Eternal Cities.

February 16, 2016

 

"The law of the past cannot be eluded, The law of the present and future cannot be eluded, The law of the living cannot be eluded—it is eternal..." - Walt Whitman, To Think of Time

 

As Walt Whitman in the 19th century, I am a wanderer. A discoverer. A watcher. I note the details of the world, and I am inspired by them. Like him, I am an optimist. Like him, I am bound by the time in which I live, and my own prejudices.

 

Travel, whether around the world or in one's own city, helps break down those prejudices- but in some cases, it can reinforce them. Lucky for me, I had little time to think about my prejudices as I was immersed in an experience so intense that I barely had time to make art in the final two weeks.

 

 

Our visit to Roma Aeterna (Eternal Rome), one of the oldest cities in the world, was my second time there, but this trip had very deep personal significance for me. As a student of family history for the last ten years, arriving in Rome with my father (who I met just over a year ago for the first time) was a revelation. Away from the family clamor for a day, and accompanied by our cousin and guide Anna, we visited some of the most significant tourist sites in Europe.

 

Trajan's Column (photo above), completed in AD 113, is most famous for its spiral bas relief, which artistically describes the epic wars between the Romans and Dacians (101–102 and 105–106). Its design has inspired numerous victory columns, both ancient and modern. Not only that, but its imagery was intended for an illiterate audience, or that of future civilizations that did not read Latin.

 

 Side view of the Arch of Constantine, and beyond is the Foro Imperiali (Imperial Forum). The Arch utilized material from earlier civic art, giving a perfect example of "spolia" - reuse of materials from one building, artwork, etc to create another. Sometimes this was done simply because it was cheap and easy, other times to show cultural dominance over the person or group whose materials were reused.

 

 Palazzo di Giustizia (Palace of Justice) in Rome, with the symbol of Roman domination atop- the Triumphal Quadriga - chariot drawn by four horses.

 

 In 1730, Pope Clement XII held a design competition for one of the largest and most dramatic fountains Rome had ever known. Sited in the Trevi district, the Fontana di Trevi was located at the terminus of an ancient Roman acqueduct that once served the Baths of Agrippa. Nicola Salvi, a Roman, initially lost the competition to a Florentine, but public outcry led to him getting the award after all. He used a few Bernini-esque touches based on a previous but unbuilt design, and appended an entirely new facade onto the Palazzo Poli. Sculptor Pietro Bracci's Oceanus looks out over the fountain. Interesting how the Catholic leadership approved the use of pagan symbolism in such self-promotional works!

 

 The Campidoglio, or Capitoline Hill, with piazza design by Michelangelo. Overlooks the Foro Imperiali.

 

 Angel scupltures line the bridge facing the Castel Sant'angelo, formerly the Mausoleum of Hadrian, adjoining the Vatican and Basilica di San Pietro (Saint Peter's Basilica).

 

 St. Peter's Basilica across the Tevere (Tiber River).

 

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