Friday, 3 March 2017

Musei Vaticani

I was warned that the Vatican museum was so vast that I should selectively choose what I wished to see and skip the rest. The way the museum is layed out though, leads you through many of the galleries you may have chosen to skip. This is fortunate because all of the collections are impressive and contain certain gems, so it is worth making the effort to take your time and look, and not just rush through to the Sistine Chapel if you have the time. The map galleries are particularly visually rich, and in one of the rooms off them I discovered a small of exhibition of the Vatican's collection of Rembrandt etchings. Unfortunately on the day I visited most of the sculpture galleries were out of bounds to the public, so I didn't get to see the famous Laocoön and His Sons sculpture.

The museum is sumptuously decorated and the ceilings were quite spectacular works of art in their own right.

The following are a small selection of works held in the Contemporay Art Collection that I particularly admired. It was good to see that the curators are purchasing artworks which have a broader, more secular remit than those of the purely religious. There were a few surprises in there. I'll leave it to you to put names to the works.

After the collection of Contemporary Artworks you are led to the ultimate artwork in the Vatican's collection - Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling. Unfortunately photography is strictly forbidden, but here is a picture from the internet. Much of this incredible work you will no doubt be familiar with already though I'm sure.

I found not being able to take photographs really frustrating initially, but then felt sure that the point of the photo ban is to allow us to be in the moment, to enjoy the experience of pausing to look, and to allow the experience to live on in us as a memory. Suffice it to say that although the Chapel was smaller than I thought it would be, the Sistine ceiling was indeed jaw-droppingly awesome. My neck ached from craning, trying to take in all the details. I got lost in imagining Michelangelo devising the work, and then spending so many hours in discomfort having to crane his own neck, adopting awkward positions whilst labouring on it. It was an interesting experience to be in the Sistine Chapel space. This apparently, is the very room in which the conclave convenes, and decisions to elect Popes are made. The Sistine Chapel also contains important murals by Botticelli and Perugino which are very impressive artworks in their own right. After this experience you are led back to the entrance of the Vatican museum past the inevitable gift shops, and through more ornately decorated galleries.

After the majesty of the Sistine Chapel, it was across to the Pinacoteca to see Raphael's tapestries and Transfiguration. Maybe it was the dark crowded room, or maybe it was the numerous other tourists not actually looking at and enjoying the artwork, but blocking the view of others by standing in front of the artwork whilst taking the inevitable selfies, which made it hard for me to fully appreciate this work. I moved swiftly on.

Works I was impressed with in the Pinacoteca - and now my official artistic crush - are those of Melozzo da Forli (1438-1494). How beautiful are these musical angels of his? They were a wonderful, uplifting high on which to end my visit to the Vatican.

After leaving the Vatican museum I went next door to try to get into St Peter's Basilica to see Michelangelo's other masterpiece the Pietà, but the queues were so large that I was forced to give it a miss. Perhaps next time...

Musei Vaticani
Città del Vaticano