Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Rome 1: Marc Le Sueur

As I warned you, you will be reading a lot about Rome here in the months to come. My wife and I are going there for a third time. We will be there a month. So I think I should start at the beginning.

Marc Le Sueur, then.

He was my favorite college Professor. In a dark lecture hall in the eighties he would passionately hold forth on film and art history. He was very dashing, but that was mitigated by a foamy fleck of spittle that consistently formed at the corner of his mouth as he preached the holy word. What was that holy word? Whatever it needed to be. 

But whatever it was he knew it.

And one day the holy word was Rome.

Marc Le Sueur loved the baroque. Classical Rome was not his bailiwick. But in those days before there were ready pictures of everything everywhere, he had wandered across Rome with a camera to make sure we could see some of its less hailed treasures, the fabulous baroque edifices of Bernini and Borromini, the sculpture, the miraculous paintings of Caravaggio. And he told them to us like they were a secret. Yes, he told us about the baroque like he was letting us in on the most marvelous secret. To this day, despite everything I know to the contrary, I believe that in 1986 Borromini was almost nothing to history, Caravaggio was seen as an also ran to the Renaissance masters that came before him, and Bernini was a footnote.

Marc Le Sueur, titan of art history, humorist, spellbinder, changed all that. Marc Le Sueur elevated them back to the pantheon(!) that by right of divine gifts they belonged to. And for all the hoopla about Imperial Rome, he alone, rambling comically and wisely around the podiums of Oakland, California, reminded the world that the Rome that still lives, the one you can eat and drink in, is Baroque Rome, home of the greatest sculptor (Bernini), the greatest painter (Caravaggio), and the greatest architect (Borromini).

Of course, he didn't put it like that. He just let me interpret it that way.

So is that where I fell in love with Rome?

No, no. I didn't really put it together there, but the seed was planted.

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