Friday, October 31, 2014



Founded in 1771 by Pope Clement XIV Ganganelli (1769/74) who, like Pius VI Braschi (1775/99) after him, enriched the collection of sculptures begun at the time of Julius II Della Rovere (1503/13) in the Octagonal Courtyard

Clement XIV asked Alessandro Dori (active in Roma since 1744/d. 1772) and, after Dori's death, Michelangelo Simonetti (1724/87) to adapt the premises of the Palace of Innocent VIII Cybo (1484/92) which had been built in about 1487 by Giacomo da Pietrasanta

Clement XIV succumbed to Enlightenment and Absolutism in Europe and in 1773 he was virtually forced to suppress the Jesuit Order under the pressure of the European monarchies: maybe it's a coincidence, but no pope chose the name Clement ever again
He was buried first at St. Peter's Basilica and in 1802 his body was moved to the Basilica of the Holy Apostles in a monument by Antonio Canova

Pius VI ordered the construction of new rooms and unfortunately during these works frescoes by Pinturicchio, and Andrea Mantegna were lost

The architects wanted to quote and imitate Roman buildings such as the Pantheon in the Sala Rotonda (Round Room) or thermal rooms in the Sala a Croce Greca (Greek Cross Room)
When Michelangelo Simonetti died in 1787, Pius VI gave the job of finishing the project to Giuseppe Camporese (1763/1822), who reversed the museum route with a new access from the Greek Cross Room. That's why over the portal to the Round Room there is the sign Museum Pium and on the portal to the Square Vestibule there is the sign Museum Clementinum

Saturday, October 25, 2014


Braccio Nuovo del Museo Chiaramonti

1817/22 Raffaele Stern (1774/1820), so called to distinguish it from the already existing wing of the library
Dimensions: 70 x 8 m (230 x 26 feet)
It divided the Belvedere Court in three parts, creating the central courtyard of the Library

Twelve columns of granite were taken in 1819 from the chapel of the Palazzo Barberini, in Via dei Giubbonari
Top stucco bas-reliefs by Francesco Massimiliano Laboureur (1767/1831) Roman neoclassical sculptor, author also of the colossal statue of Napoleon, in the Lions Square of Ajaccio, the birthplace of the “Empereur”

FLOOR with mosaics of the second century AD from one of two villas at Tor Marancia excavated in the years 1817/23, near the present stream of Grotta Perfetta:
In the exedra polychrome mosaic “Diana of Ephesus”

The works kept here are all very significant and very beautiful: the first half of the gallery covers topics of Roman history, the second Greek myths


“Caryatid” of Attic type from original of the Erechtheum on the Acropolis in Athens with head by the Danish Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770/1844)

“Silenus with Dionysus child in his arms” from the original of the school of Lysippus

“Augustus of Prima Porta” copy found in 1863 in the Villa Ad Gallinas Albas from an original in bronze
Augustus is represented here when he was about forty years old and on the lorica (breastplate) is represented maybe Tiberius receiving from Phraates, king of the Parthians, the insignia taken from Crassus in 53 BC at Carrhae and recovered only in 20 BC

“Augustus is portrayed with a gesture of 'adlocutio', that is, with his right hand raised in the act of speaking to the soldiers. The lack of shoes allude to divine dignity, while Cupid riding a dolphin, sculpted on the support of the statue, refers to Venus, ancestor of the Gens Julia and heavenly ancestor of Augustus. The posture is that of the Doryphorus of Polykleitos” (Andrea Pomella)

The statue in 1868 still showed clear traces of original color as a newspaper reporter from the New Illustrated Universal Newspaper describes: “...the tunic and surcoat are colored in red, fringes of the armor parts in yellow and so on (...) the bare parts are not flesh-colored, but with a clever cleaning (polishing) and probably with some sort of paint-wax the beautiful color of marble has been given greater prominence”
It was the layer of wax which is known as ganòsis, mimicking human skin

“In the exhibition entitled The Colours of White in 2005 the Vatican Museums, in collaboration with the Glyptothek of Munich and the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen exposed some reconstructions of ancient works, showing them how they must have been originally painted with colors. ( ...) Thanks to some investigations carried out by restorers on the statue, which brought to light traces of polychrome paint on the marble surface, it was possible to reconstruct the “palette” used to decorate the sculpture: Egyptian blue for the fringe, for the strips of the leather skirt and for some details of the armor pads, red for the cloak and for some parts of the garments and slight traces of color also for the eyes and lips, which were reconstructed using some comparisons with portraits of the same period of the August” (Licia Capannolo)

Splendid “Pudicizia Mattei” (Modesty Mattei) from the Villa Mattei or Celimontana with head and right hand not original, added before 1704
Maybe it's Mnemosyne, Mother of the Muses, from an original of the second century BC Philiskos of Rhodes

“Head of Youth” maybe a river god from the original by Phidias on a modern bust

“Statue of Titus” (79/81) in an attitude of adlocutio, that is, with his right hand raised to start talking, as the Augustus of Prima Porta
His chunky body and his square and semi-bald head did not help him very much in visually imposing the imperial authority

“Four heads of Medusa” at the corners of the room with an apse from the Temple of Venus and Rome, the largest Roman temple along with that of Serapis

At the sides “Two bronze peacocks” maybe from the Mausoleum of Hadrian. In the Courtyard of the Pine Cone there are two copies

At the center “Bust” with a modern head of Julius Caesar

“Caryatid” about 160 by Kriton and Nikolaos from the Pago Tropio (country villa) of Herodes Atticus on the Appian Way

“Portrait of Trajan” with his typical bangs

“Statue of Selene” personification of the Full Moon, along with Artemis (Crescent Moon), to whom she is sometimes equated, and Hecate (New Moon)
She was the daughter of Hyperion and Theia and sister of Helios (the Sun) and Eos (Dawn)

“Portrait of Roman man” of the Flavian period (69/96)

At the head of the gallery “Bust of Pius VII” by Antonio Canova (1757/1822)
Pius VII Chiaramonti (1800/23) in 1804 crowned Napoleon Emperor in Paris. He was arrested in the Quirinal Palace in 1809 and brought to France
He returned to Rome in 1814 when he reestablished the Order of the Jesuits in the world


“Demosthenes” from a Hellenistic bronze original of 280 BC by Polyeuctus
Demosthenes was a great Greek politician and orator opponent of Philip II of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great, against whom he railed with his Philippics

“Wounded Amazon” from the original by Kresilas with arms and feet added by Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770/1844)
The original was sculpted for the competition of about 435 issued by the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
The four participants, according to Pliny, were Phidias, Kresilas, Polykleitos and Phradmon. The allocation of existing copies to one of the four sculptors is very difficult and controversial

“Bust of Hadrian” with very realistic features

“Bust of Julia” daughter of Titus, original head with curious hairstyle on a modern bust
It seems that Julia had an affair with her uncle Domitian, who, after the death of Titus and the husband of Julia, Flavius Sabinus, took Julia to live with him as husband and wife
After she became pregnant, Julia died and was deified. It seems that her ashes were later secretly mixed with the ones of Domitian by a nurse

“Juno” of the Juno Borghese of Copenhagen type maybe from original of the fifth century BC by Alkamene

“Artemis” of the so-called Colonna type

In the hemicycle at the center “The Nile River” first century AD from Hellenistic original from the Temple of Isis found in S. Maria sopra Minerva, where also “The Tiber” was found now in the Louvre
The much restored sixteen putti represent sixteen cubits, the difference in height of the Nile between summer and winter

“Bust of Man” end of the first or beginning of the second century AD. Very intense and marked by the expression of the hair style

“Diana” performing the act of taking an arrow from his quiver as she is probably staring at the prey

Famous “Athena Giustiniani” of the Antonine period (138/192) in marble from Paros from a bronze original of the beginning of the fourth century BC maybe by Cephisodotus or Euphranor
It was found at the beginning of 1600s near the so-called Temple of Minerva Medica, to which it gave the misleading name. Arms, spear and sphinx on the helmet are modern
The name comes from having been part of the collection of Vincenzo Giustiniani who kept it in his Palazzo Giustiniani. It was purchased in 1805 by Lucien Bonaparte, Napoleon's brother, and then sold to Pius VII
The snake at the foot of Athena is connected to the complex myth of Erichthonius: according to the account of Apollodorus of Athens, Athena went to the forge of Hephaestus to ask the forging of some weapons
Hephaestus pounced on her, trying to possess her and Athena, determined to save her virginity, fled. In the ensuing struggle, the seed of Hephaestus was scattered on the ground and where it fell, Gaea, Mother Earth, was fertilized, and begat Erichthonius
Athena, however, wanted to raise him in secret anyway and put him in a basket with a snake

“Portrait of, maybe, Gnaeus Domitius Enobarbus” father of Nero and supporter of Anthony

“Satyr at rest” (Anapauòmenos) from the original of about 340 BC by Praxiteles (about 395/326 BC)

“Athlete with head of Lucius Verus (161/166)” from the original by Myron of Eleutherae (about 500/440 BC)

Important “Doryphoros” one of the best existing copies, from the 440 BC bronze original by Polykleitos of Argos (about 490/425 BC)

“Characteristic of the work of Polykleitos is the calm determination of the subject and the balanced representation of the human body based on mathematical and geometric relationships” (Carlo Bertelli, Giuliano Briganti, Antonio Giuliano)

“He thoroughly show the body's reaction to the position that provides the loaded weight on one leg while the other is free. The head, with face turned to the side corresponding to the leg loaded with weight and firmly planted on the ground, seems to hold the figure still. The calm and distant expression, typical of the classical period, is the one seen in many figures of the frieze of the Parthenon. Throughout the Doryphorus' body the forms in tension balance the relaxed ones. This combination of weight and counterweight is defined as opposition or chiasm. The ambiguity of the pose, walking, or still, is accompanied by that of reality or ideality that the figure represents. Polycletus therefore continued the search of the ideal of male beauty pursued by Greek sculptors” (John Griffiths Pedley)

“Bust of Philip the Arab” (244/249) found in Castel Porziano
Philip the Arab was an emperor with definitely Middle Eastern features born in Shahba in Southern Syria and maybe Christian: Eusebius of Caesarea and John Chrysostom describe him as Christian and certainly during his reign Christians were respected unlike during the reign of his successor Decius (249/251)
During his reign in the year 247 AD the first millennium of the history of Rome was celebrated with major events

“Statue of young Domitian” (81/96) with breastplate and head maybe not relevant

Friday, October 24, 2014


Galleria Lapidaria

Collection begun by Clement XIV Ganganelli (1769/74), enriched by Pius VI Braschi (1775/99) and Pius VII Chiaramonti (1800/23)

4,125 inscriptions in all: on the left pagan, on the right Christian
In the Gallery there are also tombstones, sarcophagi and various fragments
It is possible to visit the gallery only on request

The Vatican Museums have a Department for the epigraphic collection which received great impetus since 1978, thanks to the newly appointed Director of the Vatican Museums Carlo Pietrangeli, also an expert scholar of epigraphy
The scientific expertise of the Department for the epigraphic collection extends to all the epigraphic rich heritage of over 15,000 inscriptions, mostly on stone in Latin, Greek and Hebrew, collected and preserved by the Holy See since the seventeenth century until today

This rich heritage has been given to the Vatican Museums, and distributed in part on the premises, and in part in the basilicas of St. Paul Outside the Walls, St. John Lateran, St. Mary Major, and in extra-territorial buildings: Villa Giorgina in Via Po headquarters of the Apostolic Nuncio (Vatican Embassy) in Italy, Chancellery Palace, Palace of the Propaganda Fide, Villa Barberini in Castel Gandolfo

At the end of the gallery behind the gate “Perspective” 1814 by Angelo Toselli with an optical illusion of a painted loggia