The Science of Museums – Rome Day 3

Just when you think you’re beginning to get homesick, you find a little piece of home right around the corner from your hotel.  Nothing like Atlantic City, Rome style.

Atlantic City in Rome?

The best part of day three was to get to see museum science in action.  I LOVE THIS STUFF! I mean I have considered being a conservator just so I can discover the history and original form of objects…but I guess I love designing exhibitions more.

Courtyard of Villa Medici

First stop was at the Villa Medici with a tour of the AMAZING garden and labyrinth.  Inside we saw the special exhibition “Poussin and Moses: From Drawing to Tapestry” and something that was very interesting about the exhibition space was a fairly steep incline with “stairs”.  They were really stairs though because each rise was only a few inches and the flat of each stair was a few feet. Charlotte’s (my professor), husband, Derek, enlightened me as to the origin of such stairs.  Villa Medici is built on a large hill and horse stable was located farther up the hill, the stairs were built to be useable by the horses. Learn something random all the time.

Terrible panoramic, beautiful view

The structure was built in 1564 on the ruins of a 2nd century villa,  the walls and structure were ornamented with 1st and 2nd century antiquities, like the piece of freize from the Ara Pacis (you’ll hear about that later) who now has a replica piece.  The Medicis made their start in banking and devised double entry ledger writing.  Along with bringing in a fortune Lorenzo began bringing many artists and musicians to the household until it became a sort of school, which it still is.  Twenty-four artists come from France at a time to stay at Villa Medici, now the French Academy, in order to study in Italy.

The garden is very typical Italian, notice there are no flowers.  Original Italian thought was that man is the center of the universe so he should have complete control over his things.  Bushes you can prune and control, flowers you cannot. Thus the lack of flowers.  My favorite thing in the gardens was the mini sculpture garden depicting the massacre of Niobe’s children.  Essentially Apollo and Artemis were jealous that Niobe had been able to have fourteen children so they killed them all. For a much more informative and romantic version of the story read here.

Sculpture Garden of Niobe Massacre, Villa Medici

The first interesting piece of science for the day you’ll see below.  A room in one of the towers of Villa Medici where you can see they have literally peeled through time back through consecutive layers of paint.  It’s like Christmas and unwrapping the same present with a million different layer of paper, the suspense!

Paint Layers

Next we wandered down the Spanish Steps (actually built by the French) to the Keats-Shelley Museum where we had a tour by the most darling little Irishmen.  Saying that makes him sound old, he wasn’t but he was just pint sized and spritely.  This was the final home of John Keats, the poet, who died from tuberculosis after a truly tragic life.

The Spanish Steps

Those of you who know me, know how I feel about the mixing of the old and new. Incredibly torn.  Sometimes I love it, but most times I really hate it. One instance where I really disliked it was the Museo Ara Pacis Augustae where the Ara Pacis (Alter of Peace) dating is enclosed in a piece of architecture by Richard Meier.  It’s just a big empty, stark, waste of good museum space.

Ara Pacis, Alter of Peace

The interesting thing about marble in Rome is that when you see it now it’s whites, tans and browns.  Had you seen it when it was created a large majority of sculpture and architecture would have been brightly painted.  You can’t get much of the context from this photo but it shows the science of trying to find out what colors would have been used on which areas of the Ara Pacis.

What the colors on the outside of Ara Pacis would have actually been.

View from Janiculum Hill

Next, another of the Roman hills, this time Janiculum Hill where they have restored sculpture for the the 150th Anniversary of the unification of Italy.  Another BEAUTIFUL view.  We finished the evening at the American Academy in Rome.  It serves a purpose similar to that of the French Academy at Villa Medici.  Students and/or artists may reside here to study and practice in Rome and enjoy the Italian Culture.  As it was an open house we were able to view many of the current residents work and studios.

Dinner tonight was at La Tana dei Noiantri inTrastavere which seems to be the hopping place for the teens to thirty somethings crowd.  Pizza, again. Delish. I can’t help it.

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