Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Days Six and Seven - October 16-17th: Back in Rome

Ten years ago I made it to Rome for five days. One of the biggest disappointments of that trip was going to Santa Maria della Vittoria to see Bernini's The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa only to find that it was out for restoration. This time. . .



Day six was pretty much an all you can eat Baroque buffet. But one site really stood out against this heavy, dark, and gilded backdrop. We went to the Capuchin Crypt at Santa Maria della Conception, where for years the monks had allowed their bones to be used as sculptural media. They made four shrines of human skeletal assemblage, which Sarah and I found to be oddly touching in a way. Then it was off to the Galleria Borghese. Beside having one of the finest collections of Roman antiquities, the Borgheses collected the finest Bernini sculptues by far. The level of textural detail and overall motion of his pieces is really something. And the cherry on top was that they were having a Carravaggio show! After visiting the Santa Maria del Popolo on the way out of the surrounding park the Caravaggio count had now grown to fifteen on this trip already. Sorry, but no pictures were allowed in any of these sights.

We capped the day off with a trip to the National Museum of Rome. Of all of the museums housing Roman antiquities I have ever seen, this one is the best. After hall after hall of portrait heads and damaged bodies at the Vatican, a simple, mostly chronological approach following the the history of Imperial Rome was a breath of fresh air. They also have some real treasures like this Hellenistic Bronze.


I had set aside half of day seven to revisit anything we missed. The only two were Castel Sant Angelo in the Vatican and Villa Farnese. Castel Sant Angelo is the Roman emperor Hadrian's tomb, later converted into a castle, and eventually treated as the stronghold for the Pope when the city was under invasion. This is the giant treasure chest used when the Pope would need to retreat there.


With a more relaxed schedule it seemed like a good day to splash some cash on lunch. Osteria Ponte Sisto came heavily recommended, and it turned out to be our best meal in Rome. The highlight for me was this roast suckling pig with potatoes.


We capped the day off with a return to Capitoline Hill. The two museums there are extraordinary. If you check my flickr page you'll see some monumental pieces in their collection. The Ancient Romans didn't have nearly the technique or the expression of the Classical Greeks. They made up for these shortcomings by emulating the hell out of the Greeks, and excelling in engineering, efficiency and frankly empire building. The one area of visual art where they did surpass the Greeks was portraiture. They had an increadible ability to create and thus preserve a likeness. It's uncanny how different sculptural busts of the the same person will be recognizeable! They also left thousands of heads of people who just wanted to be remembered as well as realistic depictions of Greek artists and philosophers who had long since passed. This one goes out to my homies in the Math Department. A2+B2=C2. Pythagorean stylie baby!


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