This year, we returned to Rome because in our May 2015 week, we missed seeing a lot. Lets face it! One could tour in Rome for weeks and still feel as if there are other sights to find. So we added a few more days in Rome to our Sicily itinerary. While relaxing in our hotel room, we made plans to focus on sights that we had not yet, fully experienced.
Last year, 2 major attractions were under reconstruction. One site was the Palazzo Barberini which is part of Rome’s National Gallery of Ancient Art. It is a splendid baroque palace in Rome, completed in 1633 by Bernini. And now, on the second floor we were able to view the extravagantly decorated rococo rooms with all its furnishings including canopied beds, a wooden baby carriage, other household goods, frescoes, hand painted silk linings, and porcelain from Japan and Bavaria.
Many visitors come to the first floor to see the magnificent Carravaggio’s Narcissus as well as the impressive array of other paintings from the 13th to the 16th century including works by Fillipino Lippi, Andrea Solario, Francesco Francia. There is the painting, La Fornarina by Raphael which depicts the baker’s daughter and his mistress who posed for his Madonna portraits. Then, there are also the Tintorettos and El Grecos.
This year we took extra time to just enjoy being mesmerized by the fantastically ornate monument, the Trevi Fountain which has finally been totally renovated after five years. It was a real pleasure to sit on the edge here while immersing ourselves in the enchanting atmosphere. Later, we would take a pizza break and then we would treat ourselves to a gelato.
One day, as we were strolling down the Via Corsa, we noticed advertisements for an art exhibit on the art by a Czech Artist, Alphonse Mucha. He is an artist who is well known for his prolific commercial projects which are beautifully presented and instantly recognizable when one sees his work.
We discovered that the exhibit was located to the right of the white Brescian marble Vittorio Emmanuele Monument which dominates the scene at the southern end of the Via del Corso which we frequently strolled. This flamboyant landmark was built in the late 1800s to honor the first king of Italy. It has been the recipient of the nickname, a wedding cake. Anyway, it is impossible to miss and we were thrilled to go there to view Mr. Mucha’s work.
The following background information on the artist, Alfons or Alphonse Mucha was garnered based on data from Wikipedia. Here are some excerpts:
“Alphonse Mucha was born in 1833 in the town of Ivancice, Moravia (currently part of the Czech Republic). In 1871, Mucha became a chorister at the Saint-Peter’s Cathedral in Brno, where he received his secondary school education. It is there that he had his first revelation, in front of the richness of Baroque art. During the four years of studying there, he formed a friendship with Leoš Janáček who would become the greatest Czech composer of his generation. Although his singing abilities allowed him to continue his education through high school in the Moravian capital of Brno, drawing had been his main hobby since childhood. He worked at decorative painting jobs in Moravia, mostly painting theatrical scenery. In 1879, he relocated to Vienna to work for a major Viennese theatrical design company, while augmenting his artistic education. When a fire destroyed his employer’s business during 1881 he returned to Moravia, to do freelance decorative and portrait painting. Count Karl Khuen of Mikulov hired Mucha to decorate Hrušovany Emmahof Castle with murals, and was impressed enough that he agreed to sponsor Mucha’s formal training at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts.”
“Mucha moved to Paris in 1887, and continued his studies at Academie Julian and Academie Calarossi. In addition to his studies, he worked at producing magazine and advertising illustrations. About Christmas 1894, Mucha happened to go into a print shop where there was a sudden need for a new advertising poster for a play featuring Sarah Bernhardt, the famous actress in Paris, at the Théâtre de la Renaissance on the Blvd. Saint-Martin. Mucha volunteered to produce a lithographed poster within two weeks, and on 1 January 1895, the advertisement for the play Gismonda by Victorien Sardou was posted in the city, where it attracted much attention.”
“Bernhardt was so satisfied with the success of this first poster that she began a six-year contract with Mucha.”
“(His art) in jewelry, carpets, wallpaper, and theatre sets became known as Art Nouveau. Mucha’s works frequently featured beautiful young women in flowing, vaguely Neoclassical -looking robes, often surrounded by lush flowers which sometimes formed halos behind their heads. In contrast with contemporary poster makers he used pale pastel colors.”
“Mucha’s style was given international exposure by the 1900 Universal Exhibition in Paris, of which Mucha said, “I think (the Exposition Universelle) made some contribution toward bringing aesthetic values into arts and crafts.” He decorated the Bosnia and Herzegovina Pavilion and collaborated with decorating the Austrian Pavilion. The Art Nouveau style however, was one that Mucha attempted to disassociate himself from throughout his life; he always insisted that rather than maintaining any fashionable stylistic form, his paintings were entirely a product of himself and Czech art. He declared that art existed only to communicate a spiritual message, and hence his frustration at the fame he gained by his commercial art, when he most wanted to concentrate on more artistic projects.”
NOTE: Typically most museums in Italy are closed on Mondays. There are exceptions, so check first.