Saturday, August 3, 2019

Blog Post No. 3000: The Vatican Museums 2019

My mother-in-law told us that when she visited the Sistine Chapel in the 1950s she could lie face-up on the floor to take in Michelangelo's magnificent ceiling. Today there are forty-thousand daily visitors each of whom hopes to commune with the famous ceiling. Even if the chapel weren't crowded at all hours of the day, I'm certain that lying down on the ground to claim a comfortable vantage point would not be permitted.

The summer crowds are a concern that might best be dealt with by reserving tickets in advance. If one does this through a tour, one can enter earlier than the general public. We used the tour group Viator, or Italy Wonders. Unfortunately, our tour skipped so many essential parts of the Vatican Museums that I can't recommend the group, but we did get to see Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel and Raphael's School of Athens which is certainly what most visitors want to see.

Our tour, and dozens of others, met across the street from this entrance before the Vatican Museums opened. While waiting we bought ourselves some overpriced coffee served black.

Vatican City is not large. The magnificent dome of St. Peter's Basilica overlooks the museum grounds where tours regrouped.

The Belvedere Courtyard with a taunting view of some other areas of the Vatican Museums I assumed we were going to see.

The Vatican Museums' long halls are done extremely well:

Too nice to walk on:

The ceiling is painted to look like relief. Still, the cracks indicate it's got to be a conservator's nightmare.

Tapestry designed by Raphael depicting the resurrection of Christ:
The Resurrection of Christ (large detail)

Tapestry designed by Raphael:

The Gallery of Maps:

The world turned upside-down: Sicily, with the south oriented to the top.

The far end of the Gallery of Maps:

Exposure to the elements:

Up above:

Down below:
Roman mosaic

Fine woodwork:

Gianfrancesco Penni or Giulio Romano
The Donation of Constantine
Sala di Costantino

Ceiling of the Room of Heliodorus

The Expulsion of Heliodorus from the Temple, 1511–12

The Mass at Bolsena, 1512

The Meeting of Leo the Great and Attila

The School of Athens (large detail)

The School of Athens (detail with Euclid or Archimedes)
Border details:
Border detail
Tiles underfoot:

Disputation of the Holy Sacrament

A gift of the Musée Rodin, 1959:
Auguste Rodin
The Thinker, c. 1880, cast 1956

Pierre Matisse donated preparatory designs created by his father Henri Matisse for the Chapel of the Rosary in Vence.

This is a Pope by Francis Bacon, but is it a screaming Pope?
Francis Bacon
Study for
Velázquez Pope II, 1961

Photography is forbidden in the Sistine Chapel not, as we were told, for religious reasons but because the Vatican sold the photo rights at the time of the restoration. Instead I give you these amazing views from the Sistine Chapel Virtual Tour.
Michelangelo Buonarroti
The Sistine Chapel Ceiling
Michelangelo Buonarroti
The Last Judgment

There should have been a lot more. No tour (except ours apparently) would be complete without stopping in the Museo Pio-Clementino. There in the Octagonal Court one can see the Apollo Belvedere, a masterpiece of Classical Antiquity greatly admired a few generations ago and proudly displayed on the Vatican Museum's ever-improving website:
Roman copy after Leochares
Apollo Belvedere

And, of course, the Laocoön Group, a Hellenistic masterwork which I think speaks more to our own time:
The Laocoön Group

Another essential stop would have to be the Hall of the Muses to see the Belvedere Torso, a large sculptural fragment which had a profound influence on Michelangelo.
Apollonius of Athens
The Belvedere Torso

And we're done!

The Attempted Bloggery Centennial Posts

Blog Post No. 100
Blog Post No. 200:  A Shaggy Dog Story

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