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Posts Tagged ‘Florence Museums’

In one word: GO!

Piazza_Santissima_Annunziata,_Florence

Piazza Santissima Annunziata

On June 24, 2016, the day of the annual Florentine celebration of the city’s patron saint John the Baptist, the ‘new’ Museum of the Innocents (Museo degli Innocenti) reopens after an extensive, nearly three year, restoration. The museum is located on the southeast side of the Piazza Santissima Annunziata at the end of the Via dei Servi, steps from the Piazza Duomo.

This restoration shares an intriguing variety of information, from the structure’s architectural history, its involvement with the guilds of Florence, the designs instituted by Filippo Brunelleschi (he of the famous Dome of the Duomo of Florence), to digitized video or audio interviews with seventy (70) people who were cared for at the Ospedale.

It was during the 15th Century that the Institute of the Orphans, Istituto degli Innocenti, was founded to support children and their families.

The children, born out of wedlock or unwanted, were brought without judgement or question to the Innocenti and were left in the exceptional hands of the Sisters who cared for these sventurati, the ‘unfortunates’.

FACCIATA

Architecturally, the building is  a stunner of early Renaissance architecture. Brunelleschi’s gorgeous loggia is bejeweled by works of babies in swaddling clothes created in the workshop of Andrea della Robbia. One of the the roundels, in blue and white ceramic, was selected to be the symbol of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Della Robbia - Innocenti

The museum contains records from the 15th Century onward, lists containing details of every child welcomed in to the Ospedale. The library also contains information regarding the children’s training and release into various programs during the Renaissance and beyond. From convents to monasteries, workshops of artists and sculptors as well as numerous other apprenticeships, the children raised in the Ospedale moved within, and beyond, the confines of Florence to become contributing members of society.

Today the Florentine phone book lists numerous families with the last name of Innocenti, a shadow of the institution’s significant impact on the life of the city.

The Istituto degli Innocenti is managed through a Board of Directors, all of whom are appointed by the Province of Florence. Their charter is to provide support for children in accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The museum contains a library and resource center for the study of children’s care from the time of the Ospedale’s founding to today, even as seven ‘innocenti’ currently remain resident in the structure.

On the heels of the reopening of the Museo del Opera del Duomo in October 2015, this is yet another MUST VISIT when you are in bella Firenze.

Museo degli Innocenti/Istituto degli Innocenti

Open 10:00AM – 7:00PM Daily

Entrance Ticket: Euro 5.00

Piazza della Santissima Annunziata, 12
50122 FIRENZE
+39 055 20371

 

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Michelangelo. It is a name that conjures images of paint strained eyes, of angry popes and of marble dust.

MichelangeloBacchus, 1496-1497

Michelangelo
Bacchus, 1496-1497

The Bacchus, an unusual and controversial work, was created by Michelangelo between 1496 and 1497, when the young artist was twenty years old.  The commission came from a rather unexpected source, that of Raffaele Sansoni Galeoti Riario, who became Cardinal Riario. Passionate about sculpture and, in particular his garden, Riario had commissioned the piece to add to his home sculpture garden in the Palazzo della Cancelleria in Rome.

Palazzo della Cancelleria

Palazzo della Cancelleria

An interesting side story to this commission. Riario was sold a sleeping cupid as a true piece of ancient Roman art. The connoisseurship of the Cardinal was widely known and he, eventually, discovered that the piece had been carved by Michelangelo. Upset though Riario may have been, he was also an astute businessman. It was his orders that brought Michelangelo to Rome where the artist worked for most of the remaining years of his life.

As the photo of the Cancelleria, the Chancellery of the Vatican, attests, Riario had enormous financial resources available to support his commissions.

Upon seeing the Bacchus, however, Riario’s reaction was not dissimilar to words penned by Percy Shelley many years later, “It looks drunken, brutal, and narrow-minded, and has an expression of dissoluteness the most revolting.”

Riario hated the work and refused to accept it. However, an associate of his at the Vatican, one Jacopo Galli, Riario’s banker, patron and friend of Michelangelo, paid for the commission and placed it in his private collection.

It was not until 1847 that the statue was transferred to Florence where it now resides in the Museo Nazionale del Bargello in Florence.

Bacchus, FaceMichelangelo

Bacchus, Face
Michelangelo

It is a strange work, to say the least. The expression of Bacchus, the asexual nature of his body, the posture of drunkenness he displays were all brilliant and intentional marks of a master artist. What offended Riario and what often offends people to this day is that the statue does not fit most people’s expectations of a god. Human in every aspect, with a grape-eating faun at this side, was – I believe – a not too indirect way for Michelangelo to portray his view of Riario as a person and, perhaps, the church in general.

Known to be exacerbating, difficult, unpredictably  emotional, the young sculptor may have seen this commission as a way of communicating his disdain for the patrons of his youth. It may have galled Michelangelo to know that a sleeping cupid had been the means by which orders came from Pope Julius II, one of Riario’s relatives, for the artist to report to Rome.

When you are in Florence, be sure to take a morning (see open hours below IF YOU GO) to explore the galleries in the Bargello Museum. The Ground floor gallery houses many pieces of remarkable sculpture, the Bacchus among them. The second floor galleries house Donatello’s David, works by the Della Robbia workshop and many other treasures of Renaissance art.

IF YOU GO:

Museo Nazionale el Bargello

Via del Proconsolo, 4

50122 Florence

Tel: +39.055.238.8606

Tickets: Euro 4.00 per person

Web: Bargello Firenze

Open Hours: Please note the very specific hours that the museum is open: 8:15AM – 1:50PM Daily with the exception of:

Closed, 1st, 3rd, 5th Sunday of the month, Closed 2nd and 4th Monday of the month and closed January 1, May 1, and December 25

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palazzo davazatti florence

Palazzo Davanzati Florence

I have walked past this imposing Renaissance palazzo for many years, paying little heed to what, at the time, I thought was just another historic building in Florence. Talk about being wrong!

The Palazzo Davanzati is now a gorgeous, living museum. Rooms, frescoes and furniture from the Renaissance have all been beautifully restored. What visitors experience is a sense of being in a wealthy Florentine family’s home and come to better understand how those families lived.

The Palace was built by the Davizzi family in 1365. The property passed through various family members. In 1578 financial difficulties required that the palazzo be sold. The Davanzati family purchased the building and it remained in their hands until the early 19th Century.

Due to the palazzo’s size, it was decided that is should best be used as apartments. This reconstruction’ caused a great deal of damage to the original structure.

In 1904, a famous Italian antiques collector, Elia Volpi, purchased and restored the entire building. He furnished the palazzo in period pieces of furniture and opened it to the public as a museum of the home . Financial challenges caused Signor Volpi to sell off the majority of the original furniture. Along came Vitale and Leopoldo Bengujat, also antique dealers, who purchased the home in 1927 and for a few years successfully operated the museum.

Elia Volpi

Elia Volpi (with thanks to Palazzo Davanzati archives)

Financial ruin eventually faced the Bengujat brothers and, in 1940, the museum was sold to the state. The basement of the structure was made in to a bomb shelter and, after the war, the palazzo languished, nearly forgotten.

In 1951, the building was purchased by the Italian government and, in 1956, a new refurnished and restored palazzo was again opened to the public. In April of 2010, the museum was reopened to much fanfare, having been completed renovated, renewed and restored.

The Palazzo – Exterior

The exterior of the building has undergone numerous changes. The original arched loggia that was at the ground level of the building and used as a store, was closed in during the late 15th Century. In the 16th century, the owners enclosed the top level and formed a lovely arched private loggia for the family’s use.

Fresco Palazzo Davanzati

Fresco
Palazzo Davanzati

The Palazzo – Interior

You enter the palazzo at the street level into a lovely open atrium. The four upper floors have open walkways and balconies which permit visitors to view down into the small courtyard of the palazzo. The construction of the home is true to the time of its original occupation with terracotta used in the ceilings to support the upper floors and many beautiful frescoes on the walls.

The most beautiful rooms are the Sala dei Pappagalli (The Parrot Room) and the Bedroom with scenes of the life of the Lady of Vergi.

parrott room davanzatti

“Parrot Room” Palazzo Davanzati

stairwell davanzati

Stairway and hall, Palazzo Davanzati

IF YOU GO:

Palazzo Davanzati

Via Porta Rossa, 13  50123 Florence, Italy

Tel: +39.055.238.8610

Entrance Tickets: Euro 4.00 per person

Open hours:

Monday – Sunday, 8:15AM to- 1:50PM

Closed the 2nd and 4th Sunday of the month

Closed the 1st, 3rd and 5th Monday of the month

Please note that as of this writing, those requiring a wheel chair or who cannot climb stairs will find that they only have access to the ground floor of the palazzo.

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Piazza San Marco Florence

Piazza San Marco Florence

The present day Church and Monastery of San Marco in Florence was built on the foundation of a 12th Century Valambrosian Monastery. It was in 1435 that the Dominicans from the Convent of San Domenico, located in the hills above Florence in the town of Fiesole, assumed responsibility for the church and buildings. In 1437, the prior of San Marco appealed to Cosimo di Medici (the elder) for the funds to expand the entire complex. Such request was granted and the building you enter today are as those of the time of the early Renaissance.

The piazza that fronts the church is a hive of constant activity. Buses from across the city stop near a wonderful gelateria, Carabè. Motorcycles parked like the spine of a dinosaur line the edges of the central garden and fountain. It is a space that meets its design, yet detracts from enticing visitors into one of the most peaceful and most treasured collections of art in Florence.

Enter. Early morning is the best time to visit, before the crowds arrive. I am always in San Marco immediately after opening at 8:15am. Walking through the arched Cloister of Sant’Antonio and up the long stairway to the monks cells is, for me, a voyage back in time. Morning light reflects against the sandal-polished terracotta floors that line the hallways.

The light of Angelico, the shadows in San Marco

The light of Angelico, the Shadows in San Marco

In each of the cells are works by the early Renaissance artist and master of the fresco Fra Angelico (Beato Angelico in Italian). There are a total of forty-three monk’s cells at San Marco, each decorated with a work by Angelico. What startles most visitors on each visit is the masterpiece of this level of the Monastery, Fra Angelico’s Annunciation.

The master’s use of light – note the beam of sunlight that touches Mary, the fine detail of the angel’s wings. Even the folds of the cloth on both main figures is as if you could touch and feel the texture of the fabric. The panel at the base of the work tells the story of Mary’s life.Devoid of most other symbols that were used in most depictions of this event, and of Mary’s life, Fra Angelico chose to focus on the moment and the effect that the news brought by an angel had on Mary.

Fra AngelicoAnnunciation1438 - 1445

Fra Angelico
Annunciation
1438 – 1445

Within the hushed corridors of this spiritual place, I remember the monks who, from early morning til dark, toiled daily at their chores and then returned to their cells reminded by Angelico’s work of the most important reason they had dedicated their life to the church.

After time in this area of the monastery, I descend the long stairwell and enter the small refectory. It was in this very room that Ghirlandaio, a master who studied the hand of Fra Angelico, created what many consider his masterpiece, L’ultima Cena, the Last Supper. The work was completed in 1486 and is located in the small refectory, a place reserved for very special guests in the lodger’s wing of the monastery. The space now also contains the book shop, where you can find some gorgeous art books if you are interested.

The work by Ghirlandaio not so much mimics, rather pays deference to, an earlier work by Andrea del Castango in the Convent of Sant’Apollonia located only a five minute walk from Piazza San Marco. With the actual arches in the space providing a shelter for the fresco, the entire wall is covered in the most incredible colors. Again, and as with Angelico, the folds of fabric, the details of beards, the fingernails of the saints, the shimmer of light on the old halos above each of the figures nearly beyond belief. This is another gift from the halls of San Marco.

Last SupperDomenico Ghirlandaio 1486 Monastery San Marco

Last Supper
Domenico Ghirlandaio 1486 Monastery San Marco

On March 21 of 2011, the Tabernacle of the Linaioli, a highly prized masterpiece by Fra Angelico, was showcased in the Library of Michelozzo on the second level of the Monastery. I was fortunate to discover this treasured display in May of that same year. Michelozzo’s Library is a perfect example of Renaissance symmetry and balance. Columns and arches support a space that has three aisles.

Library after MichelozzoMonastery of San Marco

Library after Michelozzo
Monastery of San Marco

On the particular day I visited (and I returned numerous times as well) there was not one other person on the second level of the building. At the far end of the dark columned space was the brightly lit Tabernacle. The effect was unforgettable. There, for the world to see was a freshly and perfectly restored masterpiece of the 15th Century. The wonder of this piece was not only the incredible brilliance of the paint. Around the back of the three panels was a large X-ray of the actual internal construction of the wood upon which Angelico painted. What struck me most about the internal structure of the work was that it had been strengthened and reinforced, it had been lovingly cared for. As I have believed for many years, if anyone in the world can successfully restore art it is the Italians.

Tabernacolo dei Linaioli, 1432 - 1433Fra AngelicoPilgrim's Hospice San Marco Florence

Tabernacolo dei Linaioli, 1432 – 1433
Fra Angelico
Pilgrim’s Hospice San Marco Florence

Perhaps, as you study this photo, you can imagine what it was like to come upon this spectacular and especially moving work all alone.

The restored work is back in its original location, the Pilgrim’s Hospice in the Monastery.

If you find yourself in Florence, get up and going early. Visit  before of the city is even awake and listen to the whispers of Dominican monks, study the shimmer of light on terracotta, the reflection from frescoes of incredible beauty while surrounded by a glorious Renaissance Monastery.

IF YOU GO:

Museum and Monastery of San Marco

Piazza San Marco, 3 Florence

Tel: 055.238.86.08

Note the very unusual hours of this Museum and Church!

Monday to Friday, 8:15Am to 1:50PM, Saturday and Sunday 8:15AM to 4:50PM.

Closed the 1st, 3rd, 5th Sunday and 2nd and 4th Monday of every month, New year’s Day, May 1, Christmas Day. These hours are subject to change so it is best to check at your hotel and or with the Museum directly if you have any questions.

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