Sunday, April 24, 2011


This morning, April 23rd, at 6:43 PDT, daughter Rebecca gave birth to Penelope, making Vicki and me first-time grand-parents. Mother, daughter, and dad Jeremy are all fine, if a bit fatigued. Penelope scored a 9.9 on the Apgar, and, so far, she likes to sleep. She was born 8 pounds 4 ounces, 19 inches long, a dark-haired beauty. No one who knows Rebecca will be surprised that Penelope was born on Shakespeare's birthday. Vicki and I are elated and so happy we made the journey from Rome for her birth. For the next several days we'll be helping the young family as we can. (Thank you Holly and Buzz for putting us up). I go back to Rome on April 28th, and Vicki will return on May 4th. A few more months of European touring, and we'll be ready for the next big family event: Rachel's wedding with Will in Missoula next August. It's been quite a year; and still going!

And dad Jeremy

Penelope and Vicki

Grand-parents doting already

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Arrivaderci, Roma, For Now

So, after a day of packing, we departed Rome April 3rd and winged back to the States, California, Palo Alto, as noted in an earlier post.

Leonardo Da Vinci Airport, Fiumicino, as Italians know it

Vatican Pinacoteca

We only had an hour and a half left for the Pinacoteca, the painting galleries, and a long list of must-see items from the lectures we have been watching on the history of western art. Here are just a few, plus a few we liked in addition to those on the list.

Giotto, of course

A 14th century resurrection scene, fish returning body parts
from the sea

One of several fresco fragments of Melosozzo da
Forti, Angel Playing the Lute

Domenichino's Last Communion of St. Jerome

Caravaggio's Deposition

Guido Reni's St. Matthew and the Angel--the
best of the Matthews, I think

Reni's La Fortuna

Barocci's Rest on the Flight to Egypt

Peter Wenzel's Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden

The great spiral staircase at the Museums exit; the end of a
great day, well worth waiting for

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Vatican Sculpture

Moving on from the Sistine, our main interest was the paintings, but we had to linger a bit with the sculptures, mostly 1st or 2nd century Roman copies of now-lost Greek originals.

Belvedere Apollo

Belvedere Hermes

Part of one of several "animal" rooms

A colossal Hercules that once stood in Pompey's theatre

Nice bowl (seats twelve); nice mosaic

Vicki poses by a statue of the Emperor Claudius (she's read a lot of 
Robert Graves lately)

Incredibly beautiful porphyry sarcophagus that held the body of St. Helen; 
Constantine's mom, who brought Christianity into the imperial family; and to all 
the rest of us

The Verospi Augustus

Sistina Cappella

The Sistine Chapel was crowded as usual, but we found places to sit, study our guidebooks and gaze at the ceiling and walls with our monocular and binoculars. I am almost too embarrassed to post my poor pix because: a) there is a host of excellent ones at the Vatican Museums site and also all over the web, and b) because the Sistine Chapel has an enforced no pix policy. There are always a few guards patrolling the room, indelicately shushing everyone down to a low roar and shouting "no photos" every few minutes. Always in English. As soon as their backs are turned, the cameras resume until some moron who doesn't know how to turn the flash off blasts the ceiling again.
The famous ceiling frescoes

The one photo everyone gets

The last judgment; I like my last judgments more on the lurid side, so I am not a 
big fan of this one; nor of Michaelangelo generally; the last judgment was done 
many years after the ceiling and after the 1527 Sack of Rome, officially, the end
of the Renaissance, in Italy at least; everyone was in a bad mood; later Popes had 
clothes painted on Michaelangelo's nudes

Up closer; this guy was damned for reading
too many eye charts

Love those grotesque mid-turn poses; Daniel

The Delphic Sibyll, one we like

The side frescoes were done a generation earlier (than Michaelangelo) by 
Botticelli and others; here, the temptations of Christ
Handing over the keys to St. Peter
Side frescoe detail; another Holy Circumcision; yes, I have read David Farley's 
An Irreverent Curiosity: In Search of the Church's Strangest Relic in Italy's Oddest 
Town, actually a very good book

We had lunch at the Sistine Bar; alas, it was Friday, so no 
cheeseburger; also no beer, but the espresso was OK

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Papal Apartments/Rafael Rooms

The older papal apartments are now called the Rafael Rooms, several of them, noted for some of the most famous paintings of western art. Every square inch of the large halls is covered in Renaissance art and ornamentation, mostly by Rafael and his students, and I'll just post a few favorites.
The Constantine Room is covered in giant murals about the
Emperor Constantine, who legalized Christianity (Justinian
criminalized all other religions a century later); the ceiling, by
Tommaso Laureti is titled "The Triumph of Christianity Over
Paganism" and has always epitomized for me the Church's
historic intolerance and contempt for the older civilizations
...onto which it grafted itself as soon a possible

Rafael's "Expulsion of Heliodorus" (Protestants: you'll have
to find and read the Book of Maccabees to appreciate this)

Pope Leo the Great meets Attila the Hun at the gates of
Rome; after a brief (armed) fly-by of SS Peter and Paul,
Attila decides to maybe sack some other place; actually, the
meeting occurred near Mantua; interestingly, the worst sack
of Rome occurred in 1527, under ther auspices of the Holy
Roman Emperor, His Most Catholic Excellency King
Charles V of Spain; always stranger than fiction...

Right after the triumph of Christianity over paganism
and Seleucids and Huns, one enters a room glorifying the
ancients; here, one of Rafael's greatest hits, "The School of
Athens," with Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Diogenes,
Pythagoras, Archimedes, et aliud; a time when the Church
was trying to appropriate what it could of the ancient world

Closer up: the guy in the foreground left, lavender tunic, was
added later--Rafael's flattering portrait of his contemporary
And Rafael himself, right corner, black hat
Not least of Rafael's problems in doing these rooms was the
challenge of working around doors, windows, HVAC, et
cetera; here is the great painting of the arts, literature, and
music, Apollo and the 7 (9? 12? 40?) muses, blind Homer in
blue on the left, and an interesting prominence for Sappho,
lower left
And then there's the ceiling with all the roundel things (a
causal theory of knowledge espoused here?)

Monday, April 18, 2011

En Route to the Sistine Chapel

It's a big place, the Vatican Museums. Many buildings, thousands of rooms, millions of treasures. Just making a bee-line from the entrance to the Sistine Chapel takes you past a seeming mile of objects that would be prize possessions for most of the world's museums.
One of many old buildings on the beautiful grounds

Another Artemis from Ephesus

A beautiful and beautifully-preserved sarcophagus with busts and more

Mosaic still-life

Another Socrates

In the tapestry hall

Entering the hall of maps, giant wall-sized maps of 17th century Italy; the ceiling 
ornamentation isn't bad, either

Italia antiqua

Campagnia and the Bay of Naples

Papal parking
"Passport, please; wait a seem to have exceeded your 90-day 
Schengen Agreement limit; I'm afraid you cannot pass!"