Meeting Rome's Finest Artists – Michelangelo, Raphael and More: A Five Part Course with Livia Galante

Meeting Rome's Finest Artists – Michelangelo, Raphael and More: A Five Part Course with Livia Galante


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This five-part course has been designed to follow the footsteps of five artistic masterminds who each left their own distinct mark upon Rome –  the Eternal City. Each session will lead us on a journey to reveal the tremendous monuments and masterpieces these men spent their lives building… and the impact their intersecting visions had upon the city’s architecture and artistic legacy. Each seminar will focus on the life and works of a distinguished artist. 

We will begin with Michelangelo and Raphael – two masters who embodied the artistic spirit of the Italian Renaissance. Our discussion will lead us from the Papal apartments to the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The idyllic beauty and decorum of the Renaissance era will transfigure into the popularity of more organic and realistic aspects of Caravaggio’s style. Known for creating his masterpieces without much of a first draft, Caravaggio’s willingness to bend the rules paved the way for the Baroque period of the 17th century – in which surprise, glamour, and theatrics were the order of the day. 

From there, we will meet Gian Lorenzo Bernini, whose multifaceted talents spanned a variety of artistic mediums – from sculpture to architecture, from poetry to paintings. Rival of Bernini was the great architect Francesco Borromini, whose genius left absolute masterpieces such as the dome of S. Ivo alla Sapienza, the Church of S. Carlino, and the façade of the Oratory of S. Philip Neri – to mention just the highlights. 

Led by an expert Art Historian, Livia Galante, this course will explore the city of Rome through the eyes of its Grand Masters. Designed to inspire curiosity as well as future travels, participants will come away having learned of the distinguishing characteristics of Renaissance and Baroque art and architecture. Furthermore, our expert will reveal the masterpieces of these genius artisans, but also take us off the beaten path to contextualize several of their lesser-known works. 

Lecture One – Michelangelo:
Our course will begin by reviewing the early career of Michelangelo. His first public commission was the pietà for Cardinal Jean de Bilhères-Lagraulas, which came to be regarded as one of the world’s finest sculptures and led to Michelangelo’s commission to build the tomb of Pope Julius II. Although Michelangelo worked on the tomb for 40 years, it was never finished to his satisfaction. And at the same time, he was hard at work on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, and together we will review the finer details of this majestic masterpiece. Our discussion will also explore the artist’s additional works within the Vatican Museums – The Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel and the frescoes of the adjacent Pauline Chapel.

Lecture Two – Raphael:
The “Prince of the Painters” as Giorgio Vasari, a sixteenth-century biographer of artists, called him an “enfant prodige,” more flexible than Michelangelo and more productive than Leonardo da Vinci. The young master arrived in Rome (summoned by Pope Julius II) in 1508, to paint the papal apartment. Building a career in Rome, Raphael began working for the most important patrons of his time. At the peak of his career, he died at 37 y.o. and was buried in the Pantheon, the building that embodied the ideal of perfection that Raphael pursued throughout his brief life.

Lecture Three – Caravaggio:
Caravaggio has often been depicted by historians as a troublemaker, keen to use a sword more than his words. From an artistic point of view, he was a talented painter who worked directly on the canvas, moving by instinct without much of a game plan. Caravaggio's many mentors included important cardinals, who expected him to follow the true orthodoxy of the Roman Catholic Church. He took inspiration from the revered masters of the Renaissance – Michelangelo and Raphael – but he also studied in depth the exquisite Roman statues of the papal collections. His artworks were famous for the realistic accuracy of the human figures he painted. He also used extreme contrasts of light and dark to accentuate the emotional and physical dramas.

Lecture Four – Bernini:
Thanks to his talent, but also to his charm and his interpersonal skills, Bernini managed to outshine his competitors to capture the most important commissions of his day and worked tirelessly for five popes. Bernini was among the greatest exponent, together with Francesco Borromini and Pietro da Cortona, in the transformation of the image of the papal city. Throughout his life, Bernini never left the city of Rome, where most of his masterpieces are kept, except when, in 1665, he reached Paris invited by King Louis XIV. Bernini died in Rome on November 28, 1680.

Lecture Five – Borromini: 
Where Bernini was charming, joyful, successful, Borromini was spiky and difficult, known for his melancholy moods and exquisite architecture designs. Born in Bissone (today Switzerland) he was trained as a stonecutter and marble carver. Once in Rome, he worked tirelessly on the construction of Saint Peter’s Basilica with the architect Carlo Maderno, (his distant relative) who recognized the extraordinary talent of the young artist and took him under his wing. After Maderno’s death, Borromini became the assistant of Gian Lorenzo Bernini, with whom he often clashed in the following years. Borromini eventually gained his own fame and introduced new foundations of Roman architecture – such as concave and convex lines, elliptical shapes, and forced perspectives. In the last chapter of his life, overcome with depression, he stabbed himself in the chest and claimed a burial space next to his master Maderno, in the Church of San Giovanni dei Fiorentini. 

Livia obtained a degree in Archaeology at the Sapienza University of Rome and has a Master's degree in the History and Conservation of Cultural Heritage from the University of Roma Tre. Her main field of interest is ancient Roman topography and early Christian architecture; however, she is an accomplished scholar whose teaching ability extends to the Renaissance and Baroque Rome. As a native Roman, Livia is very enthusiastic in sharing the deep love and knowledge she has for her hometown with clients.

How does it work?
This is a five-part series held weekly and hosted on Zoom. Please check the schedule for the specific dates and times for each lecture. All Context Conversations are advertised in Eastern Standard Time.

When will I receive the Zoom link?
Your link to enter the Zoom room will be the same for all five sessions. It will be sent to the email address used to place your order 30 minutes prior to each lecture's start time.

Is there a reading list in advance?
Though the course is open to participants with no background on this topic, there are suggested readings for further investigation. These will be provided at the course's conclusion.

How long are the lectures?
Each lecture is 90 minutes long with time for Q&A.

How much is the course?
The course is $175 USD for five lectures.

Is a recording available?
Yes. All registered participants will be sent a recording link within 48 hours of each session's conclusion.

This conversation is suitable for all ages.

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

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