Friday, November 20, 2009

Florence Revisited: Part I

I felt that I skimped too much on my descriptions of the individual cities we saw with my parents. So, in between other posts about current events, I'm going to do a series on Florence, Rome, Verona, and Padua.

If I had to characterize Florence--or Firenze (fee-Ren-zay) as it's called in Italian--in just one way it would be the 'City of Art'. Besides having two of the most famous museums in the world, every church is overflowing with resplendent art, piazzas contain gorgeous monuments, and even the streets themselves are extraordinary works of art. My dad, who is very skilled in the various construction crafts, just could not stop marveling over the intricate stonework of arched cobblestone patterns that was painstakingly laid on every street and sidewalk.

We set out to conquer Florence's major sites in just three days, but we were adamant that we would not sacrifice quality for quantity. The Uffizi was magnificent, although overwhelming in size. Room upon room in a u-shaped building of three stories, we took in Giotto, Leonardo da Vinci, Titian, Raphael, Michaelangelo, and Boticelli. It was a stronghold of amazing artwork. Besides the famous paintings, which were obviously delightful to behold, I think my favorite was the unfinished painting by Leonardo da Vinci. I was able to see a master's painting in progress. It was like standing in a piazza, glancing over da Vinci's shoulder, and watching him make a portrait come increasingly more to life, layer by layer of successively richer shades of oil paint and . The Accademia was much smaller and manageable and housed Michaelangelo's famed David. I was astonished at just how tall he was. Not only larger than life, but so large he filled a two-story room, it seemed. I must admit, I felt a little sheepish sitting on the benches behind the statue and staring at his "buns of marble." Look away, look away. Well, to be was actually his lower calves that were at eye level.

Despite being an artist myself and truly loving art, I am always astounded at how exhausting art museums can be. I feel like, from the moment I set foot in an art museum, I begin to wilt. It's like Matt in any store. Does anyone else feel this? From the looks on everyone else's faces, I conjecture that I'm not alone. Perhaps I have thirty good minutes before my feet begin to drag. I console myself by saying it's just too much art all at once, and it's hard to fully appreciate art out of its original context. I still feel that I need to look at every painting and read every description, even though I can feel my blood sugar plummeting and my attention shortening. After all, they're good enough to be in the Uffizi and the Accademia, the hallowed halls of Florentine Fame! (Not to mention that because of my pecuniary heritage I feel even more compulsion to really do an expensive site right and see everything.)

My perspective on art museums and sight-seeing is beginning to change. I was talking a friend of mine, an Art History Ph.D., and I asked her how she feels when seeing museums. She told me that she enjoys the art immensely but finds museums very physically and emotionally taxing. She also confessed that finds her tolerance has actually gone down with every year of education! She just blows through museums now because she knows which paintings/sculptures actually deserve attention and she doesn't bother with the descriptions. Perhaps rather than trying to get an art education by going to museums and galleries, I shall delight my fancy more. Just truly enjoying a few masterpieces should be enough for me to warrant the expense and effort, and it won't leave me wilted and weary at the end. So it is my resolve, with the blessing of an expert, to stop trying to see everything.


  1. I totally agree and can relate completely. I get all excited to see beautiful works of art, finally arrive, and then am suddenly in need of cheese and some sort of caffeine.

    On a seperate note, I did EXACTLY the same thing when we saw David. How is it that we stand in awe of this naked marble man? It seems so strange.

    Love you.

  2. Loved re-living this trip through the art museums with you. Ah yes, David with the marble-ous buns. And "pecuniary heritage"??? That one sent a quiver up my leg. We love you.