31 May 2017

2016 ITALY Vatican 13 - Maps and Modern

Gallery of Maps --
...another favorite area for me. I remember this from my last visit here in the early 70s and it is just as fascinating now. These painted maps were commissioned by Pope Julius XIII in 1580. Surprisingly it only took three years to paint the 40 huge panels in the 394 foot (120m) long hallway.

They are based on topographical map drawings of the Roman Empire by Ignazio Dante, a friar / mathematician / cosmographer (person who maps the general features of the cosmos or universe, describing both heaven and earth, but without encroaching on geography or astronomy...huh!). This Dante also helped improve the accuracy of the Julian calendar.

With the Apennine mountain range as the divider, one side of the hall depicts the areas along the Ligurian and Tyrrhenian seas and the other side shows the regions along the Adriatic Sea. The ceiling is also spectacular displaying scenes and saints in Christianity which relate to the maps nearby.
Most of current day Italy, along with the islands of Sardinia and Corsica. Note the maps were painted from the point of view of the pope in Roma, so sometimes in a weird juxtaposition.
Calabria, the toe of the boot. This map is a little disorienting as the area is painted in two parts, but actually they are completely and solidly attached.

Rhone and the city of Avenio (of the Roman empire, but currently in modern France).
Island of Sicily.
Island of Sardinia.
A map identifying the Battle of San Ruffillo near the city of Bologna. This was a battle between the pope-dependent Bolognese and the Visconti family warlords from Milan. I could not find who won, but I assume the Pope's people.

Map of Campania, includes Naples and the surrounding area. Remember the Pope is looking down from the north, so this map is also askew. In actuality Napoli lies on the west coast of Italy, yet appears to be facing east here. So north is really at the bottom end and south at the top.
Inset map of Roma.
Venice with its grand canal and ships. Its symbolic San Marco lion holding a scroll of information.

This is the port of Civitavecchia just north of Rome. Notice the ship at bottom carrying a huge obelisk. Maybe it depicts one of the Egyptian obelisks we saw while touring Rome.

The Contemporary / Modern Collection --
You've already seen Michelangelo's famous Pietà in the cathedral. Here is another famous sculpture that I'm sure you recognize. It is The Thinker. This is one of several versions created by Auguste Rodin (1840-1917). It represents the other Danté contemplating his poem The Divine Comedy.

This contemporary piece was displayed near the end of our tour. It is Mater Purissima (Mother of Most Pure), Pope Pius XI by Adolfo Wildt, an Italian sculpture, in 1931.

This is The Madonna by Lucio Fontana. This is a chunky but elegant piece from the mid-fifties. Its location later became the Matisse display area, but the sculpture was too heavy to move, so they left it there.

There are a number of Matisse pieces highlighting his attachment to religious thought. This 1949 media piece is cloth cut-outs. It was the cartoon for a stained glass window in Vence (south of France) titled The Tree of Life.

 Then, Flashes of the Spirit is an African art piece by El Anatsui of Ghana done in 2011. He is known for large scale pieces of thin strips of discarded, folded metal. Larger than appears here and so intricate.
Next, moving outdoors.

16 May 2017

2016 ITALY Vatican 12 - Raphael and Michelangelo

Frescoes --
So many paintings, frescoes and mosaics. Here are just a few frescoes in the Raphael Rooms. They were designed by Raphael and painted by him or his assistants in the early 1500s. Many more frescoes and paintings just as elegant and masterful are voluminously scattered throughout the Vatican.

Right panel is the Fire of Borgo. Pope Leo IV "miraculously" stopped a raging fire from spreading from the Borgo area through the rest of the city of Rome with only his benediction.

Santi Battle of Ostia documents the year 849 battle on the Tyrrhenian Sea (north of Sicily) between Muslim pirates and the Italian League consisting of the Papal navy and other Italian ships. The Italians won, but of course!
Repulse of Attila depicts the meeting of Attila the Hun and Pope Leo I. Peter and Paul in the sky wielding swords.
Expulsion of Heliodorus from the Temple as Heliodorus is ordered by the King of Syria to steal treasures from the Temple of Jerusalem, but God sends a horseman to drive him out.
Deliverance (Liberation) of Saint Peter from Herod's prison by an angel awakening him. The bars were actual bars if I remember correctly, with the painting behind them.

The School of Athens emphasizes science and philosophy. Plato and Aristotle are in the center, along with other recognizable "thinkers" of the day.
Disputation of the Sacrament presents Christ in the middle with the Madonna and St. John at his side, along with others discussing the meaning of Heaven.

The Coronation of Charlemagne being crowned by Pope Leo the III on Christmas Eve in 800.
Sistine Chapel --
The Sistine Chapel (named after Pope Sixtus IV and completed about 1480) was near the end of our tour. This is the place where the conclave of cardinals meet to chose the next pope. Building up the anticipation, I guess. The entire Vatican tour was VERY crowded. Hard to get good photos without some dang "tourist" getting in the way. I supposed others felt the same about me. 

This 133 foot x 40 foot (40mx13m) room, however, was the worst. Shoulder-to-shoulder people, necks craned back idolizing the dazzling and mystical ceiling.

As we entered the chapel, a "minder" was reminding everyone to stand in silence, but he had to remind people with ssshs" and "quiets" about every two minutes. No keeping this crowd down! 

This is the mother-of-all-mothers fresco. I guess I was so in awe of this work myself that I forgot to take photos. Here is the only one I have. But go to: https://100falcons.wordpress.com/2010/07/25/how-michelangelo-painted-the-sistine-chapel/ (for a description of each panel) or https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sistine_Chapel (history).
Before Michelangelo's ceiling work here, Pope Sixtus commissioned Botticelli and others to fresco the long lower walls. One side tells the story of Christ and the other side tells the story of Moses.

Later Pope Julius insisted Michelangelo do the ceiling work, even though he considered himself a sculpture rather than a painter. Michelangelo was 37 years old when the work was completed after 54 months. The whole time he was standing looking up with only food, water, and a chamber pot nearby.

This work is in mezzo-fresco, a semi-dry plaster technique and covers 5,000 square feet of surface. Twenty-five years later Michelangelo painted the Last Judgment on the front wall (see blue background area at bottom middle).

14 May 2017

2016 ITALY Vatican 11 - Sculpture Most Prevalent

At every turn and in every direction, you will see sculpture...both inside and out on the Vatican grounds. The detail was fantastic, especially realizing the age of most. I was overwhelmed by the quantity and could not really appreciate them in the attempt to see as much as we could seen on our tour.

Here is the top half of Laocöon and His Sons. This white marble piece was excavated in Rome in 1506. I couldn't get the bottom due to too many tourist heads blocking my view finder, but it is worth googling for the full view. It depicts human agony and strength. Notice the serpent at Laocöon's  hip. Spectacular artistry!

This was part of a column, I'm thinking

These were in the Round Room (pink painted walls). This is an oversize Hercules in gilded bronze from the second century. The modesty patch was not on the original, but added later. This IS the Vatican after all!
Bust of Serapis-Zeus, sun god of fertility and afterlife to the Greeks. He is wearing a modius. I thought maybe this was a handy wine cup, but no, it is a flat topped cylindrical headdress.
Statue of Claudius posing as Jupiter. He was emperor of Rome from 42-54 AD.

Not to be morbid, but I especially like body parts. Here's a few...foot, torsos, and heads. There were so many others.

Busts on top of busts.
Okeanos or Oceanus sculpted around 135 AD. He was the Greek titan god of the ocean, streams, and fresh water. See fishy things in his hair and beard.

 Young Claudius.
Then there were the sarcophagi (more than one sarcophagus or burial coffin). This one purported to be for the wife of a nobleman. It looked quite old as many fragile noses were missing or damaged with time.
Not sure the background of this one, but I liked the detail.
I researched this one and had more questions than answers. It was referenced as The Mask of Socrates displaying an intellectual wunderkind instructing muses disguised as young boys in one version and boys dressed as muses in another version. Maybe the mask part refers to the skeleton looking faces with dark eyes and mouth. 
This red porphyry sarcophagus is that of Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine the Great. She died in 329. She was considered a saint and purportedly found the "true cross."
This dog / wolf supports and guards Helena's sarcophagus above.

A favorite area was the Hall of Animals filled with every species imaginable--birds, lions, horses, sheep, dogs, cats, even a unicorn head (see right side wall). You weren't allowed inside the side rooms, but could peek into them.

There were exotics, too, like an elephant (small top left relief), lions, monkeys, etc. It was like a marble zoo. As most people back then could not see these rarer animals in person, statues were a way to display them for all to see.

A horse, of course! (Or maybe a donkey.)
This is dog or wolf or coyote. You get the picture.
Some Egyptian sculpture. One of the Lions of Nectanebo. Nectanebo was an ancient pharaoh, who founded the last native dynasty of Egypt. He died in 362 BC.
Mini-sphinx (WITH nose).
There were a few women, but not many. This looks Greek to me, but I'm not sure who she is.
Diane of Ephesus. A fertility goddess? Nope, daughter of Jupiter and twin sister of Apollo.
Juno Sospita in the Round Room. She is an ancient Roman goddess, protector, and special counselor of the State. She is daughter of Saturn and, sister AND wife of Jupiter (the head god). Hmmmmm! Guess you can have it all when you are in charge.
Here you see just a minute handful of the sculpture we saw that day. Wish we'd had more time to really study and learn about them. Again, I did a lot of research for this post and hoping I got it right on the descriptions. Let me know if you see something wrong.