Wednesday, July 6, 2016

And seriously, what I was waiting for- Florence!

Piazza della Signoria

I need to spend more time reimmersing myself in this trip, because frankly I felt like my Venice post was a little stilted.  Boo. And sorry about that.  It seems like so long ago and I was feeling pressure to get it done, so I could go on.  Having to go through and edit 100 photos from each city is turning into a daunting task.  And so I was a little--- first we did this and then we did that- which is not what I really wanted at all.

Florence selfie with Seester-Rose

So anyway, Florence.  We spent 2 days in Florence, the first day doing the ubiquitous, guided walking tour of the city, and doing some touring all together.  It was the second day that I was so excited for, because instead of a trip to Pisa (no thanks), we had tickets to the 2 art galleries!  I was fairly twitching with excitement.  This was what I had been waiting for.

At the end of the Uffizi

The Uffizi gallery

Leonardo da Vinci

When I was in college- a few years ago- hehe- I usually had art history classes at some ungodly time of the day- like  8 or 9 am.  We had slides for our art history classes, which of course means the lights were off.  Now if one is 18 or 19 years old, and one is sitting in the dark after a hard night partying studying, let me tell you, it is hard to stay awake.  Even with the most interesting information it was tough, in spite of having 2 Tabs lined up in front of me....  Tab-omg, so disgusting, but you do what you have to do. I especially remember having a hard time with Egyptian, Greek and Roman art, as the slides were ALL from the photographic collection of the 2 professors, and frankly we memorized them by the people or the cars or some oddity of the picture, instead of figuring out what we were looking at.  Sigh.  I really liked the Greek art and architecture especially, Roman art was presented as somewhat inferior to Greek, since the Greeks did it first and (according to the profs) best.  This is neither here nor there, but will figure into the art in Rome in a few days....

Sculpture in the Piazza della Signoria

Excavated layers of brick from the side of building- showing many time periods
I, however, LOVED Renaissance art- and had to "suffer through" some of that middle ages 1200s stuff and then, later in the semester, god help me, Rococo.  Oh, we learned a lot of snobbery towards art in those classes.  Lol.  Somewhere, I will need to put in my observations about driving into our county and encountering the Outsider Art of Fred Smith.  

Armed guards were at every important landmark and building

SO, as I said, after learning about the flat (and holy cow gorgeous) diptychs and triptychs of the early 1200's, and being more than a little bored, we finally arrived at the Renaissance.  Of course in retrospect and having had a lot of years of reading about art and seeing a lot of galleries (though that has mostly happened only in the last 6 or 7 years) I understand more holistically how the different time periods of art work together. Intellectually, it was easy to repeat the spiel that is given to  you in classes, but to comprehend truly how it all worked together was not quite there.  Only during this trip did the final piece of understanding finally fall into place. When people say that pictures do not do justice, they are right.  But you can't always get to the places that have the art you want to see, so as always, we do the best we can with the tools that we have. Being in Italy, in Florence, in Rome was a pinnacle experience for me- indeed a trip of a lifetime.   I learned a lot being there, but also refreshed my memory of the history in my pretrip research, found in my countdown posts!  :)  You should see the stacks of Art history books on my piano bench.

See the beginnings of indicated space and perspective 

The Cathedral took about 200 years to finish from the late 1200's, finish in late 1400's- the dome was a triumph by Brunelleschi - the facade was applied in the Neo-gothic style and was finished in the 19th century.
Looking up in the Duomo

Look at the remarkable carving on this trim
Renaissance art is based on the idea of rebirth- the rebirth of art that was at first emulating  and then later, daring to surpass the skills of the ancients. Also, the Renaissance heralded of a form of humanism- the advent of revival of the entire culture of the ancients- not just a small elite group of wealthy people, but inclusive of the population of certain cities of Italy.   Of course there is so much more to it, and the Renaissance was more than visual arts- writing, music, etc were part of the era.  One thing that is true of our current education and learning systems now as was when I was in college,  is the separation of subjects- having art separate from history and from music and from writing.  While I understand that concept, that was of learning can give a perception that each thing is a separate entity and indeed the perception that somehow things changed quickly and suddenly.  We know that things do evolve slowly, gradually and not in a vacuum, and so it was in art in the 1500's as well. This time around, I paid closer attention to the earlier work.

Part of a Byzantine altar

Interior of the Cathedral

I realized, while strolling through the galleries at the Uffizi, how gorgeous this early work is and how I had underrated the Byzantine-influenced art.  The pieces by Cimabue of the mid 1200's and Giotto of the 1300's clearly show the progression made by artists of that time- towards humanist/ancient realistic work that was slowly leaving the religion based subjects behind.  While the beautiful, golden Cimabues are a feast for the eye, you can see (and I pointed out to everyone who would listen) the beginnings of 3 dimensional space and formal perspective in the work by Giotto and his contemporaries.  I am amazed that I am having discourse about the characteristics of Byzantine and Midlevel art as a result of actually visiting Florence.  It is stunning to me. And as I continued through the museum and found the Botticelli gallery and then the later High Renaissance and Mannerism, I was overcome with an emotion I can't even describe.

Exterior of the Uffizi

It was hot and humid and I was constantly jostling with my camera and backpack, and fiddling around to make sure my passport and phone were still on my person.  I had seen the outside of the Uffizi the day before and had reveled in the awesome sculptures of the artists whose work is in the gallery, so I was primed with excitement.  There was just so much to see, and really, though I loved the sculptures and busts, but I just wanted to see the paintings.  Upon entering the galleries with the Cimabues, I was enthralled.  I lost the sensation of being hot, of my camera being on my shoulder, of everything except for the pressure of knowing I had to see certain things before a certain time.  Such was the negative of this kind of tour- time constraints.  Anyway, without knowing what I was doing, I  snapped some fast pictures of some of the paintings, but I really was too distracted with looking to take photos.  And most of the photos I took were fast and full of people.  So, my most vivid memories and meaningful experiences  are indeed not caught on camera.  I regret, in a way not having photos that are 1st rate of those moments, but not really.  My full attention had to be given to the visual experience and I could not take the time for a long exposure that would have been necessary for a good picture in the low light.  In other words, a bunch of my pictures suck!!

There are many pictures better than this in the world
The second gasping/take my breath away moment of this trip was rounding a hallway and having the Birth of Venus appear in my sight.  Words can barely describe how beautiful this painting really is.  Aside from the incredible color, there is gold threaded through the composition, including the hair.  Oh it was beautiful and then on the other side of the room was the equally large (these are BIG paintings) and extraordinary Primavera (Allegory of Spring).  Botticelli was one of the artists I am pretty sure I wrote a paper on, as his info comes pretty easily out of my brain.  Lol. Anyway, I once again  tried very much to pull myself together and not have tears in my sweatie selfie in front of the Botticelli. Even though the picture does suck, lol.

Vecchio Bridge
So what did I do the rest of the time in Florence??  Lol, well walking tour!  The first day we visited the Duomo, went for a walk through the city, seeing the Vecchio Bridge, the many squares and towers and churches....  it was amazing.  AND I finally  got to see the DOORS!!!  THE BAPTISTRY DOORS!!!  GHIBERTTI!!!

You can see the doors to the left on the Baptistry.
The Baptistry Doors was another one of those artworks I was fascinated by in college- I had/have a thing for relief sculpture.  Friezes, doors, even the art of Louise Nevelson just does it for me.  I have literally wanted to see those since I saw that first slide.  And the coolest thing, I was so disoriented in that city at first.  We had walked all over the place, ended back at the Duomo and suddenly we were in the piazza.  The guide was sweeping around pointing to things, I turned a WHAM!  There they were!!  Right behind me, I had walked by them without seeing them at least once.  You are so busy gawking at the facade of the Duomo, that you don't even turn and see the Baptistry.  At least at first.

Looking over Florence-

Street vendors

Lots of people and a guy with a gun!  After you get used to it, you really do feel pretty safe!

 Florence was beautiful, Florence was exciting and Florence was not a super big city.  It made it easy to navigate, once you got your bearings, and there were some hidden jewels that were there for you to discover.  I feel that I have made this post long enough, and frankly there is one guy- I'm talking to you, David- who needs a post of his own.  I felt comfortable there, and I was in heaven.
Arno river with the Vecchio Bridge- All those little buildings are shops!  You hardly know you are on a bridge

David on the outlook on the hill above Firenze 
As I finally wrap up this post after several sessions of writing today, I think you have an idea of how meaningful this particular part of the trip was....  to say it gave me joy was an understatement and describes it perfectly at the same time.


  1. I must have taken a similar art history class! (Fortunately, it was with my artist boyfriend of the time, which made getting to class awake, a bit easier!) I have found I have an appreciation of architecture in a variety of periods, but my taste in sculpture favors the that of the Hellenistic period and the Amarna at styles. My tastye in painting is all over the board, however I dislike most modern and post modern art. Did you manage to take in any of the history of the Medici family?

  2. Well, as I indicated, this was not an art tour. I know some of the Medici family history anyway, and we caught a little of it. I happen to love modern, post-modern and contemporary art, as well as impressionism, abstract expressionism, and I find things I like in most other time periods. As beautiful as it is, I can really skip over the pre Renaissance, and as I said- the Rococo thing..... oy. I really do drift towards the 20th/21st c. work if I am in a large museum, after I hit the high points. But while in Rome..... or Florence.... haha. It was an awesome awesome experience