With a year’s delay due to the pandemic, the Domus Aurea, emperor Nero’s opulent residence in the heart of ancient Rome, reopens with an exceptional immersive exhibition dedicated to the rediscovery of ancient painting and to Raphael, who helped uncover it, on the 500th anniversary of the Renaissance artist’s death, which fell on 2020.
Titled “Raphael and the Domus Aurea - the Invention of the Grotesque,” the interactive and multimedia exhibition opened on June 23 in the spectacular Octagonal Hall, Nero’s banquet room.
It is precisely through the dome of the Octagonal Hall that Raphael and other artists of the time, like Pinturicchio and Ghirlandaio, lowered themselves into the recesses of the forgotten ruins of Nero’s immense palace using ropes and, by torchlight, discovered long-lost ornate paintings of flora and fauna interwoven with fantastic human and animal forms, a style that later took the name of ‘grotesque,’ from the Italian word for cave, ‘grotta.’ These paintings first came to light in 1480. Raphael and other artists with him painstakingly copied the frescoes, and that style would influence the decoration of noble houses for three centuries.
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