Where beauty is existence

I’m not an art historian. Or, at least I thought I wasn’t. I seem to have turned into one recently, since my current essay and dissertation topics both rely heavily on Greek art.

I’ve never been the one to suggest a visit to an art gallery. But I have a lot of friends who love art, and I find their passion contagious. I enjoy visiting with them, but I when I go alone I just get bored. Which is why I was surprised to realize that some of my favourite experiences on my trip last month were art galleries.

That might be because I visited some of the best galleries in the world.

I finally got to go back to the Louvre, and see the sculpture that I fell in love with six years ago.

Eros and Psyche, photo by me

When I first saw Eros and Psyche by Antonio Canova, I was amazed. I didn’t know that a piece of marble could be so beautiful. I never dreamed that a sculpture could be so real, could evoke so much emotion.

Close up of Eros and Psyche, photo by me

Undoubtedly, half of what I fell in love with was the portrayal of the myth. The Eros and Psyche story is one of my favourite Greek myths. It’s a tragic love story with a beautiful ending, and I think the sculpture captures that perfectly. One of those “love conquers all” stories.

It wasn’t until recently that I realized that I kind of love renaissance art. Especially sculptures. It isn’t that surprising, considering the renaissance was about reviving classical themes. Classical themes which I love. And classical art, which according to my choice in topics this semester (the emergence of Hellenistic portraiture and portraits of Alexander the Great), I apparently love too. Like this:

The Nike of Samothrace, photo by me

And this:

Laocoon and his sons, photo by me

Though I don’t love Rome, there’s no arguing that it has some of the best museums in the world. I could spend days in the Capitoline Museum. Or the Vatican Museum. It was amazing to finally see things I had been studying in class for years, like the statue above of Laocoon and his sons. I saw all of those in January. It was amazing.

This time, we went to a different kind of museum.

The Borghese Gallery is a privately owned collection. They get to make up their own rules. Rules that I’m not a huge fan of. You have a scheduled time you’re allowed to go in. You have to leave ALL bags, including purses, at the coat check. And you can’t take photos of the art.

It’s a good thing they have such an amazing collection.

Bernini was the second sculptor I fell in love with. The Borghese has some absolutely amazing pieces by him. Since I couldn’t take pictures, these aren’t my own.

Bernini's David

The Borghese is set up in a different way, too. It occupies a 17th century villa, and the building itself is a work of art. The rooms are all different. But each one has a centrepiece, or two. The masterpieces are here, and the lesser (but still amazing) works are on or against the walls.

Bernini's Apollo and Daphne

And my absolute favourite was this one:

Bernini's Rape of ProserpinaA close up:

Close up of Bernini's Rape of Proserpina



  • By Kristen, May 2, 2010 @ 10:09 pm

    Wow, those photos are amazing. I mean the fact that you can see the indentations he makes while grabbing her in the last photo is breathtaking, it looks so real, and really captures the title of the piece.

    You know I love, love, love Nike of Samothrace. When I saw it in person, it brought tears to my ears. I’m such a loser, but words can’t describe, it’s so powerful.

    Great pictures!

  • By Wangari M., May 3, 2010 @ 9:56 am

    Oh my oh my, these sculptures are just breathtakingly beautiful (that was a mouthful). I now have to start adding new museums and art galleries to my to go to list

  • By Emily Jane, May 3, 2010 @ 3:08 pm

    Wonderful photos! I only went to Paris once and it was for one day, and we ran around trying to take in as many sights as we could, which meant only seeing the Louvre from the outside. It sounds like an incredible experience, and the sculptures are amazing!!

  • By Eleni, May 3, 2010 @ 8:22 pm

    Wow, in that last black and white close-up, I can almost believe it’s real flesh, bones, and veins.

    I remember seeing the Winged Victory at the Louvre. It’s so beautiful. I wonder how it looked whole. I guess the fact that we’ll never see it whole just adds to its ancient mystique.

  • By Sebastian, May 26, 2010 @ 2:09 am

    Hehe, we have the same favourite from the Villa Borghese :) The dimpled, depressed flesh was just too much, eh?

    You didn’t make it to Florence did you? David…

  • By Sebastian, May 26, 2010 @ 2:10 am

    Oh! And the ‘leaves’ one — second to last — was cut from a single piece of marble, I think… or something stupidly amazing to that effect.

    (I really, really liked that Villa.)

  • By Hezabelle, May 26, 2010 @ 8:10 am

    It WAS an amazing collection. No, I haven’t made it to Florence yet… maybe someday?

  • By DG, January 11, 2011 @ 1:27 pm

    Beautiful pictures….thanks.

Other Links to this Post

  1. Hezabelle » Ancient footprints are everywhere… — May 20, 2010 @ 4:59 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment