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A Tale of Two Tassels - Raphael and Holbein in The National Gallery, London

March 3, 2017

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Villa Farnesina, Rome

So this isn't the type of place one is likely to visit on their first (or even second) trip to Rome. It's not one of the more heavily trafficked tourist sites which in a way makes it a pleasant destination if you've already spent the morning surrounded by throngs of fellow travelers at the Vatican or Coliseum.

I went to Villa Farnesina, which is a gorgeous house in the more suburban Trastevere area of Rome, to see a Raphael fresco on the ground floor: "The Triumph of Galatea." Sounds stuffy right? Going to see just one small painting? I felt pretty hoity toity when I realized I was fast becoming a bit of connoiseur.  It didn't disappoint... it's beautiful.

 

However the highlight, for me, wound up being a fresco (upstairs, in the master bedroom) by Il Sodoma called "The Marriage of Alexander and Roxana," which depicts the marriage of Alexander the Great. This may very well be Il Sodoma's masterpiece (and I'm not alone in saying so). It is almost spellbindingly beautiful when you enter the room - larger than life, filled to overflowing with vibrant rhythm and exquisite handling and lush swaths of rich color. I'm 5'10" and standing it front of it, eye-level for me was about the height of their knees. This is a big wall.


The "house" is actually a renaissance mansion completely pimped-out in the heart of Rome and built for Agonsstino Chigi, who was a (very rich) banker to the pope. Eventually the building became the property of the Farnese family, hence the name.

 

Even though it houses a handful of spectacular frescos it is SO small and out of the way that I wouldn't recommend it to a friend who was only in town for a few days. But if you're in Rome for longer or have a *particular* affinity for Raphel, this is a great little "museum."

It's also directly across the street from Villa Corsini which, while also rather small, has a pretty spectacular collection of paintings (it's where they display 'the overage' from the Borghese museum).

 

For the win: Dar Poeta - the best pizzeria in Rome as far as my wife and I are concerned (and I tried about 7 of them) - is also in the neighborhood. So if you do go: make a morning of the 2 museums, and then head to Dar Poeta for lunch! 

 

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