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Yesterday morning my drawing class met in Piazza Capitolini so that we could take a tour of the museum together.  I met up with one of my friends in the morning and we took a bus that dropped us off very close to the Roman Forum (ruins) and a hill that led up to the piazza. ( A quick note about the buses in Rome: some of them have TV screens that tell you which stop you are at, and which stops are next, but most do not.  This means CONSTANT vigilance to your location, which can be difficult if you don’t know exactly what your destination looks like.)

Unfortunately, my camera was out of batteries yesterday, so I was unable to take pictures.  However, I decided to return today so that I could take some photos, buy postcards (the liberia- bookstore, was closed yesterday as well), and start a drawing of the Arch of Septimus Agustus.

The first couple floors of the museum, which was originally a palazzo (urban palace/home) for a noble/rich family, were enormous and filled with sculptures that date back to the classical period.  Although I love art, I personally find classical sculpture a little dull (my apologizes to anyone who is offended by this), however I was thrilled when we went to the third floor which is dedicated to Renaissance and Baroque paintings.  I wandered away from the group into one of the side rooms and I was shocked to see one of my favorite paintings hanging on the wall:

"Rape of the Sabine Women" by Pietro da Cortona, 1627

Before you stop reading, horrified that this is one of my favorite paintings, I will state that I do not condone rape in any way.  The use of the word “rape” in this context refers to the abduction of the Sabine women, not sexual violation.  The Rape of the Sabine Women is the subject matter of  several (post) renaissance paintings and sculptures.  As the story goes, after Romulus (the historical/legendary figure after which Rome was named) had established the city, it was determined that the area needed to be populated with “Roman” citizens.  The solution: to abduct the women from a nearby area in which the “Sabines” lived.  This painting depicts that event.

The reason I love the painting is because of Cortona’s ability to capture the emotions that women must have felt and translate it into the painting.

Another artifact that almost made me scream (from excitement) in the museum was Bernini’s “Medusa.”

"Medusa,"by Bernini, 1650's

Medusa is a mythological character who, along with her two sisters, was born with snakes for hair and a stare that would turn anyone she directly looked at into stone.  Historically in art, she has been depicted as terrifying and beautiful.

Another thing I witnessed in the museum was the restoration of a painting.  Within one of the galleries, an area was blocked off and one of the Carravagio paintings was sitting on an easel in front of a very old, an presumably important man.(**)  When I realized what was going on, I was horrified!  The man was putting a small amount of paint (to repair “micro-cracks” that occur naturally through time) on the canvas of one of the formative masters of Baroque paintings.  When I discussed this with my professor later, he explained that the Musei Capitolini is no longer collecting art, and that their entire budget goes to maintaining and conserving the art that they already have invested in.  He explained to me that it is an ongoing argument in the art world whether it is appropriate to “touch up”paintings that are aging and cracking.

**I later wondered… who is this man??  And how was the responsibility of “fixing” a Carravaggio painting delegated to him?  On a tangent I started wondering wondering what he and his wife might discuss at the dinner table that night…. “How was your day sweetheart?  Do anything interesting?”   (In Italiano: Come stata la tuo giornata?  Accaduto qualcosa di interessante?)

Anyways, I returned to the Piazza today (not the museum, however) to take photos and to begin drawing the Arch of Septimus Severus.

Piazza del Campidoglio, designed by Michelangelo 1536-1546

Arch of Septimus Severus, 203 AD

The Roman Forum

Ruins of the Forum

Ruins of the Forum