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The Popes' Art

Afternoon Lecture/Seminar

Friday, February 18, 2022 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. ET
Code: 1H0674
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Coat of arms of Urbanus VII, ceiling of the Map Room (detail), Vatican Museum, Vatican City, Rome

The Vatican Museums in Vatican City comprise 26 public art museums housing about 70,000 world-famous paintings and sculpture. Given its extraordinary depth, one might ask how the papacy came to possess one of the world's premier art collections. Was it through plunder, bequests, tithing, savvy investing, or simply luck? One thing is certain, the Vatican Museums’ treasures have attracted and inspired generations of admirers. 

Art historian Elizabeth Lev explores the origins of the world's first truly modern museum through the lives and times of three remarkable popes: Julius II, a visionary; Pius VI, a financier; and Pius XI, a savvy communicator. Over the course of 500 years, they amassed an art collection that includes such iconic works as Laocoön and His Sons; the Sistine Chapel, Caravaggio's Entombment of Christ, and Canova's Perseus Triumphant.

World Art History Certificate elective: Earn 1/2 credit*

Patron Information

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*Enrolled participants in the World Art History Certificate Program receive 1/2 elective credit. Not yet enrolled? Learn about the program, its benefits, and how to register here.

This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.