Monday, April 11, 2016

Day 3: Art Tour of Florence

I dream about painting and then I paint my dream.
                                                             -----Leonardo da Vinci

"The David"
Because we have so few days in Florence, and because the streets are not always so easy to decipher (in typical European fashion, they change names every 10 feet), and because I don't know as much about pre and Renaissance art as I should, we decided a private guide might give us the best chance to see the highlights of Florence art scene in a day. Wish we had more time, because the city is full of hidden treasures as well as the guide book version. Luckily for us, our guide, Eliza, took us past some of those as well.
An unfinished Michelangelo. He said he could see the sculpture when he chose the marble. It was his job to "free it."

We started with the Accademia museum, most famous for housing Michelangelo's David sculpture. As the name suggests, the museum was once a school.

The David is supposedly the most anatomically accurate full length human sculpture ever created. It is very impressive. It is a large piece. David is 14 feet high and it sits on a 17 foot pedestal. The width of the marble that Michelangelo was given by the Medici was 4 feet and already had some carving begun by another artist. So there was literally no room for error and the head faces the right, because that was apparently the only orientation he could use. I am so glad I got to see it, even if this makes me "touristy." I amazed they could even move it back in the 1400-1500 period. Apparently they developed a set of rollers and moved it upright. Amazing!

The sanctuary of a small church. We visited so many, I cannot recall the name, but it was so pretty. 
From here, we wandered about various piazzas and churches. We stopped at Basilica San Croce to see the site of many famous persons burial, including Michelangelo.

Basilico San Croce. A Franciscan church in a mostly Dominican town. The adornment is unusual for Franscicans. We were amazed by all the Moorish elements of the facade. These are often seen in Florence due to the recent influence of the Ottoman Empire
This was in a poor craftsman section of town and had many leather workers then and now. In fact there is still a leather craft school in the church, because the monks were teaching crafts to people in the neighborhood, so they could get work.

The Organ of San Croce

The crypt of Galileo. He spent most of his late life on house arrest in Florence. He was banned by the church, but somehow the Medici family managed to convince the church it was okay to bury him within the walls. Having a pope or two in the family never hurts in Italy.

The crypt of Michelangelo. He died in Rome and spent most of his later life there. His nephew smuggled the body back to Florence for burial.

The crypt of Dante. Apparently, the popes didn't read the Divine Comedy.

Machiavelli. No surprise that his inscription reads, "For such a name, no praise is sufficient."

Rossini's crypt. He was originally buried near his home in France, but in 1887, the Italian government moved the remains here.

The altar of Basilica San Croce

The leather school still exist. Paul and Eliza examine the tools. You see the handiwork behind them.

The Medici coat of arms. Paul said he saw it so often he felt like they were watching him.

From here we walked down the streets a bit for a view and walk across Ponte Vecchio, the oldest bridge in the city. The Medici family have a walk across the top of it so they could see the public but not mix with them. The bridge, then and now, is full of goldsmiths.

Paul Parris roams Florence

Close up of Ponte Vecchio. The Medici walk is on the crown. It was the only bridge in Florence not blown up in WWII. Apparently,the mayor convinced the Nazis not to do away with it, because Hitler had walked across the Medici walkway on a city tour with his guide, Mussolini

Bridges across the Arno
We topped off our whirlwind art tour of Florence with a visit to the Uffizi Gallery. This building was once offices for the city/mayor etc. It houses the Venus of Botticelli. There is no photo of it since like Mona Lisa in the Louvre, you would be lucky to get close enough. It draws a crowd.

As you enter the Uffizi, the Medici remind you that this is their private art collection.

Great views of Ponte Vecchio from inside Uffizi

Fillipo Lippi  madonna. As you see, this painting is less static than its predecessors of the pre-Renaissance. It has sort of a scandalous history as the painter was a  monk, and the woman his lover, a nun. The baby Jesus is a portrait of their son.

One of many sculptures and paintings throughout the Uffizi Gallery by every famous name you heard in high school and college.

The Medicis were chastised by the priest, Savonorola for commissioning statues of Roman and Greek gods. He instituted the bonfire of the vanities. Not surprisingly, he was arrested, hung and burned at the stake in Florence. 
I love this shield of the Medusa by Caravaggio. He said he saw someone beheaded once and remembered this face.
Beheading was not that uncommon during the Medici reign, as well as any other number of executions and poisonings. Nice family. :)
It's really not possible to delve even lightly into the skill and ingenuity of the Florentine artists. It's something you will have to come see and be overwhelmed with on your own to appreciate it.

After our 6 hour whirlwind gallery tour ending at 2pm, Paul and I went to the airport to meet the crew that we will spend the next week with in the Italian country side near Lucca, Italy.

The view from our room

Our room at Villa Leonidas

If all we do for the next week is sleep and look out the window, I doubt anyone will feel sorry for us!

"The idea that you could make great things is not just a useful illusion. They were actually right. So the importance of realizing there can be good art frees the artist to make it."
                                         ----Paul Graham, on 15th century Florentine art and competition between                                               the artists.

Paul's Ponderings:  We had a whirlwind art tour this morning and also discussed architecture at length.  Florence is a beautiful town and filled with history (surprise).   It's also quite crowded even now -- I cannot imagine what it's like in the summer months at peak season!   Next we start our trip  to Lucca and relaxation for a few days, with wine, food, and more.   

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