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April 2008


Villa Borghese Museum

Classes are officially in full swing and we just finished our art history mid-term. As a biochemist I can’t say that the class is my favorite subject matter, but I can say that getting the chance to study the history and art of the city you are living in greatly enhances your appreciation of the whole city. Also, I got a second peek at the Villa Borghese Museum and was even more impressed by the Bernini sculptures the second time around. Bernini’s genius was that he could capture a fleeting moment permanently in a marble medium. This very idea seems contradictory. The solidity of marble and the fleeting facial expression which portrays the person’s character, or in the case of The Rape of Proserpina, the instant of her being pulled down. According to the laws of physics I know that Proserpina (who carved in marble must weigh a ton!) is, in fact, being held up in the air by Pluto, and yet in the instant that I am looking at the statue, it is as if he has just emerged from the underworld, clasp her, and is tensing every muscle in order to pull her down. The marble physically is holding her up, but in every other regard, is straining to pull her down. Incredible.
If you don’t particularly like sculpture there are six Caravaggio master pieces within the museum and a whole second level devoted to other great paintings. As for me, the Villa Borghese Museum definitely goes down as a must see and my favorite museum.



Ciao tutti!
It’s been a little over a week since my last update, but with two full weeks of Easter break, the richness of Easter in Rome, and all of Europe to explore, it is nearly impossible to keep that “free” time free. Easter in Rome really is a beautiful celebration and it seems as though the secret is out. The streets, the shops, the churches, and every gelateria on every corner were packed with people spanning all languages and all ages. In the midst of the chaos, however, it was also possible for me to enter into this Easter season in a beautiful and new way.
In order to avoid the torrents of rain and long hours waiting in line for Holy Thursday mass at the Vatican, I snuck off into a relatively small church (compared to St Peter’s anyway) called Trinita dei Monti, just on top of the Spanish Steps. The Mass was so beautiful and the weather in the days that followed so persistently rainy that I ended up sharing the entire Triduum with the French brothers and sisters who run the parish. The Mass was done in French, Italian, and Latin so if you find yourself in Rome and are looking for an English Mass this is not the place. Also, if you are looking for a quick Mass so that you can quickly get on to the next site, this isn’t the right place either. Our Easter Vigil was definitely a full four hours, even longer than the Vatican Vigil. If, however, you are looking for a beautifully reverent mass celebrated in four part choral so stunning that you can’t help but let your spirit be carried off with the song, then this church is a must. And, if it’s any encouragement, the ordinary Sunday masses are only an hour and a half. I wish I could better explain what was so unique, whether it was participating in rich music, not understanding what could have been a boring French homily, or maybe sharing in the Easter celebration with my family for the first time away from home, but it will definitely go down as one of my most remembered times during this study abroad experience.
Also worth noting about my break are my travels to Paris where I met my parents and with whom I then proceeded to travel to Florence, Siena, and finally back to Rome. I could write tons about how great it was to share the week that followed with my family, but I’ll try to highlight only those pieces which, though slightly less profound, are readily understood, such as free dinners and the chance to go into the museums that I have only walked by in order to save money. Yes, I know it sounds shallow, but what a great gift to finally get to see some of the worlds most famous museums, my favorite being the Villa Borghese Museum.
proserpinaEvery museum has certain strengths. The strength of the Villa Borghese Museum for me was found in the masterpiece sculptures of Bernini, a famous sculptor and architect of the 17th century whose hand is seen throughout all of Rome. Seeing stone come alive through the hand of a young man my age seems an impossible feat and yet there it is in front of you. Bernini’s Rape of Proserpina sculpture is an incredible example of such life being brought to the inanimate nature of marble. Unfortunately, other then being struck by the incredible workmanship, there is little I can tell you about the history or thought behind The Rape of Proserpina. I can’t wait until next Wednesday to revisit the museum with our art history professor! For now look up a picture, enjoy, and start studying up in case you get the chance to see the sculptures some day as well.