In the company of an art historian, classicist, or archaeologist, this walk explores the rich and eclectic art collections of the Capitoline Museums, or Musei Capitolini, the oldest public museums in the world. The museums contain a compendium of art works and artifacts that fully trace the entire history of the city, from its very foundations to present day, covering Roman and Italian treasures ranging from antique bronzes and marble busts to Renaissance paintings and frescoes. The physical structure of the museums are a museum within themselves, most notably, within its setting in the Michelangelo-designed Piazza Campidoglio.
Here, in Piazza del Campidoglio, we begin underneath the gaze of the reproduction of Marcus Aurelius' bronze equestrian statue. After a discussion of the history of the museum and its location on Capitoline Hill, we will examine the collection, which gives visitors the unique chance to observe thousands of years of Roman artistic, political, and social history. From this vantage point, we are also afforded a breathtaking view of the Forum and Palatine Hill, which set up the context for what is housed within the museum.
Our walk through the museum is not meant to view the entire collection, but rather to focus on the most significant pieces for understanding the art and architecture of antiquity. Treasures such as the newly restored equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius, the foundations of the temple to Jupiter Capitolinus, the colossal statue of the Emperor Constantine, marble busts of noblemen and patricians, and bas-reliefs with scenes from Roman history allow us to view the wide range of materials and forms used in ancient art.