So I set out to see the Galleria di Arte Antica once again, as it is very close to where I stay when I am in Rome, and I find that the museum has been completely renovated, the display has been rearranged and there are many new rooms, 34 in all.
If you have previously visited the museum, once shabby and outdated, you will be mesmerized by the restoration. For once something we Italians can do like no others.
On the ground floor the suite of new rooms, all the walls decorated with historical colour schemes, culminate in the Sala delle Colonne, an indoor garden of delight with the harmonious fountain with statue of Bacco. Downstairs you can see Bellini, Filippo Lippi, Perugino.
Apart from the meditative St Mary Magdalene the collection includes Raffaello's La Fornarina- exceptionally they were juxtaposing it with Raphael's Portrait of a Young Man, on loan from the Thyssen Bornemisza Museum of Madrid.
On the first floor the magnificent hall with the ceiling decorated by Pietro da Cortona is now flooded with natural light and on display you can find Caravaggio, Holbein, Poussin, Tiziano, Bernini just to name a few. A second floor has also been added and it hosts the Lemme collection of art of the XVIII century.
The museum has a website with a non existent English version, one of the things we Italians can not do, but you can try and navigate the Italian pages: I wonder how they hope to reach the intended target for the next years which is to double the visitors. anyway this is a must see for tourists !
When I visited in December the temporary exhibition was "Guercino". I never realised why he had this nickname, but it is eveident in a portrait in the show ( guercio in Italian means cross-eyed) !
He mainly painted religious compositions, although ambitious and complex, one soon tires of them when there are so many all together. The painting that stayed with me from the show was the only portrait included, Ritratto del Cardinal Bernardino Spada.
The softness of the reds and the elegance of the composition are stunning. A great painting lesson in simplicity as a result of a process.
I was going to see the Cardinal again the following day in the portrait painted by Guido Reni, Guercino's arch-rival, on display in Palazzo Spada, his home, now the Council of State and a cultural venue, in a show on Renaissance in Rome. Guercino wins hands down.
The show was a comprehensive collection of paintings, sculptures, fresco pieces and more, and an excellent document on the wealth of artistic activity in the capital during the period.
If you visit Rome, don't forget to check what's on in these venues for temporary exhibitions: Galleria di Arte Antica, Scuderie del Quirinale, Galleria Spada, Chiostro del Bramante, Palazzo delle Esposizioni.