14th of February 2017 – €16 per adult
Joined by Sinead Flament
And so, with the Old Testament completed, we move onto the newer, sexier, less mental New Testament. Prepare for some radioactive hypocrisy considering my last entry.The Vatican Museum
Right, this is a museum – alpha & omega. My instinct suggested it would be a one-note, Catholic tongue bath, but no. Well, yes it is, but what a tongue bath! The Vatican Museum is like counting the rings of the tallest tree of a forest that will never be cut down, a snaking epic of splendour, power, arrogance, wonder, and the artistic zenith.
My first advice, wear comfortable shoes, because there’s so much here it makes the British Museum’s collection seem as bare as a divorcee’s photo album. We were walking and walking and walking past masterpiece upon masterpiece upon masterpiece until my appreciation of beauty had been diminished to that of a dead dog.
They’ve got Egyptian relics falling out of their arse. And so it goes through Greek, Assyrian, Roman, and every other civilisation worth talking about. There are so many statues with their little willies chipped off (so many) and enough mummies to finally overpower and kill Scooby fucking Doo. It’s as if, with the fall of Rome, they tipped all their stuff into that museum like it was a pretty skip.The Octagonal Courtyard is maybe the finest courtyard I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen some courtyards, man. The precise mathematical discipline coupled with gentle marble and water feature lifted the spirit in a way the church next door never could. Oh, and did I mention it boasts some of history’s finest sculpture? No? Well, it boasts some of history’s finest sculpture. Laocoön (right), the Belvedere Apollo (above), and a host of others. There are muscles, snakes, and boobs everywhere and it’s superb.
Connecting every sockdolager of artistic space are thesecorridors daubed in enough lucre to make the Palace of Versailles pull up its hoodie and quietly get the bus home. Not even in the most gluttonously detailed and boring passages of J.R.R. Tolkein had I experienced anything like it. The English tourist behind me put it perfectly, “Goodness me, these corridors are quite… erm… impressive. Aren’t they?” The land of Shakespeare, indeed. Oh and there was a Rembrandt exhibition just thrown in there. Sure, whatever. What, an exhibition by the best portrait artist in history? Yeah, we have that. Yaaaawnsville… move on, Joe!
The Stanza Della Segnatura containing Raphael’s School of Athens may stand as the finest room in the world. There’s so much happening. There’s too much happening. I wanted to laugh, cry, jump up and down on the spot, sleep, shit myself, and fight someone all at once. I had to do something, I just didn’t know what it was (although I now know that shitting myself was the wrong choice).Even the modern art collection was blue ribbon, providing more ticks than there were boxes. Though one or two efforts were the only examples of a misstep (I’m looking at you, Salvador Dali). Francis Bacon’s painting of Pope Innocent X caught my eye. You do know what he was saying with that, right Father? It’s so strange having the Sistine Chapel in a museum, like Stone Henge appearing just before the gift shop of the Wiltshire Wheelbarrow Museum. And boy! do they tease you with it. My girlfriend said, “For fuck’s sake! They’re taking the piss now. They con you into thinking you’re there, then have you go through another million galleries. Are you putting that in your blog?” Yes, dear. I am. However, after foxtrotting through a gallery of postage stamps, I began to see her point. And the chapel itself… Oh. My. Garfunkel! They save it for the end with good reason; this space buoyed my fatigued spirits like no religion ever could. It’s not a chapel to any god but mannerism and was a stirring, transcendent beatification. Everywhere is rippling, sweaty flesh in pinks and greens that inspired wicked thoughts to test even the most dogmatic vow of chastity. I couldn’t leave. Though I did, and have regretted that decision ever since. Nothing following was the same, they could hang The Night Watch after and it’d look like a kid’s painting blu-tacked to the fridge door with a dog and a man the same size as a house, and an inch of blue sky at the top. I understand that none of this would exist without the patronage of those bastards next door. I also know that these are the fruits of that cruelty, but there are worse things than being a hypocrite and being too proud to enjoy beauty is one.
It’s artistry beyond artistry. Yes, like all Italian cultural landmarks, the user interface is terrible with their confusing directions, poor copy, and uninspired design, but none of it matters – the Vatican Museum could be the finest collection of Italian art in the world. It is the true pilgrimage of the Vatican and sits on Dante’s outer most ring of Paradiso with David Bowie, Kathy Burke, Bradford City, and loads of dogs.