The Capitoline Museums with the She-Wolf and the Capitoline Venus
Historical survey of Ancient Rome
CAPITOL HILL & CAPITOLINE MUSEUMS
Capitol Hill & Capitoline Museums. A journey into history from the inauguration of the temple of Jupiter at the beginning of the Roman Republic (509 BC), until the days in which the statue of Marcus Aurelius was moved here, and Michelangelo got the task by Pope Paul III Farnese of redesigning the whole Square.
Our tour will focus in the profound significance of the Capitol Hill for the Roman People, witnessed by the decision made by Pope Sixtus IV in 1471 of creating here a museum of ‘memory’, preserving and constructing some of the symbols of Ancient Rome. It is considered the first public museum of the world.
We’ll climb the imposing ‘Cordonata’, the stairway designed by Michelangelo and will stop to admire Piazza del Campidoglio, a trapezoidal square surrounded by three theatrical facades, conceived by Michelangelo, who masterly transformed preexisting architectures in a new and organic space.
During our Capitol Hill & Capitoline Museums tour your guide will sketch the 2,500 years long history of this site, the tallest of the seven hills of Rome, going through the glorious days of Rome, when the Capitolium was the Holy Acropolis, to the era of decadence and destruction during the Middle Ages, until the meaningful ‘rebirth’ with the Popes of the Renaissance.
While the Senatorial Palace is still today Rome’s City Hall and is not opened for visits, the two buildings right and left of the Square, respectively Palazzo dei Conservatori and Palazzo Nuovo are the seat of the Capitoline Museums. Get ready to remain open mouthed when we enter!
We’ll be greeted in the courtyard of Palazzo dei Conservatori by the colossal rests of the Statue of Constantine, formerly in the Basilica of Massentius.
An enormous foot, a huge pointing finger, a big head: they were the ‘naked’ parts of the statue, that for the rest was covered with bronze.
Inside we find some of the most ‘iconic’ symbols of Ancient Rome. The bronze She-Wolf, probably Etruscan, was part of the original nucleus donated by Sixtus IV to the Romans. The mythical ‘twins’, Romulus and Remus, were added during the Renaissance. You’ll be told the legend of the foundation of Rome.
The original statue of Marcus Aurelius (the one you saw in Piazza del Campidoglio is a replica) is now cased in a modern setting, a glass exedra by Carlo Aymonino, a great work of contemporary architecture that gives light and space to this world-famous masterpiece.
The bronze statue is the only equestrian statue preserved from Antiquity, and
it was the model for all equestrian monuments from the Renaissance onwards. It was preserved because it was believed to represent Constantine, the first Christian Roman Emperor, so it was not considered a pagan idol to destroy!
Amongst the other things to admire on our Capitol Hill & Capitoline Museums. we cannot forget the ‘Spinario’ or ‘Boy with Thorn’, a delicate Greek-Roman bronze that was one of the first to be copied by the artists of the Renaissance. The portrait of Commodus as Hercules is one of the absolute masterpieces of Roma portraiture and in wonderful state of preservation. Like many of these statues it was found in the garden of a Roman Villa.
At this point we could stop for a coffee at the Capitoline Café’ and enjoy the spectacular cityscape.
The underground passage to Palazzo Nuovo is dense of emotions: we walk through the old Roman State Archive, known as ‘Tabularium’, which offers a unique point of view on the Forum below.
Palazzo Nuovo, or New Palace, entirely designed by Michelangelo, is more symmetrical inside, although its façade is identical to that of Palazzo dei Conservatori.
Amongst the attractions of the courtyard we find the ‘Marphurius , a large 1st century Roman statue, representing a River God or Oceanus, which is one of the ‘talking statues’ of Rome, like Pasquinus and others, that became the symbols of popular protest against the intrigues and scandals of the Papacy.
One of the highlights of the Capitoline Museums is the Room of the Emperors, with 67 busts of the Roman Emperors and of their family members. We’ll be able to follow the development of Roman portraiture through the ages, with interesting details about beard and hairstyle. The ladies’ elaborated hairdos are certainly worth our attention!
But the really not-to-be-missed masterpieces in this area are the ‘Dying Gaul’, a touching portrait of a wounded warrior that seems to meditate upon his imminent death, and the Capitoline Venus, a slightly oversized statue, a Roman copy from the Greek sculpture by Praxiteles, found around 1670 near San Vitale in Rome, and donated by Pope Benedict XIV to the Capitoline Museums in 1752. This voluptuous beauty is represented while covering her breasts and groin. One of the most attractive pieces in the collection!
Our lesson of Roman art and history “Capitol Hill & Capitoline Museums.” could continue with a visit to the Heart of the Empire.
Cost of this tour
This tour lasts three hours and costs 280 euros up to six people (not per person), only private parties.
For larger parties send us an email!
Admission fees per person: Capitoline Museums: 15 euro – reduced for students 13 euro