turn destroyed and completely redesigned when the new church of Santa Giulia was built in 1499).