Freeze Frame: Art History on site
Throughout our journey here in Rome, we’ve seen some of the most valuable pieces of art in the world, and because we had an amazing guide, we were able to not only view them, but to appreciate their stories and structures as well. It’s interesting that many question the financial background of the Catholic Church when, as our guide stated, the most invaluable piece owned by the Church could be sold for millions of dollars. This post will mainly focus on the artists that influenced some of Rome’s greatest pieces, all of which had a religious undertaking.
One area of Rome that our group thought was particularly amazing was the Piazza Navona, which features sculptures by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. We found Bernini’s work mind-blowing due to his ability to capture a narrative moment in marble. He had four major pieces in the Borghese Gallery; our favorite was Apollo e Dafne, which depicts the god Apollo chasing his love, the wood nymph Daphne, and her subsequent metamorphosis into a tree. Bernini flawlessly captures the love that Apollo feels for Daphne through his gentle touch around Daphne’s waist, while also perfectly portraying Daphne’s anguish through her expression—a distinctly Baroque style of showing emotion. As we stated, Bernini is known for capturing moments at their physical and emotional heights, and Daphne’s transformation is no exception, with leaves sprouting from her fingers, roots growing from her toes and roughly polished marble bark wrapping around her body.
When we made our way through the Borghese Gallery, one artist stuck out to us among the rest: Caravaggio. Learning about how different Caravaggio was compared to the other artists of his time sparked our interest. Caravaggio had a different feel, a darker, more realistic approach to his paintings that all of us had a great appreciation for.
Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, better known as Raphael, is responsible for many works of art, most notably School of Athens, which now hangs in the Vatican Museums. School of Athens shows different philosophers expressing their philosophies, including Aristotle, Plato, Pythagoras, Socrates and even Raphael himself. We also found it interesting that Michelangelo is painted into the scene.
Speaking of Michelangelo, he created the Sistine Chapel! Nearly everyone knows about the Sistine Chapel, and, upon discovering that our itinerary included a visit to the Chapel, we were so excited to be able to say that we had seen it in the flesh. Like many galleries, no pictures were allowed in the Chapel (although we spotted many tourists taking pictures anyway). Michelangelo was simply a genius and it was great to see a work that is widely considered the epitome of his career.
Our time in Rome has been filled with tons of memories and life lessons. We’ve learned so much about the art history behind Rome, as well as other aspects of the city’s rich history. This has been a trip of a lifetime, and the galleries and artists mentioned above have helped to make our time educational and worthwhile.
–Lauren Sears, NEURome12
Interdisciplinary Affective Science Lab Northeastern University
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