(soft music) – Good evening and welcometo the second episode of Travels With A Curator.
This evening, I would liketo travel still in Italy after we visited the Ca' D'Oro in Venice.
We're traveling south to Rome.
I would like to go to Rome this week, partly because it's my birthplace and it's the place where I grew up, but partly because I thinkthere is a monument there, a site, which is particularlyinteresting for us in these times and has aninteresting relationship to The Frick Collection.
And what I will talk about this evening is Castel Sant'Angelo, the Castle of the Angel, literally translated.
This is a monument on thewest bank of the Tiber just near the river on thesame side as the Vatican.
It's part of the so-called Borgo, the area around the Vatican.
And in front of it, thereis the Ponte Sant'Angelo, the Bridge of the Angel.
For most people, Castel Sant'Angelo, I would imagine is known as the site of a very famous opera, Tosca.
Tosca was first performedin Rome in January 1900.
And when Giacomo Puccini wrote the opera, basing it on a play by theFrench writer Victorien Sardou, he set the third and final act of the play, and the opera, in Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome.
This is a spoiler alert ifyou haven't seen the opera, but I'm assuming most people have.
The last act, the thirdact, takes place there and that is the site where MarioCavaradossi, Tosca's lover, is killed unexpectedly, is shot.
And as a consequence, Tosca commits suicide by jumping from the top terrace of the castle down into the Tiber.
It's the sort of apexof this wonderful opera, one of my favoriteoperas, but most people, most opera lovers tend to think of Castel Sant'Angel asthat, as the site of Tosca.
But in fact, it's a site in Rome that has a lot of otherinteresting associations and a very interesting history.
And that's why I would recommendto everyone going to Rome to go and visit the castlenext time you're there.
So let's look at some ofthe history of the place.
The castle is thisinteresting round structure, fortified structure, along the Tiber.
But what was it created as originally? It didn't start its lifeas a castle, as a fortress, but it started its lifeas a very different place.
It was begun in around 130-135 AD by the Roman Emperor PubliusAelius Hadrianus, Hadrian.
One of the greatlysophisticated Roman Emperors, one of the very few whodied peacefully in his bed after a long reign.
An emperor who was also a philosopher, a thinker, a great lover ofarchitecture and the arts and who rebuilt many sites inRome and all over the Empire.
He was of Spanish origins, but of course moved to Rome with his uncle Trajanand took over as Emperor after Trajan's death.
Hadrian decided to build anew mausoleum for himself and for his family where heand his heirs would be buried.
And this is a reconstructionof what the structure may have looked like.
The Mausoleum of Hadrian was created because the previous mausoleumfor the Imperial Family built by Augustus, and stillstanding as a ruin in Rome, had no more space left.
So Hadrian builds his own mausoleum, it's actually completed afterhis death a few years later, around 139 by hissuccessor Antoninus Pius.
And all Roman emperors, moreor less until Caracalla, are buried in this mausoleum.
And you see it as thisgreat round structure there created with marble and sculptures and with an upper sectionplanted with trees.
This was the typical format ofimperial mausolea of the time and the one of Hadrian was very similar.
In front of it, Hadrian builds one of the few earlybridges over the Tiber, the bridge known as the Ponte Aelius in honor of his name, Aelius Hadrianus.
So this is the bridge, thatthen after many changes, will become the present daybridge, the Ponte Sant'Angelo.
Now the mausoleum remainedas an Imperial Mausoleum until the fall of theRoman Empire of course.
And with invasions of the Goths in Rome and various other barbaric invasions, the mausoleum was sacked and everything that wasprecious about it, the marbles, the sculptures, the precious artifacts, were taken out and it wassort of left in ruins.
But parts of the Romanstructure of the mausoleum still survive within it.
So when you enter the mausoleum today, you go up this very monumental ramp, which was originallydecorated, you have to imagine, with probably marble on thewalls and definitely mosaic, there are a few traces of it on the floor.
And this great space, this sort of spiral ramp, would then bring you tothe heart of the monument, which is of course the burial chamber.
And this is the, in the very, very center of the mausoleum, imagine almost like an Egyptian pyramid.
You would have had a chamberwhere the ashes of Hadrian or Antoninus Pius and ofall the other Emperors, Marcus Aurelius and soon would have been placed and this room still exists.
But in the Middle Ages, as the pope was becoming thenew political head of Rome, and the area aroundRome, Castel Sant'Angelo was turned into a fortress.
And so you can see from this image that the core of the round structure is actually Roman brickwork to which towers andbattlements and various things were added to make itinto a defensive structure that would defend theVatican and the pope.
And that's when thestructure, the building, became known as the Castel Sant'Angelo.
If you look at it from above, you realize that the castle, is this cylinder, this original structure of the mausoleum of Hadrian.
But it's then surrounded onits four sides by bastions, which were added at different stages, and these bastions were namedappropriately with the names of the Four Evangelists.
So these are still to thisday, the bastions of San Mateo, San Marco, San Luca and San Giovanni.
The fortress became theprincipal military structure of Rome within the center thatwould help defend the pope.
So in the Middle Ages, thetreasury of the papacy, many documents were kept in the castle, and the castle functionedas a defensive stronghold but also as the prisons of the city, especially for very importantpolitical prisoners.
It was connected to the Vatican by a very interesting structure.
If you look at the lowerright in this image, you see that there is the beginning of a sort of bridge, whichactually connects this wall that you see here, connecting the castle all theway to the Vatican Palace.
And if you look at thevery end of this image, you can see the Papal Palace, the home of the pope to this day.
Now this structure, thePassetto di Borgo, it's, imagine a long elevated corridor that connects the papalapartments to the castle.
And it was designed as a wayfor the pope to take refuge in case of an attack on the Vatican.
And the pope could rundown the Passetto di Borgo and take refuge in Castel Sant'Angelo.
This last took place in 1527, when in May of that year, the Imperial Troops of Charles V were unleashed, theLandsknechts were known, Lanzichenecco in Rome, were unleashed on Romebecause of differences, clearly between the emperor and the pope and they sacked the city overa period of several weeks in, between May and June 1527.
This was one of the mostdisruptive and difficult moments in the history of Rome in the Modern Age.
And Castel Sant'Angelo took a central part because the pope, accompanied by 13 cardinals, run into the castello and took refuge there for several months.
The head of the ImperialTroops was a French man, was Charles de Bourbon, the Constable of France, so-called Connestabiledi Borbone in Italian, who was shot at the beginningof the sack and killed.
And the person who took theglory of having done that was actually an artist, was aman called Benvenuto Cellini, a sculptor and goldsmith, whowas at the court of the pope, Pope Clement VII and took refuge in Castel Sant'Angelo with him.
And in his famousautobiography, very good read for these times that we're allat home, very entertaining.
He wrote and bragged about the fact that he had killed theConstable of France.
And that he had defended the pope killing several enemiesfrom Castel Sant'Angelo.
Cellini's life brought himback to Castel Sant'Angelo 10 years later, whenin the 1530s, in 1538, he was a prisoner in the castle for a series of alleged crimes.
And he accounts as well, recounts rather, the story of his adventurousescape from Castel Sant'Angelo where he used sheets from his bed to, to lower himself from the topof the castle down and escape.
And of course the sheets weretoo short and he had to jump the last bit and broke a leg and woke up with a brokenleg after passing out, and of course manages thisvery adventurous escape.
We don't know if it's fact or fiction, but it is a very good read.
Now in case the pope was totake refuge in the castello, in the castle, apartments weredecorated by several popes.
And the most lavish onesare the apartments decorated for Pope Paul III inthe 1530s and early 40s.
Pope Paul III Farnese, probably in the footsteps of Clement VII, who actuallyhad spent time at the castello, decided to decorate these rooms.
These rooms would usually be inhabited by the governor of the castle, by the Castellano of Castel Sant'Angelo, but in case the pope was to visit, which of course is somethingthat all pope's dreaded and didn't plan to do, and in fact didn't reallyhappen after the sack of Rome, but these apartments were decorated in case the pope needed them.
And this is the greatestroom in those apartments, the Sala Paulina, theroom of Paul, of Paul III, which was decorated by Perino del Vaga, one of the pupils of Raphael, and Pellegrino Tibaldi in the 1530s.
Now this grand room is decorated with series of mythological, historical scenes, but on the end walls, the two main protagonists of the history of the castle are present.
So on one side you have, ofcourse the emperor Hadrian, the man who created the mausoleum and the structure that was thentransformed into the castle.
On the opposite side, youhave the Archangel Michael.
And you may be asking yourself, why was the castle calledCastel Sant'Angelo? And here we get to thereason why I chose the site and I think this is particularlyappropriate to our days.
The top of the castle is decorated with a statue of an angel, of the Archangel Michael.
And this is the last of these statues, a previous one, a Renaissance one, is now in one of thecourtyards of the castle, it was made out of marbleby Raffaello da Montelupo.
But this is by a Flemish sculptor, Peter Anton von Verschaffelt, and it was placed on top of Castel Sant'Angelo in 1752.
But it commemorates an eventfrom the sixth century.
In the sixth century, aterrible plague hit Rome and the pope died.
Most of the population was dying and a new pope was elected, Pope Gregory, who was then to becomePope Gregory the Great.
And Gregory starts a series of processions to pray for the end of the plague that is decimating the population.
And during one of these processionspeople are dropping dead as they walk through the city.
But as the pope reaches the Vatican, reaches the area of thecastle toward Saint Peter's, he sees an apparitionat the top of the castle and it's an angel, it'sthe Archangel Michael, who has in his hand, asword covered in blood.
And as he lifts the sword up to the sky, he puts it back into the sheath and he, with this sign, he signifiesthe end of the plague.
And with this miraculous apparition, the plague stopped in Rome.
So the castle was renamedthe Castle of the Holy Angel, Castel Sant'Angelo, inhonor of Saint Michael, A statue of Saint Michael always appeared on top of the castle to remember, to remind, the people and the visitors of this miraculous instance.
And I think it's very appropriate to think about it these days, to think how a pandemic ischanging the way we live in, but also how in the Middle Ages in Rome the plague was very much something that was happening on a regular basis.
And how religious processions and miracles were part of what was happening and what was the storyaround these episodes.
So that is one of the reasons why I chose Castel Sant'Angelo.
It's not a site that is oftenvisited by people in Rome.
You know, Rome is so richin museums and treasures and churches and sites tosee, both ancient and modern.
But Castel Sant'Angelois always a little bit of an afterthought for people, but it is a very interestingand wonderful place.
And I think we need tothink about it today because of this connectionto illness and salvation and this idea of miraculous interventions.
But for us in New York, and especially for me asa curator at the Frick and for you watching this video, there is a further link.
In the 1570s, when Paul III was redecoratingCastel Sant'Angelo, soon after that, several years, several decades later in fact, one of the castellani of the castle who would have used those rooms that Paul III decoratedin the 1570s, mid-1570s, was Jacopo Boncompagni.
And Jacopo Boncompagni was theson, unbelievable but true, of the pope, of Pope GregoryXIII, Gregory Boncampagni.
He had the son before becoming Pope, and he had recognized him, and Jacopo was given the veryimportant role of Governor, Castellano, of Castel Sant'Angelo.
And he was portrayed in the1570s by Scipione Pulzone, one of the great artistsactive in Rome at the time.
And this is the very beautiful portrait of Jacopo Boncampagni, which is currently ina private collection.
Jacopo Boncampagni hired another man, a man called Vincenzo Anastagito become the Sergeant Major, the Sergente Maggioreof Castel Sant'Angelo.
And this portrait of Vincenzo Anastagi, of course, is at the Frick.
And it's painted by a young Greek artist, Domeikos Theotokopoulos, whohad moved from his birthplace, from Crete to Venice and then to Rome.
And he had been workingat the court of the pope and especially he had beenworking for the Farnese family.
He had been working forthe heirs of Pope Paul III.
And during his period in Rome, we still don't know why exactly, but he is asked to do this very grand, full-length portrait of Vincenzo Anastagi, and this of course is nowat The Frick Collection.
And El Greco's portrait ofAnastagi probably sets Anastagi within the background of aroom at Castel Sant'Angelo and probably celebrates his role as the Sergeant Major of the castle.
Anastagi had become famous because he had been anactive military figure in the famous Siege of Malta in 1565.
But after his role at Castel Sant'Angelo, he returned back to Malta.
He was a knight of Malta.
And in 1585, he actually is murdered by two other fellow knights, still under sort ofmysterious circumstances, probably a fight, a brawlbetween between knights.
But the two paintings, theVincenzo Anastagi by El Greco and the Scipione Pulzone, were brought together in 2014 at the Frick.
In an exhibition that Ihope many of you have seen, that was called “Men in Armor.
” And for the first time, the portraits of Boncampagniand Anastagi were shown in the same room.
And we borrowed the Anastagi from the private collector who owns it.
Now, if you want to knowmore about this exhibition, you can visit our website and there is more information on frick.
org about the exhibition in 2014 and there is also an associatedlecture with the exhibition.
So again traveling inthese times of lockdown, allows us to think about thehistory of lesser-known places.
Think about how they'reconnected to our lives today and think also about how they're connected to some of the treasuresthat we have at the Frick.
And again, I very much hope that we will all soon beable to go back to the Frick and enjoy the wonderfulpainting by El Greco.
Go to Rome, and if you haven't visited Castel Sant'Angelo, you can do that.
In the meantime, listen at home to Tosca and think of Castel Sant'Angelo.
And I look forward toseeing you all again soon, next Wednesday, for anotherTravels With The Curator, where we will visit Poland, look forward.