Monday, November 05, 2007

The Last Supper in 16 Billion Pixels; Gloria di Sant'Ignazio in 9.8


This website by an imaging outfit called HAL9000 lets you get up close and personal with the most famous 13-person portrait of all. Zoom in and you can almost smell the must and feel the cold surface just inches away from your face.

Another masterpiece featured is Andrea Pozzo's Gloria di Sant'Ignazio, the fresco in St. Ignatius's Church in Rome. Zoom in and notice that the mouldings in the painting are painted with cracks -- details a viewer on the ground would never get to see (until now), but are nonetheless there.

This is my favorite of all the artworks we saw in Rome when we were there in 2000. We almost didn't see it; it wasn't in any of the five guidebooks we carried around. We were walking in one of those streets from the Vittoriano leading to the Spanish Steps. There was a sudden shower and we took shelter in the doorway of an indistinct church. I saw the brass sign on the door and said to the wife, "Hey, look, St. Ignatius. It's fate. We have to go in."

What we saw inside was nothing short of majestic. The church vault had opened out to heaven and God's people were being drawn up by the sheer glory of it all. The images were so life-like we didn't know if we were looking at paintings or sculptures. We stood there open-mouthed, unbelieving, awestruck.

When we gathered our wits, we proceeded towards the altar and noticed that the cupola was rather askew. We realized there was no cupola; it was a perspective painting. Much later wifey found a marker on the floor. We stood on it and looked up. The painting was gone and right there was a cupola above the heart of the church. Amazing stuff.

St. Ignatius's Church was the best serendipitous find of that trip (of our lives to date, actually). We discovered it on our second day and by the time we were through with our exhausting and exhaustive 10-day visit it would rank right up there with the Sistine Chapel and the Parthenon as the greatest masterpieces of Rome in our book. Quite a feat considering the competition.

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