I’ve just had one of the most extraordinary and memorable visits to a museum. Ever. This week, we were on holiday in Naples…we had a free morning, and I slipped away to go up to the Museum Capodimonte in the former royal hunting park on a hill above Naples. I had heard it would be good…I had no idea quite how good.
The place was deserted. Completely empty. Just me, a couple of security guards and a room full of Titians. There was just a little rope in front of the paintings, which included the astonishing trio of portraits of Pope Paul III, hawk nosed, beady eyed, with his two “nephews” in attendance. I stood in front of the rope, all alone.
Then I walked into the next room to confront Masaccio’s Crucifixion, then through to the next room to find Titian’s sexy masterpiece Danae, her legs falling open as the golden coins rain down on her. And on and on, past Simone di Martini, Guido Reni, Raphael, Michaelangelo, Claude Lorrain and of course the local painter, Caravaggio. All blinding pieces of great, great art. Beauty, sex, devotion, pain, skill. All simply hanging on the walls for my eye only, since there was not a single other person in the gallery.
Is it different if a gallery is crowded, and the experience of looking at great art a communal one? I quite like seeing a fantastic show alongside everyone else – the da Vinci exhibition this Christmas was a great London event, as well as being a one off treat. But this morning, in Naples, it was just me. And perhaps because I had never been to the gallery before, the experience was all the more astonishing. It was like drinking double cream.
Go there if you can – you’ll probably find you are there on your own. I’d say its an undersold treasure. Oh, and forget about taking home a souvenir. There are none. There is a shop but there is nothing in it about the collection itself. No postcards, no books, no fridge magnets of Danae. Honestly, it’s a very rare experience.