I Didn't Like the Sistine Chapel
By Jane Miller on September 13, 2011
It’s a terrible thing for me to admit. I have no artistic abilities. In Grade One I failed colouring. And my teacher was my mother’s best friend. I took art lessons. And I love art. I just can’t produce any. So it’s a sign of my terrible hubris when I say that I didn’t like the Sistine Chapel. I planned on liking it. I still like pictures of it. But the great reveal moment, when you finally get to see a piece of art that you’ve seen only piecemeal reproductions before? It didn’t do it for me. It’s at the end of the museum. There were too many people. It was too hot. My neck hurt. All I could see were cherubs. I hate cherubs. I believe the fault lies entirely with me and, hereby, absolve Michelangelo from any guilt in this matter. Pretty big of me, right?
An over-priced and under-delicious panini later, I crossed to the other side of the Tiber. And I discovered the Villa Doria Pamphili. I didn’t know what the building was. It looked like something, but so does everything in Rome. On a lark I persuaded G. to cross the street despite our very tired feet. ”We might regret it if we don’t.” And who was right? I was right.
It is filled with beautiful art. And it is cool. And there is no one there. You can sit in front of a painting for as long as you like. No one will walk in front of you. No tour will crowd you out. And, most importantly, I found there my new favourite Caravaggio. This is subject to change almost hourly, so stay tuned.
“Rest on the Flight to Egypt.” Beautiful. I want a donkey as wise as this donkey. Much lighter in theme and tone than many other of Caravaggio’s paintings. (The Sacrifice of Isaac, for example). Restful. But yet, the angel still has a Caravaggio lilt to his hips. The physical world exists here not in the darkness of its particularity, but in its playfulness. And, even, better if you are a failed artiste like me, (as much as I like angels with jaunty hips) Joseph has to hold up the music so the angel will know what to play.
The angel is presumably sent by God to help the family rest. But he cannot mediate their peace without Joseph’s assistance. (And, of course, finally Joseph gets to do something!) There is to be music, but the individual notes don’t play themselves and even angels require the assistance of weary travellers.
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