The Ara Pacis, Rome

One of the loveliest, and smallest, museums I like to visit in Rome is the Ara Pacis. On my recent visit to Rome, I enjoyed this almost empty museum.

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My video below captures the interior of the monument, just before a guard told me I couldn’t make a video.

 

 

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Wolves in Florence

Artist Liu Ruowang has a new installation in Florence, as seen below in the Piazza del Palazzo Pitti.

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These metal wolves are meant “to protect” both Piazza Pitti and Santissima Annunziata. The monumental installation, named “The wolves on the way,” is possible thanks to the collaboration between the Municipality of Florence and the Uffizi Galleries and will be on view from 13 July and until 2 November. The work reflects on the excesses of progress in contemporary society, and are on view in Florence, symbol of the Renaissance, in dialogue with two masterpieces of urban architecture, Palazzo Pitti and the Spedale degli Innocenti.

Liu Ruowang’s wants you to reflect on man’s predatory attitude towards nature. The threatening pack of wolves composed of a hundred iron castings, each weighing 280 kg, which seems to attack an unseen warrior. It is an allegory of nature’s response to the ravages and predatory behavior of man towards the environment. And it is, at the same time, a reflection on the values ​​of civilization, on the great uncertainty in which we live today – made even more evident by the dramatic effects of covid-19 – and on the actual risks of an irreversible annihilation of the environment.

Organized thanks to Matteo Lorenzelli, owner of the Milanese Lorenzelli Arte gallery, the exhibition aims to establish a physical, intellectual and even playful link with citizenship, stimulating curiosity and participation, so as to bring a wider audience than those who usually attend exhibitions and museums.

The project was conceived on the occasion of the celebrations of 50 years of diplomatic relations between the Italian Republic and the People’s Republic of China – the latter represented by Consul General Weng Wengang – and made possible by the collaboration between Eike Schmidt, Director of the Uffizi Galleries and Tommaso Sacchi, Councilor for Culture of the Municipality of Florence, who have made available two of the most symbolic spaces in Florence. Incoming Wolves interact freely with the city’s architecture, with its inhabitants or with those who are just passing through, thus responding to a specific intention of the author, who claims that “to teach love and respect for art to new generations , the best method is to bring art into everyday life, making museums increasingly accessible and beyond. My sculptures, for example, are placed in the squares: thus art also creates a link with public spaces.

It is important to build a culture of the common good .” Before arriving in Florence, Liu Ruowang’s wolves had “invaded” Naples, where they had been positioned in Piazza del Municipio. The installation in the Tuscan capital marks an ideal relationship between the mayors Luigi De Magistris and Dario Nardella, who have shown that they believe in the powerful message of the great work of the Chinese artist.

The director of the Uffizi Galleries Eike Schmidt says: “In Piazza Pitti, the pack of wolves that is about to enter the palace through the central door immediately reminds us of the dark counterattack of nature in the classic ‘The birds’ by Alfred Hitchcock, but calls to our mind also the recent experience of many wild species that returned to our city during the recent lockdown.

It is the metaphor of the relationship between man and nature. With the presence of Liu Ruowang’s wolves in our squares – elegant wolves, with a chiseled crown as in the ancient Chinese bronzes – we will have many months to think about how to contribute to respecting the balance of the planet. ”

Liu Ruowang (1977) is one of the major contemporary Chinese artists. Sculptor and painter, his is an original path placed in the wake of the Chinese tradition, and which amalgamates transversal elements with peculiar aspects of his tradition. Starting from the consideration that the history of man is also the history of his relationship with nature, the Chinese artist draws, on the one hand, from the culture of his country and on the other to the western one, and through references to globalization, represents the multiplication of the various real and virtual identities. The philosophical dimension of Liu Ruowang is also a real denunciation of the risks caused by the loss of human values, mortified by the oppressive system of contemporary life, theater of pain and violence.

“The upcoming Lupi installation is the result of the production of the last decade which must be considered fully the artistic maturity of Liu Ruowang. Behind the monumentality of the installation, moreover, there is an aspect dear to the East as to the West, the central pivot of all Liu Ruowang’s production, namely the ability to polarize the environment and space through a simple and sublime, which adapts the epic tones of the myth to today’s civilization, dominated by scientific and technological progress, increasingly in conflict with the natural order. ”

 

Uffizi, part 3

A stroll through the almost empty galleries in late June 2020 afforded me a slow and enjoyable experience with some fabulous artworks in Florence.  Here’s what else (along with Michelangelo and Leonardo) caught my eye.

 

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Looking left:

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Looking right:

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Looking center.  I want this space to be my permanent home:

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I’m a fan of Ghirlandaio:

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Another Ghirlandaio:

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I cut my teeth as an art historian in the study of classical art, as seen through Neo-Classical eyes, like Canova and Thorvaldsen.  I’m always a sucker for these appealing classical sculptures:

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Hey, is that a Bronzino I see way up there? I think it’s a copy of the real thing, which is hanging in a gallery.

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Oh, Giotto.  I’ve missed you so.

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And Rosso Fiorentino, how lovely you are still:

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Pontormo had his own distinct ideas about how (everything) the Expulsion from the Garden of Eden must have appeared:

 

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Still more to come.

Uffizi, the Leonardo da Vinci gallery

My recent first trip back to the Uffizi allowed me to enjoy the famed museum without the usual crowds.  This is my idea of heaven.  Just look:

 

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Come with me into the new Leonardo da Vinci and Andrea del Verrochio gallery. Look at the blissful moment capture below, during which I had the gallery almost to myself.

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Andrea del Verrochio’s painting of the Baptism of Christ.  Verrochio’s student, Leonardo da Vinci, assisted in painting. Most notably, the far left angel.

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Leonardo’s Annunciation in a virtually empty gallery. My idea of heaven.

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More to come from my June 25, 2020 visit.

Back to the Uffizi! Part 1, June 2020

What a joy to return to this wonderful museum.  Despite the fact that Americans still can’t travel to Italy because of the Covid 19, I was surprised by the line outside the Uffizi.  Once inside, however, the crowds thinned out after the first few galleries.

I had the new Michelangelo and Raphael gallery virtually to myself.  Speaking of joy.  It was so meaningful to me to be able to get up close and personal again with these amazing works of art.

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Michelangelo’s Doni Tondo:

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The Uffizi says of this painting:
This painting dates to when Michelangelo returned to Florence after his first stay in Rome, the same period when the great artist sculpted the famous David.

The work (c. 1506-1508) is the only painting by Michelangelo in Florence and is one of the masterpieces of the 16th century Italian art.

During the Renaissance, the “tondo” was a typical work for private clients. This tondo was commissioned by the wealthy banker Agnolo Doni, probably at the time of his marriage to Maddalena, member of the very important Strozzi family.

The figures of Mary, Joseph and the Child, are grouped in a single volume in which the rotation of the Madonna gives the composition a spiral movement that will later be used by many artists. In the background a group of young nudes brings to mind a classic theme, symbolizing the pagan humanity still ignorant of Christian doctrine. It is also interesting to notice the beautiful carved wooden frame, designed by Michelangelo himself.

From the artistic point of view, the Tondo Doni laid the foundations of the so-called Mannerism, the style of painting that preferred bizarre, unnatural poses and iridescent colors to the composed painting of the XV century.

The Tondo Doni is therefore a very important work of art because it is one of the few examples of Michelangelo’s painting, together with the magnificent frescoes in the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel.

 

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Raphael’s Madonna of the Goldfinch:

 

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Raphael’s portrait of Guidobaldo da Montefeltro, 1503-06:

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Raphael: Portrait of Elisabetta Gonzaga, 1503-06.

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Raphael: Portraits of Agnolo Doni and Maddalena Strozzi, 1504-06/

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The Uffizi has hung the Doni portraits in a manner allowing us to see the very interesting backs of the paintings:

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Today (June 25, 2020) was a great day in Florence!

 

 

Museo Bardini has re-opened in Florence

And I paid a visit.  It was not like the old days, where you could wander at will, which is very sad.  Now they have a “percorso” or path, which you have to follow and they have guards in every room watching you like a hawk.  It didn’t feel like they were watching out for Covid.  It felt like they thought I was going to damage or steal the art.  I didn’t care for it.  Plus, I was one of 3 visitors.  I mean, really?

Despite my complaints, the museum is still a wonderful place with a fascinating collection. It is one of my favorite museums in Florence.  Here are a few of my favorite things:

 

 

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The unusual sculpture above, showing a woman breast feeding 2 children at once, is explained in the label above.

 

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Here’s some info about the collector for whom the museum is named:

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And here are some of his eclectic objets:

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It’s official.  My new favorite art form is medieval sculpture.  I mean, look at the examples above and below.  Did you ever see a sweeter angel above?

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And, above, check out the lion caryatid figure.  Notice that he has a poor ram pinned below his feet, for all eternity.  The poor ram.  I love the primitive charm of these sculptures!

 

 

When I backtracked to take a picture of this gorgeous Renaissance doorway was when I knew my visit yesterday was not going to be the carefree affair of the olden days.  A mean, older woman reprimanded me for taking a few steps back towards where I had come from (although how you would notice the far side of the doorway you are walking through is beyond me), cackling at me that you must follow the path forward (I saw no signs showing me the path ahead either).

But, forget about her…look at the sumptuous doorway.  Wow.  What it must have felt like to use such casings.

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Going upstairs, like a good girl, I arrived in the room for which I had come.  I could spend hours in this gallery, if they would turn on all of the lights and get rid of the guards acting like I was going to damage the artworks.

 

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Donatello’s Madonna and Child with the Apple

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Donatello’s Madonna and Child, known as the Madonna and the Ropemakers:

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And then there are the cassone, or the wooden chests (like a hope chest for an aristocratic Italian woman), that Bardini collected.  If they would turn on the lights in the gallery and let me get close to the works, I would be in heaven.  As it is, I’m halfway to heaven, just looking at the furniture and thinking about the girls/women whose lives they represent.

 

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And then there are the cornice: the incredible frames that Bardini collected. Any American art museum would give eye teeth for one of these marvelous frames.

 

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Moving into another gallery, I pass through another sumptuous doorway casing:

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Beautiful painted crucifixes were also collected by Bardini.  Below them, more cassone.

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I could spend a day in this museum just studying the ceilings:

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Or the Sienese sculpture:

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Below, you might think you are looking at a rug on a floor, but it is a ceiling:

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Upon leaving my favorite galleries, I go down this stairway, lined with rugs hung on walls.  Very effective.

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What a collection.  Despite the guards, I love this museum!

The cantorie in the museum of the Florence cathedral

For me the highlight of the opera’s collection are the 2 exquisite cantorie by Donatello and Luca della Robbia.  Originally a part of the duomo, these beauties are preserved in the museum where they are exhibited up high as they would have appeared in the cathedral.  I am in their thrall.

 

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First up, the Donatello:

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Now, moving across the room to the Luca della Robbia masterwork:

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