Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My Italy Sketchbook Day 8. Touring the Vatican.

On our first full day in Rome we were signed up for a tour of the Vatican Museum, including the Sistine Chapel and inside of St. Peter's. I highly recommend taking a tour if you want to see the Sistine Chapel - the lines were VERY, very long! Even though our tour was early (we were picked up at 7:am) it was well worth it. This is the entrance to the Vatican Museum.
Our first stop was the Courtyard of the Pine Cone, so named for the fountain at one end.
There is also a contemporary sculpture, Sphere within Sphere by Arnaldo Pomodoro.Our tour guide used the opportunity in the courtyard to speak a bit about the Sistine Chapel, of course one of the main reasons for touring the Vatican Museum. Tour Guides, as well as all guests, are asked not to speak inside the Sistine Chapel. So once we had a little background, we ventured inside. The museums were really one long room after another, filled with a variety of sculptures, tapestries and paintings. The lighting made it difficult on my camera (or the batteries were dying...hard to say) but luckily David bought a very nice guidebook so we could remember what we saw. Every room had an incredible ceiling, some more elaborate than others, but all very impressive. I loved the light from the window falling accross this sculpture.And then, almost without warning, we were upon the Sistine Chapel. The room was actually smaller than I imagined, and rather dark. It was very crowded, with wall to wall tourists and many guards. Photographs are not permitted...but I had to break the rules. It was like I had to take one shot just to be sure I wasn't dreaming!
Of course it's out of focus because I was trying to hide the camera down at my waistline as I shot the renegade photo!

But what an experience. The ceiling is beyond belief, really. The colors practically glow in the drapery. The figures seem to be alive. The positions and poses are not just impressive in themselves, but the fact that Michelangelo painted them on a ceiling, as if they were tumbling out towards the viewers down below, makes them beyond comprehension. The sibyls holding books looked as if they would step right out of the ceiling and begin to tell their stories. I wish I could have sat and stared all day (the only drawback to being on the tour...had to move on with the group!)
What struck me as well was that although there were many other impressive ceilings and frescoes, they all paled in comparison once you saw the Sistine Chapel. The same thing struck me later on as we went into St. Peter's - once you see the Pieta by Michelangelo, all other sculptures, while beautiful, seem to pale in comparison.

The spiral staircase built in 1932 that exits the museums.
Although we managed to see quite a bit of the collection, there were numerous rooms that we did not get into - I was most disappointed that we did not get into the Raphael Rooms, which included his "School of Athens", a piece I really wanted to see in person. Also, somewhere in the Vatican, is the Laocoon group (which I thought was at the Uffizi Gallery, but I guess I was wrong!) which I would have been thrilled to see in person. Oh well...onward! Or so we thought...
Our tour was supposed to go into St. Peter's, but the Pope was holding a ceremony and we could not get in! So our tour guide encouraged us to come back in the afternoon, which David and I did. Although - here is one important thing to note - I decided to change from pants to a skirt. This was not a wise move!

Me in the infamous skirt sitting on one of the fountains.

We waited in the large (but moving) line to get into the Church for about 15 minutes, then went thru the security checkpoint.
From security we continued towards the entrance, where we passed by the Bronze Door where we saw a Swiss Guard in full uniform. Inching closer towards the church...in the shadow of the sculpture....
SO close! So close! Almost to the steps! And here's where it I got turned away. In my skirt. That was deemed too short by the final security checkpoint. 25 minutes it took us to get this close and we got turned away. No amount of belly-aching and no fancy wrapping of my sweater in an attempt to hide my (pagan!) legs would sway the guard, so we turned away. I looked at David, partly angry with myself and partly infuriated that they couldn't tell me at the BEGINNING of the line that my skirt was too short, and said "Should I go change?" and he, so kindly and patiently, said "yes" and we walked back to our hotel, I got changed back into my long pants, and we walked back to the Church. Where, we waited about 30 minutes again, and FINALLY got in!

And of course, seeing the Pieta in person made it all worth while. Even behind bullet-proof glass it was breathtaking.
What is hard to impress upon you with photos is the massive size of St. Peter's inside. You feel like Jack in the Giant's castle after climbing up the beanstalk. It's huge! I don't know what this sculpture is all about...but I like it! The light was gorgeous at this time in the late afternoon.
Most of the sculptures I would guess to be 4 or five times life-size.

The Baldachin, by Bernini. At the time, there was a barricade set up and we could not venture further into the Altar section.

A shot of the light streaming into the cupola designed by Michelangelo.

A few shots of the interior.

Another dome, another gorgeous ceiling!

Looking up at one of the massive sculpture groupings.

At one point a beam of light was hitting this adorable puti high up on a column, but I couldn't hold my camera steady enough and zoom in to get a good picture...here is a far away shot.

One more shot looking up at the amazing ceiling - those sculptures are enormous! How they made them, and then got them UP there, is beyond me! I couldn't imagine the work that went into this amazing space.

And as we left the Basilica, we got one more shot of the Swiss guard in full uniform. You can see they are on high alert for short skirts.

Monday, September 28, 2009

My Italy Sketchbook Day 7. The Saints and Angels of Rome

An early morning train ride took us from Florence to Rome on our 7th day and we arrived early in the afternoon, with plenty of time to explore the area close to our hotel. We decided to take a walk to the Castel Sant'Angelo.
A view from the back of the Castle, showing part of the wall that surrounds Vatican city.

A sculpture close to the Castle.

Looking out over the Tevere (the Tiber River).

We were both so busy looking at the castle and the river, that we didn't realize that we were so close to Vatican City!

We went into the castle, venturing further and further skyward. A view from the castle towards the Vatican. You can see the wall surrounding the City in the lower right corner.

The Church in the distance.

While exploring the inside of the castle, I passed by this woman sitting on a window ledge. I thought this would make a lovely painting.

In another corridor I loved the light falling on the light blue walls - David kindly took this snapshot of me on the window ledge.

A view from the perimeter walls of the castle looking inward.

A view of the Castle from the Ponte St. Angelo (bridge). The following pictures are some of the angel sculptures along the bridge. I loved the sculptures, and the clouds behind made a gorgeous backdrop.

I'm looking forward to creating some paintings/drawings from these photos. So after exploring the castle inside and out we ventured over to St. Peter's square. It's over-whelming in size and grandeur.
The sunlight gleaming in a fountain.

A beam of light shining down on the sculptures .
A dramatic backdrop of clouds and sunlight.
We had a tour of the Vatican scheduled for the next day, so we headed back to the hotel for a quick power nap before dinner. However, I was restless and wanted to do some sketching, and returned to the Angel sculptures on the bridge.

The light was incredible!
I sketched for a little while from this beautiful statue.

Of course, many people stopped to check my progress as I drew...I really have to remember to put a little hat out to collect tips :)