I realized as I was writing that I needed to break up my trek to the Parthenon from the Coliseum and the Forum. After visiting the Pantheon we headed to the Borghese Gallery. Since I was unable to get my Bernini fix gazing upon the statue of St Teresa we would head to the largest collection of Baroque art in the city. The Borghese contains several important works by Bernini, Caravaggio, and others. Well known as art collectors the Borghese family had pieced together one of the most important collections of 16th and 17th century art. When I look around Rome I see Bernini. Yes, Augustine may have a city of marble but Bernini filled that city with writhing and twisting figures 1600 years later. Every church, fountain, or palace seems to have been touched by Bernini. Beyond his many sculptures his most visible work is the colonnade at St. Peter’s square.
The Borghese family was known as one of the most important art collectors in Rome. Of historical interest, the Borghese gallery houses what is believed to be the last painting painted by Caravaggio. He painted his version of David for Borghese to deliver to the Pope but the artist died before ever reaching the city in 1610. The painting depicts David with the head of Goliath most interestingly Goliath is a self portrait of Caravaggio himself. Caravaggio seems to acknowledge the monster he thinks he has become and is symbolically offering his head to the officials in Rome in the hope of saving his actual head. The artist had been on the run for 4 years after the murder of a local thug, a well connected thug it seems.
I would be remiss if I did not complete the narrative of the Dutch football fans I alluded to in the last post. Arriving at the Borghese gallery more than an hour early we thought we would kill some time by walking through the park to the Spanish steps. Little did we know that the Dutch football fans were gathered there before heading to watch the Euro Cup being played that evening. Passing numerous orange jersey’s we were undeterred. How bad could it be really? Well we never made it to the steps. We ended up on a road above them but due to the smoke, yes smoke, and huge crowds we could see very little. Hearing chants and what sounded like shotgun blasts we decided the most prudent thing was to head back to the calm of the museum and just wait. It was not until later in the evening as we watched the news at an Irish Pub near the hotel that we realized what we had thankfully missed. The Dutch fans began throwing beer bottles at police and this escalated into a full riot with the police firing teargas into the crowd. During the mayhem the Bernini fountain at the bottom of the steps was damaged. It was most unfortunate but I am glad we manage to miss the worst of this incident. Here is a link to an article on the incident.
Next time I will finish our tour of Rome with the Coliseum and Forum, finally!