Sorry for the delay of this post but there is just so much to type and I’ve been busy actually doing more today and slept like a log last night which cut into my usual hour or two of blog time. Ha
We started our day super early (for us, anyway) by hoofing it across the city to the Galleria dell’Accademia. The online sites make you believe you need advanced and “skip the lines” tickets to make sure you don’t waste your vacation waiting to get into these museums. Well, maybe you do in Summer…but in November, you’ll be one of 3 people waiting at the entrance at 8am, having paid $30 more for the same tickets and skipped breakfast just to be sure you weren’t late… But I’m not bitter. Haha
Michaelangelo’s David was awesome. I see what all the fuss is about. He’s like 15 feet tall, the elegance and easiness of his body positioning, the detail…. You can see veins running along his arms, tendons visible like they are showing through real skin… It really is worth all the hoopla unlike so many touristy things that people tell you that you have to see.
I love the fact that this major work of art basically happened because Michaelangelo asked some church if he could have an old piece of marble that was laying behind their church. Sort of like if we asked some factory today if we could have some of their old pallets…but then we built a house out of them. Lol
Behind the statue of David was a cool little room. It housed all of the plaster molds of famous works of sculpture that Lorenzo Bartolini used to teach students. He was a great sculptor himself who Napoleon discovered and brought to France…eventually he came to Florence, but he never quite made a name for himself with as many commissions as he would have liked, his style of sculpture just wasn’t “in style” at the time.
Outside of the teaching molds stands this plaster model of The Rape of the Sabine Women by Giambologna. Art is subjective, but in my opinion- this is one of the top 3 sculptures in the world. The model is amazing in itself…until you see the real one in marble… What makes this interesting to me is not the detail alone, but the subject matter. When Giambologna finished the sculpture, it still didn’t have a name, one of his fellow sculptors suggested the title as it was fitting to the scene. Also, in a time of such religious and Christian themed art, this work was only to display mannerisms, human form and to basically create something different. This sculpture has a 360 degree viewing angle and the feel of the sculpture changes as you move around it, whereas almost every other sculpture to this point had been carved with one particular viewing point giving the most complete view of the work.
After we left the Galleria we began backtracking through the city and found ourselves at the Duomo. This building is so big…. Even my wide angle lens could only get pieces. It took over 140 years to build this! They started in the late 1290s and didn’t finish until 1436
The story of the dome has such a great story to me…it makes me laugh because hating your coworkers hasn’t changed in over 700 years. Ha
Prior to the dome, in 1401, Florence had held a contest and the winner would be commissioned to complete the great Bronze doors of the Baptistry. Donatello was among the artists who entered, but the two finalists were Lorenzo Ghiberti and Filippo Brunelleschi. The sponsors determined it was a tie and couldn’t decide so they gave the job to both artists to complete together. But….Brunelleschi was an egotistic jerk and would not stand for this…. So he quickly decided he was needed in Rome and left for the city to study architecture and Roman history. This would actually prove to be a great thing later in his life because without the mechanics and building knowledge he learned in Rome, he never would have been able to complete the Dome. Life has a way of working out.
Ghiberti finished the bronze doors in a short 20 years. He was only 23 years old when he started. Fast forward and the doors were up. Ghiberti began working on a second set of doors. These doors were were so amazing that they replaced his original doors (which were moved to the north side of the building). Michaelangelo said that these new doors were fit to be “the gates of paradise”…and thus they were known.
So this brings us back to the dome. In 1418, another contest was held in Florence for who would be the lead architect. In the end, having learned their lesson on ties, Brunelleschi “won”-but Ghiberti was appointed co-leader and paid the same wage as Brunelleschi and was promised equal credit in the completion. This didn’t fly with Brunelleschi…so he basically faked illness for months so that Ghiberti would have to focus solely on the dome and make engineering decisions and be forced to admit that he couldn’t do it. Once this happened, Brunelleschi magically was cured and began leading the project again. We call this phenomenon “McKinney-ism” in our house. Haha in fact when I told Kegan this story his response was “that’s awesome…good for that guy!” Haha I rest my case.
The Dome really is an amazing feat of engineering. Over 4 million bricks were used in the construction. Pulley systems were invented and patented for this job. Bricks were laid in a herringbone pattern to minimize the weight on the dome. He used chains to connect the ribs of the dome to minimize the pressure on it from “hoop stress”. Architectural issues that wouldn’t be documented with formulas for another two hundred years . So egotistical jerk or not, no one else could have done this. And when you’re the best and the smartest, are you really being cocky? Or just honest? 🙂
We were making really good time through Florence so we decided we had time to check out the Uffizi Gallery since we were walking by it and Norah was being good.
I could spend hours talking about paintings in this museum but I’ll spare everyone 🙂 Here are a few highlights:
Botticelli’s Birth of Venus
Leonardo De Vinci’s Anunciation, one of his earliest works .
The Medici Tribuna- the center of what started the Uffizi Gallery. Originally, the Medici family created this room as a way to display their most valuable art for the public to see. These days you can’t even walk in because the marble mosaic floors can’t withstand the weight of so many visitors.
Piero Della Francesca’s Portraits of the Duke and Duchess of Urbino. He was painted from the left because he lost his right eye in a tournament where he also broke his nose . Apparently in a very bad way judging from the painting.
A faun (or satyr) boy. Norah liked his ears.
I wanted to include this little face because it’s a good reminder that history is only history as we know it and we trust others to tell us. Up until the 1940s, if you would have toured this gallery you would have been told that this was the earliest known work of Michaelangelo. Now, we know that his “The Head of the Faun” has never been found and this is not it…but it’s a good reminder that what we know now to be truth can change tomorrow with another discovery of history.
I find this painting amazing to look at. Photos can’t begin to do it justice. He painted this to play with textures and that is exactly what is so amazing- oil painting on wood and it looks like you could run your hands over the red velvet, feel the soft silk, the thick red tablecloth… Unbelievable talent.
….and lastly, my personal favorite from the entire collection.
Morgante was a common performer in the Medici court in the mid 1500s and he was one of the favorites of the court. He had a privileged life as far as dwarfs of the time went…but he was still effectively there for entertainment. He was forced to parade naked to demonstrate his “deformed body” and there is even record of being forced to fight naked with a monkey for the court’s amusement.
However, the painting shows him in a very noble manner. Bronzino created this painting to settle an argument over which form of art was more noble- painting or sculpture. He obviously defended painting and set out to prove that painting could be beautiful no matter the subject matter, that painting could show multiple viewpoints just like sculpture (hence the front and back perspectives) and that painting could show the lapse of time (one side is before the hunt and the other shows the kill- Margante was a trained night hunter for birds)
The painting was just restored in 2010 because it was found to be indecent and painted over for hundreds of years. Only recently have we been able to see this in all of its glory 🙂
We promised Norah ice cream for being so good for 3 hours while I slowly perused every painting and sculpture in the gallery.
That brought us to the Piazza Della Signoria. So so so much history in this square ….
The Palazzo Vecchio. They used to hang people over the roof of this and let them dangle above the streets. I’m not so opposed to bringing this kind of Justice back.
One time some people got the bright idea to overthrow the Medici…they plotted the murders of the two top brothers at the time. They attacked them while they were on their way to church but they only successfully stabbed one to death, the other managed to escape to their house across the square to safety. Needless to say, this didn’t end well for the would-be coup-ers and by the end of the day they found themselves slung over the top of this building as a warning to any who dare plot against the most powerful family in Florence.
The first Medici- Cosimo the Elder, was even imprisoned here with plans for death basically because he was too popular and threatened the arostocracy.
The Loggia dei Lanzi
The Medici lions guarding the statues of the Loggia dei Lanzi. These are the original lions, of which all other lion statues like this are based. One of the pair is of ancient origins and a sculpter cut it away from the rest of its background, then another sculpter copied it and created a second for the Medici gardens. They’ve been here since the late 1500s
In 1498, they even burned a preacher here! Although, I’m kind of in agreement. A marble plaque on the ground marks the exact spot. Girolamo Savonarola was a preacher who preached heavily against the vanities of life- anything that might encourage one to sin. Mirrors, cosmetics, books that were amoral, excesses and riches. He had such a following that he became sort of the ruler of the city. He was so popular that he convinced artists to give up their own works for his Bonfires of the Vanities because if they didnt, his followers would make their lives miserable. I would hate to think how many great paintings, sculptures, etc were lost forever due to those crazies. In fact, give me the match I’ll do it myself 🙂
Our last major stop for the day was the Church of Santa Croce with Donatello’s crucifix and Michaelangelo’s tomb.
We crossed back over the river to the south side of the city where our rented apartment is. The bridge we crossed gave us a beautiful view of the river Arno through the city as well as the Ponte Vecchio bridge .
We had a very relaxing night enjoying the apartment and discussing how this was an amazing place to vacation but that there was no way we could live someplace like this. So far, Ravenna was our favorite but it has been nice to see so much of the history I’ve read about Florence in person. We have one more day in Florence. Will post about that soon.