We all know the Sistine Chapel, but do we all know that Michelangelo never actually wanted to paint its ceiling? And what about the not-so-famous works in the Vatican Museums, a ‘run of the mill’ eighth century Greek vase with figurative designs, say? Do people comprehend the revolution that was the ‘black figure’ painting technique used to depict these figures? Probably, not so much.
This is where Patrum, a new app designed to open up Vatican Museums to users and raise funds for a series of restoration projects, comes in. Patrum serves up wonder, with its daily news feed uncovering hidden gems and little-known facts. It’s about exploring the intrigue of Vatican Museums, explaining why people might want to visit the gallery that isn’t so full of crowds.
As noted Catholic theologian, Swiss priest Hans Urs von Balthasar said: art can claim, change, and send people on a mission. This is a beautiful thought. Even if this mission is one extra Google search to help us understand what the symbolism of a flower in a painting of the Virgin Mary could mean, or if Raphael had a middle name, it allows us to cultivate our own sense of wonder.
Patrum’s restoration projects are not focused on the Vatican’s blockbuster artworks; they are carefully chosen by expert curators, selected for their academic and educational value, and importance in shaping the way we talk about our history today.
Patrum is also about introducing people to each other, creating a kind of social network for art lovers. Who knows what bit of inspiration one could gain from, say, the art teacher in Ohio who became a Patron last month, or the Picasso-loving basketball player from France? Patrum seeks to provide a platform for a global, instant conversation about one of the largest art collections in the world. It also seeks to share with others what it means to be a Patron of the art collection of the Vatican.
All in all, Patrum is an entry point. Anyone can read the app’s content, anyone can comment, and anyone can share. Patrum gives new perspectives on the Vatican Collection direct to your iPhone or iPad every day. If you haven’t already downloaded the app and created a profile, what are you waiting for? Wonder awaits.
Juliana Biondo is digital initiatives manager for Patrons of the Arts at Vatican Museums