Tag Archives: accademia

Florence, Day 13: Can Someone Please Stop the Spinning in My Head? And Other Tales of Florence


Palazzo Vecchio

No, it’s not the wine. It’s not jet lag; I’ve been here two weeks now, I’m adjusted. It’s not even the sea of people rushing by me at any given moment. OK, maybe it’s a little bit due to all of the hordes of people here for the same reason I am — all that art. More so, it’s the information, the stories of and about the art, the artists and the patrons.

It’s a good kind of spinning. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

As I learn more of the history of Florence and view it for myself, I gain a greater understanding of the city and its art movements. It seems to sweep you up and carry you along on its journey.

Think of the Renaissance as a giant bulldozer making way for everything that came after it. Plowing away the Dark Ages and letting in the light. It’s a kind of foundation upon which all later art was built.

I also think of the Renaissance as an explosion, like the Fourth of July happening everyday for 200 years. All here in Florence, with the backdrop of the River Arno.

Again, we have to be careful not to get to over the top over the whole thing, not putting these people on pedestals, for fear of shriveling in the shadows while imagining a grandeur so far removed. Still, to view and learn the history is, I like to think, a duty of artists. To know the who and why of this path that was bulldozed for me to walk through.

Today, I did that at the Museo Stefano Bardini. Stefano (1836-1922) was an artist turned art and antiquity dealer, one who greatly influenced the trade and auctions in the United States. It’s a lovely and quiet museum, with lovely things. His passion was wide, and his trading encompassed everything from Roman ruins to weapons and paintings.

I was most impressed by a Donatello (early Renaissance): It’s a Madonna and child that surely must be the first collage painting. It’s made of wood, plaster, glass and even leather mosaics. It delighted me think of this master wanting to “play” and explore the possibilities in this way. Also captivating: a room of drawings by Tiepolo. Delightful works created from a masterful but free hand.

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After a short break to recharge, Benedetta and I were off to the Palazzo Vecchio, the city hall turned Palace of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo de Medici. When the Duke and his wife Lenora moved their residence from the Medici Ricardi Palace to here, they hired Vasari to “redecorate,” raising the roof of the Hall of 500 by 20 feet and plastering the room with paintings from the ceiling down. It’s a grand celebration of Florence, the victor of Tuscany. Here again, we have art as a reflection of the times. Florence has defeated all of Tuscany, and I, Cosimo de Medici, am grand duke of it all: Let’s show the world. Keep in mind, this is all before Facebook, so you had to get the word out somehow (wink). No cameras, so art played this role as well as to tell a story.

The palace goes on with Lenora’s chapel by Bronzino being a highlight. So much symbolism, stories and history all told in the beautiful craft of art.

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I need some fresh air. Luckily, you can climb the tower of the Palazzo and before you know it, your head is lighter. The air swirls about you and there is no more information to take in, only the material beauty of the landscape. Sigh. A beautiful way to wrap up a week of art history. And a deep bow of gratitude to Benedetta Natali for making the city come alive for me.


The view from the Palazzo Vecchio tower.

Insider secret: The Uffizi and Accademia museums are open until 8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Fridays, and they are very quiet at this time. Last night, I celebrated my week of art history with a nighttime visit to the Uffizi. Here are the sunsets as I strolled the halls, almost by myself. Bring able to meditate on the art without the masses is so relaxing. It’s an experience not to miss.


Florence, Day 12: David Really is All He’s Cracked Up to Be (And Other Tales from the Accademia)



It is a curse at times to understand English while in a foreign country. I know, I know, it’s a blessing, BUT … in Florence, at times, you hear things that make you want to interrupt and give your opinion. No, my mom always said, only if you’re asked — and not always even then.

The other day before class, I went to the Piazza della Signoria, to the Loggia dei Lanzi (the sculpture gallery), to sketch. It’s kinda like a town square, and VERY crowded. Much English is spoken. A few runaways from a tour group sporting their white tennies (a dead giveaway of their status as Americans, not that anyone’s hiding it) sitting next me is discussing where they will go on their tour.

“Will you go see the David tomorrow?”

The woman replies with total authority: “No, he’s right here in front of me; it’s the same thing.” As if to stress her point she adds, “It’s the exact same thing!”

Meanwhile, nearby, me: NO, NO IT IS NOT! (Yes, I know I’m shouting, but the situation calls for it.)

Michelangelo’s David was originally situated on this Plazza, it is true. Commissioned for the famed Church of Santa Maria del Fiore, the Florentines so loved this work they sat it right in front of their town hall, the Piazzo Vecchio. Today, the work that remains there (by the opinion of the Florentine people) is a bad copy.

Indeed, I can state, “Ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby.” and to assume you have checked him of your list because you saw this replica is missing the entire point of Florence — in fact, the whole point of the Renaissance itself.

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From the Biblical story of David and Goliath, Michelangelo’s version is said to have collided with Hercules. Like David, the Florentine people had conquered neighboring cities — the victorious underdog, now the capital of Tuscany. The Florentine people could relate to this strong, determined David.

In every way, the Renaissance is about humanism. Man as a reflection of God, created in his image, to be honored as a creation of God and each individual with his/her own feelings and emotions to be honored. In this way, David is a supreme example of humanism and, therefore, the Renaissance.

Still, I did not share this with the American tourists, knowing they would go home with a grand experience of Italy and never second guess their decision. Still, from me to you: Go and see him. He does not disappoint.

Today, after a morning spent blissfully painting. I meet Benedetta for our class and the Accademia was our classroom. I think sweet Benedetta sensed my exhaustion after the long visit at the Accademia. It’s all so much. Indeed, all wonderful, all my passion, all I want to learn, but my head is like boiling water by this point, spilling over the pot. It’s just so much grand, glorious information.

So she asked, “You want to be more outside?” Um, yes, yes, I think I need more sunlight and less of the inside of a building, no matter how much light radiates from those glorious works of art.

So she took me across the city and up, up, to the precious little church of San Miniato above the Piazza Michelangelo. I discovered it my first morning here on a half run, half exploration of the city.

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Benedetta confides she’d like to be married here (no doubt she’ll make a stunning bride when it happens), and as if on cue, a wedding was in fact happening as we arrived. On a Thursday? “Yes,” she says with a shrug, “it’s September.”

The church shines like a jewel above the city, a precious little jewel right from the 11th Century, with a facade from the 12th Century, a glittering gold mosaic from the 13th Century, a nave and tabernacle inside that’s a tribute to all things Renaissance. It was a true treat, and the wedding was, well, icing on the cake. (I warned Benedetta that if she gets her wedding in this prized location to think of me as tourist, quietly mingling about during the ceremony.) And the view from here — sigh, just spectacular. A good call by those men who built this when nothing else was there.

A quick view over this exquisite city from the Piazza Michelangelo and we parted ways: me off to my favorite food spot, the Pizzicheria Antonio Porrati, for an after school snack and reflection on the day. But it’s really early evening, and so it becomes dinner. Afterward, I retire to my apartment to put my feet up and relax. All this learning is hard work!

May the sun always shine on the curious, and night fall heavy for that much-needed rest.