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Posts Tagged ‘Florence Churches’

Introductory Note: Among the lanes and avenues of ancient Rome were apartment buildings known as insule (insulae, plural). Within these structures were small upstairs rooms that were used for meals. The Italian word for the dinner meal, cena, comes from the Latin word for those upper rooms: cenaculum. The Italian word for the Last Supper, Cenacolo, is also derived from that same base word and is used interchangeably with “‘l’Ultima Cena” (The Last Supper of Jesus and his disciples).

In Search of Florence’s Last Suppers

Taddeo GaddiLast Supper and Tree of Life, ca. 1340Santa Croce

Taddeo Gaddi
Last Supper and Tree of Life, ca. 1340
Santa Croce

My first encounter with Taddeo Gaddi’s fresco of the Last Supper and Tree of Life came late on a summer’s afternoon. Santa Croce lies east of the Piazza della Signoria. The ancient lanes you walk to arrive at the Piazza Santa Croce take you past the area where the ancient Roman amphitheater of Florentia once stood.

My goal was to visit one of the most famous symbols of Florence, Cimabue’s Crucifixion. It was only upon entering the vast space of the refectory that the scale and beauty of Gaddi’s work came to me. Below the Tree of Life is the Last Supper, a work that was heavily damaged during the floods of November 1966. It has been painstakingly and lovingly restored.

On another day in Florence, I was fortunate to be introduced to the work of another Renaissance artist, Andrea del Castango. His luminous Last Supper, a fresco on the northwest wall of the refectory in the Convent of Sant’Apollonia, came as yet another surprise.

Last Suppers. Florence. Cenaculum. Upper Rooms.

My curiosity was roused. How many paintings of the cenaculum exist in the city? My search for the Last Suppers of Florence began.

The list is long.

No fewer than seven Last Supper frescoes exist within the confines of the ancient city center. From Santa Maria Novella on the northwest part of the, to Ognissanti in the city center, to Santa Croce and San Salvi in the east, the collection of these incredible works span centuries, united by their subject matter. By taking the time to visit them, visitors can learn a great deal about the changes made in the art of fresco during the Renaissance. An added bonus is that these marvelous pieces of art are rarely visited by but a few tourists.

Rather than detail each of these unforgettable frescoes, I have placed photos of the frescoes below, in time line sequence, earliest to latest. Below each photo are details about their location, the open hours, the price of entrance tickets, and some brief analysis and information about the work.

Regardless of your religious beliefs, the beauty of these frescoes and the places they were created, offer visitors ample opportunity to more deeply understand the profound influence of the Christian church on the artists and history of Renaissance Florence.

I hope that those of you who visit Florence will take time to visit these unforgettable works of art.

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IF YOU GO:

The Cenacule of Florence – the Last Suppers of Florence

GaddiLast Supper & Tree of Lifeca. 1335

Gaddi
Last Supper & Tree of Life
ca. 1335

Other than the Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci and very few other frescoes, Gaddi’s work placed the disciple Judas Iscariot on the opposite side of the table from Jesus and the other disciples. This same configuration is repeated in most Renaissance Last Supper Frescoes.

Taddeo Gaddi

Last Supper and Tree of Life, ca. 1335

Refectory, Basilica of Santa Croce

Piazza di Santa Croce, 16
50122 Firenze, Italy
Tel: 39.055.244.619

Entrance tickets: Euro 6.00 per person

Location of Ticket Office: The ticket office is on the north side of the basilica. As you face the facade of the church, go to the left side and you will find the ticket office and visitors entrance. The refectory is through the church nave on the south side of the complex.

Domenico GhirlandaioLast Supper ca. 1447Convent of Sant'Apollonia

Andrea del Castagno
Last Supper ca. 1447
Convent of Sant’Apollonia

Andrea del Castagno

Last Supper, ca. 1447

Convent of Sant’Apollonia

Via 27 Aprile, 1
50129 Firenze, Italy
Tel: 39.055.238.8607

Entrance tickets: Entrance to this refectory is free

Open hours:

Tuesday-Saturday 9am-2pm

Closed on the 2nd and 4th Monday of each month and the 1st, 3rd and 5th Sunday of each month

Castagno chose to place the figure of Judas facing to the right, unlike Gaddi’s composition which had Judas looking to the left. Also, Castagno has Judas and Jesus in closer proximity than in Gaddi’s earlier work.

Domenico GhirlandaioLast Supper, ca. 1480Ognissanti

Domenico Ghirlandaio
Last Supper, ca. 1480
Ognissanti

Domenico Ghirlandaio

Last Supper, ca. 1480

Ognissanti, Florence

Borgo Ognissanti, 42

50123 Florence, Italy

Tel: 39.055.239.8700

Entrance Tickets: Entrance to the church is free

Open hours:

Weekdays and weekends: 7:125AM – 12:30PM and 4:00PM to 8:00PM

Festival days: 9:00AM to 1:00PM and 4:00PM to 8:00PM

Be sure to check hours of the Mass so you do not interrupt services.

In the first of two Last Supper frescoes commissioned with Ghirlandaio, (see next listing below as well) Judas is facing left and rather than St. John being bowed onto Jesus’s arm, in Domenico’s work he portrays the disciple as deferential, his head nearly even with that of Jesus.

Domenico GhirlandaioLast Supper, ca. 1482San Marco

Domenico Ghirlandaio
Last Supper, ca. 1482
San Marco

Domenico Ghirldandaio

Last Supper, ca. 1482

San Marco

Piazza di San Marco, 1
50121 Firenze, Italy
39.055.238.8608

Entrance tickets: Euro 4.00 per person

Open hours:

Monday-Friday 8:15am-1:30pm

Saturday, Sunday: 8:15am-4:50pm

NOTE: Closed the 1st, 3rd and 5th Sunday

and the 2nd and 4th Monday of each month, New Year’s Day, May 1, Christmas Day

Considered by many art historians and experts to be the finest Last Supper of the 15th and 16th Century Italian Renaissance, Ghirlandaio’s second Last Supper – his first (above) was completed two years earlier – reflects important lessons learned in both the quality of the paints used in the fresco, the depiction of body posture and the refined use of perspective.

Pietro PeruginoLast Supper, ca. 1492Convent of Fuligno

Pietro Perugino
Last Supper, ca. 1492
Convent of Fuligno

Pietro Perugino

Last Supper, ca. 1492

Convent of Fuligno

Via Faenza, 42
50123 Firenze, Italy
Tel: 39.055.286.982

Entrance Tickets: Tickets for the church are free

Open hours:

Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday 9am-Noon, Closed Sunday

Closed New Year’s Day, Christmas Day, May 1

Early attributions of this fresco were to the Renaissance artist, Raphael. Further inspection and study revealed it to be a work by the Umbrian artist Pietro Perugino. Some art experts believe that this fresco was painted over a late 15th century work by Neri di Bicci, a Florentine Renaissance artist. The fresco is considered to be the finest example of Umbrian Renaissance art in the city.

Andrea del SartoLast Supper, ca. 15159 - 1527San Salvi

Andrea del Sarto
Last Supper, ca. 1519 – 1527
San Salvi

Andrea del Sarto

Last Supper, ca. 1519 – 1527

San Salvi

Entrance tickets: Entrance to the church is free

Open hours:

 Tuesday hours 8:15 am–1:50 pm

In 1530, the commander of Spain’s Charles V’s troops who had invaded Florence spared this work owing to its incredible beauty. Andrea del Sarto chose to place Judas to the far right, so that the other figures in the painting would be the focus of his work. The fine detail of this fresco is incredible to see and well worth the effort of finding your way to the church of San Salvi.

Alessandro ALloriLast Supper, ca. 1584 - 1597Santa Maria Novella

Alessandro Allori
Last Supper, ca. 1584 – 1597
Santa Maria Novella

Alessandro Allori

Last Supper, ca. 1584 – 1597

Santa Maria Novella

Piazza di Santa Maria Novella, 18

 50123 Florence, Italy

Tel: 39.055.219.257

Entrance tickets: Euro 2.50 per person

Open hours:

Monday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday 10am-4pm
Weekday holidays 9am-2pm

One of the most unusual frescoes and paintings of the Renaissance. Allori’s work, mannerist in style, is actually two works of art: fresco and canvas. The panel in the lower center of the fresco is actually a canvas on which Allori has created a vision of an energetic and physically active Last Supper. There is a heretofore unseen vitality and dynamic to this depiction of the event. Allori’s unique work served to inspire other artists of the late 16th Century to experiment with new styles of art. This is the final depiction of the Last Supper in a Florentine church.

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NaveSanta Maria Novella (1360)

Nave
Santa Maria Novella (1360)

Most visitors to the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, overcome by the sheer scale and beauty of the church, often miss one of the most important treasured works of early Renaissance art in Florence. In this photo, if you look to the left of the pulpit and the column supporting it, you will see a fresco of what appears to be a crucifixion. Read on. Masaccio’s influence on the art world is still being felt today.

Masaccio, Trinity1427

Masaccio, Trinity
1427

Of Masaccio, much has been written. His Trinity, in the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella in Florence, is considered by many to be a masterpiece, second only to his frescoes in a chapel across the city.

There are, as with the finest paintings of human hands, stories about this particular work that I find fascinating.

Masaccio was born Tommaso di Ser Giovanni di Simone, to parents who lived in a small town called, at the time, Castel San Giovanni di Altura. The town was located in the area of Arezzo, about forty-five miles southeast of Florence.  His apprenticeship is cloaked in mystery. Art historians are not, in any way, certain of when Masaccio arrived in Florence to begin his art education. It was in 1422 that, for the first time (apparently) Masaccio joined the guild of artists to which he would belong all of this life.

In Vasari’s tome, Vita (Lives of the Artists), he writes that Brunelleschi and Donatello befriended both Masaccio and another Renaissance painter, Masolino. The influence of two such respected leaders of the art community in Florence, Brunelleschi as architect and Donatello as sculptor, would have been much to their young protege’s favor.

In 1424, Masaccio and his partner were given a commission to fresco a chapel at the church of Santa Maria della Carmine for the Branacci family, one of the wealthiest families of the city. The influence of Giotto’s style on Masaccio is apparent in the frescoes at the Carmine. As Giotto used human face and body posture to communicate emotion, so followed Masaccio.

Reasons are unclear as to why the fresco cycle at Santa Maria della Carmine was left incomplete.  It was perhaps the Branacci family’s resources. This was, after all, nearly 600 years ago and records are incomplete at best.

In 1426, Masaccio accepted the commission of Giuliano di San Giusto to paint an altarpiece for the Church of Santa Maria della Carmine in Pisa. When that work was completed, the artist returned to Florence and began work on the Trinity.

Now, things get interesting. Who commissioned the work? This was one of the most powerful churches in Florence, a Dominican stronghold. The art, even of the day, contained in the church was of incredible value. The two figures who kneel on each side of the cross have provided some clues. There are records at Santa Maria Novella of two families who were interested in commissioning a work in the basilica; the Lenzi and the Berti. Residential records of Florence from the 15th Century favor the Berti family.

Detail, Masaccio TrinityBerti (?) Family

Detail, Masaccio Trinity
Berti (?) Family

In January of this year (2012), art historians discovered that the Berti family lived in the neighborhood near the church. The Lenzi family’s location has yet to be confirmed.

Whomever these two people are, there is no doubt that they were important to the piece, if not the patrons who commissioned the work. The woman kneels to the left of Saint John the Baptist (who is patron saint of Florence today) and the man kneels to the right of Mary-two places of importance on such a work.

The early years of Masaccio’s studies came to the fore in this fresco. Brunelleschi, a master architect who would build the largest spanned dome in the Renaissance world over the city’s cathedral of Santa Maria dei Fiore, Florence’s cathedral, was a brilliant student of perspective. Masaccio brought his studies of Brunelleschi’s work to the Trinity.

Perspective StudyTrinity, Masaccio

Perspective
Masaccio Trinity

This was the first time that a scientific approach to providing a sense of depth, using perspective, was ever used in Renaissance art. The diagram included with this article shows the ‘focal point’, that place in the fresco where the eye is naturally drawn. The curve of the arched ceiling above Christ and God show a huge space behind them. The sense of three dimension becomes real as you stand in front of the work.

During the latter half of the 16th Century, Cosimo I, Grand Duke of Tuscany, commissioned Vasari (he of Vita fame) to oversee a restoration and redesign of the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella. Vasari had been very impressed with Masaccio’s work, the Trinity in particular. In order to protect it, Vasari built an altar in front of the original 1427 work. It was only during another art restoration in the 1860’s that Vasari’s ‘cover’ was discovered, and Masaccio’s work was again revealed.

At the base of the Trinity is the fresco of a tomb.

Fresco, TombMasaccio, Trinity

Fresco, Tomb
Masaccio, Trinity

Above the skeleton, in broken Renaissance Italian are the words IO FU[I] G[I]A QUEL CHE VOI S[I]ETE E QUEL CH[‘] I[O] SONO VO[I] A[N]C[OR] SARETE.” The letters in parenthesis have been added to complete the phrase.

What do these words convey? “I once was what you are and what I am you also will be.” Words of warning, perhaps, to those who worshiped during the Renaissance that life was short, time fleeting. The words are, as well, full of mysterious foreboding for the life of Masaccio.

Less than one year after the Trinity was completed, at the young age of only 28, Masaccio was dead.

The artists of the early Renaissance were deeply influenced by Masaccio’s work. The world of three-dimensions, created of an architect’s curiosity, opened yet one more door on the creative minds of artists to come.

When you are in the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, approach and study this masterpiece and consider what the art patronage of the city of Florence might be had Masaccio lived a longer and even more productive life.

IF YOU GO:

Basilica of Santa Maria Novella

Piazza di Santa Maria Novella, 18, 50123 Florence, Italy

Tel: 055 219257

Web Site: Santa Maria Novella

Open Monday – Thursday 9:00AM – 5:30PM
Open Friday 11:00AM – 5:30PM
Open Saturday 9:00AM – 5:00PM
Open Sunday 12:00PM – 5:00PM
Open Festival Days 1:00PM – 5:00PM
Entrance Tickets are Euro 5.00 Per Person

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