Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Capitoline Venus Leaves Rome for First Time in 200 Years, Arrives in D.C.!

Washington's newest visitor is also one of the best-preserved sculptures to be passed down from Roman antiquity.  The famed Capitoline Venus, on display in the grand West Building Rotunda of the National Gallery of Art, was inaugurated by the Mayor of Rome, Gianni Alemanno on June 7th.  It will remain there for visitors to marvel at its impressive six and a half foot stature until September 5th 2011.

This momentous occasion is significant for several reasons.  This is the first time that the Capitoline, derived from the celebrated Aphrodite of Cnidos, created by the renowned classical Greek sculptor Praxiteles around 360 BC., has left Italy in almost 200 years.  In addition, it marks the beginning of a new chapter of cooperation with a city that long been our friend.  On June 8th, just before the public opening of the Capitoline of Venus, Rome's Mayor Alemanno and Mayor Vincent C. Gray of DC, signed a proclamation signifying the newly formed sister city relationship of the two world-capital cities.

Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art, Washington and Giulio Terzi di Sant'Agata, Ambassador of Italy to the United States were also there to give remarks on the importance of the Capitoline's arrival in DC.
Powell noted that the appropriateness of the statutes placement in the National Gallery's Rotunda, as it is modeled on Rome's Pantheon.

When in Rome, the Venus is housed at the Capitoline Museum, a complex of buildings located on the Capitoline Hill, one of the Seven Hills of Rome that served as the religious and political heart of the city in ancient Rome.

According to a 17th-century account, the Capitoline Venus was unearthed in Rome in the 1670s from a large garden where it was found in the remains of an ancient building.  In 1752 the Venus was given to the Capitoline Museum by Pope Benedict XIV, where it remained until 1797 when it was taken to France by Napoleon, who had invaded northern Italy a few years earlier.

Luckily, the statue survived and was returned to the Capitoline Museum in 1816, the year after Napoleon fell from power.  It is now on view here in DC for Washingtonians to enjoy as part of The Dream of Rome and the Italy@150 series.  The exhibition of the Capitoline was organized by Roma Capitale, Sovraintendenza ai Beni Culturali–Musei Capitolini, and the National Gallery of Art, with the partnership of the Knights of Columbus and the Embassy of the Republic of Italy, Washington.  The Dream of Rome project was initiated by the mayor of Rome to exhibit timeless masterpieces in the United States from 2011 to 2013. 

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