Thursday, January 29, 2009

Hi all! I meant to update last night, but my roommate Ashley-Rose got her wallet stolen so I had to help her out. Fortunately everything seems to be okay, she went to the embassy today and got a new passport and her new credit cards are on their way to Rome. The UWRC has a built-in provision to extend emergency loans to students for events such as these, so it's really good to know that we have a safety net just in case! Sammie and I are just thankful that Ashley-Rose lost it at a store instead of being assaulted on the street!

This week was Vatican week! We visited St. Peter's Basilica, the Castel Sant'Angelo, and the Vatican museums. Needless to say, I was overwhelmed with the amazing art and architecture. It was raining really hard the day we went to St. Peter's, so I didn't get any good pictures of the basilica and the piazza, but here is an overview in case you're not familiar with the building:

The original St. Peter's was built between 326 and 333 AD by Constantine, the Roman Empire's first Christian emperor. It is the place where St. Peter (your patron saint dad :) !) was martyred and buried. The St. Peter's as we know it today was constructed under Pope Julius II, beginning in 1506. It took 120 years and 30 popes to finish! The basilica was designed by Bramante, the dome is Michelangelo's, and the beautiful collonnade and piazza was designed by Bernini. Although I knew from numerous art history and architecture classes that it is the largest Christian church in the world, the immensity of the basilica is amazing. Here are some pictures from inside St. Peter's:

Michelangelo's Pieta!!!!!

view of the Ponte Sant'Angelo from the Castel Sant'Angelo. The statues on the bridge were done by Bernini.


Probably my favorite part of the Vatican visits were the museums. There are tons of very famous works of art housed in these museums that I have studied, and I was very excited to finally see them!

Raphael's School of Athens

Raphael's Transfiguration

Caravaggio's Deposition of Christ. I wrote an art history paper on this painting!

And, of course, what I was most excited to see......THE SISTINE CHAPEL! (we weren't supposed to take pictures...shhhhhhhh)

Close-up of the Creation of Adam, the Creation of Eve, and Original Sin and Banishment from the Garden of Eden.

close-up of The Last Judgement

Michelangelo was commissioned by Pope Julius II in 1508 to paint the ceiling of the chapel and it took him four years to complete. Because he always considered himself primarily a sculptor, Michelangelo very much disliked the notion of having to paint the ceiling, especially since the fresco was a medium he was not familiar with. However, fueled by artistic rivalries and pure egotism he decided to outdo any fresco ever done...and he certainly did! The Last Judgement, located at the altar of the chapel, was painted by Michelangelo between 1535-1541, after the sack of Rome. Michelangelo painted himself as St. Bartholomew holding his flayed skin...pretty morbid! The chapel was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen.

After the museum visit yesterday, most of the group left for a weekend trip to Barcelona. Sam, Ashley-Rose, Reese (one of the boys in our group) and I met up with Profe around 7:30 and had dinner at Trattoria Moderna (Profe had pointed this place out to me as one of his favorites and I have been dying to go). I wasn't super hungry when we got there so I just got an appetizer (tuna carpaccio with cherry tomatoes, rocket, and parmesean) and a mixed salad, but it was delicious!

Tonight, Sam, A-Rose, and I are going out with the few CHIDlets that are still in Rome. Should be pretty fun!!


P.S. I just found the art history paper I referenced earlier, written about Caravaggio's Deposition of Christ and contrasting it with one painted by Raphael. If you are interested... read on!

Here are two links to larger images of the paintings for reference.

Click for the Caravaggio

Click for the Raphael

Raphael and Caravaggio’s Depictions of the Entombment

The entombment of Christ, or the burial of his body after the crucifixion, is a popular scene in Renaissance painting. However, each artist’s interpretation of the event differs greatly. The descriptions in the various books of the Bible are very vague, allowing artists to vary in style and be influenced by the social, political, and religious atmosphere of their particular time period. While both Raphael and Caravaggio chose to portray Christ’s entombment, the conscious choices of formal elements in each painting convey very different emotions. Caravaggio’s specific use of composition, color, and light suggests much more sadness and pain than Raphael’s depiction, echoing the shift from the high Renaissance Neo-Platonic ideal to the later Mannerist period of the 16th century.

The composition of each painting is the most obvious reflection of mood. In Raphael’s depiction the figures are balanced on both sides in groups of five. The rocks on the left, alluding to the tomb in which Christ is to be lain, and the hills on the right, with the cross on which Christ was just crucified looming in the distance, come together in the center to form a “V.” This draws the eye down through the composition to the figure of Christ, whose own body takes on a relaxed “V” shape. The balanced shape of the composition reflects the overall serene nature of the painting: the perfection in the “V” shape reflects the perfection of God so highly valued during the time period in which Raphael painted his version. Perfection is also seen in figure of Christ. His pose is relaxed, with no sign of previous exertion in his body or face. It is as if he is depicted as being above pain and suffering. The details in the background also reflect this ideal. The gently rolling hills and tranquil blue sky filled with fluffy clouds creates a cheerful landscape which, upon close inspection, might appear odd juxtaposed against the death of Christ. In addition, the details of the landscape give the viewer somewhere else to look: while the general composition of the painting puts emphasis on the most important part, the eye is not forced to focus solely on the body of Christ. This separates the viewer from the tragic event, preventing too much emotion or attachment to be felt. Serenity is even reflected in the almost passive expressions of the surrounding figures. These ideas run parallel to the Neo-Platonic ideals of the time period, where stoicism was highly regarded.

In stark comparison, the composition of Caravaggio’s version is very asymmetrical. Yet, it still clearly draws the eye to the subject of the painting. The figures are arranged from the very top right down an implied diagonal line to the Christ figure, with the gestures and poses of the figures helping to advance the eye. There is no balance in the picture, with the bodies of the figures contorting and hunched over, straining under the weight of Christ or expressing grief over their loss. Even the body of Christ, elongated and emaciated with protruding ribs and muscles shows evidence of his recent struggle. All of the emotion conveyed in this painting is characteristic of Mannerism, which is indicative of the reformations going on in the church during Caravaggio’s time, and the desire to portray Christ as more human.

The use of color between the two paintings also differs extremely. In Raphael’s painting, the pallet is made up of mostly primary colors with green as an intermediary. The colors are bright and even, and balanced on both sides. The color red is displayed on the figures directly surrounding Christ to highlight his position in the painting. The overall visual quality of the painting is peaceful, and doesn’t demand any immediate attention on any one section. The balance and similarity of colors throughout, like the balance of the composition, echoes the emotion meant to be expressed by the artist, or, more specifically, the lack of emotion. Caravaggio’s painting deviates from the old Renaissance ideal. The colors are subdued and much darker, with the pallet ranging through various hues of red, black, brown. The lightest colors are reserved for the body of Christ, and even the cloth around him is whiter than the white of the figures in the background, disparities that are meant to draw the eye to the subject of the painting. The similarity, darkness, and dreariness of color in Caravaggio’s painting illustrates the somber mood intended.

Probably the most contrasting element between Caravaggio and Raphael’s paintings is the use of light. In Raphael’s depiction, the light source is evenly distributed over the whole picture, emphasizing the brightness of color and allowing the eye to rove around the composition. In Caravaggio’s painting, however, the light source is clearly focused on the figure of Christ and his immediate surroundings. The black background serves to distinguish the light source, but also forces the eye to focus on the figure of Christ. Unlike Raphael’s painting, there is nothing in the background to distract from the subject. The strident contrast between the background and the brightest part of the painting (the figure of Christ) is typical of Mannerism, and serves to give the viewer no escape from the evident emotion displayed in the foreground. Also apparent in Caravaggio’s composition is the fact that the figures fade into the black background, forcing the viewer to fill in the rest of the composition in their imagination. The disappearance of the figures into the dark adds to the overall somber feeling of the painting, giving it an even more morbid appearance. This is not apparent in the Raphael, where the light and shadows are balanced through the whole painting, both foreground and background.

While both Raphael and Caravaggio chose to paint the same subject, it is evident in their use of formal elements that they chose to portray the subject in two very distinct ways. Raphael adheres strictly to the Florentine Neo-Platonic ideal of reflecting God’s perfection in paintings and preaching stoicism as a way to achieve nearness with God. Caravaggio almost a hundred years later, due to changes in values in the church, depicts the vivid emotion and pain associated with the death of Christ, who was to be viewed as a more human figure.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

I have a lot to share with you all in this post, so prepare for another long one! After last Tuesday's post we visited a few more notable churches on Wednesday, so I will start there!

Our first site visit on Wednesday was to a church called San Clemente. It is a 12th century Roman basilica. This church is much more interesting archaeologically because around the 1800s, a priest noticed a small cavity in a corner of the basilica and started excavating. Underneath the 12th century church, he discovered a 4th century church....and underneath that, he found ancient Roman buildings including a Mithraeum. A Mithraeum was a place where ancient Romans worshipped the god Mithras, who was a Persian god adopted into the Roman tradition. The legend of Mithras says that in the beginning, there were only two beings, Mithras and a bull. Apollo commanded Mithras to slay the bull, which Mithras did reluctantly. From the blood of the bull spilled life as we know it. Historians have come to understand that the religion is linked to astrology and that the bull is linked with the zodiac sign of Taurus. It was extremely cool to walk down into different layers of time! Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to take any pictures there. :(

The other church we visited of note was Santa Maria Maggiore, a church dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The chuch is baroque in style and very beautifully and intricately adorned. It is important for pilgrims because it contains part of the manger from the birth of Jesus..

the reliquary

...and is also the burial place of Bernini!!!

Bernini was a 17th century baroque architect and sculptor and is responsible for numerous amazing sculptures and fountains across Rome, and also for the piazza and colonnades in front of St. Peter's basilica in Vatican City.

On Thursday, the whole group met at the Rome Termini train station for our first class trip to Florence! We spent most of the day Thursday touring around and doing things as a class, had a group dinner that night, and it was arranged for us to have a place to stay the night. The first place we went was the famous Uffizi Gallery, located just next to the Palazzo Vecchio, the town hall of Florence.

The Uffizi was a dream come true. Unfortunately (again) we weren't allowed to take any sort of pictures in the museum, but here are some clips of the things I was most excited to FINALLY see:

Botticelli's Birth of Venus

Titian's Venus of Urbino

Botticelli's Primavera

da Vinci's Annunciation

Caravaggio's Bacchus

Caravaggio's Sacrifice of Isaac

Gentileschi's Judith Slaying Holofernes

These are all (very famous) paintings that I've studied in many art history classes, so it was a delight to finally get to see them in person!

After the Uffizi, we took a short lunch break and met up at the Accademia. The Accademia is an art school in Florence with a small gallery showcasing Michaelangelo. No pictures there either! The gallery contains a bunch of Michaelangelo's unfinished statues and also the famous David. I loved the unfinished statues because they were still so rough and encased in huge blocks of marble, with the forms only beginning to emerge. It was great to see them in stark contrast to the smooth and detailed David which completely transcends its medium! Although I have seen countless images of the David and all of my art history professors have told me that it's huge, nothing prepared me for the sight of it. It is 17 feet tall and absolutely amazing. I secretly snapped a picture on my cell phone. :) After the Accademia, Profe took us to another interesting church, Santa Croce. There are lots of interesting people buried there!

tomb of Dante

tomb of Michaelangelo!

tomb of Galileo!

That night the whole group met up and we had dinner around the corner from our hotel at a restaurant called Za Za, one of Profe's favorites. We got to pick both a primo and a secando...I had fettucini bolognese and eggplant parmesean. Delicious! The next day was ours to explore, so a group of us decided to climb Brunelleschi's dome, finished in 1436. I was super excited about this because I've studied this iconic dome in many classes also. The dome tops the Florence cathedral, the Santa Maria del Fiore. The entire church was built, including the drum for the dome, without the builders knowing how such a large dome would be constructed. Because the ancient Roman formula for concrete (used to build the dome of the Pantheon) had been lost in the middle ages, the dome had to be built with bricks. The dome is an architectural and engineering marvel because it was built entirely without interior scaffolding!!

interior view

we climbed 463 stairs to get to the top!!!!!

and we did it!!!

the view was amazing even though it was really foggy.

We spent the rest of the afternoon walking and exploring Florence. At 5:30, Sam, MacKenzie, Erin, Christine, Karleen, and I decided to take a train to Cinque Terre. The train ride there was about 3 hours, and we got in a little after 8:30. Because it is winter and off-season, we were able to rent really cute apartments for only 16 euro each!! We stayed in the first town, Riomaggiore, and went out to dinner at (what seemed like) the only restaurant open. It was very good!

The next day we had planned on hiking between the towns, but it was really rainy and the trails were closed anyway. We opted instead for the train pass and hopped from town to town and explored. We quit before we hit the fifth town, however, because the weather got progressively rainier and colder. Despite the weather, Cinque Terre was incredibly beautiful and I can only imagine what it's like in the spring or summer!

on the train to the next town!


We stopped in Corniglia and had lunch at the only restaurant that was open. I had an excellent spaghetti al'ragu that was perfect after being out in the cold and rainy weather! We also had a bottle of wine, the restaurant's own label. It was really good, and the nice man at the restaurant was delighted to hear we were from Seattle, where he had travelled many times, and he comped us the bottle!

Sam, MacKenzie, and I decided to head back to Rome that night while the other girls stayed an extra night. The train was long but it felt good to get back into my own bed and sleep. Today, like most of my Sundays here, was laid back and relaxing, and spent doing my reading for class tomorrow and uploading the hundreds of pictures from the weekend.

This week in class is Vatican week, so stay tuned!


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A short note

Today was a beautiful, warm, emotional and historic day. We watched President Barack Obama's inauguration at the UWRC streamed live over the internet. The director of the UW Rome Center told us that this was the largest gathering of people ever recorded anywhere. As a young person, I am hopeful and I am excited about this man who has inspired so many. We are the generation that will change the future and it moved me to tears to see my peers pack the UWRC conference room to witness this incredible event. This is the start of a new chapter for our country, this is the start of something new and bright that will change the world.

For the first time in a very long time, I'm happy to say that I have never been so proud to be American.

I love you all. Cheers!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Hello everyone! You are all long overdue for an update and lots of pictures...and luckily today with all of my camera cables with me and all my pictures uploaded, finally, i can promise you both!!

Last Wednesday for class, we went to Hadrian's Villa and Villa d'Este in Tivoli. We took a chartered bus about an hour away from the city out into the beautiful Italian countryside. Hadrian's Villa was spectacular, sprawled over something like a 1 square mile complex surrounded with olive trees. It was built for the emperor Hadrian in the early 2nd century. For this site, the pictures will truly do all the talking!

original mosaics!

After Hadrian's Villa, we got back on our charter bus and drove about 10 minutes to the heart of Tivoli. We stopped for a much needed lunch and then headed over to the beautiful Villa d'Este. Historically, the Villa d'Este wasn't connected with what we have been learning about but Profe wanted us to see it because it is such a beautiful site and it was convenient for us since we were already out there. The villa was commissioned in the 1570s by Cardinal Ippolito II d'Este, who was the grandson of Pope Alexander VI. A river runs through the site, so the builders used the natural flow of the land to create hundreds of fountains in the villa's gardens.

This fountain had a hydraulic organ that played every half hour. Very cool!

This fountain has a lot of references to Rome. The cardinal planned this on purpose to tie Tivoli to Rome.

me and Shannon


Thursday was pretty uneventful. We had some problems with our washing machine (it was full of water and leaking on the kitchen floor), so we had to wait around most of the afternoon for a plumber to come and fix it. Luckily everything was fixed and its running fine now. Thursday night the roommates and I plus Erin and Christine had dinner at a restaurant in the same piazza as the Pantheon.

Friday morning we got up early and took a train to Siena. The train ride was about 2 and a half hours. The weather in Siena was sunny and warm and we all walked around without our coats on!

Christine, Erin, and I at lunch.

Enjoying the sunshine!

The main campo in Siena

This is Santa Maria della Scala, a huge and beautiful cathedral. We went to its museum, crypt, and cathedral and also climbed the tower...

Climbing the narrow spiral stairway up the tower

The view from the top of the staircase

View from the top!

Inside the cathedral..

We stayed in a cute little hotel just off the main campo. On Saturday morning, we got up early and took an hour's bus ride to San Gimignano.

San Gimignano was pretty empty, but there were tons of leather and pottery shops and we climbed a medieval tower.

These are the stairs we climbed to the top, and then......

This little ladder took us the rest of the way up.

All of us at the top of the tower!

This is the tower we climbed.

We got back from Siena late Saturday night and crashed early. Sunday I got groceries, finished my reading and prepared for Monday's class.

This week in class, we're learning about the Roman Empire's shift from Paganism to Christianity. We went out and saw the sites of some of the first Christian churches in the world. In the early years of the religion, Christians were heavily persecuted so they didn't have any formal, public meeting places. They congregated instead in private homes. The places that we visited today were all former house-churches where an early Christian figure had been martyred and a new church had been built in their honor. For the first few sites, we climbed up the Aventine hill (3 down, 4 to go Dad!).

This is Santa Sabina, one of the first Christian churches modelled on the ancient Roman basilica. In later years, it became associated with St. Dominican.


Original column from the domus that was here before the church.


This is the church of Sant' Alessio

View from the Aventine, that's St. Peter's in the distance.

Me and Sam

This is the Santa Maria in Cosmedin, the church that is in the movie Roman Holiday!! And if you are familiar with that movie, you will certainly recognize this...

The Mouth of Truth!