Rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture.
Wednesday, January 13, 2016
Rome Journal VII: A Short History of Rome
photograph of Bernini's "Statue of Pope Urban VIII" by Hallie Cohen
If you want a short history of Rome, say the equivalent of a
diorama on a grand scale, go the Horatii and Curiatii Hall of the Musei Capitolini. There you
will see frescoes by Guiseppe Cesari based on Livy which give you a Renaissance snapshot of the founding of Rome. The frescoes constitute a chronology. "Discovery of the She-Wolf" (1596) describes Faustolo coming upon the She-Wolf
nursing Romulus and Remus under a fig tree. “Battle of Tullus Hostilius against
the inhabitants of Veii and Fidenae" (1597-1601) depicts the early Romans
defending themselves against nearby towns."The Battle of the Orazi (Horatii) and Curiazi (Curiatii)" (1612-13) shows a duel between the
Orazi (Romans) and the inhabitants of another nearby town Alba Longa (the
Curiazi). The “Sabine Women Abduction” (1638-9) shows the Roman’s stocking
their city with women, the way we today stock ponds with koi. “Numa Pompilius
institutes the cult of the vessel” (1638-9) is a hortatory work, showing the
sacred fires being kept burning and finally “Romulus draws the line of 'square
Rome'" underlines the classicism that would
eventually be at war with an increasingly hedonistic society. The past is mediated by the
present at least in the room where these frescoes were created. The gallery is presided
over by two contemporaneous popes. On one side is Alessandro Algardi's bronze "Statue of Pope Innocent X" (as you will recall Innocent X was also the subject of Velasquez’s famed portrait and Francis Bacon's infamous Screaming Pope series). And on the
other is the "Statue of Pope Urban VIII" by Bernini whose magnificence could easily
divert the attention of any gallery goer. The large hands illustrate the grasp
and reach of the divine. Talk about being manhandled.
Francis Levy's debut novel, Erotomania: A Romance, was released in August 2008 by Two Dollar Radio.
His short stories, criticism, humor, and poetry have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Republic, The Village Voice, The East Hampton Star, The Quarterly, Penthouse, Architectural Digest, TV Guide, The Journal of Irreproducible Results, and other publications. One of his Voice humor pieces was anthologized in The Big Book of New American Humor (HarperCollins). He is presently the Co-Director of The Philoctetes Center for the Multidisciplinary Study of Imagination (philoctetes.org), where he supervises roundtable discussions on topics as varied as “The Psychology of the Modern Nation State” and “Modern Traffic Theory, Behavior, and Imagination”.