TRAVEL with pat and lew

* art in Florence … Pat’s mission accomplished

Posted by Lew Weinstein on October 6, 2011

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Pat has been studying art of the Renaissance, mainly from the course “Great Artists of the Italian Renaissance” produced by the Teaching Company and presented by Professor William Kloss. She identified a long list of specific paintings and statues to see in Florence. I was a willing accomplice, enjoying the art and taking hundreds of photographs, some of which are presented here …

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The 12th century Baptistry sits directly across from the Duomo. Three of its sides contain sets of doors depicting scenes from the Jewish and Christian Bibles. 

In 1401, a competition was announced by the Cloth Importers Guild of Florence to design the doors which would eventually be placed on the north side of the Baptistry. The two finalists were Lorenzo Ghiberti and Filippo Brunelleschi, each of whom submitted a design of The Sacrifice of Isaac for the final competition. Ghiberti was chosen and what he produced was later described by Michelangelo as “the gates of paradise.” Ghiberti’s competition panel is shown on the left above and Brunelleschi’s is on the right. Michelangelo favored Brunelleschi’s because it presented the more dynamic action, with the hand of the angel already holding back Abraham’s knife.

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Michelangelo's Pieta at the Museo della Opera del Suomo

The Museo del Opera del Duomo, located just behind the Duomo, contains an astonishing collection of sculpture. Here are three examples: a Pieta by Michelangelo, Donatello’s wooden Magdalene, and a wonderfully expressive sculpture I neglected to identify. HELP anyone?

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Branacci Chapel & Santo Spirito

In the early 15th century, a young man named Masaccio produced several frescoes in the Branacci Chapel of the Church of S. Maria del Carmine … and changed the nature of painting. His depiction of vibrantly rounded forms and profound human emotion gave the Bible story of the expulsion of Adam and Eve a meaning never before achieved. Years later Michelangelo stood in that chapel and absorbed Masaccio’s lessons. Just down the street in the Church of Santo Spirito Michelangelo’s wooden Crucifixion is glorious testament to how much he learned.

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images in the Bargello

The 13th century Palace of the Bargello was once the seat of government in Florence and later the palace of justice, complete with scaffold and torture room. Now it contains a remarkable collection of statues.

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statues at Orsanmichelle

In the early 13th century, Orsanmichele was a market where wheat was sold. Around 1400 it was converted into a church used as the chapel of Florence’s powerful craft and trade guilds. Late in the 14th century, the guilds were charged by the city to commission statues of their patron saints to embellish the facades of the church.

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San Marco cloister

San Marco - dozens of cells decorated by Fra Angelica

Cosimo de Medici undertook the restoration of the monastery of San Marco, including frescoes in each monk’s cell. Cosimo took one of the cells for his own use, when he needed a quiet place not too far from the Medici Palace. Over the entrance to his cell, he placed a stone tablet on which was repeated the dispensation he had received from Pope Eugenius forgiving him for all sins (At least that’s what I think it says.) Apparently, Cosimo needed frequent reminders that he wasn’t going to go to hell.

Cosimo's sins forgiven

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two of Michelangelo's slaves

The primary attraction at the Galleria della Academia is of course Michelangelo’s David. But down the hallway from the slayer of Goliath are a series of unfinished statues, referred to collectively as the slaves, which to me are even more impressive. Here it is possible to see how the artist removed the excess stone to allow the figure he saw to emerge, and also the vision of internal stress which Michelangelo implanted in his figures.

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Battle of the Centaurs

The slaves were created when Michelangelo was a mature artist. The Battle of the Centaurs was one of his first pieces, sculpted when he was but 15. It is found at the Casa Buonarroti, where you can often stand completely alone and think of the genius sharing the room with you.

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In the Church of the Ognissanti there are a series of striking images. 

But in the adjacent monastery is a masterpiece, a stunning Last Supper by Domenico Ghirlandaio that fills an entire wall in what was the dining room of the monks.

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The Santa Maria Novella, near the train station, contains many astonishing paintings. Here, to finish our tour of the art of Florence, are just a few.

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