02. Ancient Mediterranean, Art & Humanities, Europe, Italy

Tuesday in Rome: Capitoline Museum

Tuesday in Rome: Capitoline Museum

I was really excited for this museum and then I saw them: the school groups. Gah! The bane of any serious museum goer. I didn’t spend as much time as I would have liked in here but I just couldn’t take the children any longer! However, I would like to highlight some of the major art pieces in the Capitoline Museum in Rome:


Dying Gaul

My favorite piece here was the Dying Gaul. Again, it’s the emotion artists can portray in their work that gets me. They can express things that are impossible to say with words, unless you’re some amazing poet, which I am not. We know this statue depicts a Gaul (barbarian to the Romans) because of his long hair, mustache, and torque (metal neck-band). This statue also not only shows his death, but a noble death. His face is peaceful, contemplative, and sad.


Capitoline Wolf

I’m not sure if this has an official name but I’m going to call it the Capitoline Lupo (lupo is “wolf” in Italian). This image is the symbol of Rome and by extension all Italy. As the story goes, Romulus and Remus founded Rome in the year 753 BCE when they were abandoned by their mother, Rhea Silvia (their father was the god Mars), and nursed by a wolf. Kind of reminds me of the biblical story of Moses, except with a wolf instead of a woman. The bronze wolf dates to the 5th century BCE and the two boys are from the Italian Renaissance.


Emperor Constantine the Great

Ok, so this is a part of a (now broken) monumental sculpture of Constantine, I only have a picture of this giant hand, because the rest of it was buried under construction. For reference, his head was roughly my height – that’s a huge statue!

Emperor Constantine is a biggie in Roman and Christian history. He is known as the first Christian emperor and he legalized Christianity alongside pagan religions in the Roman Empire with the Edict of Milan in 313 CE, effectively ending the age of the martyrs (people who died for their faith). And you can clearly see the effect this had on Rome, and the world today. (P.S. Christianity did not become the official, and only religion, of the Roman Empire until later).

The name Constantine might also be ringing some history bells in your ears because of Constantinople (Istanbul). Constantine moved the capital of the Empire to Byzantium and renamed it Constantinople, this act eventually developed into the Roman (Western) and Eastern Empires that played an important role with the decline and “fall” of the Roman Empire.


Emperor Marcus Aurelius

First off, the only reason this bronze statue survived history is because it was incorrectly believed to be Constantine (who’s he? see above). Well, it’s not. But it is another Roman emperor, so close! Marcus Aurelius was known as a scholarly and philosophic emperor, which is why he is not depicted in military gear and is instead in a toga raising his left arm in greeting. This statue is important because it was used as a model for later Renaissance equestrian statues.

Note: the emperor is way too big for his horse, a sign of his importance (and probably ego).


Venus Pudica

This is a type of image of Venus called a Venus pudica (prude Venus), which means she is trying to cover herself up in a prudish manner. I actually think these types of Venuses are quite funny because it’s as if someone stumbled upon her right out of her bath.

In case you haven’t notice, you cannot get away from nudity in art. It wasn’t meant to be erotic but a sign of heavenly perfection. Think of it: according to the Bible, if man was created in God’s image, then a perfect image of man is the closest we can get to God. Tell that to the porn industry…



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