If you haven’t been able to tell in my blogs yet, I love art, literature, and most things that reside in the creative world.
That being said, I have basically died and gone to heaven with our venture into Italy. From Florence to Rome I have lived out my long-awaited dream of seeing Renaissance art not just through a screen or pictures, but with my own two eyes. Lucky for me, art lives in every corner and crevice of these cities. And let me tell you… it has not dissapointed.
I see art—visual, linguistic, auditory, theatrical, or anything in between—as the only form that truly explores the human condition. With a mere stroke, or sound, or click on a keyboard, art can open a multitude of doors. Renaissance art, for example, reestablished the faith in humanity, with a unique juxtaposition of knowledge, religion, and nature all in one form—it essentially shaped the era. The art and literature from those centuries evoked prominent change that altered the course of history. Paint did that, chisels did that, words did that. No matter the medium, art has power and the Renaissance is the quintessential example of that.
For a long time, my favorite Renaissance painting has been Raphael’s The School of Athens for many of those exact reasons. It offers us a glimpse of the minds and intellects and hearts and opinions of the people of that century. Knowledge was rising, the desire to learn and understand was alive and well. The famous fresco depicts men like Aristotle and Plato and Ptolemy and Pythagoras all in one scene, gathering to share ideas and learn from one another. It was a long awaited dream of mine to step into the Raphael Rooms and finally see The School of Athens. And I did.
Being led by a lovely tour guide through Vatican City, I was trying my best to stay in the moment, stay calm, and stay focused on the walls around me, yet my mind kept wandering away to this one fresco. I was going to see it, be in its presence. Every corner we turned amped up my excitement. And with our final steps into the Raphael Rooms, my excitement hit a peak and I was overcome by one emotion.
Awe—I felt awe-struck standing in the Raphael Rooms, mouth agape and eyes wide. Surrounded by inspiration and knowledge and culture, I was in shock, overwhelmed, I didn’t even know what to feel. ART. DID. THAT. This man, Raphael, a seventeen-year-old kid from a small Italian city created paintings in the 16th century that still have the capacity to evoke emotion in people today, to evoke emotion in me today. Creativity outlives eras while exploring humanity in its purest form; it’s one of the few things on this earth that never goes old, but always has something to teach. Raphael took philosophy and science and mathematics, and juxtaposed it with beauty and creativity. This birthed a combination of logistic learning and creative endeavors. Additionally, the sociological beliefs of the Renaissance are being SCREAMED from The School of Athens; the people’s ideals and emotions and very lives are being illuminate by strokes of paint on a wall.
Why does this all matter? What’s the point of learning about art? Because art unites people and cultivates an understanding of all kinds of people. Raphael’s paintings show me what its like to be a person in the 15th or 16th century. They show me rationale on their way of thinking and the reasons society acted the way they did. They show me how schools of thought changed through the years and how values shifted and how our world came to be what it is now. Yet also, his paintings show me that I have so much to still learn about people, so much to learn about the walks of lives of people distant from me. These notion expands to every artist of every kind, not just Raphael. Art has the unique ability to show us how different our worlds may be, yet how similar we still are.
Eventually, I walked out of the Raphael Rooms and finally processed what just happened. It was beyond my wildest dreams. Rome’s art has quite literally fulfilled my dreams and outlived my expectations. I never thought I would become teary-eyed in a room of frescoes or gawk at a ceiling far above me. All the things I’ve learned in a classroom or on paper have come to life and, now, I can appreciate them all the more.
Here’s a pic that I forced Abby to take of me geeking out in the middle of the Stanza della Signature. Enjoy.