September 29, 2006

Rome Part III–the final chapter

Follow-up to Rome Part II from Rosemary's blog

Thursday 28th September
Today we went to the Villa Borghese to see the art gallery. This juxtaposes Classical and Baroque sculpture, including a beautiful Apollo and Daphne, in the setting of a noble villa decorated in the late eighteenth century. It also has a series of mosaics of gladiatorial combat. The Pianoteca, which one is unfortunately only allowed half an hour to visit-entrance numbers as a whole are very tightly controlled, has some beautiful paintings, including several Raphaels, Titian’s Sacred and Profane Love, and Cranach’s Venus and Cupid with a Honeycomb. There are lots of lovely paintings; in a very lovely setting-the family park is now open to the public.

Friday 29th September
On our last day in Rome we spent a morning tying up loose ends before meeting Caspar for one last tour. We started on the Captoline hill, where there is a piazza designed by Michelangelo, incorporating the buildings of the contemporary town council whilst giving them a classical twist, and a perfect exemplar of his reluctance to use arches. Next we visited the Gesù, home of the Jesuit order. It is the archetype of all Jesuit churches, and as such typical of Counter Reformation church design. The nave ceiling is a trompe l’oeil, creating the impression of the ceiling opening up to reveal heaven. Another such work, this time incorporating the whole barrel vault in a masterpiece of single point perspective on the subject of the apotheosis of St Ignatius Loyola, is the church of Sant’Ignazio. There is another canvas over the crossing, creating the effect of a cupola, which is very realistic.
Next we saw a real dome, namely the concrete structure of the Pantheon, last rebuilt by Hadrian, where Raphael is also buried. The hole in the ceiling, which is a perfect hemisphere, lets a lot of light in. This building, particularly the coffered dome, inspired many Renaissance and Baroque architects in creating their own examples. We stopped in the courtyard of Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza to admire the Borromini cupola, which makes interesting use of curves, before finishing in Piazza Navona. Unfortunately there was some scaffolding around Bernini’s Fontana del Quattro Fiumi, showing the four great rivers of the world. The figure representing the Nile has his face hidden to represent its unknown source. The obelisk on the top is Roman in origin. It is a lovely design that like so many things in this city was built for a Pope, namely Innocent X. We stayed in Rome in the evening to celebrate our last night here, having drinks in Campo de’ Fiori, and pizza in a nearby restaurant, before making our way to the Trevi Fountain area for one last delicious icecream.

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