In ancient Rome, all roads led to the world’s capital: ROME. Today, they lead to Québec City’s Musée de la civilisation and its major international exhibition ROME. From the Origins to Italy’s Capital. The young museum’s original and daring exhibition surprised more than one Roman museum director, since no other museum in the world has ever covered the history of the Eternal City! Embark on a unique trip back to the roots of the city, which has played the roles of world capital, the heart of Christendom, and capital of the arts, through an exceptional body of works including nearly 300 fabulous treasures (several of which are inaccessible to visitors to the city and have never before been displayed) from some of Italy’s most prestigious institutions. The exhibition is part of the programming for official celebrations in honor of the 150th anniversary of Italian Unity, and is one of the largest commemorative events taking place outside of Italy. ROME. From the Origins to Italy’s Capital will run until January 29, 2012. The ROME. From the Origins to Italy’s Capital exhibition is a Musée de la civilisation production presented in partnership with Sun Life Financial and assistance from Bureau de la Capitale-Nationale, Tourisme Québec, Québec City Tourism, the Italian–Canadian Community Foundation, Loews Le Concorde (the official hotel of the exhibition), Radio-Canada, and the Le Soleil newspaper. Alcoa is a partner in all the Museum’s programming.
According to the Museum’s executive director Michel Côté, “The exhibition lives up to the scale of its theme; despite the tremendous challenge of putting it together, it is truly a work of art! In a nod to one of its core missions, Musée de la civilisation is offering visitors the unique opportunity to discover, through the collection’s stunning pieces, the historical evolution of a civilization that has significantly influenced the West, including our own society here in Québec.”
AN ERA-BY-ERA VISIT
Visitors are invited to travel back through Rome’s prodigious evolution, from Antiquity to the 19th century, with stops in the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and the Baroque era. These five eras and their corresponding zones cover a period of 2,600 years punctuated by major upheavals—some glorious, some painful—all of which left their own mark on the city without compromising its great beauty.
ANCIENT ROME, THE CAPITAL OF THE WORLD
Founded on April 21, 753 B.C., Rome became world capital and achieved its pinnacle in the 1st century. Its senate and emperors—the first of whom, Octavian, was immortalized as a marble bust—guided its steady transformation and, of course, beautification. Roman daily life included the gods (Venus, Mithra), battles, and games, all of which are illustrated in a number of artistic ways such as in funeral objects that accompanied the deceased after death. Roads were built and grandiose aqueducts constructed, and the city’s population climbed to about one million inhabitants. The model created by Quebecer André Caron offers a look at the city’s complexity and size at the time of its decline, which coincided with the founding of Constantinople by the first Christian Roman emperor, Constantine.
MEDIEVAL ROME, THE HEART OF CHRISTENDOM
The 6th to 14th centuries were a time of great upheaval for Rome, marked by barbarian invasions, the restoration of the Holy Roman Empire (800 A.D.), conflicts surrounding the succession to St. Peter’s throne, and quarrels over spiritual and political supremacy that pitted pontiffs against emperors. The presence of Pope Innocent III (1198–1216), one of the most influential of the group, can be felt in the superb mosaic portrait on display. Despite the crises, episodes of famine and plagues, and the departure of the popes to Avignon, France, Rome became more firmly entrenched than ever as the heart of Christendom, where pilgrims flocked to the tombs of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, and a magnet for new converts. The Romanization of the Lombards, a tribe of barbarians, stands out as one such example, and is illustrated in the diptych from Rambona and a small cross found in the tomb of one of its members.
RENAISSANCE ROME, EPICENTER OF THE ARTS
Once the papacy had returned from France, Rome embarked on a gradual political, economic, and social revival. The pontifical court launched numerous major projects, including the erection of the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica, towards the middle of the 15th century. In this zone, visitors can admire a work by Raphael (1483–1520), Hope, as well as three original drawings by Michelangelo. The sketches will be replaced by three others in September, and will be kept in darkness for three years following their return to their institution.
BAROQUE ROME, THEATER OF MARVELS
The 17th century set the stage for a new golden age during which Rome would be the showcase of infinite splendor. Following a century of construction, a new St. Peter’s Basilica rose from the ground, more majestic than ever, as can be seen in the striking model of the site. Artists from across Europe and renowned architects including Gian Lorenzo Bernini created new spaces and breathed new life into the city’s beauty. Workshops produced sumptuous objects such as this tapestry of the Nativity belonging to a set created for the altar of the Sistine Chapel, ordered by Pope Urban VIII, one of the era’s great pontiffs.
MODERN ROME, A CITY IN FLUX
Over the centuries Rome retained its appeal, as can be seen in the neoclassical pieces representing the “Grand Tour,” a rite of passage for young people of high society in the 18th and 19th centuries. The revolutionary movements that shook Europe toward the end of the century reverberated even in Rome. The middle class, together with the young separatists in Northern Italy, challenged the pope’s political power. Italy’s defeat at the hands of the French and the subsequent occupation by Napoleon influenced the world of arts, including fashion (dresses and frock coats) and preceded a period of radical change that would extend from 1849 to 1871, the year when Rome was annexed by the Kingdom of Italy. A bust of Victor Emmanuel II of Savoy serves as a reminder of his reign as the first king of Italy (1878).
This fifth zone contains the largest number of objects from private collections displayed in public for the first time, including paintings, jewelry, and micromosaics.
ROME, QUÉBEC: A LIVING HERITAGE
End your voyage by discovering the vast heritage bequeathed by Rome to the West and Québec in particular. Rome has left its mark on Québec’s public and private life through the Latin texts studied in its schools’ classical programs, the Civil Code of Lower Canada, religious iconography and religious preaching, works of art in churches, articles in the press, and travel narratives.
Since the 19th century, artists, pilgrims, tourists, and members of religious orders have visited Rome and returned with pieces of the Holy Cross and the column of the flagellation of Christ, pope hair, and saints’ bones. One of the strongest ties between Rome and Québec is the Zouaves regiment, a religious paramilitary organization dedicated to defending the pope and the papal states, made up of 500 young men who left Québec to join it between 1868 and 1870.
THE FOUNTAIN OF ROME
Because every trip to a city as big as Rome deserves a break, a multimedia installation entitled FONTANA DI ROMA springs up from a series of three tilted panels located in the center of the room. Instead of water, this fountain shoots forth images from three major Italian films and images shot in Rome in February by Boris Firquet. The fountain is surrounded with benches equipped with headphones, which broadcast an original music and sounds of the city.
ROME. FROM THE ORIGINS TO ITALY’S CAPITAL, THE BOOK
The ROME. From the origins to Italy’s capital exhibition is a first-class production accompanied by a distinctive book. For a lasting memory of their time at this original exhibition by Musée de la civilisation, and so they may learn more about it, visitors will be able to purchase an eponymous book. Edited in collaboration with the celebrated Milanese Silvana Editoriale publishing house, this 264-page work combines texts from leading Italian and Québec experts on Rome and is richly illustrated with photos of the superb objects on display at the exhibition. It is sold in the gift shop for $59.99.
Last but not least, visit the Museum’s website to access the exhibition’s fascinating minisite: www.mcq.org/rome
ROME. From the origins to Italy’s capital is an experience not to be missed. The exhibition runs from May 11, 2011, to January 29, 2012, at Québec City’s Musée de la civilisation.
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May 10, 2011