Friday, February 08, 2008

Depicting Rome, pt. 3



One of my favorite books of the last few years is Lawrence Weschler's Everything That Rises: A Book of Convergences, gorgeously published by San Francisco's own McSweeneys'. It attempts to show or create connections between different artworks, public spaces, and ways of thinking and seeing that have echoed in Weschler's life. It is intuitive, mysterious, occasionally infuriating, and completely gorgeous. Above is an example of a convergence between my experience in Rome, and a hiking trip last summer where I got a gnarly blood-blister under my left-toenail, which then took a full month to heal and then fall off. But it could be worse! This poor foot still has its little toe, but the rest are MIA, as is the entire rest of the leg/body system of which it was a key component.

This is a sculptural fragment from the ruins of the Palace of Domitian on Palatine hill, overlooking the Roman Forum to the North, the Capitoline hill to the West, and the former Circus Maximus to the South. The Circus Maximus, by the way, certainly lived up to its name: it sat the most people of any public arena ever, an estimated 300,000. It was also the site of the vast majority of early Christian martyrdoms, and not the Colosseum. According to the tour guide who lead my family through the Colosseum (so take it with a grain of salt), only one Christian martyr can be placed in the Colosseum. The Colosseum, by the way, sat 50,000, with standing room for 30,000 more. From inside it felt almost intimate, which made me very queasy when I considered the type of spectacle that would have been perpetrated there.





The head of Laocoön (pronounced Lay-OCK-oh-on) in the Vatican Museum. This original Greek sculpture was unearthed in Rome while Michelangelo Buonnaroti was working on the Sistine Chapel ceiling. This sculpture, along with the Belvedere Torso, was one of the major influences on Michelangelo's work as well as on his theology of spiritual perfection as revealed in perfect, contorted male torsos. Michelangelo never sculpted nor painted a nude woman; all his women are modeled after men, with women's faces and very awkward breasts slapped on. I have some awesome pictures of the Belvedere Torso, but I don't want to post them and have them get all sideways on me. So here's one from Wikipedia:Laocoön, by the way, is the Trojan priest who received the message "Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts." The gift was, of course, the famous Trojan horse (interesting coincidence: "gift" is the german word for "poison"). So he immediately set out to warn his people of their imminent doom, but the Gods really really wanted the Greeks to slaughter every single person in Troy. Before Laocoön could set foot outside his temple he and his two sons were set upon by a plague of poisonous snakes, and they died horribly. It's a powerful, horrifying sculpture. Nobody knows who is depicted in the Belvedere Torso.





This is a portion of a wall fresco in the Vatican Museum Palaces, right before you approach the Sistine Chapel. I think it's some kind of Papal UFO...





It may have been winter, the least beautiful season in Rome according to many I spoke to, but nobody told the sunsets that.

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