Just to give you an image of where we’re working from, here is a candid picture Don took of me in the Urbis lobby while I update you with all of our daily activities (note the box of wine). This computer is literally from the Stone Age; the keys are made of stone, the mouse is an actual rodent, you get the idea.
Hi-tech Urbis computer terminal
I’m going to go through today quickly because we’re trying to head out soon and I still need to shower, but needless to say – Day 3 was a hit factory. We started at the Vatican Museum (Duch had a hard time believing we had actually left Italy and were now in another country) at 10:30am; reservations we had made on the first day online for €26.50 each which allowed us to skip the hours-long line.
Vatican Museum entrance
Once inside, we toured the Pinacoteca (or “ancient Roman or Greek picture gallery”) which was full of dyptics, tryptics, and various icons from the middle-ages as well as Raphael’s “Transfiguration,” Leonardo’s “St. Jerome,” an Caravaggio’s “Deposition.” From there, we went through the Ancient Section of Egyption, Sumerian, and Etruscan art with pieces dating from 3,000B.C. to 500A.D. In the Octagonal Courtyard, we saw two sculptural masterpieces, the Apollo Belvedere and the Laocoon, followed by the Belvedere Torso, which was adored by Michalangelo, who was heard to have said things like “I am the pupil of the Torso” – pretty high praise coming from arguably the greatest sculptor of all time huh?
I have to say, even after being to the Met in New York, the Louvre in Paris, the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, the National Gallery in London, and (as of yesterday) the Borghese Gallery in Rome, the Vatican Museum is probably the greatest museum in the world (and we’re going to the Uffizi in Florence tomorrow!). There were just so many masterpieces of the Renaissance (my favorite period) that had to be seen, it was exhausting and my camera was completely dead by the end.
The Laocoon - possibly the greatest sculpture of all time.
Above is the Laocoon (lay-AWK-oh-wahn), definitely one of my favorite pieces ever. He was the high priest of Troy who warned his fellow Trojans, “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts…” and when the Greeks brought over the Trojan Horse as a ploy to get inside the city walls, he again warned his people not to bring it inside. The gods, who wanted the Greeks to win, sent huge snakes to crush him and his two sons – here we see their (both Laocoon, his sons, and the Trojan people’s) final futile struggle. The sculpture embodies agony and struggle, twisting muscles and terror, and is also considered the most famous Greek statue of ancent Rome. Lost for over a thousand years, The Laocoon was unearthed in the ruins of Nero’s Golden House and paraded up and down the street of Rome in 1506 – seen by none other than Michalangelo who, inspired, began his work on the Sistine Ceiling only two years later.
Belvedere Torso - one of Mike's favs
Here, from the top floor of the museum, we can see the famous Papal Tennis Courts, where Benedickt, and John Paul before him, play their home matched. Duch said that he was going to apply for the position of Papal Ball Boy: “It pays €30 per match, dude!”
Vatican Papal Tennis Courts
Let’s skip ahead (for the benefit of my hands and your eyes) to the final rooms by Raphael and the coup de grace of the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel. Raphael is featured at the end of the tour, having been given the supreme honor of decorating the walls and ceilings of Pope’s personal quarters; at the tender age of 25, and his highlight is the School of Athens which decorates the final room before Mike’s ceiling. What’s funny is that, simultaneously, while Raphael was doing the School and its opposite wall, Michaelangelo was working on the ceiling in the next room. Apparentely, Raphael went to see what Mike was up to, noticed how jacked and heroic everyone in the Last Judgment looks (Raph’s people were a little dainty), went back to his rooms, and made everyone look more muscular and epic. Can you imagine that scenario? An understudy running errands, taking orders, and bringing wine, brea,d and cheese between the rooms for two of the greatest and most influetial artists in human history? A little staggering.
Well, here is the School of Athens – which was Larry Kreiger’s, my art history professor in high school, favorite painting and hangs on the office wall of Drexel’s Philosophy Department Head, Jacques Catudal – and where Raphael’s portrait can be found in the lower right (guy looking out at us with the black beret), Leonardo di Vinci is Plato (center left, pointing at the sky), and Donato Bromante (architect of St. Peter’s) plays the role of Euclid.
Raphael - School of Athens
Here is the Sistine Ceiling, and the Last Judgment (it was highly illegal to take pictures of any kind in the Chapel, so my pics of the Ceiling and Judgement are a little blurry; don’t tell anyone that I have them or posted them online). Michalangelo, always the weirdo, put his self-portrait on the flayed skin of St. Bartholomew to the right of Jesus (who stands in the center, about to spank all of the bad people to hell).
Michalangelo's Last Judgment
Michalangelo's Sistine Ceiling
Full shot of Sistine Ceiling