Thursday, June 16, 2011

Rome: Vatican Museum - Gregorian Profane

 Another area of the Vatican museum that has a fine collection of Roman artifacts is the newest building, which includes the Gregorian Profane.

The Vatican has done a superb job of displaying these mosaics. They raised my curiosity, so I researched them as soon as I got home. These mosaics were cut from the Baths of Caracalla and are known as the famous athlete mosaics.
The Baths of Caracalla were those most opulent in the Roman empire, as shown in this drawing. Three massive baths in the building could hold 1600 people at one time, were covered in marble, and saw up to 8,000 visitors in one day. Construction used over 1 million bricks, 252 columns, and 13 years (211 to 224). This drawing is inaccurate in one respect, as women and men did not share the baths - men and women had separate hours when they could use the baths. Construction was initiated by Caracalla and completed under his successors. Water came from the Aqua Nova Antoniniana aqueduct.

 Other famous works of art have been recovered from the ruins including the Farnese Bull and the Farnese Hercules, discovered by Pope Paul III Farnese in the 16th century. We had the opportunity to see the Farnese Hercules on our trip to Naples.
 Upon closer inspection, one can detect where certain mosaic portraits have been cut out of this mosaic - on display at other places perhaps?

 The baths covered 30 acres and had huge underground tunnels big enough for carts to bring in the wood and other flammable materials to heat the bath waters.

Here are a few close-ups of individual portraits.

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