Santa Maria Novella, Firenze: fruits and vegetables

If you’ve ever been to Florence and walked around the city enjoying architectural masterpieces, you have no doubt spent time appreciating the gorgeous green and white marble exterior of the church of Santa Maria Novella.


I was meeting a friend recently and we agreed to rendezvous in front of the center door of the church. I got there early and had time to study the high-quality marble carving of the panels to either side of the main door.


These white marble panels were clearly carved by a master sculptor, for the quality of the carving is very high.  A variety of leaf types are depicted in the stone, as well as many recognizable fruits and even some vegetables. The background of each grouping of edible plant parts is a grouping of fasces, tied with a ribbon to create the bundle of rods, a symbol utilized in the Roman empire and reused ever since.


In the grouping above you can clearly see oak leaves, plums, and apples.


The relief above looks like laurel leaves are depicted as well as what look like potatoes.  Potatoes?  I’m not sure.


I think the fruits above might be peaches?



In this picture, I think I see acorns, oak leaves, and apples. Perhaps those are poppy heads at the top?


This picture seems to include grapes.


I hope you will tell me what you see.  I’m sure I’ve missed many things!

Should Michelangelo’s David be moved to an earthquake proof location?

Let’s ask the director of The Accademia, Cecilie Hollberg, where the statue stands today.  The following is an interview conducted by Helen Farrell of The Florentine:

Cecilie Hollberg | Ph. Leo Cardini

Helen Farrell
: Earlier this year, an architect from Padua made the international headlines with an idea to move the David to an earthquake-proof museum. At what stage is the Accademia in the creation of seismic protection for the world’s most famous statue?


Cecilie Hollberg: First of all, this architect has been publishing things in newspapers and magazines since 2008; there are plenty of experts who openly give us advice without being familiar with our site, or without having the experience or capabilities needed to understand what can be done here. Building an underground bunker in a city like Florence means moving the David, which is enough to show us they really haven’t thought this through. There’s all this chatter in a local newspaper about moving it in the front of the new opera house. Everyone’s been asking about it. This statue is fragile, and that’s why it gets everyone so agitated. Yet, at the same time, everyone’s ready to move it all over the place—it’s a very strange situation. In any case, we’ve been working on this for years. The Ministry conducted many investigations on the building, the structure itself, and the possibilities that may arise, and since I’ve been here, we’ve been closely monitoring the statue. It’s cleaned every two months, financed by the Friends of Florence, and with every cleaning we are able to monitor the statue very closely. Every weak or fragile spot is regularly scrutinized time and time again so if there were any changes we would see them immediately. This aspect is something that’s always been under control. But, and I’m going to open a parenthesis here, there are some real absurdities out there. There was someone who sustained that the heat makes marble melt: it’s absurd. Marble changes its state of aggregation at 900 degrees centigrade.


HF: He’ll be fine then, even with our summers…


CH: There are all of these things that end up in the press because these poor souls want to link their name to Michelangelo’s David, hoping to end up in newspapers. Of course, they do end up in newspapers and we have to waste our time explaining to them that, in reality, marble does not melt. In addition, we created a framework agreement with DICEA, the University of Florence Department of Civil Engineering and Environment, in which we continue the already initiated investigation on the structure of the building. The structure is what’s important in the event of any sort of {seismic} movement. The base that holds the statue and blocks it from falling is entirely useless if the ceiling comes down on it. Thus, we made this framework agreement and the inspection will follow shortly, the only thing missing before we can decide what to do. I have been in contact with many institutions; I’ve been to the U.S. to the Getty Institute where there are several earthquake experts. Yet the reality remains that no one has ever worked with a statue like the David. All of these platforms are just fine for structures from 2 to 2.5 metres, but the David weighs 5,660 kilos and stands 5.17 meters tall. No one has ever experimented on a statue of this kind. They’ve experimented with the Riace Bronzes, but they’re much smaller and bronze is an entirely different material—it’s more flexible than marble. It’s an entirely different conversation, and so we can’t adapt the research done for that kind of model and apply it to an icon of the Renaissance. We really have to think about what we’re doing. The last thing I need is this group of charlatans coming to me with advice without knowing anything about the situation.

You can read the entire interview here:

Incidentally, this week I visited the Casa Buonarroti, where a scale model of the apparatus that was used to move the David from Michelangelo’s studio to its original placement outside the Palazzo Vecchio (the original has since been moved to the Academia) is prominently on display.  Here’s a photo of that model:


Michelangelo’s Madonna of the Stairs

I’ve enjoyed a week of Italian masterpieces, starting at the Uffizi Gallery last weekend.

Yesterday I visited the Casa Buonarroti in Florence, where I had Michelangelo’s incomparable Madonna of the Stairs to myself.  Awesome.


I’ve loved this sculpture since I first learned of it in an art history course.  The artist could paint or sculpt anything, in any style.  He could do a deep bas-relief and he could do the shallowest of carvings, achieving truly awesome results within the depth of a piece of paper.