Bologna 1 (.5)

The best part about my hotel in Bologna is the terrace.

On the first evening I started by strolling to Piazza Maggiore, saw the Neptune fountain, and saw the San Petronio Basilica. My hotel is super-basic, but right in the middle of everything.

Unfortunately, Chapel of the Magi, the place in San Petronio I really wanted to photograph is forbidden to photograph from the inside. You’ll just have to trust me that it was worth waiting for 5 reboots of the credit card machine ;).

Then I just walked the streets. Bologna is known for its 25 miles of colonnades and its multiple towers. Many of those towers are leaning. In fact the famous two towers are currently not accessible and after seeing them from the outside I think I know why.

The next day I walked all over old town and saw

  1. Maria Della Vita with two incredible sculptural groups. The first one is Nicolo Dell’Arca’s Lamentation over Dead Christ, which deserves much better photographs than the ones I was able to take. It is indescribable. My photographs and all others I ever saw seem cheesy. It is cheesy (complete with a gratuitous nipple). For a while the hospital which owned the statues hid them to avoid frightening the patients. It’s not beautiful. It’s not consistent (note the wind that blows on the two Maries at right and not anyone else). It’s striking and unforgettable.

The second group, Transit of the Virgin by Alfonso Lombardi, represents an attempt by the High Priest to overturn Mary’s coffin (An apocryphal and unlikely story. The statues were paid for by the Flagellants, who united to whip themselves and hate Jews). The next day I also went to St. Peter’s cathedral and saw Lombardi’s Lamentation. After Dell’Arca it comes across as almost stoic and sadly staid.

2. Horological tower and views of the city from the top (I had to sign an actual disclaimer to go up these stairs).

3. The Communal art collection – a typical small North Italian museum meaning that they don’t have enough Tintorettos to cover all the walls. I absolutely loved it, because what they do have is walls and walls of Pelagio Palagi, author of one of my favorite paintings. He combined the eighteenth-century kawaii with nineteenth-century drama. Born and raised in Bologna he left a lot of his artwork and his large collection of art that inspired him (including an incredible ancient Minerva’s head and an Egyptian cat) to the city.

They also have plenty of Gaetano Gandolfi whom I love primarily for his name and only secondly for the above-mentioned kawaii. Below are his self-portrait and portrait of his wife.

Part of the museum is furnished rooms and I do love museum furnished rooms. The last room was my favorite – frescoed as a garden and containing nothing but an Apollo by Canova. Well, Apollo and an elderly museum guide who, disappointed in my Italian, spoke Spanish to make sure I was really, truly, indeed, very much impressed.

They also have a room with three (3, Karl!) versions of Death of Virginia, which is at least three more than I ordinarily enjoy seeing, beautiful as they are.

And at the very end (no photos because they closed the museum on me. Again.) they have the Argonauts’ gallery. The local Jesuit school for high-born boys picked the best student each year and gave him a highly-coveted medal with an image of Argo. Each of them posed for a portrait with the medal. That means there are two rooms of portraits of young men of the same location, the same age, same religion, same class – the only things that change are fashion and personal preference (which at that age, let’s face it, is subordinate to fashion). Eighteenth through nineteenth century. Fashion historians probably come there to pray. Sometimes I wish I was a fashion historian.

4. Archiginnasio palace, especially the anatomical theater. It is very different from the one in Padua – shorter, wider, brighter (140 years difference is a lot), and has a truly insane ceiling.

Besides the theater (look at the skinless guys! and that Apollo!) there were coats of arms, and the Stabat Mater room (with a peek at the library). All beautiful, and I especially liked monuments to the lectors.

    And yes, of course I walked through the medieval market, and the shopping streets, and the fancy gallery, and the awesome made-from-porticos gallery 🙂

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