The Hall Busts: You may not know it, but every time you enter the US Embassy Chancellery building, you pass through the "hall" of Palazzo Margherita. The hall of a palace was the official reception area where important visitors were first ceremoniously received by a seneschal, who would then conduct them to the royal or noble presence. The hall of Palazzo Margherita is what lies just inside the triple arches in the center of the main building fronting on Via Veneto. Except for the massive iron-bar security gates, it is open to the front garden (and parking lot) and to the carriage-way that runs between the reception area and the Grand Staircase. Most people just hurry through the open entrance gate on the right side and into the security area without looking at the eight dusty portrait busts that stare down on us from dark niches near the ceiling. They are back-lighted at night -- making the hall a dramatic foreground for the Giambologna Venus two spaces back -- but the lighting does little to make the faces of the busts more visible. We only know the identities of four of the persons depicted -- the others are only identifiable by their clothing as "a Consul", "a Vestal Virgin", "a General", and "an Emperor". But known or unknown, those are important folks up there -- important enough to have been singled out for marble portraiture, at least.
We will look at the busts in the conventional way, counterclockwise and starting from the side facing the front garden.
There are four more staring busts overlooking the carriage-way behind the hall, but they will have to wait for another day.
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