Among the many sections of the Vatican Museums, one that most certainly deserves to be paid a visit is the one known as “Vatican Pinacoteca”, that is, the Vatican Art Gallery. While in many other sections of the museums you can find an impressive collection of ancient art, the Vatican Pinacoteca gathers some of the finest examples of Italian painting (plus some European additions), from the medieval age to the 19th century.
By 1790, pope Pius VI had already created a first collection, which counted 118 paintings, but only to see it leave for Paris consequently to the Treaty of Tolentino. In 1817, however, the defeat of Napoleon also meant the restitution of the precious artworks to the Vatican, and that's when the idea of an art gallery as we know it – that is, as an exposition open to the public – was born. Since then, thanks to numerous donations and acquisitions, the collection kept growing, up to the 460 pieces of nowadays. When architect Luca Beltrami completed the works of the Pinacoteca in October 1932, all the paintings that had been being continuously moved around the Apostolic Palaces, lacking a suitable accommodation, finally found their permanent placement. The new gallery had been developed to have the perfect lightning for both fruition and preservation of the paintings, and the eighteen-room structure allowed an appropriate organization of the works by age and artist.
Today the Vatican Pinacoteca is an art collection that has an inestimable value; it hosts centuries of Italian art and some of the greatest masterpieces that said art has produced: a non-exhaustive list of these includes Giotto's Stefaneschi Triptych, originally intended as an altarpiece for one of the altars of the Old St. Peter's Basilica, Perugino's Decemviri Altarpiece, Raphael's Madonna of Foligno and his Transfiguration, Leonardo Da Vinci's St Jerome in the Wilderness, worth a mention particularly because of the attention in the anatomy of the subject, and lastly Caravaggio's The Entombment of Christ, a work of art that puts the word “masterpiece” at shame: from the wrinkles on the faces to the veins and the muscles distinguishable beneath the skin, from the creases in the fabrics to the braided hair, every detail of the scene is represented with maniacal attention, and it all comes together in the studied perspective structure to convey the drama and the pathos of the moment.