On our last day in Florence, I was determined to see one more museum and one more church.
First, we went to the Bargello, a former prison. It was a bit eerie to gaze at sculptures and paintings knowing that hundreds of years ago people were imprisoned and tortured within those stone walls.
The museum had a fascinating collection of small pieces: jewelry, ivories, coins. There were also some artifacts from Norman Sicily, which is Jesse’s area of expertise.
The blockbuster pieces, however, were by Donatello. There was a room full of his work.
I watched a vigilant security guard chastise one man who was sneaking photographs, calling from across the room, “Ah, ah, ah! No pictures, sir!” He even shook his finger, as if the man were a naughty primary school student. So, my images are borrowed from Wikipedia.
There were two Davids by Donatello, and the differences between the two are striking.
His marble David from the 1410s was one of his first major commissions. Some elements of the sculpture hint at his great skill and vision, but David is staring blankly off into space. Overall, David seems lifeless and medieval.
About three decades later, Donatello did a second David, this one in bronze. This jaunty prepubescent David seems alive. He is naked except for the hat on his head. The effect is unsettling, but the attitude is clear. This is a Renaissance sculpture.
These two sculptures helped me appreciate how one artist can change his approach to art over the course of his lifetime. I am still trying to shake the impression I got in middle school social studies that one day the Middle Ages ended and everyone woke up and decided it was the Renaissance instead.
Last, we went to Santa Croce. This church has the tombs of Michelangelo and Galileo.
Tragically, the church and its treasures were severely damaged in a flood in 1966. Restoration work continues to this day.
One painting that was fully restored was “Christ Descending into Purgatory” by Bronzino. The colors were luminous. Each figure had a unique reaction to the appearance of Christ. It was a huge piece and it took several minutes to fully absorb the story. For some reason, pictures were permitted, so Jesse took these:
As amazing as the trip was, Jesse and I were exhausted and ready to go home. I had saturated myself with art, architecture, and the beauty of Tuscany.
I am still in disbelief that over the course of the trip I saw Michelangelo, Raphael, Leonardo, and Donatello. These names have been imprinted on my memory since my days of watching Ninja Turtles. As a kid, I thought it was a great joke that these cartoon characters were named after Renaissance artists. Now I have seen great pieces by each of these artists, and I wonder how they would feel to know they’ve been immortalized as turtles!
I left Italy filled with creative energy. I am currently determined to write a young adult book.
Jesse and I both want to return to Italy as soon as possible, and we booked our tickets almost as soon as we got back to Debrecen–were are going to Sicily the week before Easter. If I stick with my book idea, I would like to go to Tuscany again in June before we return to the U.S. We might be broke by the time we make it back to the States, but we will be rich with memories and experiences.