Sunday, July 25, 2010

On the road (Europe 2010): Florence (continued)

Having been out of touch with the Internet the past few days, I've been unable to update things. A little catching up is in order. First, more about Florence.

Spent two days in Florence visiting some familiar sites and going to a few new ones as well. Saw the Uffizzi again. Buying an advance ticket costs an extra €4, but it was well worth it to avoid the lines. Even so, it was crowded--and hot. I have never visited Florence in the heat of summer before. I was surprised to see how poorly the museum is ventilated. It was as hot in some of the galleries as it was outside. Still, it was good to see the place again. I enjoyed seeing the Botticellis, but also the wonderful Hugo van der Goes Portinari Triptych in the large Botticelli room that houses Venus and Primavera. To me, it's just as good as the Botticellis, but most people turn their backs to it, adoring Venus. There are several wonderful Bronzino portraits, and so much more--but no one needs me to catalog the wonders of the Uffizzi....

Took a quick look at Orsanmichelle. It's an interesting building, even knowing that the distinctive collection of sculptures in niches all around its exterior consists entirely of copies. The originals are in the Orsanmichele museum and a couple of other museums around the city. The building was originally a grain warehouse and market. It was turned into a church around the end of the 14th century. It became the chapel of Florence's trade and craft guilds. The statues on the facade were commissioned by the guilds, which competed with each other to impress. It has a very ornate tabernacle with a madonna and child by Bernardo Daddi, dating to around 1346. The ceiling is heavily decorated as well. You can still see large iron rings set into the ceiling that once were used to support ropes for moving heavy bags of grain (look closely at my photo here; the left-hand figure painted on the ceiling has one of these approximately at her belly button).

Saw some of the Church of San Lorenzo and its appendages. Because of the timing of closings (and more restoration work), I missed seeing the connected Laurentian Library, with its idiosyncratic staircase. I really don't understand why these places--visited by millions annually from all over the world--should close at all. The administrators charge an arm and a leg to let you see them. Surely the funds are available to pay staff to keep things going for a full day, rather than closing at odd hours like 11:30.

The Medici tombs in the Cappella dei Principi were half covered by scaffolding, but the huge space decorated in pietra dura (elaborately cut and fitted stone) was dazzling nevertheless. I'd forgotten how big and imposing the place is. The visitor does not leave without knowing very clearly how powerful and wealthy the Medici family was.

The New Sacristy (also connected to San Lorenzo) is interesting for what is and isn't in it. It was left unfinished when Michelangelo left Florence for Rome in 1534. I wonder why they never got someone else to finish at least the architectural elements, if not the sculptures? There are places on the blank walls that have been partitioned in pencil in preparation for installation of pilasters and other decoration that never materialized. Michelangelo's famous tomb sculptures--Day and Night and Dawn and Dusk are here. As is often pointed out, the figures are beautifully carved, but design is emphasized at the expense of anatomical and architectural sense--Day, the male figure to the right  in the photo, has impossibly small feet  (his face was left unfinished as well) and the pilasters on either side of the central figure support nothing. This is the tomb of Giuliano, Duke of Nemours, third son of Lorenzo the Magnificent. Opposite (adorned with Dawn and Dusk) is the tomb of Lorenzo, Duke of Urbino, Grandson of Lorenzo the Magnificent. From Florence, we began the long drive west, back to France, stopping off at Pisa, the Cinque Terre, Barbaresco and Barolo in the Piemonte wine country, and then made a final mad dash back to Pouzolles on the freeways through Monaco, Nice, Marseilles, NĂ®mes, and Montpellier (seeing none of these latter).

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails