Throughout Italy all museums are free on the first Sunday of the month. To beat the crowds, I was one of the first to enter the Bargello museum this morning. I must confess I couldn’t resist snapping a few pictures of favorite 15th century sculptures. By the time I got to the terracotta pieces by the della Robbia family, I couldn’t stop. Donatello and others express the humanism that was flowering in Renaissance Florence; the della Robbias portrayed humanism in the Christian story.
The other day I went with friends to the Museum of Fine Arts and the Gardner Museum to whet my appetite for my trip to Florence. The exhibit at the MFA, Della Robbia: Sculpting in Color in Renaissance Florence, displayed a few of the terra cottas from the National Museum of the Bargello that I have viewed when in Florence. In fact, in September, in the empty spaces where the sculptures usually hung, I read that they were on tour in Boston. Most of the pieces at the MFA, however, were from private collections and museums in the United States—pieces that I had never seen. Sadly this exhibit closes tomorrow
Beyond Words: Italian Renaissance Books at The Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum displayed manuscripts housed in museums and colleges in the Boston area. The exhibit, with its photographic backdrop of the Laurentian Library, catapulted me back to Florence and the Church of San Lorenzo where the library is located. The exhibit is part of a city-wide collaborative project entitled Beyond Words: Illuminated Manuscripts in Boston Collections. These exhibits are open through January 16, 2017.
Tomorrow I fly to Florence, where Lucca, Andrea and Giovanni della Robbia lived and worked. I’ll see their colorful terra cottas in museums and churches. I’ll walk by Lucca’s blue and white putti that decorate the Ospedale degli Innocenti(Foundling Hospital) on Piazza della Santissima Annunziata. I will gaze at original manuscripts in the church libraries. I will be very grateful.
Every time I visit the Museum of Russian Icons I take new pictures. By new I mean that I photograph the same icon again. It’s the same with my trips to Florence; I can’t resist snapping my favorites every time I see them. Then there are the hundreds of sunrises I took during my five years at the cottage by the sea that I need to delete from iPhoto. And what about the fall foliage?
What is it about beauty that is so universally noticeable? Granted, people might disagree about a particular painting, sculpture, or piece of architecture, but not so about nature. We might have a favorite sunrise, but do you know anyone who thinks one is ugly?
I’m considering returning to weaving. This morning, after baking brownies and making ‘meatballs made by her’, I rinsed and hung to dry the tartan piece that I wove in the fall. I’m rather proud of it…well, minus the endings of one color and beginnings of another.
‘Weaving as a meditative process’ is what I long for, which means keeping the patterns simple, which will help solve the strangling ends problem. With my prayer shawls, I have ‘knitting as a meditative process’, so why not weaving?
“Seven Days Writing in Florence” is on the backburner, relegated to the ‘save’ file on my computer. Writing the article had become a burden, not a joy, usurping silence, solitude and simplicity. I was living with a ‘to do’ list, rather than a ‘to be’ attitude. Now I am back being rather than doing.
Letting go of a project is a challenge for me, because I’m a project person. And so, I have renewed an old one, knitting prayer shawls, which is meditative and process oriented rather than mental and deadline driven. Writing my blog, on the other hand, is a joy not a burden. I’ve been a little slack about it lately—I can write just so much in a day—but I’m back in the flow, attending to silence, solitude and simplicity wherever I am. A cottage-by-the-sea is my life style.
This morning at the Piazza della Signoria there was a space where for many months a sculpture by artist Jeff Koons had stood. That was what all that construction was about yesterday; it has been being down. Florence celebrates contemporary artists but it takes hundreds of years for a piece to win a permanent place along Michelangelo’s David. Dust to dust is the way of most of us, maybe even Koons.
This gets me thinking, once again, about life’s purpose. It can’t be to be remembered forever, although most of us strive for some kind of lasting fame. Maybe it is enough to be appreciated by a few people. But even that is problematic. So what’s left?
I glimpse meaning through my longing for solitude, which for me translates into a longing for God. You may have another word for the object of your longing, but whatever it is, I believe it is deeper than thought, feeling, or physicality. At rare moments when this longing is satisfied, thought, word, and deed have no meaning for me. It is then, however, I know my life has meaning.
This is my last full day in Florence. Like Koons statue I have come and now will go. I hope to return in April. Maybe there will be a different statue in the space. The view will change; so will have I. But the longing can always be satisfied.
When in Italy I took photos of artists and their work, both current and from the annals of history. My premise is that we all need to feel purposeful, and that a component of purposefulness is sharing. This artists were sharing in a very public way.
For me, taking the pictures and then writing this blog gives me a way to share, a purpose. It is not about being perfect, being Michelangelo or May Sarton, but of doing my best and putting it out there with the intention and hope that I will speak to someone and thus encourage them to create and sharing in their own way.
Today I am posting pictures of street artists in Florence. By street, I literally mean artists on the street. I know nothing about these artists-- their personal life, their desires as artists, what they hope us to appreciate. Most likely some of their meaning has to do with earning money, but I have to believe there is something more in sharing their talent.
I haven’t disappeared. Yesterday I took an all day tour to the Cinque Terra. Today is Sunday which means that my favorite internet spot, the Gulfa library is closed. Since it is the only spot where I can download pictures for this blog, consider it a miracle that this has appears today on your screen.
The good news, however, is that today is the first Sunday of the month, which means that museums all over Italy are free. I’ve already been to the Bargello where I spent ten minutes alone in the Quattrocento room with the Donatello sculptures. This afternoon I’m off to the Boboli Gardens to take some photographs for a friend. It’s a beautiful day to be out, not on the computer. Ciao!
I had a unique moment of solitude at the Uffizi today. With my Amici Degli Uffizi card I was the first one into the museum and since I knew the way, I headed up the three flights of stairs to the floor where the most beautiful collection of Italian Renaissance paintings in the world begins. For five minutes I was alone with Cimabue, Duccio, and Giotto in the Sala del Trecento. Others soon joined me in the Sienese room and a half hour later the tours had caught up. Solitude, however, continued as went on my way at my own pace, all by myself.
As I wander about Florence and take photographs of art and artists, I continue to consider an array of question. Here are some of today’s. Is the creative urge necessary for us to create meaning in our lives? Without creativity do we become listless? Is creating something part of the human condition that makes us uniquely human? All animals procreate, but are we humans guided to create a physical item beyond ourselves?
My apologies for not making much sense of this; writing helps me put my thoughts into language, and I’m just not there yet. Please consider all my blogs as rough drafts.
With that disclaimer, I write on, and since Florence is undisputedly the leather capital of the world, leather is a reasonable place to start. Where does creativity and meaning lie for the many involved in the industry? Clearly it provides employment—mass production of wallets, belts, boxes, shoes and all kinds of clothing, as well as selling in stores and at outdoor markets .
There are still schools to train people in the art of leatherwork. The Scuola del Cuoio is affiliated with the Church of Santa Croce. Yesterday I saw men and women individually cutting, sewing, and embossing on individual pieces of leather. Were they artists or craftsmen? Were they creating new designs or only putting an individual touch onto the work in front of them? Were they satisfied that they were making beautiful things for others?
Where were their hearts as they worked? Maybe there is an answer there.
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4/30/15 Finishing up VG.