Bernini, the film

I was fortunate enough to see the newly-released film, Bernini, in the Odeon Theatre in Florence this week.  OMG, it is fantastic.

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The director of this beautiful guided tour through the Villa Borghese in Rome was directed by Francesco Invernizzi; Anna Coliva, Luigi Ficacci, and Andrea Bacchi are key presenters. Titolo originale: Bernini. Genere Documentario – Italia, 2018.

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From the movie release, we are informed: La selezione di oltre 60 capolavori in esposizione alla Villa Borghese di Roma è stata definita dagli esperti di arte come il ritorno a casa di Bernini. A cinque secoli dalla nascita dei maestosi gruppi scultorei dell’artista, attraverso riprese inedite ed esclusive, i protagonisti di questa grande Mostra raccontano ed analizzano i dettagli delle opere giunte dai più prestigiosi musei del mondo per questa straordinaria occasione.

The selection of more than 60 masterworks on exhibition at the Villa Borghese in Rome has been defined by experts as a return to the home of Bernini. Five centuries after his  birth, we appreciate the majestic sculptural groups Bernini created, through the unprecedented and exclusive shots. Experts of this great exhibition recount and analyze the infinite details of the sculpture, with Bernini works borrowed from the most prestigious museums in the world for this extraordinary event.

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“No artist defined 17th-century Rome more than Gian Lorenzo Bernini did, working under nine popes and leaving an indelible mark on the Eternal City. And there is probably no better place to appreciate his talent and genius than the Borghese Gallery in Rome, the villa — now a museum — built by his first patron, Cardinal Scipione Borghese, where Bernini revealed his talent for capturing tension and drama in stone. But during the remarkable exhibition titled “Bernini,” visiting may be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.” The New York Times

The Neptune Fountain in Florence is disassembled for restoration

Nine bronze statues, depicting nymphs, fauns and satyrs, were removed with a crane and taken to a workshop in via Livorno, where they will be restored by Ires e Nicola Salvioli Restauri. Work on the fountain began in February 2017, using funds donated by the Salvatore Ferragamo fashion house, which is providing 1.5 million euro throughout the project. The bronze statues will be restored not only on the outside but on the inside as well, which has deteriorated substantially due to water and atmospheric agents.

 

In 1559, Cosimo I de’ Medici held a competition for the creation of the city’s first public fountain, with Bartolomeo Ammannati and his Neptune design eventually taking the prize, judged the best for its clear exaltation of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany’s glorious seafaring achievements. The sculpture was completed in 1565 and inaugurated for the wedding of Francesco I de’ Medici and the Grand Duchess Giovanna d’Austria on December 10 of that year. Close observers might notice that Ammannati used Cosimo I’s features to depict the strapping Neptune rising above the other figures.

http://www.theflorentine.net/news/2018/11/restoration-continues-neptune-fountain/

The statue of Dovizia, Firenze

I love to let my mind wander into the distant past, trying to picture the way things might have been.

Last week I was invited to visit a show in the beautiful exhibition space of the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze on via Bufalini.  There I bumped into a heroically-sized statue of a somewhat recognisable woman.  “Hey, I know you!” I thought to myself.

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She certainly looked familiar.  I wondered if she was related to one of the four allegorical statues of the seasons occupying the corners of the Ponte Santa Trinita. (Those four statues were done by Pietro Francavilla [Spring], Taddeo Landini [Winter] and Giovanni Caccini [Summer and Autumn] and placed on the bridge in 1608.)

Fortunately, a label attached to the statue revealed the figure and the sculptor: La Dovizia (Abundance) by Giovan Battista Foggini:

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Ah ha! I now knew exactly what I was looking at!  My mind zinged back into two places almost simultaneously, first to the camp and later the Forum of Roman Florence. and then to the Renaissance placement of a statue of Abundance by Donatello.

Both of these past moments happened in the space now occupied by the Piazza della Repubblica in Florence. The giant woman I encountered last week on the Via Bufalini was the statue of Abundance that replaced Donatello’s (now lost) figure on the same column, a replacement which occurred in 1721 (according to the label).

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The column, still topped by a statue, sits at the exact point where the two Roman roads intersected in ancient Florence, the cardo (now via Roma and via Calimala) and decumanus (now via degli Strozzi, via degli Speziali, and via del Corso).

 

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Now I needed to find out more about Giovanni Battista (Giambattista) Foggini, to satisfy my curiosity.  He was an artist in Florence (1652 – 1725) who became, in 1676, the court sculptor for Cosimo III. He went on to become the Medici’s Architetto Primario e Primo scultore della Casa Serenissima as well as Soprintendente dei Lavori (1687–1725).

Foggini is best known today as the creator of many small bronze statuary figures and groups. In 1687, Foggini acquired the foundry in Borgo Pinti that had once belonged to the sculptor Giambologna. This allowed him to specialise in small bronzes, produced mainly and profitably for export. His adaptation of Pietro Tacca’s Moors was, for example, the basis of the bronze and ceramic reproductions for the connoisseur market well into the 18th century.

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One of my grad school professors published an article on the Donatello Abundance (“Donatello’s Lost Dovizia for the Mercato Vecchio: Wealth and Charity as Florentine Civic Virtues by David G. Wilkins).  Here are couple of excerpts from that scholarly publication:

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Here is an image of what Donatello’s lost sculpture might have looked like:   Screenshot 2018-10-15 at 11.08.14

You just never know who or what you will bump into in this fascinating city of Florence.

 

 

Famous 19th-century Americans in Florence: Horatio Greenough, sculptor

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From the book by Clara Louise Dentler: Screen Shot 2018-08-15 at 3.30.23 PM

 

Where Greenough lived, worked, or exhibited in Florence:

  1. in a villa a mile out of Florence, thought to be opposite the Collegio della Querce on Via Piazzola
  2. he built a beautiful octagonal studio for the exhibition of his works at the corner of Piazza della Liberta’ (then called Piazza Maria Antonietta) and Via Santa Caterina
  3. places he lived include Casa le Blanc on Costa San GiorgioPalazzo Pucci-Baciocchi on Via de’ Pucci; and the popular Villa Brichieri.

 

 

The reasons why Italian cemeteries are so interesting to visit

Wealthy middle-class Italians of the 19th century seldom established art collections as their counterparts did in Britain and Germany. Their most conspicuous expenditure on visual art was on funerary sculpture, on the creation of vast, ornate, often beautiful monuments to deceased members of their families.

EBBtomb Tomb of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Florence

The erection of these was traditionally a private matter even for public figures – the Venetian Republic did not provide them for its doges – except in the case of remote heroes such as Dante, who was awarded a dismal cenotaph in Florence’s Santa Croce in 1829.

The state concerned itself with public statues of heroic and exemplary men, works that could be seen not in a chapel or a cemetery but in the middle of a square.

Gilmour, David (2011-10-25). The Pursuit of Italy: A History of a Land, Its Regions, and Their Peoples (Kindle Locations). Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Kindle Edition.

 

The (almost) unknown Florentine museum attached to the refectory of San Michele a San Salvi

Yesterday I posted about Andrea del Sarto’s Last Supper in Florence.  Attached to the same building is a small but fine museum of 15th and 16th century art, in addition to the main event of the Last Supper.

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I might lose my membership in the world of art historians because while I took pictures of a few of the artworks that grabbed my attention in this smallish museum, I didn’t take adequate pictures (or, god forbid, hand-written notes) of the labels that identify the artist.  From the depths of my heart, I apologize.  It was a hot, hot, hot day in Florence and I simply failed to live up to my creed. :-)

 

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But this odd painting certainly did grab my attention!  It is, I assume, a vision of Saint Mary in heaven, bestowing a string of pearls? beads? to someone below her on earth, I would guess?

Anyway, what I liked is the bodiless angels floating around Mary in the shape of a mandorla (almond).  Their heads and wings are kind of creepy, floating as they do around Mary.

 

And, speaking of being surrounded by cherubim and seraphim, look at this oil painting!

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Again, I would be fired as a curator, but I don’t know who painted this work. (But I know where the label is if I need the info; it’s right beside the painting for goodness sake! My art historical training is playing out in this post, as a kind of Catholic guilt.  I am smiling as I write this silly thing.)

But, check out the multitudes surrounding Christ on the cross, above whom is God the Father, and below is Mary and 2 others.

 

But, as entertaining to me as the 2 works above were, the one that really gave me a jolt was this:

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It represents, of course, the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriele tells the Virgin Mary that she will bear the Son of God.  I’ve seen thousands of renditions of this scene, which one of the most hopeful moments in Christian art.

But, what I have never seen before is Gabriel standing on 2 little clouds, one for each foot, that makes it look like he is hover-boarding up to Mary!

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Crazy funny to me!

There are many fine works of painting and some sculpture in this fine museum.

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Vai!  You’ll be glad you did!