The jetlag is rough this morning. I’m three cups of coffee in and barely moving. I was going to skip this bit of journaling but I need to get the brain in gear if I’m going to conference properly this afternoon and tomorrow. Must try to get to bed a little earlier tonight.
Yesterday was the Villa Guilia and Palazzo Massimo. Starting with the latter as it is clearer in my mind.
I was not as in love with sculpture as I have been in the past. It felt too familiar and I moved relatively fast through those galleries. The frescoes held my attention for a very long time. I found myself wondering if there is a literature of human activity in Roman landscape painting. Most all the landscapes seemed to have been conceived as religious or sacral. With acts of piety towards shrines being the most typical social and even inter-generational activity. The landscapes also included rustics, figures marked as other by the disfigurement of their bodies through hard labor: rustic labor being the second most common human activity in these painting. One swine herd in particular captivated me. I cannot quite say the rustic world is romanticized in these images, as we might surmise from bucolic/pastoral poetry. The architecture in the landscapes is varied yet relatively formulaic (surely some colleague has catalogued them and created a typology?!).
Most of the panels on display with such landscapes came from elite houses, but one set was from a private columbaria. The decorative bands were between the rows niches for the funerary urns. Overall these were more varied but landscape was common. YET so are nilotic scenes with pygmies, another type of landscape genre with its own conventions. The contrast between the two imaginary worlds the idealized local and the distant other was more jarring having them all together.
I spent some time also with the fresco narrative cycle of Rome’s foundation. The lighting wasn’t great but it was still good to go over it scene by scene in person. Thinking back on it now the bands remind me more of the more humble columbaria bands than the frescoes elite domestic rooms. The private columbaria has one band of mythological scenes related to Hercules, perhaps that is why my brain wants to make the connection.
There weren’t any big thoughts at Villa Guila, except the perhaps just the good reminder of how monumental terracotta can really be as architectural and sculptural elements. Mostly I was just loving seeing traces of myth and iconography early in Italic history, esp. those that carry through.
For instance, who doesn’t love a pointy hat, which with the Romans we come to associated with priesthood and the apex.
I’ve just checked the program and realized I don’t have to be anywhere until 5 pm. I though I was due at the conference at 2pm. I had best do something with my day rather than sit in my hotel room…
Again I may come back and add more pictures but must press on.