Rome (3)

The last great treat of my all-too-brief stay in Rome was crossing the Tiber to Trastevere to see the Villa Farnesina.   I had been once before and been disappointed by Peruzzi’s architecture and the fact that it is neither quite a palace, nor a properly suburban villa.   But this time, we arrived early, had it to ourselves, and the eyes of two painters helped me appreciate the incredible richness and variety of the wall paintings, not just Raphael’s, but his pupils and followers and workshop, decorating room after room:  the permeability with the garden, the free enjoyment of classical mythology, the enjoyment and observation of the natural world, birds, flowers and animals.   This was presumably all part of the make-belief ruralism of Agostino Chigi and his banking friends, contemporary with Giorgione and more than a century before Claude.   We started with Raphael’s Galatea:

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We liked the junctions with the fictive hangings below:

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Then, we realised how equally fine is the work by Sebastiano del Piombo, particularly the lunette of a young man and the fresco of Polyphemus:

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Next door is Raphael’s loggia.   Pure visual pleasure:

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Next door is the Frieze Room, with painted tassels in the wall decoration:

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Upstairs, one can look out of the window at the garden:

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The shutters in the Perspectives Hall upstairs are decorated:

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The last room upstairs in Chigi’s bedroom are loucher wall paintings by Sodoma depicting Alexander the Great and Roxanne, painted in 1519 to celebrate Chigi’s wedding:

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Time was running out.   We strolled along to S. Maria in Trastevere, stopping en route in S. Maria della Scala, which still has the bare altarpiece in a side chapel from which a Caravaggio was removed to the Louvre.   It had a rather amazing statue of the Virgin, which may have been placed to catch the morning sun:

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And a grand arc of candelabra over the high altar:

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They were doing work dusting down the woodwork in S. Maria in Trastevere:

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On the way back to the hotel, I couldn’t resist making a quick detour to see the façade of S. Maria di Monserrato which we had passed the night before:

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I admired a fountain in the Via Giulia:

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A classical doorway:

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And the skeletons which form the capitals on the façade of S. Maria dell’Orazione e Morte:

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As we drove to the airport, Giovanni, who was once the driver to Gore Vidal, spoke of the scenes we passed as if the past in Rome was a continuum, casually mentioning the death of Raphael as if it happened yesterday, the murder of Julius Caesar as well.

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