On the same, soaking rainy day, Kingsley and I toured the Vatican and the Marc Chagall: Love and Life exhibit. The striking juxtaposition of the content, the spirit, the environment, and the accessibility of the artwork was to my American and lapsed Catholic’s sensibility, ironic.
The Vatican was breathtaking. From the crowds gathered in St Peter’s Square to the hushed hypnotic viewing of the Pieta, every room, hallway, courtyard held treasures. Our tour guide was a Vatican employee (unlike other independent tour guides) who was highly knowledgeable and respectful of the history and majesty – without sharing inside stories, true or false. From the monumental (St Peter’s Throne and the Brunelleschi altar) to the familiar (Sistine Chapel) to the surprising collection of contemporary art (the textile hanging by Matisse), it was a feast of art and architecture and the history of one of most influential institutions in the history of the world…and it did not disappoint.
Featured at the Chiostro del Bramante, a fine contemporary art museum a few steps from the Piazza Navona, was a retrospective of Marc Chagall. The exhibit was significant (and unfortunately, poorly executed – it was difficult to follow the sequence of work, even with numbers and a headset) with 140 works that highlighted the 3 cultures to which he belonged: Jewish, Russian, and the Western tradition of painting – from Rembrandt to the avant garde. It began with his life and the love of his life – his wife and muse, author Bella Rosenfeld – and completed with his paintings and etchings inspired by the Bible. Chagall believed the Bible to be “the most beautiful poem ever written”. He was a painter with a perspective without judgement, a painter whose truth was his own religion, his love of country and his expression as a painter.
I was overwhelmed by so much visual stimulation and world class art, and took the edge off with a mid-afternoon cappuccino break in the cafe, to rest feet and eyes and let the day wash over me.
It is important to fill the well…even sometimes to the point of spilling over.