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Photo of the Day: Mithras in the Vatican

Mithras in the Vatican
Before Christianity became the dominant religion of Rome, many people worshipped Mithras, the pagan God depicted here. Adherents believed that the world was created from the blood of a bull, thus the symbolism here of Mithras slitting the throat of the bull. The scorpion (below the bull’s torso) and a serpent (not pictured on this particular sculpture) represent evil forces in typical depictions of the Mithras story. Behind and to the right of this statue, which comes from Tarquinia, is another, more fully-formed Mithras sculpture group, located in the Vatican Museums’ Animal Room.

I am fascinated by the history of the worship of Mithras and Mithraeums located in Rome and hope to share more about this detail of Roman art history with you in subsequent posts.

No Bull: Italy Has A New Museum Devoted to Sh*t

A newly opened museum in Italy wants to explore man’s relationship to manure. The Museo Della Merda is located at a dairy farm, on the ground floor of a medieval castle, in the village of Castelbosco (Piacenza) in Emilia Romagna. Its current exhibit explains the use of excrement for home heating purposes. But the museum and well-designed, informative website also provide details on methane, the history of manure for building purposes, the usefulness of dung beetles, and the importance of shit for environmental sustainability.

The Museo della Merda will be open through August by weekend appointment only. A date with dung?

Source: This Museum Explores The History Of Man And Manure

Natale di Roma: Rome Celebrates Its Birthday

She Wolf in the Capitoline Museums

Most city foundation stories are pretty straightforward. But the origin story of the city of Rome is more akin to something you would read in a comic book about superheroes.

Today April 21, marks the birthday of Rome (locally called the Natale di Roma). According to city legend, Rome was founded on April 21, 753 B.C. by Romulus. But the entire story is quite complicated.

Continue Reading →

A Show of Hands

The hand of Michelangelo's David, © Accademia

It all started with David.

Michelangelo’s statue of David was one of the first pieces of sculpture that I knew I had to see in person. Recognized worldwide as a symbol of Florence, David is marble come to life especially when you look at his hands. My European Art History professor many years ago urged us to study David’s hands — tense, veiny, and with visible knuckles and creases.

Ever since falling in love with David, I have developed a mini-obsession with men’s hands (of the marble and human variety). Are you a male sitting across from me on the tram idly glancing at your phone or reading a book? I’ve probably admired your hands (or found fault with them — sorry, but your cuticles are a wreck!).

Luckily, Rome has given me other opportunities to observe men’s hands without feeling like a creep. The Vatican Museums and the Capitoline Museums both house countless classical statues from Ancient Rome and Greece. It’s in fact likely that the artists who taught Michelangelo how to sculpt were familiar with and inspired by some of the ancient statuary now housed in these museums. Continue Reading →

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