Tuesday, February 7, 2012

My Favorite Collections at Musei Capitolini, Roma

Source: Legion of Honor
Originally, I was planning to describe my two favorite collections from each museums I've visited, more or less in the order of my visits. However, the current exhibit of Bernini's Medusa at Legion of Honor Museum, San Francisco, made me think more of the museum it belongs to, therefore, I'll make another exception and talk about this museum ahead of its planned schedule.

Medusa is a wonderful 1640s marble sculpture on loan from Musei Capitolini (Capitoline Museums), Rome.  It is incredibly horrifying yet sensual.  A masterpiece.  Yet, when I visited Rome in 2000, other two sculptures in the courtyard of the museum impressed me more.

One is the Colossus of Constantine.  Wikipedia described this work vividly: "The Colossus of Constantine was a colossal acrolithic statue of the late Roman emperor Constantine the Great (c. 280–337) that once occupied the west apse of the Basilica of Maxentius near the Forum Romanum in Rome. Portions of the Colossus now reside in the Courtyard of the Palazzo dei Conservatori of the Musei Capitolini, on the Capitoline Hill, above the west end of the Forum."

"The great head, arms and legs of the Colossus were carved from white marble, while the rest of the body consisted of a brick core and wooden framework, possibly covered with gilded bronze. (“Acrolithic” means “stone at the extremities”.) Judging by the size of the remaining pieces, the seated, enthroned figure would have been about 12 m (40 ft) high. The head is about 2 ½ m high and each foot is over 2 m long."

They are incredibly huge.  Powerful.  Stern.  In humane.  If anyone has any doubt of the grandiosity of the Roman Empire, these fragments would rid them once for all.

313-324 AD
cm 260

In the same grandiose scale, the marble sculpture Oceanus framed the plaza with his powerful body.  Yet, this water god was nothing but menacing.  He was a indulgent father figure, brought bounty to the people.  Solid and comforting.

Besides the Olympian scales, this god also echoes the emperor in the somewhat stiff contour and pose, less polished and with less curvature, than that of Bernini's fine piece.  More primitive.  And that was precisely what made these two pieces most impressive.

My Favorite Museum Collection Series

>> My Favorite Museum Collection Series 9: My Favorite Paintings at National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
<< My Favorite Museum Collection Series 7: An Exception - Another Favorite Work from De Young Museum, San Francisco

List of My Favorite Artworks in the Museums I've Visited

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