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La Nuova Pinacoteca Vaticana

A central element of the Vatican Museums, though housed in a separate building beside the main spine of the Vatican, La Nuova Pinacoteca Vaticana (or Vatican Pinacotheca) was opened in 1909 - today it is probably Rome's best gallery of paintings ... and thus one of the finest in the world.

A roll call of the artists on display shows the importance of the Pinacoteca (which simply translates as 'art gallery'). Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, Caravaggio, Perugino, Titian, Paol Veronese, Correggio and Pinturicchio sit alongside Byzantine paintings, there is a superb Giotto triptych and a quite unique Caravaggio Descent from the Cross.

Most of these works could have been lost to Rome forever. The peripatetic journey of these painting to their current resting place mirrored the geo-political chaos wrought by Napoleon on Europe during the nineteenth century. Bonaparte was a keen looter of artefacts wherever his army fetched up, and Rome provided rich pickings. Archives, manuscripts and paintings were scooped up from the Vatican and taken back to Paris. Napoleon fell of course, and Pius VII arranged the return of the artefacts to Rome in 1815, arranged them as a collection, added some more paintings and created the Pinacoteca Vatican in the Appartamento Borgia. The collection was then shuffled around the Vatican before finally being removed to the ground floor of the Vialone del Museo.

Here you will see works from the early Renaissance, through the High Renaissance and up to the nineteenth century. The earliest works include pieces by Lippi and Crivelli and, especially, the Simoneschi triptych by Giotto, the Martyrdom of Saints Peter and Paul, from the early 1300s (and which originally hung in the old St Peter's Basilica). There is a room dedicated to Raphael, with important works including the Coronation of the Virgin, the Transfiguration, and the Madonna of Foglino.

There is Leonardo's unfinished St Jerome, and Caravaggio's Descent from the Cross is unusual in depicting Mary as a middle-aged woman, grieving over the body of the martyred Christ. Reni's Crucifixion of St Peter (the first pontiff of course) and Poussin's Martyrdom of St Erasmus continue a theme of saints dying for the Church - gruesomely so in the latter, as we see Erasmus's intestines being slowly wound from his stomach onto a drum, part of the drawing and quartering process.

In 2011 the Vatican have added some tactile representations of assorted works in order that they may be further appreciated by those who are visually impaired. These are 2 dimensional renderings of assorted pieces and feature large print and information in braille.

Tickitaly are official agents for the Vatican and offer individual ticket booking as well as both group and private tours - click here for information on arranging a private tour for you and your party, and click here for information on joining a group tour of the Vatican.


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