Author: Anja Grebe
Black Dog & Leventhal RRP $79.99
Review: Monique Mulligan

When I heard how many many people visit the Vatican each year (more than 5 million in 2011), I was awed. When I realised the daily figures were something like 25,000 a day, I was gobsmacked. My in-laws visited last year and described standing shoulder to shoulder, and I could tell by Blue Eyes’ response that the Vatican was not going to be part of our future Italy trip. At least, he won’t be going. So, when I was offered a copy of Anja Grebe’s The Vatican: All the Paintings, I jumped at it because it meant I could see the pictures without having to crane my neck and worry about pickpockets.

Tourists craning their necks to admire the Sistine Chapel are being pick-pocketed by thieves taking advantage of the crowds
From: ‘Vatican forced to tighten security’, Daily Mail online 9/1/2014

Described as the “definitive guide to the entire art collection held at the Vatican”, the book includes images of every Old Master painting on display, as well as hundreds of additional masterpieces and treasures (tapestries, maps, sculptures and other artifacts) in the Papal collection. The Vatican is said to house one of finest art collections known to man, and judging from the size of this book (it weighs in just under 3.5kg), I’m not about to argue that. There are more than 500 pages of beautifully reproduced photographs and looking at them, I’m awed by the size of the collection as much as by its magnificence.  I had no idea of the scope involved and this book has, in common language, blown me away. 

The book is organised and divided into 23 sections representing the museums and areas of the Vatican, including the Pinacoteca, the Sistine Chapel, the Raphael Rooms, the Borgia Apartments, the Vatican Palaces, St. Peter’s Basilica, and more. Who needs a personal tour? I’ve got it right here in the sanctuary of my home, complete with discussions on some of the more significant or iconic paintings. Grebe, who teaches art history at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany, tells readers about the artist’s inspirations and techniques, the artist’s impact on art history, and more. Her carefully chosen words prompt further reflection and accentuate the importance of the overall collection, creating a sense of wonderment at the treasures it contains. 

The Vatican is presented as a deluxe, slip-cased volume with a companion DVD (which I’m yet to look at but I understand offers bigger images, hence more detail). It would make a precious and thoughtful gift for an art lover, art historian or anyone who wants to see the museums in the Vatican, but is put off by the 25,000 people who visit there each day. As for me, this one is a keeper, one I will sift through at leisure and just … marvel. If I never make it to the Vatican, at least I have this to inspire me.

Simply gorgeous, The Vatican: All the Paintings is available from good bookstores and Murdoch Books. This copy was courtesy of Murdoch Books.




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