Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Surprise Post: Unearthing the secrets beneath the Medicee Chapel

Ciao I Miei Amici,
Now normally i am not a photo blogger, since i leave the photo blogging to the photographers ;), I in fact did not take any of the pictures that you are about to see, my  fellow fresco classmate Darlene is the one who i owe the credit too, but I was a part of the experience. I understand the virtual viewership of this imagery  is no comparison to real life but i hope you enjoy this special post.

Unearthing the secret.....

Enter the Cappele di Medicee home to the tombs of the revered Medicee family
 and our hidden piece of art history.

Michaelangelo's monumental Tomb of Giuliano di Medicee
 Upon entrance locate the monumental tombs of the Medicee crafted by Michaelangelo

Near the monument room of the Medicee there is a small room off to the side 
Now if you are lucky like I am and have one of the best restorators in all of  Florence as your teacher
then you will gain access to this secret passageway  

Congrats readers you have now reached a hidden secret in art history many wish they could behold, 
 Welcome to the Hidden Sketches of Michaelangelo!

Upon entrance into the room of Michaelangelo's hidden sketches i was in sheer awe and amazement, pictures alone cannot describe what a milestone this experience was for me in my art history career. I was viewing the most basic of form's the inner ideas and the  hidden sketches of Michaelangelo!

 In the process of constructing the Medicee monuments, Michaelangelo would escape to this room beneath the Chapel to contemplate and map out his inner ideas. These sketches were the fruits of his labor and as we can see many of these basic ideas rose to fruition in the creation of his frescoes and monuments.  

I hope you enjoyed this surprise segment on La Vita e Bella, This was an experience of a lifetime and i'm so thankful i am fortunate enough to share it with all of you 

A Preso,


Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Pallazo Pitti: The Bartolini Tondo

Ciao my readers. As mentioned in my site's profile and previous entries, I am a very introspective person when it comes to my viewership of art. Yet, an incredible opportunity presented itself which allowed me not only to come out of my shell but experience art in a completely different way. Thank you H from Three Pipe Problem for your incredible insight. Ever since the day I stumbled upon the Three Pipe Problem in search of a certain Botticelli picture, I have been following your blog religiously, it was such an honor to spend the morning with you at the Pitti Palace. Inspired by H, I have decided to present this entry with a new perspective. 

Although my blog mostly covers museum viewership and reactions, I have decided to go in a new direction for this entry in tribute to the Three Pipe Problem.

The Palazzo Pitti, home of the palatine galleries
The Palazzo Pitti is grandeur personified, it is an aesthetic and societal biosphere made up of many dimensions. From the silverware, modern art and palatine galleries to the Boboli gardens, this palace of mass exuberance is one step below Versailles. I have never been a fan of the Rococo and gilded splendor so it was no surprise upon entrance to the palatine galleries that I was blinded by the overly gaudy d├ęcor. Gold leafed walls, frescoed ceilings and antiquities of gilded splendor encompassed the interiors of the palatine galleries. Although my main focus on this entry is set on a particular piece and not the palatine galleries themselves, for a better understanding of the history of the palace and the Medici family, read H's post at my site(link below). 

The dizzying opulence of The Palatine Gallery

In my opinion, less is more when it comes to the exhibition of art. However, upon viewership of the interior palace it appeared the Medici failed to acknowledge simplicity and wished to display the best of everything, thereby overly congesting the art works within each room. While I walked the halls of the palatine galleries with H, I wanted to experience the details and styles of each renaissance artist however I found myself overly distracted due to all of the works crowded within each room. 

As mentioned in previous entries, I dislike guided tours because I wish to experience art introspectively but I found myself in tune with H for I sought to ingest all the knowledge H had to offer, I wanted to know more about the Carravagisti and the Raphaels, as well as any other artists that came up in discussion. There weren’t many tourists in the gallery and we talked throughout our entire viewing experience. Yet, there was one moment when I went silent, that moment was brought on by the viewership of the Bartolini Tondo.

Filippo Lippi, Bartolini Tondo 1465-1470

The Bartolini Tondo By Filippo Lippi(1406-1469) is housed in Room XXI of the Palatine Galleries. It is displayed on the back wall of the room is showcased by its large scale size and opulent frame. I was immediately drawn to this work and was at a loss for words, all I could do was stare in amazement. I attribute my amazement to the history behind this immaculate tondo. 

The Bartolini Tondo was the earliest form of a renaissance tondo, or painting presented in a round format. Prior to its creation, renaissance paintings were created in panels or in the style of frescoes but never set as a round. However, Lippi’s tondo led a revolution of tondos to follow, as seen in the rounds by Botticelli and Michelangelo. The tondo was commissioned by the noble silk merchant Roberto Bartolini, with the purposeful shape of a birthing tray to honor the birth of his first born child. 

It serves as a celebration of birth and matrilineal lineage. It depicts a Madonna and Child intertwined with scenes from the lives of her mother St. Anne. The Virgin serves as a focal point in the foreground while her birth and conception are displayed in the background. Lippi’s tondo is alluring not only in a religious and societal context but also as a work of incredible craftsmanship through its architecture and proportions. I was very fortunate to be amongst a fellow art lover while having such an aesthetic experience, I am rather inclined to Lippi in general since he was the mentor of Botticelli but I often undermined him for Botticelli, I now hold a deeper appreciation for Lippi as well as subjective art viewership. 

“I just loved the Bartolini Tondo so much I had to get a  postcard of it!” one of many postcards from my many museum trips 

Thank you H and my fellow readers for following my blog and watching me grow in my aesthetic experience. Who knows perhaps sometime soon, I will take a guided tour.


A shared post with H Niyazi: Two masters, Jupiter and a Palace Doorway

by H Niyazi

Hello Readers. My own art+history blog, Three Pipe Problem has been up for almost a year now, yet one thing I have never had the chance to explore are my  responses to seeing artworks in situ. This is primarily as I am located in Australia, and do not get to see the Renaissance and Baroque works I have spent so many years studying. As a result, I tend to write about the history and symbolism in these works. But today is a special treat! During a recent trip to Florence, Gianna and I decided it would be an interesting idea to visit a gallery together and then do a post swap. She would be able to share her amazing reflective experiences at my blog, and I would have the unique chance of talking about seeing a Renaissance master in person, something which I have not done before.

The Palazzo Pitti

Firstly, a bit about my background. I came to art history through my study of literature and history first. I knew about the Medici and Dante long before I knew about Raphael and Botticelli! Although I went onto pursue a career as a Health Professional, I have always been fascinated by the history of art, in particular how use of subject matter and symbols can reveal so much about the artists and the patron. In travelling to Florence, I must admit a significant deal of trepidation - how could these works measure up to the highly idealised view of them I have had in my mind for over 20 years? I am still reeling from what I saw in Florence. The mystical fog that was 'Renaissance' to me was very much shattered. I think this is a pitfall of studying these works for so long without ever having the privilege of visiting them. However, I won't dwell on this too much, it is something I will be better able to deal with in my future writing. For now I would like to focus on one curious palace doorway!

The Palazzo Medici, later owned by the Riccardi family

Gianna and I visited the Palatine Gallery on Friday October 1st. The Palatine Gallery is of course located at the Palazzo Pitti, the stately palace of the Medici Dukes. As a student of history and lover of antiquity, these later Medici have always rubbed me the wrong way! Gone is the humility of Cosimo The Elder, the burning love of knowledge and literature of Lorenzo The Magnificent. These Medici were no longer just bankers and wealthy patrons, they were Pseudo royalty, thrust into greatness by favour of the Medici Pope Clement VII, who granted the Medici the title of Duke, starting with Alessandro de Medici in 1530.

By the time of Cosimo I de Medici(whom Italians refer to as Cosimo Primo), the Medici Dukedom was in full swing, and the immense wealth of this once humble family went into acquiring and glorifying the Pitti Palace into the Ducal Residence. The result of this was a degree of opulence that was to later inspire the building of the Palace of Versailles.

Unlike Cosimo the Elder, whom when building the original Palazzo Medici deliberately had Brunelleschi scale back the scope and grandeur of the building, these later Medici went out of their way to show their superior wealth, not only in relation to their peers, but their Medici ancestors as well. They started the trend of over sized palace windows, simply because they wanted the windows of their palace to be larger than the main door of the original Palazzo Medici! They even had the infamous Vasari corridor built, to allow them to travel from the Uffizi(the offices of Medici business ventures) and The Pitti Palace, simply so they would avoid having to mix with the rabble in the street(and the likely due to fear of attack).

Hence, as all good wealthy patrons do, the Medici went about amassing an unparalleled art collection. Going beyond humble commissions of wedding paintings like Primavera and Birth of Venus, these later Medici were directly depicted in fresco, painting and sculpture, multitudes of times, across the city and all across the many gilt rooms of their palace.

Going on a tour of the palace today, you will get to see a throne room, which served this purpose during the later phase of the palace's occupation. The original throne room was located in The Sala di Giove(The Hall of Jupiter). This hall's ceiling was decorated by Pietro da Cortona, and shows Jupiter crowning the Prince, a direct reference to the Medici Duke receiving their power from God, or in this case, the Pope, whom happened to be a relative of his.

Going through the Pitti with Gianna on this day, I think we were both overwhelmed by the opulence of this place. I definitely was, and each room I went through I found myself less in awe of these later Medici. We discussed the Pitti as a precursor to Versailles, and the tremendous negative effect that had on French society. Despite the amazing art on display, I have to admit the Pitti Palace is not a place of awe and wonder to me - but more so an ugly reminder of the tremendously corrupting influence of wealth.

Going through the Palatine Gallery however, you will get to points where you are confronted with works that will stop your reverie on wealth and power, and make you appreciate the art itself. It was two paintings in the Sala di Giove which did these for me. The first was La Donna Velata(Woman with a veil) by Raphael. One of the most famous portraits of the Renaissance, there it sits in the Medici throne room. I found this immensely poignant as this portrait is believed to be Margerita Luti, Raphael's lover, who was the daughter of a baker of Siena. This is why a later portrait of the same woman is called La Fornarina, or little baker girl!

How wonderful I thought, to have the Medici dukes prancing about under a portrait of a bakers daughter! Incidentally, I also think that the previously described incident where Gianna was accosted by a drunk guide at the Bandini Museum is related to this point. This person described Simonetta Vespucci as working in a bakery, of which there is no evidence. Evidently this drunk museum attendant is getting Simonetta and Margerita mixed up!

La Donna Velata, in its current position, sits on the left side of a doorway in the Sala di Giove. What struck me with wonder was how on the other side of this doorway was a work by my other Renaissance favourite, the enigmatic Giorgione. There are some paintings in the Uffizi that are tentatively 'attributed' to Giorgione, and the attribution to this particular work,The Three Ages, is also strongly contested.

 As I  have been discovering, Giorgione is a mystery, but not as much of a mystery as people like to hype him up as. This mystery is more a result of a combination of a lack of  documented evidence, and some over active imaginations filling the gaps!

Just as many other artists produced works with a mixture of religious and worldy symbolism, Giorgione was no different. It is easy to get swept away by the description we have of Giorgione by Vasari, the poet and lute player, who was in love with antiquity and charmed Leonardo da Vinci with his wit when they met. Vasari's meddlesome storytelling is really starting to grate on me as I find it is almost always his anecdotes that have resulted in the hazy perception we have of Renaissance artists. I'm starting to become more enamoured of the reality evidenced by facts of the day - the 1500s was still a time ruled by a type of spirituality that is extremely difficult for a modern viewer to grasp. Hence, just like Botticelli'sVenus is an allusion to The Sacred Virgin of Pagan and Christian Lore, Giorgione's Three Ages also starts to make sense as a work which can be acceptably viewed in a sacred sense as well. For more info on this, I refer you to this post by Dr. Frank DeStefano. I was delighted to be able to report to Frank that the sheet of paper held by the youth in this painting clearly did not indicate it was sheet music, as the philosophical reading of the painting indicates. It is equally difficult to say it is scripture either - like most of Giorgione's amazing symbolism I believe the ambiguity is quite deliberate, and hence allow the 'sacred and profane' readings to safely coexist.

I would like to thank Gianna for an enjoyable morning at the Palazzo Pitti. It was definitely an eye opening experience. I very much look forward to hosting her post at Three Pipe Problem. It is simply delightful to have an art history student that is such a talented writer contributing to the ever growing art blogosphere.

Kind Regards

H Niyazi

Melbourne Australia

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Long Awaited Post: The Uffizi! Part I

Ciao I Miei Amici,

I am finally proud to say that this Saturday i went to the beautiful Uffizi Museum. Eversince, my survey to Renaissance art class, I have dreamed of viewing works by the great Italian masters and this weekend that dream became a reality. However, I was unable to view the museum in its entirety since the Uffizi was far larger then I ever imagined.

My tips before going to the museum is do not underestimate its size!  If you are a tourist in Florence give yourself a full day for the Uffizi, if you are abroad like myself do not get down on yourself, there will be plenty of times to make visits to the Uffizi. Also, wear walking shoes and be ready to climb plenty of stairs, its a bit of a trek but it is well worth it! and keep in mind that  there is only one way into the Uffizi and one way out.   Also, if you are as lucky as I am, see if you can go to the museum with a fellow art buff . Viewing art with a fellow art connoisseur really enhances the experience!  I was so fortunate to have my friend and fellow art student with me, he had previously been to the museum and had a great sense of direction. He also is very insightful, we spent hours discussing various paintings and looking at works by the masters and relating them to not only our subjective views but to the artwork as a whole.

I often overlook most church art as overly exuberant  since Giotto, Duccio, Cimabue and Ghirlandio were highly commissioned church artists whose works embodied gilded splendor. Yet, upon entrance into the first room  of the museum, my friend gazed intently at the church works in front of us. We went up close to the works as well as afar. we also commented on the color palate as well as the figurations. I surprisingly enjoyed the church works because although  many of their subject matters were the same their depictions and interpretations on religious subjects varied. It is also fascinating how each artist displayed there own trademark style:  no Madonna and Child were the same. My friend jested how Madonna and Child's must have been all the rage in 15th century Florence and upon hearing the commission by the patron the artist must have cringed and thought to himself "Oh no not another Madonna and Child!"
Duccio's Madonna and Child

 Giotto's Madonna and Child

After some wonderful introspection upon the church works and some stimulated conversation with my friend, my friend and I ventured into the Botticelli Room! Words alone cannot describe the sheer awe that overcame me upon entrance into the room. Literally, I was in visual ecstasy. Across from me was La Primavera, to the left of it was Mars and Venus and to the left of Mars and Venus was the Birth of Venus. I always assumed  Botticelli was a neo-classicist mythological painter. However, Botticelli was also a church painter. I was completely unaware of just how many church works he had created . I apologize my readers for calling myself a devout fan of Botticelli when in reality, I have mainly followed his mythological works. Now, after this eye opening experience and sensory overload of Botticelli, I plan to look into his work as a church artist.  In keeping with my love for Botticelli's mythological works,  i cannot  stress the  magnanimosity of his large scale paintings. Every detail was magnified, and each detail appeared far more clear and concise, than  it would ever look in these pictures.

Botticelli's Birth of Venus

Botticelli's La Primavera

The only downside in viewing these works is how they have been preserved, the colors were far more faded then I imagined and the figures appeared mildly distorted from up close as opposed to far a way . Overall , I was so enthralled with these works that  it was difficult to turn myself away from them to view other pieces within the Uffizi. After the Botticelli room, I casually glanced at works by the  masters on the way to the  exit, However,  my main focus of the day was in viewing the church art and  the Botticellis.

This was just my first time visiting the Uffizi and I promise there will be more write ups to follow. So stay tuned for more postings on the Uffizi, I promise they will not disappoint.

A presto