Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A View from the Gianicolo 2

Becket, January 1st, 2013

During his first visit to Rome in 1819, the English painter J. M. W. Turner made countless sketches of the city, quite a few from the Janiculum Hill.  Among them, a small watercolor with a rather unusual point of view, looking from behind the Fontana dell'Acqua Paola, facing more north than east.  Unlike other views, this one has a crowded foreground, with the Villa Aurelia (now part of the American Academy) to the left and San Pietro in Montorio to the right.

With a little imagination you can see so much in this picture!  If you look between the fountain and the villa--and towards the end of the 17th century--you can see Christina, the Queen of Sweden, entertaining actors and musicians at the Palazzo Corsini.  To the left, on the other side of the fountain and a century earlier, the poet Torquato Tasso, under his oak tree at the Convent of Sant'Onofrio, looking at Rome and dreaming of Jerusalem. Even earlier, at the beginning of the 16th century, the architect Donato Bramante, inside the courtyard of San Pietro contemplating perfection in the design of his circular Tempietto.  Of course, if you're willing to go back almost 2,000 years, you'll even see the martyrdom of San Peter himself, right there on the spot of Bramante's masterpiece.

But you can go even farther, much farther back, to Janus himself, the two-faced god of beginnings, for whom Romans named both the hill and the month of January.

Happy New Year!

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