30 June 2008

(F) art

Have got a little behind as internet access on Kefalonia is a bit of a luxury.

24 June, Tuesday.

Calf muscles very fucking tight. A painful reminder that there are no inclines are very few steps in the streets of Amsterdam.

Vatican Museum. Only 40 minutes in the queue! Talked to a couple of gay guys from Washington, older one a doctor and quite funny. Acting reluctant to partake in all this religious stuff. When working out the length of the queue, said to his boyfriend, like all couples around the world, 'so, tell me again, what exactly are we going to see in here?'
Younger guy was a classical Greek scholar.

First, took a spin around the Pinacoteca, one of several godsy picture galleries. Saw a big flashy number of Christ's ascension (Raphael I think), and another Caravaggio to add to the list. (tick)
Dog-collared American priest giving a tour, with a very casual yankee way of telling bible stories, but also giving art commentary. Have discovered a way of sneakily learning more without paying, but sort of pinball-bouncing from tour group to tour group, looking like I'm just appreciating that particular work, and eavesdropping on part of the description. I think I sidled up to four or five different groups today, so I got a rather disjointed appreciated of the galleries and of course the Sistine chapel. For example, Raphael apparently mastered the art of drawing the eye to all and every feature of his crowd scenes, rather than picking out one single focal point with light and shade. Why this is? no idea, I thought it was an appropriate time to sidle off after that.

The art? Well looks to me like those masters packed in every exciting feature to these 'sacred' scenes as they could. Bulging anatomically correct calves on the men, gory piercings with a staff for J.C., ecstatic women, there was a lion jammed into the bottom corner of one indoor scene - what the hey? Nice juicy tabloid-style renditions, but at the same time recreations of venerated and religious stories. Neat huh.

There is a missionary museum in the Vatican with cool pieces from lots of countries in Asia, but accompanied by jarring text on how missionary efforts have gone in past years and the present day in these far flung indigenous populations. A very pointed piece on entry about how missionary work was one of respect, learning, and done in a spirit "brotherly love". Bollocks.

Sistine Chapel. Details and crazy mad shit happening everywhere. Above me is a last supper with a super realistic dog and cat fighting in the foreground. At the altar end, one of the figures on a cloud is holding a man's skin, empty of its body (or soul?) In the famous one with god reaching out to touch fingers with (who?) Adam? I didn't realise god is flanked by a holy host of some sort. Dozens of cherubic types packed in behind him in his floating cloud/ shell thing. Nudity all over the place. To me, all these showy religious works don't seem a jot more holy than any other for all the talent and mastery on display. I don't get a feeling that this chapel might be a more worthy place to worship than any other, just because of technicolour drama playing out on the walls and ceiling. And I get the feeling they didn't really think that at the time either

One room before reaching the chapel (Raphael again) features a piece called something like "triumph of the church". Deliberately featuring representatives of the "militant church" in their marble thrones. This stuff was all about power, magnificence and status. Wrapped up in a cloak of religious stories. And its not pretending particularly hard to be anything else either.


J said...

Fun! Totallly jealous. I am reading a boring print out and marking changes, marking time. Give me a jam packed technicolour fresco with lions and muscly blokes anyday over windy shit winter and a to do list. Go gettem cowgirl.

meririsa said...

Ooh! Sneaky you! I did same thing at Pompei - joined in an English language tour for half an hour, then wandered off once I realised that the group had been together for at least a day and I stood out like a sore thumb! Tour guide gave me this perplexed look a few times, but never actually said anything!!