Villa Demidoff and Giambologna’s Il Gigante

As I sit in Denver on a very cold February morning, my mind wanders back to Tuscany and warm weather.  I’m almost always behind in my posts and so I take this moment to post about Villa Demidoff.

In 1568, Francesco I de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, purchased a great estate in the hills outside of Florence and commissioned the famous architect, Buontalenti, to build a splendid villa as a residence for Bianca Cappello.  Bianca was the Grand Duke’s Venetian mistress.  The villa was built between 1569 and 1581, set inside a forest of fir trees.

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While very little of Buontalenti’s villa survives, at least we still have this fabulous and very large statue of Il Gigante, set facing a pond filled with water lilies.

The lilies are absolutely gorgeous in late August. I had never seen anything as magnificent as the first time I saw this lake of waterlilies in bloom!  And, the statue ain’t bad either.

 

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OK, ripping my eyes away from the pink flowers, I walked around towards the back of the statue:

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Giambologna was the creator of this amazing sculpture:

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Il Gigante, also known as “the Colossus of the Apennines,” is an astounding work of art. Giambologna designed the lower part as a hexagon-shaped cave from which one can access, through a ladder, to the compartment in the upper part of the body and into the head. The cavity is filled with light that enters from the eye holes in the head.

The exterior of the statue is covered with sponges and limestone pieces, over which water pours into the pool below.

We know that originally, behind the statue, there was the large labyrinth made from laurel bushes. At the front of the giant was a large lawn, adorned with 26 ancient sculptures at the sides.

Later, many of the antique statues were transferred to the Boboli Gardens, and the park became a hunting reserve. As a part of the Pratolino estate, it was abandoned until 1819, when the Grand Duke Ferdinando III of Lorena changed the splendid Italian garden in the English garden, by the Bohemian engineer Joseph Fritsch. The part was increased from 20 to 78 hectares.

 

The park, which had been owned by Leopoldo II since 1837, was sold upon his death to Paul Demidoff, who redeveloped the property. Demidoff’s last descendant bequeathed the property to Florence’s provincial authorities.

And I feel better already.  I can feel my cold, clenched muscles relax under the spell of the Tuscan sunshine. Soon I will be there again.

Edgar Degas at the Opera, exhibition at Musee d’Orsay, Paris

There was a wonderful exhibition on Edgar Degas at the Musee d’Orsay when I was there recently.  Here are some of the works that caught my eye:

 

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I had a copy of the print below hanging in my childhood bedroom. I know and love this beautiful work as well as I know my own hands.

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Below, I wonder…little dreamers?  And, if so, dreaming of being a ballerina or a painter?

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The Rodin Museum, Paris

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What a glorious place in Paris!

What a glorious winter afternoon! January 2020. So glad I came to Paris, despite the record breaking long strikes of the Metro system and other things.

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What a glorious city!

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The Gates of Hell:

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The Burghers of Calais:

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The Musée Rodin was opened in 1919, primarily dedicated to the works of the French sculptor Auguste Rodin. It has two sites: the Hôtel Biron and surrounding grounds in central Paris, as well as just outside Paris at Rodin’s old home, the Villa des Brillants at Meudon, Hauts-de-Seine. The collection includes 6,600 sculptures, 8,000 drawings, 8,000 old photographs and 7,000 objets d’art. The museum receives 700,000 visitors annually.

From 1908, while living in the Villa des Brillants, Rodin used the Hôtel Biron as his workshop.  He subsequently donated his entire collection of sculptures – along with paintings  that he owned by Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir to the French State on the condition that they turn the buildings into a museum dedicated to his works.

The Musée Rodin contains most of Rodin’s significant creations. Many of his sculptures are displayed in the museum’s extensive garden. The museum includes a room dedicated to the works of Camille Claudel and one of her two castings of The Mature Age.

The gardens around the museum building contain many of the famous sculptures in natural settings. Behind the museum building are a small lake and casual restaurant. Additionally, the nearby Métro stop, Varenne, features some of Rodin’s sculptures on the platform.