Giornale 4: Palazzo Barberini

On Republic Day (June 2nd) the only item on the itinerary was a morning visit to the Trevi fountain. A few classmates and I decided we should probably make a visit to a required site, since time was going fast and most of us still had to visit a few places on the list.
We decided to go to Palazzo Barberini, since it was closest to the fountain. Though it took some time to find, when we walked through the gates onto the gravel entrance my jaw dropped. The white marble façade is really intricate with a colonnade on the first floor and the impressive Barberini ‘three-bee’ crest hangs on the second floor. There is a fountain and lush greenery on either side of the palazzo, while inside, almost each room has a rare 16th century fresco on the ceiling.
The museum, The Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica, was worth every Euro. First of all, I want to applaud whoever organized the displays because the plan was simple and easy to follow. Each room was broken up by the genre or the century the works came from. For example, Caravaggio’s room had two paintings by him as well as a few from ‘Caravaggesque’ painters, so you could juxtapose the works and see from where the artists drew their inspiration. And each room only contained a few pieces so I never felt overwhelmed. It made my Barberini experience that much better.
I was struck by many pieces in the museo, one of my favorite, as usual, was Fillippo Lippi’s Annunciation with two Kneeling Donors. I first noticed the angel’s wings – they’re actually black but the parts closest to the angel’s shoulders are painted with silver highlights so they sparkle in the light. I found this combination to be really eye-catching, especially when most of the other paintings in the room were detailed but felt flat. The shine that Lippi created made the feathers look like they were coming off the canvas.
I also noticed a lot of artwork that had controversial imagery. La Crocifissione by Girolamo di Bevenuto shows Christ on the Cross, looking extremely pained with angels flanking him, catching his blood in gold goblets. At his feet, Mary Magdalene is licking the blood from his wounds. I had never seen any painter be that detailed but also that gory. It made me a little uncomfortable, and left me wondering what people said about it when it was originally released. The other work that stuck out was by an unknown 15th century German painter, who depicted the circumcision of Jesus, a topic that few painters tackle. Before this work, I had never seen (nor imagined) any work even referencing Jesus’ circumcision so when I saw it, I had to pause and point it. It was a total departure from the classical norm.
Of course, I paused the longest in the Caravaggesque room since it had his painting of Judith Beheading Holofernes. I had studied this painting extensively in my ‘Italian Women’ course in the fall semester, so I was really grateful to see it in person. And it is much more powerful in person than on a computer screen – you can see the determination but also the questioning in Judith’s furrowed brow. You can also see how Caravaggio artistically focused the light of the painting on Judith’s chest, clothed in white, to imply innocence as well as remind viewers that she’s still a woman despite her actions.
This was one of my favorite museums and I highly recommend it for those that want a mental break but still want to see great art. Even in the last room, there is a 400 square meter ceiling fresco of the Triumph of Divine Providence by Cortona. This is the only art displayed in the room (aside from the massive fireplace) so the museo set up couches for visitors to lie on so they can fully observe the ceiling. We all lay there for a while, whether contemplating the ceiling or just existing among amazing artwork. It suffices to say I was really pleased with the whole experience.


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