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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.

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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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Arriving on the island of Torcello, after the crowds and noise of Venice, is a wonder. The small water bus from the island of Burano,  leaves visitors at a recently restored dock. As you walk along the one navigable canal on the island, you begin to feel the years fade to the time of Venice’s founding. For over one thousand years, Torcello was the seat of the Bishop of Venice and, in the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, are the remains of the patron saint of the island, Heliodorus.

The peace and quiet of the island has been disturbed in recent years to allow for the restoration of the fondamente (the walkway along the canal) and to facilitate the restoration of several restaurants and cafes. The Locanda Cipriani, owned by the same family of Venice’s famed Hotel Cipriani,  is an oasis of calm and exceptional service – the island’s only full service hotel. If your desire is for retreat and relaxation in a hotel little known by tourists, this is your place.

Along the way, visitors pass the Ponte del Diavolo (Devil’s Bridge) near the Osteria of the same name. This is a comfortable place for a cappuccino either before or after your visit to the cathedral.

Cathderal of Santa Maria Assunta Torcello

Final Judgement

What brings people to an island of only sixteen year round residents? The mosaics in the cathedral are among the most finely restored Byzantine art in the Mediterranean. The “Final Judgement” is breathtaking, and well worth the forty-five minute trip from the city of Venice. If you arrive early – before the cathedral opens at 10:00AM, you will experience a sense of history and mystery unlike most islands in the lagoon.

Early mornings are by far the best time to visit. Groups of pilgrims and tourists usually begin arriving around 10:30AM each day. If you are at the cathedral ticket office when it opens at 10:15AM, you will  enjoy your visit with little interruption from those crowds.

This is a treasure of a place and I highly recommend a visit while you are visiting bella Venezia.

IF YOU GO:

Purchase an IMOB card for unlimited travel on the vaporetto network at any ACTV ticket window. These cards are available in varying time segments, from twenty four hours to one month. See www.actv.it/en/imob/imob for details.

For route maps of the Venice Water Bus and land system, go to ACTV.

To reach Torcello from the Fondamente Nove vaporetto dock:

Depart Fondamente Nove on the Number 12 line at 9:10AM

Arrive Burano at 9:52AM

Change water buses to the Torcello line – to your right as you exit the Number 12 vaporetto

Arrive Torcello at 10:00AM (The boat trip from Burano to Torcello takes four minutes)

Boats run every forty minutes between Torcello and Burano, the only public service available between those two islands.

Return services to Venice are available throughout the day from Burano to either St. Mark’s Square, Murano and other major locations in the city.

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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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