Florence is the Artistic Memory of Renaissance Italy
September 6 & 7, 1999:
The Medici family were the Rockefellers of Renaissance Florence. They were so wealthy they had a private passage built in the main bridge over the Arno so they wouldn't have to walk down among the commoners.
Along with their accumulation of power, they accumulated ART. Their collection now makes up Italy's two greatest museums: the Uffizi (oo-FEET-zee) for paintings and the Bargello for sculpture. (Both in Florence.)
At the Uffizi, they have a computer registering how many people go in and come out. They only allow 660 people inside at any one time, so we had to wait in line for 2 hours.
All that waiting gave us time to appreciate the voluptuous statues of Botero as they loaded them up at the end of his show.
And while waiting, we took turns visiting the Pont Vecchio, where you can see the exclusive Medici passageway on top.
Finally we were admitted to the museum.
This red room is called the Tribune and holds objects the Medici most prized. In the center is the 'Medici Venus,' a 1st century AD copy of a more ancient Greek original.
Said to be the most erotic sculpture in the ancient world, it says a lot about the erotic thoughts of those ancients.
Mark Twain once called this Venus of Urbino by Titian "the obscenest picture the world possesses."
Madonna and Child was the most popular theme at the museum.
The theme seemed overused at times.
But what can you do? That's what the masters were painting.
To the right is the only known free-standing painting by Michelangelo.
You guessed it -- Madonna and Child.
The second most popular theme was classical mythology, as in Death of Adonis to the left.
It seems these works sometimes got lost in the shuffle of history. There was a painting inventory in 1520 that listed this one as the painting with "mostly nude and beautiful figures."
More casualties of the year 2000 here. Some of the more famous paintings by Leonardo, Raphael, and Caravaggio were out for restoration.
But they had black and white photos to keep us happy.
We couldn't help but think of John Travolta.
The Medici's collected sculpture as well, and most of that became the Bargello Museum, now housed in the old town hall.
This is the only known bust by Michelangelo.
'Brutus' is also a political work, inspired as a defense of the assassination of Duke Alexander de' Medici.
This is a version of David by Donatello.
Notice the giant's head.
Here Zeus seduces Leda dressed as a swan.
Victory over Pisa shows what you get
In the Bargello we literally 'bumped' into friends of ours.
Henry heard a woman with an American accent say, 'excuse me.'
He needed Kathleen to take a second look, then she yelled, "Claire!?!"
These things only happen in novels.
Undisputed highlight of the trip, however, was Michelangelo's David.
Leading up to him is a grand hall containing six of the unfinished works by the master called the Prisoners.
They seem to be straining to create themselves out of stone.
Then we stand under the giant statue.
It is quieter here than in the cathedrals.
Even tourists fall silent under David's profound magic.
His face and hands start the spell. Then that awesome body.
Some walk around and around staring upwards. Some try to capture him with ink or film. Others are simply moved to tears.
The only flaw in the statue is the marble from which it's made.
Looking at David, one knows perfection is possible.
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