The 500th anniversary of Leonardo’s death

2019 is the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci and Italy is doing it up right to mark the occasion.  All over Italy, but especially in Tuscany and Florence in particular, and in Milan, exhibitions are celebrating his art and life.

I love the comic relief one get’s from a poster like the one below.  At least we can have a little fun with the fact that he often wrote backwards!

 

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Genoa’s incredible palaces: Rolli Days 1

Genoa, Italy was once a naval powerhouse.  Sometimes it outshone even the Venetian republic in its power and influence.

During the heyday of Genoa’s power, very rich families vied to impress each other by building magnificent palazzi.  Today, more than 100 of them still survive and Genoa is protected under UNESCO status for these buildings.

 

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Of the more than 100 palazzi still extant, about 31 of them are opened for viewing one or two times a year.  The event is known as “Rolli Days.” Rolli means list in Genoa and the “list” referred to is the list of fabulous mansions that were kept on file by the political leaders of Genoa.

 

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They kept this prestigious list and, when a dignitary came to town–which happened a lot–the leaders decided which of the 100 family mansions would be chosen to host any expected dignitary.  It must have been an honor to be on that list, even though it meant that the family would foot the entire bill for housing and entertaining the dignitary.  Some of these included Popes and European royalty, to name but a couple.

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I had the pleasure of visiting Genoa recently to take advantage of the opportunity to see some of these amazing mansions.  There were about 30 open and I saw a good number of them.  One of the most impressive is the Palazzo Francesco Grimaldi, aka Galleria Nazionale di Palazzo Spinola.  Below are just some of the fabulous things I saw:

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The Grimaldi family tree.  Now that’s how to illustrate a family tree!

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Genoa’s majestic cathedral

The Genoa Gothic-style Cathedral was consecrated in 1118, completed 17th century. Interchangeably referred to as the Cathedral of Saint Lawrence (or, in Italian: il Duomo di Genova, Cattedrale di San Lorenzo), this magnificent edifice is a show stopper.

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I have looked at a lot of art in my lifetime, and lots in particular of religious artwork in Italy.  In all of my life, I have never seen any female figures shown while obviously pregnant, even though pregnancy is often a part of the narrative behind the work.

But, live and look and one day…you may see it!

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Verrochio, Renaissance master

I have always loved the sculpture of Verrochio (1435-88).

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And, since there’s currently a fabulous exhibition in Florence featuring some of the master’s work in painting, sculpture, and work in gold, I think it is high time I wrote a post on him here.

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The exhibition, “Verrocchio, Master of Leonardo” can be seen from now until mid-July at the Palazzo Strozzi.

The show was organized by Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi and the Musei del Bargello in collaboration with the National Gallery of Art, Washington. The curators are Francesco Caglioti e Andrea De Marchi; both are leading experts in the art of the quattrocento.

This major exhibition showcases over 120 paintings, sculptures and drawings from the world’s leading museums and collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of New York, the Musée du Louvre in Paris, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Gallerie degli Uffizi in Florence.

The exhibition, with a special section at the Museo Nazionale del Bargello, brings together for the first time Verrocchio’s celebrated masterpieces and most important works by the best-known artists associated with his workshop in the second half of the 15th century, such as Domenico Ghirlandaio, Sandro Botticelli, Pietro Perugino and Leonardo da Vinci.  Leonardo was his most famous pupil, and the exhibition reconstructs Leonardo’s early career and interaction with his master, thanks to outstanding loans and unprecedented juxtapositions.

This year is a big one all over the Italian cultural scene, for it marks the 500th anniversary of Leonardo’s death. The Strozzi exhibition is, moreover, the first retrospective ever devoted to Verrocchio.

At the same time the exhibition explores the early years of Leonardo da Vinci’s career,  providing an overview of artistic output in Florence from roughly 1460 to 1490, which just happened to be the age of Lorenzo the Magnificent.

Few paintings are attributed to him with certainty, but a number of important painters were trained at his workshop. His pupils included Leonardo da Vinci, Pietro Perugino and Lorenzo di Credi. His greatest importance was as a sculptor and his last work, the Equestrian statue of Bartolomeo Colleoni in Venice, is generally accepted as a masterpiece.

Little is known about his life. His main works are dated in his last twenty years and his advancement owed much to the patronage of Lorenzo de’ Medici and his son Piero. His workshop was in Florence where he was a member of the Guild of St Luke. Several great artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Lorenzo di Credi passed through his workshop as apprentices; beyond this, artists like Domenico Ghirlandaio, Francesco Botticini, and Pietro Perugino were also involved and their early works can be hard to distinguish from works by Verrocchio.

At the end of his life he opened a new workshop in Venice where he was working on the statue of Bartolomeo Colleoni, leaving the Florentine workshop in charge of Lorenzo di Credi. He died in Venice in 1488.

So, okay, as a life-long art historian, I can’t seem to break the habit of providing lots of context.  But, let’s leave that now and look at some of the beautiful work by Verrochio.

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Palazzo dei Mozzi, Firenze

The Palazzo dei Mozzi is a grand old palace beautifully situated on the piazza of the same name, in the Oltrarno section of Florence. It was built around the middle of 13th century as a part of the fortifications guarding the old Ponte di Rubaconte (today’s Ponte alle Grazie): hence its fortress-like structure.

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The palazzo is an early Renaissance building, located at the south end of the Piazza dei Mozzi that emerges from Ponte alle Grazie and leads straight to the palace where via San Niccolò becomes via de’ Bardi in the Quartiere of Santo Spirito (San Niccolò).

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The Mozzi family was among the most important and powerful families in the city in the Medieval period, and many important persons were received in the palace during their official visits in Florence; Pope Gregory X, for example, visited the palazzo in 1273.

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On the facade facing the Via de’ Bardi, we see the tower and the large coat-of-arms of the Mozzi family. Also note the tower’s crenellation, covered nowadays by a roof.

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The large garden on the rear of the palace was built in 16th century, when the Mozzi bought a wide plot of ground in order to transform it into an olive-grove.

Around the middle of 19th century, the palace was purchased by the antiquarian Stefano Bardini, who owned another palazzo across the street (see pictures below). Today that amazing garden is open to the public as a part of the Museo Bardini complex. It is one of the most spectacular gardens in all of Florence, especially in spring when the trees and wisteria are in full bloom!

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Bardini transferred his extensive art collections and laboratories to the Palazzo dei Mozzi and changed the olive-grove into a garden; he decorated the garden with statues and elements he saved from the demolition of ancient buildings in the center of Florence. In a subsequent time the garden was futher decorated with a loggia and big stairs.

After the death of Ugo Bardini, the son of Stefano, the palace remained closed for a long time, until it was bought by the Italian State; it is currently under restoration and will become a centre for exhibitions and cultural events.

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Palazzo Bardini on left, Palazzo dei Mozzi at far end.

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Below, another view of facade of Palazzo dei Mozzi, looking eastward along via San Niccolò.

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