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Bargello View from Uffizi Firenze

Museo Nazionale del Bargello Florence – View from Uffizi Gallery

On an early spring day in 1475, a young girl sat on a stool in the workshop of the Italian master, Andrea del Verrocchio.  A fresh bouquet of wildflowers had been given to her just before she sat in the master’s studio.

Born Andrea di Michele di Francesco de’ Cioni, Verrocchio was well known in the halls of Medici power in Florence during the early Renaissance. His study of this particular young girl rests on a stand in what is now called the Sale Verrocchio  – a small second floor gallery in the Bargello Museum in Florence.

The question that, even today, occupies the minds of many art critics and historians about Verrochio’s bust of that Tuscan girl is “Who created the bust of Dama col Mazzolino?”

Museo del Bargello, in the heart of Florence’s Medieval city center, seems an austere and perplexing location for yet another extraordinary collection of art. This was the seat of the Podesta, the Chief magistrate of the city for centuries and the place of execution for nearly an equal number of years.  Bargello’s imposing crenelated tower, which competes in scale with its nearby neighbor the Badia Fiorentina (Abbey of Florence),  pierces the skyline of the city.

To climb the long exterior staircase of the courtyard is to literally rise above Michelangelo (a collection of Buonarotti’s works occupies the ground floor gallery) and arrive in the the midst of invaluable art patronage: Donatello’s David, the gallery of the Della Robbia workshops, and much more.

DSC_4210

Main Stairway Bargello Florence

Many visitors to the Bargello are, by the time they arrive at the Sale Verrocchio (The Verrocchio Room), too tired to pay much attention to the beauty of the works contained therein. The late afternoon sun shimmers through the wave-aged windows as noise rises from the streets below and on top of fatigue, the heat often erodes interest. My advice? Take a break and study, in particular, this singular cinnamon-hued marble masterpiece.

Dama col Mazzolino

Dama col Mazzolino

Now, the mystery.

One of Verrocchio’s students was a young man from the village of Vinci, one Leonardo. Verrocchio also worked with Perugino, Botticelli and Ghirlandaio – an incredible collection of the best artists of the day.

As art historians have studied the young woman, a number of experts began to doubt that only Verrocchio, and perhaps not Verrocchio at all, carved the bust. On several of Leonardo’s works there is a nearly identical style to the hands he painted.

Here are some examples, next to the Damma Col Mazzolino.

Verrochio Hands

Damma Col Mazzolino
Hand Study
Verrocchio 1475

Lady With An Ermine Da Vincie 1489-1490

Hands-Lady with an Ermine-DaVinci 1490

Note the striking similarity in the position of the hands. The elongated stretch of the fingers are nearly identical. One additional remarkable note about the resemblance of Da Vinci and Verrocchio’s work are from Da Vinci’s most famous fresco, Il Cenacolo, the Last Supper in the refectory of Santa Maria della Grazie Convent in Milan.

During a recent visit to that Convent, I noticed the hands of St. Phillip, who stands three disciples to the left of Christ in Da Vinci’s fresco.

Última_Cena_-_Da_Vinci_5

Hands of Phillipus
Il Cenocolo, Da Vinci

Note, again, the nearly identical position of the saint’s right hand in this fresco to the hands in the works detailed above. Was it simply coincidence that these similarities exist? Many art historians and critics believe that if Leonard did not actually carve the hands (at a minimum) on the young girl holding flowers, Verrocchio’s influence on Da Vinci’s style was both remarkable and deep.

Such, perhaps, is the ‘science’ of art. While technologically advanced equipment can assess the age and condition of works of men and women, the true gift of the artist is in the mystery of their vision. Whether you agree with the discourse on these works of art, I believe those who take the time to study them will come to more deeply understand the effect of the Florentine masters, and their studios, on their students.

My vision, when I study the young Tuscan girl in that small gallery in Florence, is of a young Leonardo, fired by talent and desire, absorbing and learning from every mark of his master’s chisel, every stroke of paint on canvas. Da Vinci’s contemporaries, like Perugino and Ghirlandaio, were at hand to watch, sketch and stare in wonder at the creative energy so perfectly expressed by their teacher. Each of Verrocchio’s pupils learned to create their own work, while paying homage to the genius of the man who taught them.

I will conclude this post with two images. One by Verrocchio, discussed in this blog, and the other by one of Verrocchio’s students.

Yet another opportunity to compare and consider the comparative work of masters: Verrocchio and . . ?

AII58286Girl - by Verrocchio Studen

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Snowy Bench, Roma, February 2012                    Photo AP

Snowy Jazz

Rome Italy

February 4 2012

            To discover Rome enfolded in glistening white snow is magical; the city is reborn.

Previously unnoticed places shimmer anew in the ancient city. Rustications on an ancient wall create a pattern reminiscent of mottled leather. The icy surface of the Tiber river reflects an uncharacteristically stark outline of the Castel Sant’Angelo. Nuns laugh as they create a snowman near the center of Piazza San Pietro. Tuxedo jacketed staff sweep snow from the entrances of cafés and restaurants. Snow shovels? Who ever heard of such a thing in Roma?

Along the Via dei Genovesi in the Trastevere neighborhood, a young man sits on a rickety wooden chair and plays his guitar. In the eerie blue-veiled onrush of winter evening, the sound of his music is muted by snow-covered streets and balconies. The muffled sounds lend an increasingly ethereal feeling to bianca Roma, white Rome.

Since buses are nearly at a standstill, a long walk seems appropriately in order. My destination is the AlexanderPlatz Jazz Club, located near the corner of Via Santamaura and Via Ostia, only a few blocks north of Vatican City.

Louis Hayes and the John Webber Trio are performing tonight. The first set begins at 10:30PM.  The place is packed. AlexanderPlatz is the most famous, and the oldest, jazz venue in Italy. You cannot smoke in such places anymore in Italy; from my perspective a good thing. I can imagine, though, such clubs when the attendees filled the air with a curtain of smoke from “Nazionali,” a famous and inexpensive brand of Italian cigarettes.

As I relax with a good local red wine, the performance begins.  For the next hour and a half we all delight in the talent that epitomizes great jazz. A haze of steam rises from wet clothing. Vapor wraps around the a few colored lights above the stage. “Midnight in Paris”? It has nothing on this experience. We might as well be ensconced in some 1930’s Roman jazz club, Geraldine Baker, perhaps, at the bar . . .

This is one of the locales few tourists know. Occasionally, the sound of American English stands out amidst the conversations that fill the air between pieces. It is more comforting to find retreat amidst the locals, and just be.

Near midnight, I leave the club and return to my hotel through a strangely black and white Eternal City, crossing the river on the Ponte Cavour, and revel in the memories and magic of a special gift from bella Roma; snowy jazz.

Details:

AlexanderPlatz Jazz Club

Via Ostia, 9

Roma, 00192

Email: info@villacelimontanajazz.com
Tel: 06 39742171 – after 6:00PM
Monday-Thursday: Performances being at 9:45PM
Friday and Saturday: Performances begin at 10:30PM

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Welcome to the world of Private Italy Tours LTD

The goal of our journeys is to expose travelers to the exceptional heart of this stunning country. Clients have time to explore and relax on their own; in Florence and the hill towns of Tuscany, afloat on the canals and lagoons in Venice, along the narrow streets of villages in Umbria, amidst the Roman ruins in and around Rome, while driving along the spectacular Amalfi Coast, or exploring the beautiful remains of Greek and Roman civilizations in Sicily.

Most importantly you will meet the people of Italy – the true heart of the country. We bring Italy to YOU!

We know you love Italy; come see it through our eyes.

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