Monday, September 30, 2013

Venus, Juno, and Mars

In Palazzo Altemps.
Apologies if you’re just not that into ancient sculpture, but I discovered yet another treasure trove of it in Rome: Palazzo Altemps, on Via di S. Apollinare not far from the Tiber and Piazza Navona. I’m not sure how I could have missed this until now - it’s full of stupendous stuff. 

Courtyard of Palazzo Altemps
From the official website:
“The Palazzo was commissioned by Girolamo Riario (1443-1488). In 1568 it passed into the hands of the Altemps family, which had it enlarged and built the courtyard. This feature of the building, without a doubt its most handsome, is credited to Martino Longhi the elder. Restoration work has been under way since 1984, and steps are being taken to arrange the exhibit.
Apart from the Ludovisi Throne...the collection boasts works of great artistic value, such as the Gaul who kills himself together with his wife, a copy of an original from Pergamon; the Ludovisi Ares, a copy traceable to Lysippus; the Castelporziano mosaic (IInd cent.), one of the most important known Roman mosaics; the Ludovisi Hermes, copy of a bronze original by the school of Myron; the Aphrodite of Cnidus, a copy of the reknowned Aphrodite by Praxiteles, and a colossal sarcophagus depicting a battle between Romans and Barbarians.”
Myself, I’m a big fan of Roman statuary, even given that most of it is copied from early Greek art. In a rooms full of Roman “heads” I can easily imagine myself in an ancient Roman crowd. And some of the artful and beautiful renditions of their gods, full sized and human, are spookily lifelike.

Some frescoes remain in this room.
Palazzo Altemps was the house of one of the grand Roman families who amassed loads of these statues in the 26th century - apparently it was de rigeur to have a set of Roman Emperors, for example. Only some of the present collection belonged to the Alremps - their collection became dispersed along with the family fortunes. Much of what is displayed comes from another similar hoarde, known as the ‘Ludovisi’ collection.

The stars of the show? The website quote above lists a few, but here’s my picks...
  • the Ludovisi Throne - a broken but luminous carved seat in sparkly white marble, showing Venus arising rather naturalistically from the sea. Love the cross-legged nymph playing a flute, on one side.
  • The Ludovisi Throne - Venus.
    The Ludovisi Throne - nymph, highly relaxed.
  • The Gaul killing a woman - dramatically lit in a huge hall of the Palazzo, which features a massive fireplace.
  • The dramatically-lit Gaul Killing a Woman
  • An extraordinary sarcophagus, in the same room as the Gaul, with a very well-preserved relief depicting the victors and the vanquished in a battle. I don’t think I’ve ever admired a sarcophagus more than this one. 
  • Sarcophagus.



    I tweak your beard...


  • A colossal head of Juno said to have been a favourite of Goethe, who had two copies made for his houses in Rome and Weimar. 
A large Juno.
  • And I have a soft spot for Ares/Mars, sitting with his shield watching me...
Palazzo Altemps: a scrumptious place for sculpture lovers.

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