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Cultural Mashup inside Gothic Church!

Santa Croce Cathedral

Today started off with a jolt of adrenalin as I woke up only 35 minutes before I needed to be across the city for our second art history lecture! Upon arriving at the Santa Croce Cathedral I was greeted by an amazing sculpture of Dante towering over me. We entered into the church to find more exquisite stained glass, grave markers of the rich and influential beneath our feet and shrines carefully plotted around the room. Between the paintings, crypts, family crests, decorative accents and sculptural arrangements it was the beginning of our visual and historical overload for today. It became clear very shortly into the tour that Ranciere was right when all of the art movements have always existed just in different forms. We could see modernism, surrealism, minimalism and abstraction all at work as we moved from one work to the next.

Conversations about personal beliefs arose during the day and the learning curve was high for most of us. Giotto gained a whole lot of respect from me today and I learned that Michelangelo had his face punched in by an artistic rival very early in his life that left him with breathing problems his whole life. And I thought critiques were rough!

Bust of Michelangelo with flattened nose.

Despite the churches humble beginnings, patrons of the churches were starting to make their way into the religious paintings and sure enough, the full half front of the nave was reserved for the banking / commerce families who helped pay for the building and upkeep of the cathedral. As we moved throughout the site we were able to see many damaged frescoes on the walls. At one point, many of the paintings on the wall were painted over in favour of a more minimal and less opulent aesthetic. I began to think of these remnants, sometimes just the underpaintings, as shadows. Often dark brown or raw umber in colour, the organic plaster fragments were quite figurative in form.

Unknown Florentine Painter

My most favourite relics seen today were wonderful cartoons rubbed onto fresco panels that were unpainted. The quality and rendering of line makes me want to draw large figurative contour drawings back in the studio, but I haven’t been able to arrive at how that would fit into my research. Ha! Just had an idea.

I think the biggest surprise today was coming across a Henry Moore today in the outdoor courtyard of Santa Croce. “Warrior with Shield” gleaned regardless of the lack of sun, simply due to its simplistic rendering and powerful attention to the surface of the sculpture. The marks somewhat reminded me of the crude rendering of Michelangelo’s intended pieta, that he violently destroyed while working on it.

As it was another rainy day, architectural spaces with their shadows began to stick out for me. I know Gaston Bachelard would have been pointing out each and every one of them today if he were on the tour. The good news is that I am not short of ideas. The bad news is that we are busy touring until next Sunday and I am not sure how I will get any substantial work done. Also, it turns out the webcam I ordered for part of my planned works has not arrived on time so my honey, Geoff, won’t be able to bring it with him tomorrow. He arrives tomorrow!

Other good news is that I am starting to get the hang of the Italian language. Menus in Italian and English menus are helping with this. Also, everyone here is very kind and generous when pronouncing things for us. This happened over lunch when we ducked into a small bistro after hours of walking both north and south of the river.

Ponte Vecchio, bridge of jewellers

Tomorrow the group is meeting at Piazza di Madonna degli Aldobrandini where the Medici chapel is located. I am sure it will be a good review of Brunelleschi for me, but really I just want to hang out in the studio and get some playing out of the way before hubby arrives. We have just been notified by OCAD that we need to get our TA requests in, so that will also need to get done this weekend, not to mention me typing up my didactic draft for the next exhibition at Quest Art. My guess is that I will have some time while Geoff catches up on his sleep over the next couple of days. That being said, good night sweet Florence.

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