Florence, Day Four / Cruise Day Three
From David to the Head of Medussa
For our day in Florence, Italy we concentrated on the amazing art of the Uffizi Gallery, The Accademia Gallery and the The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, the main church of Florence. The Accademia Gallery is our first stop, we start the day off with the incredible opportunity to see The sculpture of David by Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, commonly known as Michelangelo. David was created between 1501 and 1504, he stands 17 feet tall. For some reason, I had always expected him to be life sized. Not only is he larger than life, but he has an unusually large head and hands. These enlargements were explained by our guide to be due to the fact that the statue was originally intended to be placed on the The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore roofline, where the important parts of the sculpture may have been accentuated in order to be visible from below. However, in 1504 when the sculpture was nearing completion, it was acknowledged by authorities that there would be little possibility of raising the more than 6-ton statue to the roof of the cathedral.
In June 1504, David was installed in the square in front of the Palazzo Vecchio, the focal point of the city. After 369 years outdoors, the statue of David was removed from the piazza in 1873, to protect him from damage. David is now displayed in the Accademia Gallery where we were lucky enough to see him, cleaned and restored. A replica of David now stands where he once stood in the piazza.
Doug wondered aloud how many people, who don’t do their research, actually believe the replica to be the original?
The Uffizi Gallery–The Heart of Renaissance
The Uffizi was built in 1591 and houses the most amazing collection of Renaissance artwork in the world. With almost 100 rooms, we could never see the entire museum in one day, so we depended on our guide to show us the highlights of Botticelli, Titian, Rafael, and of course, Michelangelo. Some of the oldest art housed in the gallery are Byzantine works from the 12th and 13th Century, beautiful golden paintings of the Madonna and Child.
Next stop was a room full of work by Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi, better know by his nick name Botticelli. Our guide tells us that the source of his name could quite possibly have been due to his having a big belly and looking like a “little barrel.”
We were greeted by the Birth of Venus who had an amazing presence in this large space. The painting has oddly muted color in comparison to some of the other work in the Botticelli room. Our guide explains that some of the theories to explain this include that idea that he had perhaps done the painting on unprimed canvas. Her face is delicate and beautiful, her skin is lovely and pale but warm. This is the first painting we have seen that was of subject matter other than the Madonna and Child. This piece is gods and goddesses.
Michelangelo’s “Holy Family” painting in the original frame. ©Douglas Nelson Photography
Another notable work was Michelangelo’s “Holy Family” which, like “Birth of Venus” was behind glass. This painting is also known as the Doni Tondo. Agnolo Doni was a rich cloth merchant in Florence, and a tondo is a round painting. Our guide tells us that the tondo has a magnificent wooden frame, probably carved by members of the Tasso family. We admire Michelangelo’s depiction of fabric in the painting, it looks like sculpture to me, hard edges, drastic shadows, the robes look more carved than painted. Our guide tells us that Michelangelo described himself as many of things, but the title of painter was always lowest on his list. Oh, if only we could all be so talented, yet so humble.
Oh, and P.S. don’t you love the RED WALL behind this piece? So-long beige.
The candle light paintings by Godfried Schalcken offer amazing examples of chiaroscuro, the use of shadow and light, at its’ best. His work resembles the style of Rembrandt and I feel like I could learn so much about representing light in my work by camping out in this room for a week with a sketch book!
The octagonal Room Number 18, or The Tribune, exhibits some of the most significant works of the Medici collection. The Medici Family was an Italian bourgeois family that ruled Florence, and later Tuscany, during most of the period from 1434 to 1737. This family provided the church with four popes and married into the royal families of Europe.
An upper floor window of the museum offered us an excellent view of the Ponte Vecchio arched bridge, the only bridge in Florence not bombed in World War II. Later in the day, Doug and I would take a few minutes off the tour to run down to the bride and see it up close.
The Florence Cathedral
The The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore “Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower,” is the main church of Florence. Construction was begun in 1296 and completed structurally in 1436 with a dome engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi. The exterior of the basilica is faced with marble panels in various shades of green and pink (yes people, think Miami Vice!) bordered by white. It has an elaborate 19th-Century Gothic Revival front façade which was updated to keep up with a newer style of architecture.
This Cathedral is huge, we can only walk around it in awe with our heads tilted back and our mouths wide open. As Americans we are truly not used to seeing architecture sooooo big and soooo elaborate. The square out front is crowded shoulder-to-shoulder with tourists and the sun is blazing down on us. We do not have time to go into the “Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower” since we spent so much time taking in the amazing art and sculpture collection at the Museum.
A Drive Through Tuscany
The bus takes us back to the ship at the end of the day, we travel through the rolling hills of Tuscany. I look out the window, appreciating fields of sunflowers being farmed for their oil. I start putting together sketches in my mind of these flowers, who turn constantly to face the sun. I want to paint sunflower fields with small Italian houses on the horizon. Later I will sketch this in my journal. What amazing things we have seen today!
Tomorrow we visit Rome, including the Vatican and its’ Sistine Chapel!
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