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Popes and Patronage at the Vatican Museums

Online Seminars on Italian History - the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo


90 minutes


After this seminar, you'll know all there is to know about : The Vatican Museums, Renaissance Popes, the Italian Renaissance, Pope Sixtus IV, Pope Julius II, the Sistine Chapel, the Raphael Rooms

Write to us here to request this private seminar :

The Vatican Museums are home to some of the world's most impressive works of art : Michelangelo's frescoes in the Sistine Chapel, Raphael's School of Athens in the Room of the Signature, and Saint Peter's Basilica, to name just a few.  But how did these masterpieces come to be, and what was the inspiration behind them?  During this seminar, we will take a behind-the-scenes look at the great artists that shaped the Italian Renaissance in Rome and the popes that inspired, encouraged and supported them. 

Early Renaissance

During the first part of the seminar, we will hear about the Early Renaissance in Rome and discover the popes that transformed their living quarters into full-fledged museums, with frescoes and sculptural decor by Italy's most renowned artists.  See the private appartments of Pope Alexander XVI, the infamous Borgia pope, and the magnificent frescoes and gold-encrusted mosaics by Pinturicchio, depicting the pope's very own illegitimate children Lucrezia, Juan and Cesare Borgia.  Also hear about Pope Sixtus IV's plan to build a magnificent chapel -- the Sistine Chapel, you guessed it -- and ambitious plan to cover its walls with frescoes by the crème de la crème among Florentine painters : Botticelli, Ghirlandaio, and Perugino.  Learn about the Early Renaissance, the artistic movement born in the Medicean capital city of Florence, and how it was transposed to the Eternal City and the Holy See, under the careful watch of the popes.

High Renaissance

Next, we will explore the golden age of art and architecture at the Vatican Museums : the High Renaissance.  Although this period was short (just under 30 years), it was one of the most intensely creative periods of artistic genius that the world had ever seen -- and many of its treasures are housed within the Vatican Museums. During the second part of the seminar, we will take a look at the star figures of the High Renaissance in Rome and the popes that supported their work. Hear all about Pope Julius II, who designed an ambitious project to transform the grounds of the Holy See and called an extraordinarily talented trio of artists to bring this transformation into being : Raphael, Michelangelo, and Bramante.  Discover Raphael's work in the Raphael Rooms, including the Room of the Signature and the famous fresco of the School of Athens ; Michelangelo's magnificent work on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, just down the hall from his rival Raphael and completed the very same years ; and Bramante's great plan for the reconstruction of Saint Peter's Basilica.  Also hear about Pope Leo X, the Medici pope, and Leonardo da Vinci's visit to Rome as his guest.


Lastly, we will look at the late stages of this artistic period in Rome, known as Mannerism.  As the High Renaissance drew to a close, disappearing almost as suddenly as it had first appeared, a new style began to emerge among the younger generation of artists.  Popes Clement VII and Paul III were the champions of this new Mannerist movement, and continued the intense artistic patronage exemplified by their predecessors, Julius II and Leo X.  Hear all about the Wall of the Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo's late work on the altar wall of the chapel, a supremely powerful fresco portraying the torment, anguish, and uncertainty of the times.  And discover the new generation of artists, who had inherited the expertise and prowess of their teachers Michelangelo and Raphael, but chose to direct their talents towards a darker, more sinister style, as a direct expression of the disillusionment of the times.  

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