Monday, August 02, 2004

August 2nd, Monday

the Vatican

the Sistine Chapel is overwhelming. after three hours, it is an arbitrary decision to leave, prompted more by exhaustion than by any sense that you may have absorbed a sufficient impression of the works there. I don't think you ever could absorb them. I don't think there is anything else grouped together as a single work that is so numerous and so high in quality.

I have a question about the color and the lightness of the work. I have heard different arguments about the recent restoration, and I definitely feel that the colors seem too light, almost garish. In many places the highlights have that telltale chalky, washed-out look that I only see on frescoes that have been recently cleaned and emerged suspiciously light. I suspect that the original had much more gravity and sense of sacredness. as it is, there is a great airiness to the space, which probably is based more on the composition and spaciousness of Michelangelo's forms than on the color.

In the Pinacoteca, three large panels, maybe altarpieces, by Raphael showed very different styles of this artist. They were all about 5 to 9 years apart in time of execution. The earliest looked a lot to me like Giovanni Bellini, as did the second, although it more resembled a later style by Bellini. Both were beautiful works, especially the second. The third was more manneristic and too busy for my tastes. In chronological order, the works were:

coronation of the Virgin, 1502-3
Madonna di Foligno, 1511
transfiguration, 1516-20

Bellini died in 1516, so maybe Raphael did take a lot from him. They both have that amazing soft finish and even, gradual rounding of forms.

Titian's Madonna di S. Niccolo dei Frari somehow didn't interest me as a composition, although in the individual figures I could see his typical power. He had a portrait of a Doge extending his hand as if in a handshake that was a curious portrait to me. The edge of the profile of the face was almost lost in the middle values, giving a strange sense of anticlimax to the face.

Jean de Boulogne, Martyrdom of Saints Processo and Martiniano- unique composition with overlapping horizontal figures of the saints being tortured. Amazing realism, a la Ribera and Caravaggio.

Pensionante del Saraceni, active in Rome 1610 - 1620, denial of St. Peter

Caravaggio- Deposition

Giuseppe Maria Crespi (Bologna 1165 - 1747), Holy Family, 1735-40. Extremely unfocused, still beautiful. Almost an exaggeration of Crespi's style which I have seen at the Uffizi and the Brera in Milan, where his Crucifixion is.

Baldassare de Caro 1698 - 1750 Selvaggina Morta- Dead game strung up by legs and lying on table. it reminds me of hunting trips as a child. All those killed furry animals and birds. The softness and smell of their dead bodies. It is such an intimate experience of life, to hold something in death. The body is completely surrendered in your hands, so that you feel it as you otherwise would only feel the body of a sleeping child or a lover, but there is no life, and so you are very close to your own experience of life and to death at the same time.


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