The Vatican Museums collection is famous mostly for its sculptures and frescoes. Between Apollo Belvedere, the Sistine Chapel and the Raphael Rooms no-one is looking at what’s hanging on the walls. And that’s their mistake. One of the most rewarding rooms at the Vatican Museums is, in fact, one of its newer additions – the Pinacoteca, also known as the Vatican Art Gallery.
Inaugurated in 1932, the Pinacoteca houses canvases from some of the greatest Italian masters of all time, and has a total of 460 works spread across 18 rooms. The rooms are organized by period and school, making for easy browsing.
Among the Vatican Pinacoteca most interesting rooms is Room VIII, the Raphael Room (not to be confused with the Raphael Rooms, the frescoes that took much of the master’s career to complete). This room houses five works by Raphael and a number of tapestries. Perhaps the most famous of the bunch is ‘Transfiguration’, considered Raphael’s final work which was finished upon his early death by one of his pupils. The split canvas expresses in dark and light, the connection between God and his people.
The next room, Room IX contains a work by Leonardo da Vinci – a warm-up for the Sistine Chapel perhaps – called St. Jerome. The unfinished work, still in sketch form, is a fantastic insight into how the painter worked. Room X is full of works by Titian and Veronese, whose styles anyone who has visited Venice is bound to be familiar with. Veronese’s ‘Vision of St. Helen’ is a wonderfully soft, almost affectionate piece.
A man you don’t see much of in the Vatican Museums or Rome’s churches appears in Room XII. Caravaggio’s ‘Deposition from the Cross’ shows the master’s skill with light. Meanwhile, Room XVII is unmissable for lovers of sculpture. The room holds pleasing seven works by Bernini – all models for features on St. Peter’s Chair.
For art lovers, the Pinacoteca is a highlight of the Vatican Museums well worth the time it requires to wander its rooms. Keep an eye out for a brand new Extended Vatican tour we’ll be launching in the coming days which takes in this wonderful gallery along with a handful of rooms usually closed to the public. Watch this space!