A Journey to Saint Peter’s

One of my best friends got the chance to come explore Italy with me over spring break.  Cole Adkins and I have played soccer together for as long as I can remember, and my older brother is married to his older sister.  I had 6 days to take him on an adventure through Italy, three and a half in Rome, and two and a half in Cinqueterre.

Out of all of the things that Cole wanted to see, the Vatican and its museums were at the top of his list, which to me sounded like lots of line waiting.  Not only is the Vatican probably the number one tourist location in the world, but the day we went was the day before the new pope’s inaugural mass service.  This means LOTS of line waiting.  The line for Saint Peters wasn’t too bad, but the line for the museums was by far the longest line I have ever seen in my life.  The people in line were saying it was at least a three hour wait; this was not going to do since the museum closed in close to 3 hours.

Now the first thing you are taught not to do when at museums is pay to skip the line and get a sketchy roadside tour guide.  But, since the line was so long and Cole only had a limited time with me in Rome, we took the chance and paid more than we should have to cut the line to get into the museums.

The Vatican museums are some of the most elaborately decorated I have ever seen, and being the only museum in Rome that Cole saw he dragged his jaw along the entire floor of those halls.  The entire museum, although completely awesome and elaborate, is all a huge build up to the all-important Sistine Chapel.  The area before the Sistine Chapel was one of the coolest displays of artifacts that I have seen so far in Rome.  The hallway was full of golden gifts to the popes in all forms and sizes, encrusted in jewels and gems.  After this astonishing display, finally the grand entry to the massive room packed with people that is the Sistine Chapel.

Cole and I entered with a great interest as to whether we were going to be able to take pictures, of which the answer was no. But, with the new technology of the IPhone, the ability to take indiscreet pictures is much too easy, and with about 300 people in one room and one guy yelling no pictures, needless to say, pictures were taken.  Cole was ecstatic, given that most of his family is extremely Catholic.  The Sistine Chapel was one of those moments for Cole and I when we realized that besides the architecture in Rome, the skill of artists such as Michelangelo were unsurpassed, as seen in the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling.  The Vatican’s museums were incredible in their ornament and exhibitions, and with the chapel being the pinnacle of the display, Cole and I both decided that the extra Euros spent for the sketchy pass through the line was for once totally worth it.

Classical and Industrial

You can see it from our apartment balcony. A view of the Tiber and on the horizon is evidence of old Industry. Huge steel cylinder frames of old oil containers now mark the Centrale Montemartini on the skyline. This is one of Rome’s best museums is an old industrial part of town and our class visit there was sure to be great. The next morning started out to no surprise with rain and us trying to find out what bus will get us to the Museum. After a stop at the bar for a pick me up caffé macchiato, we head to hop on the bus. Two buses later and out of the rain we made it to our first stop, the Ponte Settimia Spizzichino, a new contemporary suspension bridge. This new bridge was a great way for us to see the redevelopment this area has taken. This old industry and port area, even in ancient roman times, has been transformed into a modern residential area for Rome. This pure white bridge brings some life to the area.

The Museum was a short walk away. The signs led us into this roadway next to an old factory like building. The whole class gathered inside of the lobby. A very compact tight space and some of the large industrial mechanical pieces were in sight giving us a hint of what to expect. Some sculptures from ancient Rome where present and contrasted with the dark machinery. After a brief introduction to the building we flocked up stairs. The second level of the building completely opened up to a large industrial room and evidence of the old electrical power plant was seen with two humongous generators on each side of the room. Other large black machinery was organized throughout the room.

In contrast to the machinery was an arrangement of classical sculptures laid out with the black as their background. The use of two completely different items being displayed balanced each other well. Thousands of years of separation between these objects and still they looked like they belonged together. The use of classical sculptures gave the much more modern machinery a feeling of antiquity. The image of a great empire comes to mind when one looks at the sculptures. The same image is comes to mind looking at these dirty industrial machines and thinking of the complex in full process as a power plant. This modern equipment is given an appearance of glorification and class in combination with the art. The large diesel generators and 50 foot tall boiler become representative art of modern Italy’s progress and glory. The smell of diesel and grease helped amplify the experience. The Centrale Montemartini was indeed a great museum and a very fun way to look at two completely different types of objects from history.


Il Prade Di Tutti I Musei

The moment I first really realized I was in Rome was when I saw the Capitoline Hill and remembered the paper I wrote about it for my art history class. It was amazing seeing Michelangelo’s staircase in contrast to the mountainous climb up to Santa Maria in Aracoeli. His famous piazza was before my eyes and the walk up was as gentle as imagined. Moving up the hill, the sight of the Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius pulled me towards the center of the Piazza. The placement of the statue is powerful because the scale and the gesture of Marcus makes you feel welcome but also cautious.

Finding the entrance to the Museum was a bit of an issue since it is tucked under an arcade only noticeable thanks to signage. The circulation of the museum leads you first into a courtyard, where the ego of Constantine remains. The Head of Constantine the Greater stands in the corner towering over as you stand next to it. Some remaining pieces of his body are arranged next to his head so one can get a sense of scale and understand how large this statue would have been when it was intact. Next, you are led up a staircase through an underground tunnel to Palazzo Nuovo on the other side of the piazza. I soon realize that the actual museum is much bigger than it appears outside.

As I started to wander my way around the Palazzo Nuovo I stumbled across one of my favorite pieces, The Dying Gaul. This roman replica of a Greek original depicts a man in defeat. This life size statue shows a man fallen to the ground with his hands tirelessly keeping his upper body up and his head looking straight to the ground hopelessly. I love how this piece interacts with the viewer. It draws so much sympathy for the wounded man and creates a humanistic understanding of the statue.

Crossing back to the Palazzo del Conservatori the core of the museum is found. It leads you into a series of smaller rooms full of statues and paintings. Soon I find myself with the infamous symbol of Rome the Capitoline Wolf “She Wolf”. The Bronze statue is in the center on the room on top of a pedestal. It depicts a wolf nurturing Romulus and Remus. The Statue was great to see because of the history and connection it has to the city; it depicts the city’s founding myth.

Finally the belly of the beast appears as I near the newly renovated central space of the museum. This new space sharply contrasts the old renaissance buildings with a contemporary glass and steel structure. At the focal point of this space is the original Equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius. The statue is not centered in the space as it was outside in its original location, in the piazza. It is set on a narrow horizontal plain that connects back to the wall and seems to create a path on which the horse is galloping on. The platforms cuts through the circulation around the statue unlike the one outside that allows the viewer to go completely around it. It was cool to see the contrasting setting in which the museum chose to display this legendary piece. The experience of the two Marcus Aurelius statues differ because the approach to the copy is the first sight climbing up to the piazza. It is presented as a view of an almighty roman conqueror and a work of propaganda. Approaching the original statue inside the museum one first sees the statue entering from the side and mainly above it, as an “art work.” Both approaches to the statue are powerful. The oversize scale of Marcus Aurelius and the horse are overwhelming. The horse seems to be in motion as it is sculpted with its feet in different positions. One of the most amazing things about this is how the horse and man are balanced as the horse stands on three legs. His front right leg is lifted and curled, as if he is marching forward. Marcus Aurelius sits atop the horse and appears to be just as big as the horse showing his dominance. He is shown extending his right hand is a gentle manner like he has just arrived to “HELP” citizens in need. I love this statue because it is such a great example of Roman art. The Roman Ruler shown in a humanistic manner, gentle, kind, wise, on top a subtle symbolism of dominance, control, and power. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention it was covered in gold, typical of such political propaganda.

An overall amazing Museum, great artwork, and an absolute must in Rome. ImageImage



                Last Thursday, the Sooners in Rome were lucky enough to go on a visit to Zaha Hadid’s MAXXI museum, a display of both brilliant contemporary architecture, and the amazing modern art held inside.  Upon arrival we were able to wander around the outside to inspect and sketch the organic forms of concrete that make up a large portion of the different facades of the building.  Once everyone was together as we prepared to enter the building, we received a short lecture from one of our professors (Scott Schlimgen) on the design and construction process, which used many new technologies in order to display Hadid’s idea for the 21st century art museum (hint the name MAXXI, Modern Art of the XXI century).

As we entered the museum, we immediately realized that the interior might be just as impressive as the dynamic exterior.  The open lobby space displayed many interesting details to it, including transparent stairways, and long sections of skylights flowing along the tube-like concrete spaces. After another period of time looking all around the lobby while our teachers grabbed the tickets, we were set loose to explore the many galleries on display.

One of the main reasons that we traveled to the MAXXI besides the building itself, was the display of some of Le Corbusier’s architectural work.  This exhibition was placed just around the corner on the first floor gallery (where most of the class went first).  To avoid traffic and blaze our own trail, Nathan Harwell and I decided to go see some of the more abstract art first to open up our minds to something other than architecture.  After wandering up some stairs and traveling down a hallway or two we found ourselves at the first gallery we could find.  First was a mixture of woven tapestries with English and Arabic on them that were very impressive but a bit vague on the descriptions. The next room we stumbled into was a very cool experience because of the dynamic textures.  The walls were all covered in metal panels seeming to emulate tree bark; however, the interesting part about the room was that the wooden floor had similar grooves cut into it, meant to relate your sense of touch to your sense of sight. After a few more galleries we found our way to the architectural model display where we spent much more time exploring because of our obvious ability to relate to it.

Most of the models were extremely impressive, showcasing many different kinds of methods, materials, and conceptual ideas.  Once we had inspected much of the large display we began to run into a lot of our classmates who were moving in the opposite direction through the room than us.  Small talk was exchanged about opinions and questions of the models, but most everyone had their eyes on the displays and moved silently through the gallery.

Finally, Nathan and I got to the stairs at the end of the hallway to take us down to the Le Corbusier exhibition.  Although we both thought the displaying method was very strange, made up of a crude wooden paneling system of partitions, the drawings were amazing.  Corbusier’s sketching and diagramming were some of the most informative and beautiful drawings I have seen.  In person you are able to really look at not only one drawing at a time, but the progression and evolution of the pieces similar to a timeline. As we slowly came to the end of Corbusier’s drawing, there came in the opposite direction a massive tour group with a little lady leading them and yelling in Italian, at which point we decided that the massive black plastic horn outside the exhibition seemed more interesting.  The horn did not work, and we were not supposed to touch it, as we were quickly informed, but we did find some truly exquisite chairs designed by Corbusier to end that part of our journey through the MAXXI.