Here is an itinerary I designed for my personal trip to Rome to conduct my Caravaggio survey. This post contains Day 1 and Day 2 will follow in the next posting. It is possible to complete the entire itinerary in two days - I have done it. The traveler with more time may want to take the information from the itinerary and use it as needed in planning a longer trip to the Eternal City. Judging from its nickname, Rome be there as long as you need, but unfortunately, the wealth of Caravaggio there will not. The exibition at the Scuderie Quirinale closes June 13, 2010. But take heart, the rest of the paintings in the following itinerary are there as eternally as Rome itself.
In the following posts is my personal guide to the Caravaggios currently in Rome, but there is one which is there, but not available to be seen. Caravaggio's only fresco is in the Casino Boncompagni Ludovisi, but the casino is aprivate residence, belonging still to the Ludovisi family. If anyone can prcure an invitation for me to see that fresco, I would be most appreciative.
Stop 1 :Santa Maria Del Popolo
Exit Termini Station from the front exits, toward the bus stop zone. As you leave the station, head to the right, to the Metro entrance. Take the Metro to Flaminio-Piazza Del Popolo (4th stop/Red A Line, in the direction of Battistini). As you exit the station, follow the signs to Piazza Del Popolo. The Metro exit will leave you just outside a big arch. This is actually the Porta Flavinia, an important entry point into ancient Rome, which the reader may wish to research further. Step through the arch, into Piazza del Popolo and enjoy its scale and Baroque symmetry. No, those lovely twin churches acorss the Piazza are not your destination. Once you cross through the archway into the Piazza, (if it's raining, just try to avoid the vendors selling umbrellas) the Church of Santa Maria Del Popolo will be on your immediate left.
Walk up Via 4 Fontani for 3 blocks, where you will turn Left at the Via del Quirinale. Walk past the Palazzo Quirinale (the palace of the Popes!) on your right and notice what a very long building it is indeed. At the far end of the building, you approach Piazza Quirinale with its obelisk and tons of Carbinieres. Just past the Piazza on the right is the Scuderie del Quirinale, originally the Popes' stables, where you will find the exhibition.
Though very dark, and perhaps in need of a gentle cleaning and a review of its lighting, the viewer can still make out Narcissus gazing into his own reflection. What is extremely dynamic and interesting about this otherwise still and contemplative painting, is that Caravaggio has structured the compostion as a circle, the arc of Narcissus's body on the upper part of the canvas and its reflection in the lower section. In typical fashion, Caravaggio has to make a part of the canvas project toward us and blur our space with that of canvas. He does it with the knee, which is brightly illuminated and is the center of the circle. A beautiful composition.
Of the six Caravaggios in the Borghese collection, three are included in the exhibition at the Scuderie Quirinale (Boy with Basket of Fruit, St. John the Baptist and David with the Head of Goliath). St. Jerome is in conservation, at the moment, so is not on display, but the very early work called Self Portrait as the Sick Bacchus and the Virgin of Palafrenieri are each worth the price of admission.