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.
Visitors access the Domus Aurea through one of the original underground galleries; the new entrance was designed by Stefano Boeri, the architect behind the Bosco Verticale in Milan.
Visitors then walk through a long, luminous walkway which leads into a ‘hushed world,’ surrounded by ancient wonders, as the temperature slowly begins to drop and light and darkness, silence and music alternate. The idea is to envelop the viewers with all their senses.
The exhibition should have been inaugurated on 6 April 2020 to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Raphael's death. With the reopening of the Domus Aurea, which also features a renewed lighting system that magnifies the spaces and decorations, the public gets the opportunity to visit one of Rome’s most symbolic monuments enhanced by this one-of-a-kind exhibition.
The sprawling Domus Aurea was built by Nero after the great fire of 64 AD destroyed a large part of Rome and the aristocratic palaces on the Palatine Hill.
The exhibition “Raphael and the Domus Aurea - the Invention of the Grotesque” runs until January 7, 2022.
For more information, there is a dedicated website in Italian.
To reserve your ticket online, click here.