Art has never been my forte. I look at paintings, notice how well done they are and move on to the next one. Rinse, repeat and I can probably be out of a museum as big as the Louvre in half an hour. The only works of art I have ever been able to discuss in depth are Kanye West’s albums. Let me know when Michelangelo creates something half as good as Kanye’s third verse on his song “Gorgeous.” But seriously, taking art history in Rome has helped my understanding of art and even the world tremendously.
I remember learning about Greek architecture in 6th grade and having to memorize the capitals on top of pillars (doric, ionic and Corinthian). I never remembered the difference because I was just looking at pictures in a textbook or on a projector. After 3 weeks of art history here, I can speak on the influence of classical Greek architecture on Roman architecture. I can’t walk a block in this amazing city without noticing fluted columns, pilaster strips or the Renaissance interpretation of the classical ionic column under an arch. That last sentence would have meant nothing to me a few weeks ago. By the end of this semester I’ll only discuss art with those distinguished enough to own monocles and describe wine as “oaky” or “structured” (what does that mean?).
I have seen so many amazing things here, but I have to say my favorite so far is Villa d’Este. Created in 1550, Villa d’Este has these beautiful, elaborate fountains. Somehow, the creators figured out how to use hydraulic engineering to supply water to dozens of fountains. I highly recommend checking out Villa d’Este. We did not have to pay to get in because it was for an educational trip, but it is definitely worth the few euros it normally costs to get in. Around every corner, you’ll find another fountain.
I know it sounds obvious; of course I will gain more from an art history class when I actually can see the works in real life. I knew that going into this trip. But I did not realize what a profound impact it would have. There is an incredibly eerie yet inspiring feeling that comes with viewing a work of art that dates back to 2nd century BCE. I have never really noticed how young America is; George Washington and the founding fathers seem like ancient history to me. But in Rome, there is literally ancient history.
While standing above the amphitheater of Sutri on an art class site visit, I was amazed. In the 2nd century BCE, these people had found a way to excavate a mountainside into an amphitheater that could seat hundreds. Even today with our modern technology, I would not know where to begin on a project like that. What I found especially amazing is the foresight that some of the emperors of Rome had. Many of the projects spanned of over a hundred years. Creating something for future generations is a very noble endeavor, and a concept I wish we would focus on more now. Not everything we do needs an instantaneous result. I hear peers express the idea (though thankfully, this is not the majority opinion) that we do not need to worry about the environment because future generations will have to deal with it. Thankfully Romans did not have this shortsighted perspective. I’ll try to match their worldly perspective with one of my own: I’ll give that Michelangelo guy another look.