Art History

The Angels of Ponte Sant’Angelo

The Angels of Ponte SantAngelo

Leading up to Castel Sant’Angleo is what we now call the Ponte Sant’Angelo, however it has had many names. In the past it was known as Pons Aelius, that is Hadrian’s Bridge, as the structure which stands there is actually Hadrian’s Mausoleum. Later it was known as Pons Sancti Petri because pilgrims would take this bridge to read St. Peters Basilica.

Though the bridge looks beautiful today with its many angels draped in flowing cloth, it has quite a dark history. The bridge collapsed once killing many pilgrims who were trapped on it. It was then used a exhibition space for the bodies of executed criminals, much like the Appia Antica once was. Later under Pope Clement IX in 1669 the bridge was cleaned up and decorated with these angels.

Many books may say these angels were done by Bernini, however they were only completed under his school, and the two which Bernini actually worked on, the originals remain in Sant’Andrea delle Fratte, where they can be seen today.

There are 10 Angels, all holding symbols of the Passion, this includes: Column, Whips, Crown of Thorns, Sudarium, Garment and Dice, Nails, Cross, superscription, Sponge and lance. Every Angel was completed by a different member of Bernini s pupils.

Though Bernini did not personally work on every one, his style is obvious and each Angel is just as beautiful as any original work of his.

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Temple of Aesculapius: A Presentation Analysis

This will be an analysis of the presentation and interpretation of the Temple of Aesculapius, located in Villa Borghese. This analysis uses the format of analysis compatible with ICOMOS 2008 Interpretation and Presentation Charter and ICOMOS 1981 Florence Charter criteria and signification. These presentations are normally done through PowerPoint or a poster presentation, hence the short information, if you are more interested please let me know and I can give further explanation

The History of Villa Borghese

The original map of the gardens.

The original map of the gardens. Credit: Taken from a presentation by Prof. Simone Quilicci, AUR 2013

Originally a vineyard, Cardinal Sciopione Borghese obtained permission to turn this area into a lavish villa in 1605. The architects were Flaminio Ponzio and Giovanni Vasanzio. The original features included the Villa itself and the historic gardens, presently found behind the Villa, which is now a museum. The rest of the surrounding land was for horticulture and hunting. The Villa and its land has grown and changed throughout the years. These changes are categorized into 4 phases, however for this analysis phase 2 is as far as will be looked at.

Phase 2: 1776-1800

The map of the second phase of Villa Borghese. Credit: Taken from a presentation by Prof. Simone Quilicci AUR 2013

The map of the second phase of Villa Borghese. Credit: Taken from a presentation by Prof. Simone Quilicci AUR 2013

The Villa and land continued to be owned by the Borghese family, during this era they transformed surrounding gardens into neoclassical, English landscape style. The architect of this phase was Antonio Asprucci, while the landscape remodeler was Jacob More ( also a Romantic era painter).

Focus of Analysis: Temple of Aesculapius 1786

Temple of Aesculapius, Photo taken from Wikipedia.

Temple of Aesculapius, Photo taken from Wikipedia.

Built by Antonio and Mario Asprucci with painter Christopher Unterberger. It was built with the destroyed temple to Aesculapius once found on Tiber Island in mind. It is located on an island in an artificial pond. Originally the surrounding area was rocks and caves, with secretive and serpentine paths, this was changed in 1823 again by the Borghese family and once again when it was first given to the Italian nation.

The Temples Present Condition

The temple is still located in the same spot, and little has been changed directly to the temple. The area around the lake was altered in order to make It more accessible to visitors, this redesign was done in 1823 under the Borghese family.  Minor restoration and alteration to the area was made when the park was under the ownership of the city of Rome. The fence surrounding the island is a newer addition from the original.  It is not possible to enter the temple, or even access the island, which has been helpful in keeping the temple preserved.  It is however possible to take boats around the lake. There is wildlife in the lake, which also live on the island, including: turtles, ducks, swans and other water birds.

The temple stands as an aesthetically pleasing element to the lake, remaining clean and adding to the lake without a visually unpleasing distraction.

Public Use and Facilities within the Area

Surrounding rea of the Temple and lake. Photo is my own.

Surrounding rea of the Temple and lake. Photo is my own.

The road which leads to the temple, has benches as well as trash bins. Photo is my own.

The road which leads to the temple, has benches as well as trash bins. Photo is my own.

Though the island and temple are not accessible the park area surrounding is used often for public leisure time. Activities in this area may include picnics or relaxation, biking, as well as children having playtime. The lake provides boats for visitors to take for a ride around the lake. The boats are for rent and are set times, but they do not require a guide.

In the surrounding park there are small café’s and food carts where visitors may get food. Restrooms are however a bit further. There are benches and a few trash bins in the area.

Statement of Significance:

The Temple of Aesculapius remains a key aspect of the Villa Borghese park, by adding an aesthetically pleasing and welcoming interactive element to the park; It also is a key reflection of the 2nd phase of the park, acting as a perfect example of neoclassicism and English Romantic era landscape. Not only is this important to preserve for the history of the park and Borghese family, but also for all, in order to preserve examples of architecture and design from that period.

Analysis of Presentation to the Public

Though the temple itself is not accessible, it provides a picture perfect backdrop, which many visitors enjoy, it is made into one of the standard images of Villa Borghese Park. By providing open park area surrounding the lake and temple, visitors are free to relax, and enjoy themselves in this area. The lake offers an interactive activity by providing boating activities, this may draw in visitors, who can enjoy a fun activity by the temple. This activity, being that it is similar to activities visitors might have enjoyed in the 18th century, provides a connection through time, allowing present day visitors to imagine what life would have been like for the upper class. Because the sight is so beautiful it may provide a connection to visitors based on inspiration, however it may not demonstrate historical importance directly to them.  This site  does not necessarily  increase public respect or understanding, because unless a visitor has done their research, there is no way to tell that this building is a neoclassical building and when it was built.  Because there is not a clear story behind this temple, it does not help communicate the importance of cultural heritage. However the public does feel a connection to the site and it has become a staple element to the park which if threatened, the public would react.

Further, presently there is a problem which is that the lake has been drained and therefore the temple has been sealed off and surrounded by construction equipment, which could cause damage to this monument.You can read more here:


Centrale Montemartini: Industrial Classics


Centrale Montemartini as a structure was built in 1912 as Rome’s first public electricity plant, lighting about half the modern city. It went out of use in 1963, then in 1990 was used as a gallery exhibition space, finally in 1997 coming into ownership of the Capitoline museums.  Originally part of the collection was moved to be stored, but then the museum decided to open it as an extension because they found the space to be perfect.

The space still holds all the old engines and industrial equipment of the original plant, and the sculptures and other pieces are displayed by incorporating these industrial pieces.  It truly displays a postmodernist feel by combining these two historical eras, these two very important aspects of Rome’s past.

Walking in the first sculpture is Aphrodite in pentelic marble, side by side with a turn of the century cast-iron extraction pump, is the perfect image of these two eras’ side by side. It is the most definitely the most picturesque image a museum could open with.

From then on it is up to the visitor where they would like to go, there is a ground floor and upstairs. Almost all the downstairs is Roman original painting and original sculpture. This includes the oldest original wall painting found. Other items include beautiful mosaics, and ivory carved pieces from a funerary spire. Upstairs is mainly sculpture, often copied from Greeks. Many of the sculptures were from Roman gardens. Some others are from temples, such as the pediment of Hercules 9th labor against the Amazons, where Augustus is depicted as Hercules. This came from the Temple of Apollo Sosianus, this was dedicated to the god Apollo Medicus who was a god of well-being and protection during military campaigns. This temple was restored in 33BC by Sosias in order to pay tribute to Augustus. Sosias had fought for Marc Antony and Cleopatra at Actium, but for some reason had been spared.

All the upstairs collection is shown with the engines, shown together it is really amazing to see how ideals have changed. Once where power was shown by the level of sculpture shown in one’s gardens, power became electricity and industry. Once the god’s who are depicted in all these sculptures were worshipped daily as ones who controlled everything on earth, now electricity is the real power, holding the biggest importance in all individuals life.

Though it is out of the way I do recommend seeing this extension to the Capitoline, it is a small collection but it is most interesting to see the old industrial part of Rome. It is even more interessing to see these things interacting together. The museum is located in Ostiense by Garbatella Metro stop. But it is also possible to get to the museum by walking from Piramide straight down the road (one over to the left from the wall).



If you are ever feeling horrible

Just Remember Goya lived through much worse than you, and though he ended up dying alone in a house filled with dark painting, at least he lived on.

Francisco de Goya lived from 1746 to 1828, spending only a short time of his life outside of Spain, when he traveled to Italy. He was rejected from the Royal Academy of Fine Art, then later became the Official Court Painter under Charles IV. He was most often commisioned for portraits, but his most well known pieces are not. Such as his Majas, His Disasters of War, Third of May 1808 and the Black Paintings.


Clothed Maja 1798


The Parasol 1777

If you look closer at Goyas work it is clear to see a decline in his joy.


Witches in Air 1798


Saturn Devouring His Son 1823

But it’s pretty obvious Goya would become this depressed after what he had lived through. First of all Goya lived through numerous wars, The American Revolution, The French Revolution, The Napoleonic Wars and even the beginning of the Spanish Indepedence War. These wars greatly impacted him, he published his prints the Disasters of War after losing hope when so much violence surrounded the world.

On top of international problems, Goya also suffered a terrible illness in 1792-1793, which, though he survived he was left deaf. This greatly impacted his work, he was angry and depressed, following this illness some even say his work became silent.

In 1812 his wife died. Together they had 8 children and only one survived.

All these things lead to Goya having an incredibly bleak outlook on humanity, leading to the dark paintings he created in his later years.

Helmut Newton: White Women, Sleepless Nights Big Nudes


Helmut Newton, the fashion photographer described as the “foremost photographer of the 20th century”, produced works with “inimitable” fashion and nudes that are now the subject of an exhibition at the Palazzo dei Esposizioni in Rome.  Curated by Dr. Matthias Harder, the exhibition focuses on Newtons three well-known books: White Women (1976), Sleepless Nights (1979) and Big Nudes (1981).White Women was awarded the Kodak Photo Award in 1976, and had an immense impact in fashion photography as it opened the idea of visual eroticization of fashion photography. His work with nudes peaked with his book Big Nudes in 1981, where he used the eccentric idea of having models both dressed in the fashion, then posed nude. His series of nude and clothed diptychs can be compared to those in history and bring to mind Goya’s Maja which is also portrayed clothed and nude, always shown together. Matthias Harder’s goal for this exhibition was to show how Helmut Newton became known as a revolutionary in fashion photography and a key precursor to edgy photography. The exhibition aims to outline Helmut Newton’s photography focusing more on the female body, rather than the fashion, along with his continuous style of sophisticated photography through his works.

This theme of women’s bodies and sophisticated photography is revealed throughout the exhibition; however, it does seem to diminish and lose focus in the room “Sleepless Nights”.  The exhibition as a whole displays a mess of themes and minor photo-shoots. The photos chosen are random and share little similarities other than the book they are originally published in. Yet there is no explanation for why Newton originally chose them to be published together.

Upon reading a short introduction, placed in a small completely white room, the visitor walks to the doorway leading to a room sectioned off into smaller areas. The walls are bright purple; straight ahead is the first title in large silver letters: “White Women”. There is no clear central photograph, and the walls are sectioned so that pieces appear to the visitor immediately–and in fact it may appear slightly overwhelming. The first section begins with his black and white photographs of sophisticated women, exposing themselves subtlety.

The Rue Abriot , the photograph which has stood out as this exhibitions’ head campaign photo, stands as one of the largest photos in this set against the wall facing the entrance: it immediately calls the viewer in. It is a woman in an Yves Saint Laurent suit, smoking, on the Parisian streets. It holds a high level of elegance, typical for Newton’s photography; they show luxury in the woman and fashion, yet simplicity in the background. His photos then continue to show this subtle nudity, by placing a nude in a photo of a clothed women, or occasionally having them where no under or top clothing.

It is pointed out, in a small plaque introducing this section of the exhibition that women’s fashion is always meant to seduce, yet Newton was the first to take it a step further and to use nudity, either full or just the slight exposing of one breast. This was revolutionary for the time, and these photos greatly show where modern fashion photography found its birth. Newton was always fanatic about the luxurious hotel rooms with the seductive dark lighting and slight hint at a female nude. These photos reflect the growth and strength of women in society at the time.

The first three sections of the room are mainly sophisticated and elegant works. Women are portrayed in luxury and powerful status showing that sophisticated photography uses nudity as a subtle fashion power, yet the last section is very odd and does not fit with the rest.

 It begins with small and few crime scenes, three photos of women shown murdering a man, but his main crime scene pieces are seen later, so it makes more sense for them to be shown together. While the curator designed the pieces to be organized by book, it would have made more logical sense to organize them by subtheme, in order to keep the viewers’ attention. 

Then there are a few key pieces which particularly show the focus on the female body rather than the fashion. These pieces are “Jean-Louis David cuts Eva M’s Hair”, and two separate pieces titled “Beauty Treatments”.  These photos have little to do with fashion, as all are nude, yet they seem to comment on the role of women and what they do for beauty. The rest of the photos are then very commercial and of the 1970’s period they are a series of pool pictures.

The second installment, “Sleepless Nights”, is in a room painted with a dark blue wall contrasting wonderfully with the black and white photographs but also with his color ones which accentuate green, red and orange. Though the colors of the walls indicate change, the title is off to the side, which the viewer might miss, and the introduction is hidden on the side of the wall, where it may be easily overlooked.

Included in this section is Newton’s work with crime scenes, mannequins, saddles and back braces. These represent his more extreme and controversial works. Though they all share his radical breakthrough in fashion photography, they are placed in a disorganized manner and it is chaotic for the viewer to comprehend. The mannequin series are separated and placed in different sections, the crime scenes hold little interest, the saddles and back brace photos are mixed and then there is a completely random wall that takes away from the theme. There is a small wall with his photo of a butcher shop, a statue of the Virgin Mary and Andy Warhol. These three photos have nothing to do with his breakthrough in fashion photography and pull away from the central theme of the exhibition. 

Finally the viewer comes to “Big Nudes” where the walls are painted teal (a horrible color that conflicts with the sets of black and white photos). Again, the title is off to the side and the viewer may miss it. Here, an introduction explains how Newton gained his inspiration for this piece from the old German who wanted photos of the RAF. They are a series of photos of women, all portrayed life size as he wished. Here is where the theme of the woman’s body comes in strongest. It shows the exposes of the inner model and the woman who fill the space. The Big Nudes are simply naked women on a white backdrop; they are all posed differently along with different facial expressions. The photos reveal to us who the model is and what her personality is like. Newton is known for saying he had no interest in the inner life of his sitters, no interest in their mind whatsoever. Yet his photographs give the viewer a different idea, they seem to unveil a short clip of a larger mystery which the sitter holds. Especially in thisseries it is clear it is all about the model, rather than Newton.

The show concludes with Newton’s famous Diptychs, showing Models clothed, then in the same position nude. These are a perfect conclusion to the exhibit seeming to say “it is not the fashion that makes the woman”. These fully tie the exhibits theme together, showing Newton’s radical use of nudity and his focus on women’s bodies rather than the fashion. These are placed in a circular room, with white walls, separated far enough apart that each diptych receives its own full attention.

Overall, the exhibition is a very interesting look into Newton’s work and truly illustrates how he became so famous in the fashion world. They show us his revolutionary nudity along with the sophisticated influence of the 1920s luxurious style. Event though the photos were a bit disorganized such as the second installment, Sleepless Nights, they are some of his most famous pieces that broke the curators theme and was distracting from his other pieces. Newton’s photographs would have better been organized by subthemes, rather than books. Anyone who owns or knows the books has little purpose in visiting this exhibition, since it is simply laid out the same as the book. Though there was some information on his inspiration, it was very little and there should be more for each set of photos, also the photos simply have a title place and year, leaving the meaning, and photo-shoot theme up to the viewer’s interpretation

Helmut Newton was known to say “Some people say photography is an art. Mine is not. I’m a gun for hire.”So it is intriguing that his work is now prized and displayed. He did not himself define the photographs as art but through George Dickies “institutional theory of art”, it became art. His works met the criteria, by being changed when he set up the photograph and by being shown on exhibition, his commissioned photographs became true art.  By this exhibition, Newton becomes an artist, through a postmodernist theory, and all his art is left in a chaotic display, with the meaning left to the viewers, further contributing to the postmodernity of White Women, Sleepless Nights, Big Nudes.