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Art,  Travel

Couch Culture: Visiting the Museums and Historic Sites of Italy from Home

By Evelyn Hill, Well Traveled Consultant living in Turin

Many people unfortunately had to cut short, postpone, or cancel their trips to Italy due to the Coronavirus Pandemic. We’re left doing whatever we can to find little escapes without leaving the living room. Luckily for us, Google has assisted museums around the world in step up their digitization game and provide tours and their entire collections in HD. Originally drawn to Italy to study Art History and Archaeology, I do believe in the power of experiencing art first hand. However, more than ever, I appreciate what an amazingly powerful tool digital museums can be in creating accessibility to art and culture to those who cannot travel. 

Google Arts & Culture not only lets you peruse hundreds of museums around Italy (and the world) on your own – think street view but in a museum, but it also provides access to other cultural sites. Whether you are preparing for your next trip to Italy, or just a curious art lover, these virtual museums will definitely help you pass the time during social distancing! Read on for my five favorite works of art and how you can visit them from your couch today!

  1. Judith and Holofernes by Artemisia Gentileschi, 1601. 

Artemisia Gentileschi was one of the most accomplished Baroque Artists, and the first female to enter the Accademia di Arte del Disegno in Florence. Her style is often compared to Caravaggio. Gentileschi was a rape survivor and fought for women through her art. She turned the traumatic events of her own life into powerful works of art, portraying strong and suffering women as the center of her masterpieces such as that of the biblical figure of Judith.  In her story, Holofernes, an Assyrian general, came to destroy Judith’s city. She took matters into her own hands, using his interest in her to sneak into his tent and behead him, saving her people.

You can find this work of art in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

  1. The Dying Gaul by an unknown sculptor, circa 100AD. 

The ancient Romans often found themselves in squabbles with the Gauls, a tribe located in the north of Italy and Europe. I love this sculpture because of its incredible attention to detail. It identifies the man as a Gaul due to his facial hair, matted locks, sword, and the torque necklace he wears around his neck. He is caught in the moments after a fatal wound. He has been stabbed in the chest and has fallen to the ground. The details in the statue make it truly seem a moment caught in stone. What is especially moving is his facial expression. Make sure to use the magnification tools on Google Arts & Culture to zoom and move the photo to check out the details!

Find it in the Capitoline Museums in Rome.

  1. The Lion of Saint Mark by Vittore Carpaccio, 1516.

While it may seem a bit out of place with the other works of art in this collection, I chose to include the Lion of St. Mark because of its significance to Venice. Carpaccio was a great artist in the Renaissance and what is really intriguing about his works is the attention to background detail – depicting the city of Venice. The Lion itself is the symbol of Venice. Saint Mark is the patron saint of the city, the lion became his and the city’s mascot because it stood for power, nobility, and pride, as well as resurrection. 

Find it in the Doge’s Palace in Venice.

  1. Rondanini Pieta by Michelangelo, circa 1550.

Ok, so this piece is actually unfinished. Why is an unfinished Michelangelo so much more interesting than say, the David? Well because this was the very last piece Michelangelo worked on before his death. Unique to this sculpture, Michelangelo was not producing for a patron, bur for himself. It is argued that the Pieta was both a reflection of his own religious views. The psychology behind this work could fill books so I will save this for some time when you are here in Italy and we can discuss over coffee!

Take advantage of the high resolution images on Google Arts to admire Michelangelo’s technique.

You can find this great work in the Sforzesco Castle, Milan.

  1. The Fourth Estate by Giuseppe Pellizza da Volpedo, 1868/1902

This painting stands almost 3 meters high. Which makes it really incredible to stand in front of, as the workers appear to be moving towards you. This piece depicts Italian Workers on strike. The term Fourth Estate refers to the social and political force who’s influence was often not recognized. Throughout Italy’s history there have been many workers strikes that have shown how powerful this Fourth Estate truly is.

You can find this work in the Museo del Novecento in Milan.

I hope I’ve sparked your interest to start planning your Italy Museum visits post quarantine and until then, begin your exploration from home. Remember to have a look around many more Italian Museums on Google Arts & Culture and catch the Vatican Virtual Tours here!

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