Tuesday, June 27, 2017

200 Views of Rome: Borghese Gallery


5 Stars

This one is deep in my heart. And before I go any further I'd like to cite the one Rome review I wrote (polished up a bit), 8 or 9 years ago, sometime after our second trip to Rome:

Borghese Gallery

Single Greatest Museum on Face of Earth

Yes, I am not kidding. I admit it might be more fair to amend this to 'The single greatest small museum on face of earth', but i would rather not. Indeed, I refuse to amend in any way at all. Rome is a miraculous and glorious city, but go to all your Vatican and Forums only after you make sure this is in your plans first. Bernini is every bit the sculptor Michelangelo is and half of his masterpieces are here! There are quite a few Caravaggios here as well. Caravaggio was a very good painter, slightly more gifted than (insert name of any painter in the history of humankind here). The interior decorating is quite as good as any of the glorious roman churches, but a touch more fun and homey. Really, I'm beside myself, I turn to myself and say "Self, are you okay?" "Yes." I reply." I just really really like this museum." Sometimes on all these review sites we forget that taste and evaluation is subjective. I may love one thing and someone may find it horrible and ugly. I can live with this. But not when it applies to the Galleria Borghese because those who differ with me will be wrong. If you go here and do not like it you will need to look into your heart, listen to your soul, because an awakening is due. You will enjoy this awakening. 


So, did my warmth for this place moderate all these years later? A small bit. We went here once this trip in the course of thirty days. Charmingly we were in Rome for so long we just popped over and made a reservation in person, though usually, and by all accounts I have seen, it is done online. It was raining out when our time to go came, which unpleasantly compressed people into the steaming building. And though this is a "Ticket with appointment time" museum, limiting the number of visitors during one's two hour window, it felt suspiciously busy, like they raised their allowable number of people per time period. Also, being in Rome for a month gave me a taste for something worn. I loved that juxtaposition of mastery against age, and, really, mostly to its credit, the Borghese is pristine, exquisite, and fresh, but not as relaxed as I felt, and there were times when I edged away from the crowds and gazed out the Borghese windows at some little gardens in the falling rain and indulged a pleasant feeling of wistfulness. Their cafe isn't very good, though it's not terrible. The gift shop is (relatively) big, but not that interesting or satisfying. The Berninis weren't what my art heart was dying to see this trip, and they really are the soul of the Borghese.

And yet that's all just ephemera and mood. Even with it my pleasure in the place was ferocious. It is the great synthesis of all that Rome was capable of in that age of Baroque triumph. I manage to hold back on travel advice mostly these days, and when I don't it hardly matters, because none of us listen. When we go some place we've never been we are wrapped in a spell of our own ignorance and longing. We don't know what anything takes or what anything means. And we have been bludgeoned by hundreds of years of marketing: Colosseum!, Sistene Ceiling!, Piazza Navona!, The Forum!, Trevi Fountain!

And it doesn't matter. The only things one can do wrong in Rome are, well, actually there are a lot of them. But my god all the things that one can do right!

But if it's just me. And you feel like listening. In Rome for a day or a year. Go to The Borghese Gallery.  You will enjoy this awakening.

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