Monday, July 5, 2010

Naked Victorious Men and Draped Saints

First class today. Corinna and I tried to follow our bus instructions but ended up getting more exercise than necessary on such a hot, hot morning. We arrived just after introductions and the walking tour of 'the city'. Michael our instructor lead us on a historical walk. We began with 'Political Renaissance Florence' by explaining to us the status of the statues in Palazzo Vecchio. The Old Palace of Cosimo I and his wife Elenora di Toledo continues as a civic building. Elenora did not like the old palace and bought herself a new one, the Pitti Palace. Cosimo moved with her and thus the story of the old palace. The Medici family ran things for many years and thus commissioned statues of victorious men. Here you see a replica of David, and Ammannati's fountain of Neptune, but Neptune is actually Cosimo and also you have an Equestrian sculpture of Cosimo victoriously riding in on a horse. There is also Judith and Holfernes and Perseus and Medusa, both cast in bronze. This square is filled with history. Civic events including burning Christians occurred here for public viewing.

Then we walked to Museo Orsanmichele which is very interesting. This represents the Christian center of Florence. It has 12 niches around the building housing saints sculpted in a 'new' way - the renaissance style of sculpting was born here. The figures are so life like that the people believed the 'free statues' to be possessed with demons. They do look like they could step out at any time and that was scary in those days. It was an inspiration to Michelangelo. The Orsanmichele was used at one time as a grainery to provide storage for food in case Florence was ever attacked. The second floor had no entrance. It now houses the original sculptures from the niches. The ones now in the niches are replicas. We were fortunate to be able to go into the building to see the originals. I was not allowed to take photos. These sculptures are very protected so much that they were put in a room with no door. It was the second time only that the instructor was allowed in. The Dantesca Society run the place and guard the statues. There was a period for 15 or so years that no one could see them on display.

The tour demonstrated the three controlling powers of Florence, the Church, the government and the tyrants or rich families like the Medici. It was an excellent way to frame the past history and influences they had on the art of the Renaissance.

We had a class session at the institute and then Corinna and I rested. Did some reading and tried to get our heads around the assignment. We got groceries and now are working.

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