The Vatican Museums (Italian: Musei Vaticani) are the museums of the Vatican City and are located within the city’s boundaries. They display works from the immense collection built up by the Popes throughout the centuries including some of the most renowned classical sculptures and most important masterpieces of Renaissance art in the world.
Pope Julius II founded the museums in the early 16th century. The Sistine Chapel with its ceiling decorated by Michelangelo and the Stanze di Raffaello decorated by Raphael are on the visitor route through the Vatican Museums. In 2013, they were visited by 6 million people, which combined makes it the 3rd most visited art museum in the world.
There are 54 galleries, or sale, in total, with the Sistine Chapel, notably, being the very last sala within the Museum. It is one of the largest museums in the world.
The Vatican Museums trace their origin to one marble sculpture, purchased 500 years ago: the sculpture of Laocoön and his Sons was discovered 14 January 1506, in a vineyard near the basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. Pope Julius II sent Giuliano da Sangallo and Michelangelo Buonarroti, who were working at the Vatican, to examine the discovery. On their recommendation, the pope immediately purchased the sculpture from the vineyard owner. The pope put the sculpture of Laocoön and his sons on public display at the Vatican exactly one month after its discovery.
The Museum Christianum was founded by Benedict XIV, and some of the Vatican collections formed the Lateran Museum, which Pius IX founded by decree in 1854. The Museums celebrated their 500th anniversary in October 2006 by permanently opening the excavations of a Vatican Hill necropolis to the public.
The group of museums includes several sculpture museums surrounding the Cortile del Belvedere.
It is in the Classical style and has a wide arched roof with skylights. The colour scheme is blue-grey and white with a polychrome marble floor. The walls of each side of the gallery have a row of large niches in which stand marble statues. Between the niches are plinths supporting smaller portrait sculptures.
The New Wing, Braccio Nuovo built by Raffaele Stern
A marble statue of the Emperor Augustus. He stands with one arm raised as if in command. Augustus is depicted as a man of about thirty five, with short hair and clean shaven. He wears Roman military uniform of a breast plate, leather accoutrements and a cloak over a short tunic. The breastplate is decorated with symbolic figures. As a work of art, the statue displays high technical mastery.
The Prima Porta Augustus
The Museum takes it’s name from two popes, Clement XIV and Pius VI, the pope who brought the museum into completion. Clement XV came up with the idea of creating a new museum in innocent VIII’s Belvedere palace and started the refurbishment work.
Pope Clement XIV founded the Pio-Clementino museum in 1771, and originally it contained the Renaissance and antique works. The museum and collection were enlarged by Clement’s successor Pius VI. Today, the museum houses works of Greek and Roman sculpture. Some notable galleries are:
Greek Cross Gallery
(Sala a Croce Greca) with the porphyri sarcophagi of Constance and Saint Helen, daughter and mother of Constantine the Great.
Sala Rotonda: shaped like a miniature Pantheon, the room has impressive ancient mosaics on the floors, and ancient statues lining the perimeter, including a gilded bronze statue of Hercules.
Gallery of the Statues
(Galleria delle Statue): as its name implies, holds various important statues, including Sleeping Ariadne and the bust of Menander. It also contains the Barberini Candelabra.
Cabinet of the Masks
(Gabinetto delle Maschere): The name comes from the mosaic on the floor of the gallery, found in Villa Adriana, which shows ancient theater masks. Along the walls, several famous statues are shown including the Three Graces.One wove the thread of life,second nurtured it, third cut it. They were created by Zeus ( ROMAN FORM:Jupiter)
Sala delle Muse
Houses the statue group of Apollo and the nine muses, uncovered in a Roman villa near Tivoli in 1774, as well as and statues by important ancient Greek or Roman sculptors. the center piece is Belvedere Torso, revered by Michelangelo and other Renaissance men.
Sala degli Animali: So named because of the many ancient statues of animals.
This museum is named after Pope Pius VII (whose last name was Chiaramonti before his election as pope), who founded it in the early 19th century. The museum consists of a large arched gallery in which sides are exhibited several statues, sarcophaguses and friezes. The New Wing, Braccio Nuovo built by Raffaele Stern, houses important statues like The Prima Porta Augustus, Doryphorus, and The River Nile. Galeria Lapidaria is another part of Chiaramonti museum, with more than 3,000 stone tablets and inscriptions, which is the world’s greatest collection of its kind. However, it is opened only by special permission, usually for reasons of study.
Museo Gregoriano Etrusco
Founded by Pope Gregory XVI in 1836, this museum has eight galleries and houses important Etruscan pieces, coming from archaeological excavations. The pieces include: vases, sarcophagus, bronzes and the Guglielmi Collection.
Museo Gregoriano Egiziano
This museum houses a grand collection of Ancient Egyptian material. Such material includes papyruses, the Grassi Collection, animal mummies, and reproductions of the famous Book of the Dead.
September 2013, Canon G1 X, Canon S90