Archive | January, 2011

Vatican

31 Jan

Monday’s morning hours dragged us through Rome’s renaissance winding alleys looking for that daily espresso, desperately needed to withstand the endless snake-like line outside of the Vatican Museum. Finally after several espressos and about an hours wait we were allowed in. Entering the lower gallery, a wave of heat and hot air fell upon us, like a wet blanket, the congestion of sweat, odor, and humidity smothered. The complaints of tourists filled the air: “I wonder what this is like in June or July!” and another “We came at the wrong time!” Commiserating we walk on.

We enter the magnificent Vatican courtyard and palace, where popes used to wine, dine and live. The surrounding buildings and gardens are fit for an emperor, or a pope – only a name change. We walk towards the base of the column of emperor Marcus Aurelius. The image of a winged man claims the space, and I wonder if this is mans first depiction of an angel? Then on through the high ceiling halls and into another courtyard that contains the famous Constantine bronze peacocks and pine cone. They imperiously stand perched atop the courtyard in a terracotta colored arch. As we stand watching, we cant help but observe two tourists that suddenly throw their headsets down and walk away from their guide in disgust. Some guides are more entertainers than educators. People get taken even in the Holy Vatican City! We decide to move forward and follow the line of tourists that enter the first gallery of ancient sculpture. In this gallery the highlight is the statue of the Primaporta Augustus, standing in contrapposto pose: an echo of an outstanding ancient Greek sculpture, the Doryphorus by Polykleitos. Here Augustus embodies the idealized form of a commanding Roman Emperor. It is a must see for anyone who loves ancient sculpture, history, or just admires Augustus.

From here we make our way into the map section. Where there are maps from the 15th to the 17th century. There is a current of tourists, I feel a part of a slow moving river. The line gets slower as it seems the tourists take their time in this gallery, and being quiet bored I flow to an empty bench where soon a German middle aged man sits next to me and says “so you like maps too?” I just look at him and smile, no energy to answer. All these people in one room have zapped my energy. I search for an out, and quickly see that the Etruscan gallery is open, and it is virtually empty!

We wander through the exhibition which was once the palace of Pope Innocent VIII (1484-1492) and come across the most exquisite bronze statue from the 5th century BC, the Mars of Todi – a warrior dressed in Etruscan armor. There is no doubt to the Greek influences on his shape, proportions, and features. The Greeks were paramount to the development of Etruscan arts and crafts, and one cannot help but think of the Greeks when one sees the Etruscan exhibition. But the ‘Etruscan’ is also there for those who seek it; in the freedom of their “inexact” proportions, their “flat” surfaces their “harsher” lines and in their “primitiveness.” Perhaps they are the first artistic rebels?

Then through the Apostolic palace where the rooms are painted by Raffaelo ‘the great.’ His signature painting “The Philosophers” holds his audience in awe with so many wise men in one room, while his “Flight of Aeneas” with images of the sack of Troy and Aeneas carrying his father Anchises on his back, transports us back to classical antiquity and to Virgil’s the Aeneid. Then down a few stairs and through many narrow hallways to the somewhat hidden Chagall, Munch, and Riveras to name a few. The Vatican has so much art that these modern art masters become some what of a sideshow left in the dark corridors between the Raffaelos and Michelangelos. Tired and worn out the tourist yawn as they forgo entering the galleries and opt to head towards the highlight, the Sistine chapel. Here tourist take pictures regardless of the constant admonitions from the guards, and signs that prohibit photo shots or videos. This is the only time I have seen tourist not acting like little lambs, here they begin to think on their own, over taken by the beauty, they have to have just one shot of Michelangelo’s divinely inspired creations. I wonder what has gotten into them, is it the cooler temperature, or perhaps they heard the old Roman adage: Better to live one day as a lion than 100 as a lamb? Then I think, this is what people come to Rome for: to see the paintings of a man who did not like to paint. How many can create something so magnificent, beautiful and awe inspiring, while not enjoying what they are doing? The contradiction is binding, and is probably why so many just keep coming back, hoping some day to figure him, Michelangelo Buonarroti, out.

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