Friday, August 25, 2017

200 Views of Rome: Palazzo Barberini


5 Stars

Okay, so, The Palazzo Barberini is also known as the Galleria Nazionale di Arte Antica. It is weird and confusing to be in Rome, ancient Rome, and have them refer to a Baroque Palace full of 16th, 17th and 18th Century art as "Ancient". But I'm not here to complain. I'm also not here to complain about how the third floor, with the 18th Century art, was closed when we were there. Even if that meant missing out on seeing a Boucher. And aren't there period rooms up there too? I remember some from a trip a decade ago to the Barberini. I'm pretty sure one could view some rooms just as the family lived in them in the 1800s or something. Not when I was there this time. Oh I loved those rooms, but I'm not complaining about them either.  I'm also not here to complain about their lack of a cafe, especially since their exquisite vending machine (mostly producing vile espresso based drinks) was a more than adequate compensation, if not, perhaps, in the quality of the refreshments, but rather in their sheer entertainment value.

And that concludes my list of things not to complain about.

On the plus side are:

1. Staircase ecstasy.

Do you like staircases? Well, I never much thought about that either. But the Barberini has two compare-and-contrast staircases by the preeminent architects of their day. Luckily these staircases also express these brilliant artists' stature and prowess. Bernini's is big, very nice, prominent, and you will walk up it to get to the collection. Borromini's is an exquisite work of intimate, mindblowing genius, hidden in a closet, that you probably won't be allowed to set foot in (but you can look).

2. Ceiling ecstasy.

Oh man, they have some nice ceilings in there! I think most of the fame goes to a da Cortona one? It's in a big empty room. Let's face it, there are a universe of good ceilings in Rome, but this is the only one where I felt like I could get away with lying on the floor. It made all the difference. If I could have laid down in the Sistene Chapel my view of it would have gone from "Well, that was an annoying, but interesting experience." to "Holy mother of god I am now Catholic!"

3. The Raphael.

My opinion on Raphael was nonplussed. I'd seen some. I had nothing against him. He was like the Renaissance George Harrison to Leonardo's "John" and Michelangelo's "Paul". So, not really of huge interest to me. And then I saw his radiant jewel portrait here and understood I am a Beatles fan. Am I making any sense? This was like "Something" or "While My Guitar Gently Weeps". I'm just saying it's one amazing painting.

4. The grounds.

It's all kind of a small, walled, little city estate, full of interesting and peaceful gardens, curious surprises, places to poke about, and even entertaining basements (where the toilets are!).

5. Fun painting collection.

With the level of painting so high in Rome it is tempting to focus on the big names and masterpieces. But there are quite a few galleries, like this one, where the general level is just so high that it's fun to cast the edification and checklists aside and just look at whatever paintings one likes, because, mostly they are beautiful.

6. One of the greatest paintings ever created.

(Spoiler Alert) This painting is "Judith cuts off Holofernes head" though that may not be its official name. It's just my translation. It's by Caravaggio. If you don't like it you're in the wrong city. It is crowded in this city so please leave and don't take up our valuable space. Might I suggest maybe something more like Dallas?

Should you go to this Palazzo? I can't speak for your tastes and the nature of your...

Ha ha ha! Yes! It would be morally wrong not to.

And so in conclusion I, I, I have nothing left to say.


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