So much to mention — this will be a long post. You’ve been warned.
My favourite thing about Rome is that there are ruins everywhere, just laying there, for no good reason. People use two thousand year old collapsed, intricately carved pillars as benches at bus stops — it’s nuts. Even in the suburbs, ancient aqueducts run everywhere, through streets and parks, ready to be climbed on and everything.
At the Vatican, I spent a solid hour staring at the School of Athens — I loved it. Now, on the opposite wall of the School of Athens (in fact the whole room and ceilings) are more paintings by Raphael, which are just as well painted, but nonetheless didn’t grab my attention. I wondered why this was and thought about it as I left the Raphael room and continued on to see the Sistine Chapel (for the second time, I had already seen it earlier in the morning).
I thought that one reason why was because of the subject matter: all the other painting were about Jesus etc., and by now I’ve seen enough Jesus paintings to last a lifetime, whereas all the historical figures in the School of Athens (including many mathematicians!) and how, for example, Plato looked like Leonardo, was all very interesting to me. So that explanation made sense and I was somewhat satisfied.
But continuing along the route to the Sistine Chapel, to the side, was a small empty room with some paintings. I went in and immediately noticed this one little painting of Mary and Jesus that I thought was rather lovely, so I went up closer to admire it. It was beautiful. And then I realized that this painting contradicted my Raphael theory, because I really liked this Jesus painting. I took a picture of it, and then I read the artist’s name: Vincent van Gogh. I wish there was a camera to capture my jaw literally drop, and stay dropped for almost a minute. I was blown away.
I’m always trying to understand how my (and others) thought process works, and I’m always trying to find ways to test it. Before this I had wondered: do I like Van Gogh because people who know art tell me he was so great, or do I actually like his stuff on my own? I have fun asking questions like this. Not that one way or the other is better, I just sorta wonder about the root of these things. So this was sort of a natural experiment to test that, and it turns out that, yes indeed, I really do like Van Gogh (at least now that I understand his style, which I don’t think I would’ve ever understood on my own).
And there was no one in the room! I couldn’t believe it. I wanted to go into the crowded hallway and yell to everyone that there was a Van Gogh in there! (There was also a Gauguin, fwiw.) To appreciate this, you have to understand how crowded the Vatican Museum is — think “crowded subway station”. And this room was empty.
So I spent two hours in there, staring at the painting. And then I had a sudden urge to draw it. Try not to laugh.
I need to work on drawing hands. I think my brother could’ve done a better job. When I was drawing it I noticed that Van Gogh made Jesus look like himself, which is pretty interesting.
Okay. I promise no more Van Gogh or graffiti posts. Promise. The Sistine Chapel was also beautiful, but you already knew that.
Also, the couple I stayed with were just lovely, and I got to enjoy some homemade Roman pasta.