This month’s masterpieces from Hadrian’s Villa are the larger than life-size marble theatrical masks that once decorated the scaenae frons (stage-front) of the odeon of the villa.
The Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence is one of the oldest and most famous art museums in the world. In addition to Renaissance masterpieces including works from Botticelli, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, the Uffizi houses one of the world’s most important collections of ancient Roman and Greek statues. The Medicis’ interest in ancient art started with the founder of the family Cosimo I de’ Medici (1519-1574) and grew over nearly four decades. The antiquities were stored and displayed in several rooms in Palazzo Vecchio and Palazzo Pitti where they could be admired by the visitors to the court. The antiquities were later transferred to the Uffizi. Most of the ancient statues and busts are displayed on the u-shaped second floor of the museum. The wide corridors are filled with numerous portraits of the members of the different imperial dynasties including those of the Nerva-Antonine dynasty. Nerva (ruled 96 – 98 A.D.)
Two thousand years ago, Mount Vesuvius – a stratovolcano located close to the Gulf of Naples – erupted with tremendous force and little warning. Within only 24 hours, the Roman city of Pompeii was buried under a rain of hot ash and falling debris. Lying undiscovered for over 1,600 years, the city’s rediscovery remains one of the greatest archaeological finds of all time. Pompeii: In the Shadow of the Volcano, which opened last month at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto, Canada, examines everyday life in Pompeii through six distinct sections on those who called the ancient city home. (The exhibition then travels to the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts in February 2016.) In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of Ancient History Encyclopedia (AHE) speaks to Curator Paul Denis about the exhibition as well as the ways in which our lives mirror those from the distant past.
The Appian Way — Rome’s gateway to the East — was Europe’s first super highway and the wonder of its day. Built in 312 B.C., it connected Rome with Capua (near Naples), running in a straight line for much of the way. Eventually it stretched 400 miles to Brindisi, from where Roman ships sailed to Greece and Egypt. While our modern roads seem to sprout potholes right after they’re built, sections of this marvel of Roman engineering still exist. When I visit Rome, I get a thrill walking on the same stones as Julius Caesar or St. Peter. Huge basalt paving blocks form the sturdy base of this roadway. In its heyday, a central strip accommodated animal-powered vehicles, and elevated sidewalks served pedestrians. Fortunately, about the first 10 miles of the Appian Way is preserved as a regional park (Parco dell’Appia Antica). In addition to the roadway, there are ruined Roman monuments, two major Christian catacombs, and a church marking the spot where Peter had a vision of Jesus.
Following my visit to Minturnae (see previous post here), I continued my journey north along the Appian Way to reach Terracina, a picturesque town on the Tyrrhenian coast situated approximately half-way between Rome and Naples. Legend has it that Odysseus sailed here on his travels and surrendered to Circe’s enchantment. Circe is said to have lived on Mount Circeo, a promontory stretching-out into the sea best visible from Mounte San’t Angelo above the town of Terracina. Nowadays the area is called the Riviera of Ulysses.
“Of all the art forms, sculpture was the first to give a comprehensive and coherent voice to the new formal Renaissance idiom, the roots of which went back to the classical world. But it was the coherence of the Renaissance visual language that made the difference… These were major works of art, yet when they were cited, it was as fragments, without a comprehensive and coherent vision.” Renaissance Florence was the center of a pulsating creativity, which would redefine the spectrum of Western aesthetics over the course of two centuries. At the dawn of the Quattrocento, Florentine artists found inspiration in the sculptures of their Greco-Roman predecessors. The Springtime of the Renaissance: Sculpture and the Arts in Florence, 1400-1460, now on show at the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence, highlights how ancient sculptures–in stone or bronze–provided the catalyst for far-reaching and revolutionary innovations in art and design. Through the presentation of 140 sculptures and paintings from major international collections, the exhibition carefully traces the classical inspiration behind the Renaissance. In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener …