It's strange that today is the last day of our time here in Italy. But I won't lie and say that's I'll be heartbroken over leaving; at the end of the day, Rome is still a sticky, dirty city like any metropolitan city in the world, ancient or otherwise. Florence is also kind of dirty, but I will miss being there the most. I enjoyed the ease of viewing art there and finding things to do. I think Florence reminded me most of where I had my formative years, Alexandria City (the unofficial completion of the D.C. square). But Rome does boast a beautiful collection of art in the Vatican museums, which is where my friends and I spent most of the day.
The above work was my favorite of the day; it depicts Silenus with the infant Dionysus and is a 2nd Century CE Roman copy of the 300 BCE Greek original by the school of Lysippus. I loved Michelangelo's paintings in the Sistine Chapel too, but there was something so compelling about this statue that I stood there and cried over art for the second time (and last time) on this trip. Plus I already cried over the beautiful gay icon Michelangelo before and wasn't about to do so in front of any more bewildered people.
Some other favorites included two works by my favorite artist of all time, Salvador Dalí, a few works by Henri Matisse, and a Pietà by Vincent Van Gogh.
I think I'm taking several things away from this trip, plantar fasciitis being one of them. But I think the greatest thing is the my renewed sense of integrity regarding the importance of understanding art. We live in a world where people don't think anything other than STEM subjects should be taught— and to those people I say, "Thou art a dumb*ss." If one cannot look out into the world and be able to explain why they like some colors and dislike others, why they decided to change the look of their home, why they wear certain fashions, why they want their logo to look a certain way, then that person is truly, profoundly in need of a class like this. STEM is important, but so is the ability to put things into context and have a foundational understanding and appreciation for the arts/humanities.
I'm not an art major. I'm not an expert. But I do have a working knowledge of artistic movements, famous artworks and artists, and the context from which these things exist; this class and this trip helped solidify those things.
Below are the last images and artworks that I discovered on this trip. I expect I'll return one day to Italy to see the things I missed (like Pompeii and some ancient Roman sites) and revisit my favorite works. Until then, arrivederci.
Sites Visited: ◊ Museo Nazionale Romano ◊ Baths of Diocletian ◊ Santa Maria Maggiore ◊ The Ancient Necropolis ◊ St. Peter's Basilica
Today involved a lot of big architecture...and also some claustrophobia too. A strange juxtaposition.
For all intents and purposes, sometimes I wonder about the philosophy behind buildings (since there always is some kind of philosophical approach). What were they thinking when they decided to build these humongous structures? Perhaps it was to intimidate. Maybe to establish the town and its populace. Or to build something to last into the far future. No matter what the reason, I was still awed at the raw scale and therefore felt incredibly claustrophobic when we encounctered the Ancient Necropolis.
Perhaps it was because we were underground and the tops of the "houses" (tombs) were leveled, but I felt like a giant next to the underground buildings. Don't get me wrong, I truly enjoyed exploring below St. Peter's Basilica and getting to "see" St. Peter's tomb. But it was rather warm down there and I felt a pit in my stomach at the idea that they decided to demolish an entire city of tombs to build a church where one of many disciples was killed...and even then it's not confirmed that his body was actually buried there. Plus there's so much ancient pagan history that can never be excavated without the fear of the whole church collapsing. So all in all, I have mixed feelings.
Below are some images and artworks from today. I also picked out two photographs from the Diocletian baths and from the Museo Nazionale Romano that I'm particularly proud of.
Sites Visited: ◊ Procession of the Magi (Parade ending in front of the Florence Cathedral)
I was happy for a free day in that I got to sleep in a tad and go shopping at a few thrift and vintage stores...though I didn't end up buying a fur coat that cost 350 euros because I'm not rich (and have some ethical concerns about fur). But the real highlight was the Procession of the Magi, also known as the Ride of the Magi, which occurs every year on Epiphany and is based on the historical parades that the Medici family put on.
I chose this because a) who doesn't love a parade and b) I LOVE period costumes and seeing 700+ people dressed up in historical costumes is definitely my cup of tea. Despite a slow start in which a few friends and I stood around for about an hour amongst a very international crowd, there was something truly magical about seeing all the colors, crests, flags, and musicians come marching into the town square. I didn't really understand what was being said, but I definitely shouted "Viva Firenze!" along with everyone else!
The only downside was the release of balloons which I highly doubt were compostable. The Enviro Studies major in me is kind of sickened. :(
Sites Visited: ◊ Museo dell'Opera Metropolitana ◊ Siena Cathedral ◊ Palazzo Pubblico
The Siena Cathedral was by far my favorite religious site that we've been to on the trip so far...and, of course, it was the one I got to spend the least amount of time in since we got stuck in a ridicuously slow line to climb onto an overlook with a scenic view of Siena. Nonetheless, the interior is so incredibly intricate that I could have spent all day in there (and in the baptistery) and still not taken everything in.
It was a stark juxtaposition to the earlier Palazzo Pubblico in its architecture and interior— whereas the cathedral was initially intended to be even larger than it already is and therefore had grand, extravagant halls, the government building seemed slightly muted. I will admit that the building did have beautifully painted ceilings and of course Lorenzetti's "Allegory of Good Government" and other artworks to adorn the walls.
Both structures, while vastly different, had artworks that were propagandic in nature. I should state first that propaganda has multiple elements: it's ideological, it's institutional, it targets a mass audience, and it's utilizes peripheral persuasion (i.e., it doesn't explicitly state its persuasive purpose). With the Palazzo Pubblico, the idea of the benevolent tyrant is obvious in how Lorenzetti paints what "good government" looks like. With the artworks in the cathedral, there's a clear message that the church must be central to people's lives; in the baptistery, the depiction of the communion cup being basked in spiritual light exemplifies this message (see above image to the right).
As always, some other images and artworks I liked are included below.
Sites Visited: ◊ Giotto’s Campanile ◊ Duomo Interior ◊ Crypt of Santa Reparata ◊ Museo dell'Opera del Duomo ◊ Baptistery Of San Giovanni ◊ Santa Maria Novella
For the first time since arriving in Italy, it was cloudy. Why I therefore chose to climb Giotto's nearly 230-foot tall Campanile (bell tower) with plantar fasciitis is beyond me and it was not worth the pain considering the view was nothing but gray fog. Perhaps my brain is about as fried as I feel, hence my inclusion of the meme below using one of the many frescoes I saw in the cloisters at Santa Maria Novella. My Lil Sis Sydni speculated the scene may be some kind of exorcism and I'm not well-versed enough in Dominican theology to know if they used to do that kind of thing. Nonetheless, it was a cool fresco so I also included the original. This was from a series painted by various artists.
The façade of Santa Maria del Fiore (Florence Cathedral) is absolutely stunning. While we've passed by the cathedral multiple times throughout this trip, I had a chance to study it up close considering we stood in a line outside of it for 2 hours and my feet are not about to let me forget that fact.
Today made me feel about as ragged as Donatello's 1455 "The Penitent Mary Magdalene," which I got to see in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo. This wooden sculpture was so different from the marble, smooth-skinned sculptures that we'd thus far encounctered on this trip and the museum had a touchable 3D copy of the sculpture that I was able to study up close (AKA I got out all my nervous energy about not being able to touch any art).
As per usual, I included some of my favorite images and artworks from today below.
Sites Visited: ◊ Accademia ◊ Piazza San Marco ◊ Brunelleschi's Piazza Santissima Annunziata ◊ Apollonia (Castagno's Last Supper) ◊ Bargello ◊ Brancacci Chapel ◊ Santa Croce, Museo dell' Opera di Santa Croce and Pazzi Chapel
First of all, I want to say that today is the first time I cried from something other than plantar fasciitis pain; seeing Michelangelo's David may have been the highlight of my whole experience in Italy so far.
Small monologue ahead: Michelangelo was a gay man and I will fight anyone who fallaciously believes otherwise. As a queer person myself, it both makes me proud and breaks my heart that this wonderful gay artist is so well loved posthumously— while he was beloved in his own time, he obviously was never able to come out of the closet and died convinced that he was going to hell. Queer people have existed since the dawn of time and we've been artists, politicians, musicians, inventors, royalty, leaders, etc; I hope that those who love and respect Michelangelo's work also love and respect his gay sexuality. Rant over.
I wasn't able to get the best picture of this for some reason, but seeing Gaddi's 1330's "Tree of Life" in the Santa Croce refectory was interesting for its Last Supper content at the bottom of the fresco. While Judas sitting across the table from Jesus and his apostles are seemingly a common motif for religious artworks of this era, I really liked the color contrast of Judas in this piece regarding his dark clothing.
And again in Andrea del Castagno's 1447 "Last Supper" fresco, Judas is markedly different in clothing and coloring from everyone else at the table, perhaps an allegory for his betrayal and self-imposed excommunication. I do prefer this work to Gaddi's in that the various patterns, textures, and colors are so incredibly mesmerizing and almost contemporary to our time; the frescoes painted into this fresco (fresco-ception?) are something I could see myself decorating my own home with.
Below are some images of other artworks, including Donatello's David and of course gay icon Michelangelo's David.
Sites Visited: "The Heart of Florence" ◊ Piazza della Signoria ◊ Loggia dei Lanzi ◊ Galleria Uffizi
I already enjoy Florence more than Rome; perhaps it's because we're more centrally located, but it's been incredible to be here in beautiful, sunny weather. I also think I enjoy the general architecture more than Rome perhaps because of lack of "industrial" aesthetic, making the art we encountered feel more at home. I do think it makes a difference when art is in situ; while there are some benefits to a museum like being able to walk fully around a sculpture or compare/contrast paintings from various artistic movements, looking at art the way it is intended truly feels special.
The first example of an in situ piece that really struck me was Giambologna's 1500's era "Rape of the Sabines." This was a piece that I wrote about significantly and seeing it in person was astounding and disturbing. The content being that of a very violent and personal subject adds a psychological component to the piece, especially considering that the Loggia dei Lanzi where it's located was next to a space used for political speech.
The next artwork that I marveled at was Michelangelo's 1505 "Doni Tondo" or "The Holy Family." The colors in this painting are truly magnificent and I was slightly taken aback by the frame's 3D elements in that I didn't realize they were so significant. The random naked men in the background was still as puzzling as when we discussed it in class, but nonetheless added an interesting contrast to the bright clothing of the Holy Family.
The Baptistery of San Giovanni was also something that really stood out to me today because I hadn't realized how large it was (nor did I realize how insanely huge the Florence Cathedral is). The medieval Romanesque style of the building was also very beautiful to see up close, and the octagonal shape is pleasing to the eye.
Sites Visited: ◊Not Pompeii :( ◊ Ospedale San Carlo di Nancy
Instead of exploring Pompeii with my friends and looking at amazing frescoes, I spent the entire day at the hospital. Eight hours, to be exact. The only good thing was that it was free, though some part of me really wonders if it was worth it. The pain in my feet was bad enough that I couldn't walk. It was almost as bad as my Italian language speaking skills while trying to navigate a conversation with a doctor who spoke 10 words of English (and a radiologist who spoke -10 words of English). Who knew I'd have to learn how to say "I'm not pregnant" in Italian before getting an x-ray? Turns out I have plantar fasciitis, which couldn't come at a worse time considering we walk 8+ miles a day...
It wasn't a good day to say the least but my blog title is funny so...
Sites Visited: ◊ Capitoline Museums ◊ Galleria Borghese ◊ Santa Maria del Popolo
Waking up today was difficult, more so due to the fact that my feet were in pain— this would become a theme throughout the day. The Eternal City, as Rome is called, certainly earns its name through the timelessness of its art and interweaving of cultures. This study in diversity exists throughout all of the works of art we saw today; the architecture informs the painting, the painting informs the sculpture, and so on. I personally enjoyed marveling at the similar artistic motifs from Classical to Baroque, such as Corinthian column-styled embellishments, equestrian themes, or dynamic action poses.
By far my favorite work of art today was "The Dying Gaul," a Roman sculpture from around the 2nd century BCE. His pose and facial expression is haunting— he looks like he's about to hunch over in defeat but still maintains a kind or warrior-like dignity in spite of the pain in his gaze.
My second favorite piece was Bernini's 1622 Baroque masterpiece, "Apollo and Daphne." Having written about rape culture and subjugation iconography of women for my paper for this class, this piece was particularly evocative for me. It's both a beautiful and terrible sculpture in its masterful use of life-like poses (and the almost symmetrical nature of the lines in the poses); Daphne's facial expression is as haunting as the Gaul's in that you can clearly see panic and despair.
The last piece that really stood out to me was the bronze equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius, dating to around the first century CE. I think the scale of this piece is what took me aback in addition to the ferocity of both the horse's expression and that of its rider.
I included some other interesting works of art below that caught my eye, though I don't necessarily know the names/artists since I was distracted by the pain in my feet throughout the day. It was excruciating, though I fortunately had my friends to push me around in a wheelchair for the second half of the day.
"Heart of Rome Tour" ◊ Sacra di Largo Argentina ◊ Pantheon ◊ Chiesa di Sant'Ignazio di Loyola ◊ Santa Maria Sopra Minerva Basilica ◊ Chiesa del Gesù ◊ The Campidoglio ◊ Ancient Forum ◊ Santa Maria Basilica Aracoeli ◊ Trajan’s Column ◊ Column of Marcus Aurelius ◊ Spanish Steps
It's amazing the stark differences that appear when one juxtaposes American life with European life— even metropolitan areas seem starkly different. The first thing to note is that most people speak English; while obviously that is true in the United States, here it's a, if not the, second language to Italian. In my opinion, it's a little sad that we in the United States don't make a considerable effort to learn another language in order to communicate with non-English speakers. I attempted to learn a bit of conversational Italian in order not to offend people with my utter lack of foreign language skills and I was pleasantly surprised by how kind folks are about me making an effort to speak their native language (before they began to speak to me in English!).
Another interesting contrast is the combination of ancient and modern architecture and society. The city is crowded with not only people, but with multitudinous buildings. While many appear to be apartments, there were many shops, museums/galleries, and restaurants, like any city in the U.S. would have. We would not have columns dating back to the 3rd and 4th century with modern buildings casually positioned around it. Seeing ancient temples and then passing a fast food restaurant a few blocks away is a truly unique experience.
Finally, the experience of walking into a church is vastly different and incredibly wonderful. I personally love going to the National Cathedral in the U.S. for its brilliant stained glass windows, but here, many of the Catholic churches (AKA chiesas, not to necessarily be conflated with a basilica) have specific art of which people come to marvel. And I can't blame them...walking into the Church of St. Ignatius to see Pozzo's aptly named "Triumph of St. Ignatius" literally took my breath away. The true beauty of quadratura was emphasized here— the illusionistic qualities are magical in that one really can really wonder what's 3D and what isn;t.. Gaulli's "Triumph of the Name of Jesus" in the Chiesa del Gesù was equally as stunning and mystical to the point where I'm at a loss for words.