Bowie ’04 Summarizes Monday in Florence

Jerry Bowie ’04, June 4 – One of our main focuses for this trip to has been the evolution of Italian, primarily Florentine and Sienese art, culminating in the Florentine Renaissance.  So far we have examined how religious, political and social factors helped shape and mold artistic techniques and mediums such as altar paintings, frescoes, and sculptures comprised of both metal and non-metal materials. These primarily, but not always religious pieces, have meaning and uses that reach their aesthetic values. We’ve discovered that there is an intricate web of aesthetics, technique, meaning and use with each piece that we have seen.  Some pieces, although religious in nature, have more of political appeal while others have may have more of a personal appeal.  As we’ve moved through the centuries we have been able to see how the artists, who may often be the only neutral parties in the process, have slowly refined their techniques to resemble pieces that are more and more pleasing and realistic to the eye.

Today’s first top was the Oganissanti Monastery which was founded by the order of the Umiliati in 1249. We examined a fantastic fresco of the last supper. Fortunately, in this case we were able to see the sinopia of this particular fresco to look at the artists work before the finished product. For those of you who are unfamiliar with that term, the sinopia is an artist’s underlying sketch that is later covered with plaster in parts as the artists also paint to seal the bond of the image and paint. Every opportunity we’ve had to see this we see how the artists’ intentions for the final drawing change in the process. In this case, there were elements that were changed because the frescoes’ commissioners made changes to the original plan for the fresco after the sketch was made and the artists had to accommodate those change. Some changes are so subtle, like hand positioning or facial expression, while others can be dramatic like complete figure removal. One additional piece that we also saw at this location, was the fresco of a one Amerigo Vespucci, whom America was named after. This fresco was done by the famous fresco painter Domenico Ghirlandaio who also painted a very famous fresco of St. Augustine.

Our second stop of the morning was to the Uffizi Museum. One of the great things about this museum is that we are able to see all different types and phases of Florentine Art all in one place. There you get to really see up close the processes of art development. Realism was by far one of major themes of the Florentine Renaissance accompanied by the underling themes of depth perception, angles, color pallet, and content.

Our final stop of the day was the Bargello Museum. Here, we were able to the technique of sculpting that really developed and flourished during the Renaissance. For instance, the roman sculpture of St. George really put Rome on the map of sculpting. The naturalism, tension, and technique that Donatello was able to capture, really helped set the standard for sculpting and bronze work. We completed our day be visiting the local Florentine show room of Antonio Frilli. His family business, established in 1860, still maintains the technique of the lost wax method in bronze castings and his show room was filled with primarily bronze replicas of famous pieces.  We were able to understand all that is involved in creating these works of art and effective understanding the difference between replicas and copies. His gallery specializes in using original molds of famous pieces, combines with the skill and craftsmanship of artists to create replicas of each piece.

We topped off the day by not only reflecting on the magnificent art we had seen through out the day but also spending time remembering a very special and awesome woman, Mrs. Pru Philips.  Pru is the late wife of Professor David Phillips, and we honored her on the third anniversary of her death.  She was a woman of elegance, intelligence, and courage.  Whether it was teaching high school chemistry at Crawfordsville High or creating wonderful memories through her photography or living with cancer in a way that taught everyone about dignity, Pru touched the lives of all who knew her.  So we joined David in toasting the life of a woman we are happy to recall as Some Little Giant!

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