I had not intended on visiting the Barberini. It was not even on my radar from my readings. As an admirer of Caravaggio it should have been but I was ignorant of its collection. I had an afternoon to kill and I intended on visiting the Bernini sculpture of St. Teresa in Ecstasy at the Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria just a block from out hotel. I actually walked by the church several times before realizing I was in the right spot. Unfortunately, the church was closed for renovation. Walking to the Barberini fountain, also a Bernini creation, I saw signs for the Barberini Palace. It was on my walk back to the hotel so I decided to stop in and check t out.
It was a smaller and less crowded museum than the ones we visited in Florence. In fact, I found it almost desolate on the afternoon of Ashe Wednesday. It was filled with statue busts by Bernini as well as a staircase designed by him. As I made my way through the painting collection I was walked into the room containing Caravaggio’s Judith Beheading Holofornes. Since the gallery was empty and open late I was able to sit and exam the painting. Something that is often hard to do in crowded gallery with hundreds of tourists jostling around trying to view the work. I was struck by the color and Caravaggio’s handling of the paint. This is something that is not adequately captured in photographs. Judith almost seemed to be holding her breath in both excitement and horror as the falchion sliced through Holofernes next. The movement of her face and chest is another feature that photographs just cannot capture. I have always loved Caravaggio’s work but seeing this piece in person has given me a new respect for his work. The Barberini seems to be somewhat forgotten by the guidebooks and general tourist population. It is a shame since it houses such an important collection.