Tuesday, September 23, 2008
As we made our way back from central Rome towards our accommodations, we decided to swing by the Vatican Museums again, to see if the line had shrunk at all in the morning. Shockingly enough, the line had ceased to exist. We took immediate advantage, and plunged into the overwhelming collections of the Catholic Church.
Having been to the Louvre before, I thought I was prepared, but this was perhaps the most overwhelming museum I have ever encountered. The Louvre, while huge, is very well organized and divided, but the statues and works of art in the Vatican Museums seemed less organized (to the tourists perspective, I'm sure the administrators know exactly where everything is.)
That doesn't take away from the glory of the collection. It was rather humbling, to be so submerged in art and statuary, most of it from the ancient Greek states, Egypt, and of course the Roman Empire.
It was fascinating to see the detail on some of the pieces, especially considering the technical base that the artisans were working from. While any of this is easily feasible now, I find it interesting that public art in our society leans more towards the abstract and the 'thought provoking' than the beautiful.
I'd like to swap out the giant blue horse statue that now graces Denver International Airport for a giant version of this ancient dog!
Half the art of the museums seems to be integral to the buildings themselves. The history, wealth, and power of the Vatican really comes through in the ornate decorations that adorn some of the display areas.
The Gallery of Maps really impressed me, stretching 120 meters, it took the artist three years from 1580 to 1583 to paint the series of maps, ancient and 'modern'.
The final stop on any visit here is the Sistine Chapel. Alas, photography is distinctly NOT allowed, so I have only my memories, and nothing concrete to take away from what is a jewel of western art. While bits and pieces of the Sistine frescoes have successfully made it into the popular lexicon, really the whole thing must be experienced. To sit and just gaze and the intricate details covering the interior is the only way to truly appreciate the work of Michelangelo, Raphael and Botticelli.