Saturday, June 18, 2011

Flowers from Anika

Anika spent the day at home (school holiday) alone. She went shopping, and got us some flowers. Here they are.

Florence Sketches

Some sketches of Florence. The hills with the church, and the hills with the clouds were sketched from our hotel pool. Nice view, eh? The simple outlined hill with clouds is the biggest hill around Florence. It has a distinctive shape and is usually a flat dark color as it is far away. If cezzane were a florentine, he would have picked this mountain to paint. The branch of leaves is from an oak tree. On our last day there was a huge rain, complete with crazy winds and even hail. On the walk back to our hotel there were branches and leaves strewn all over the road. I like the shape of the oak leaf, especially how each leaf is different yet still the same.

Michelangelo's Pieta

In a museum next to the Duomo in Florence, is Michelangelo's unfinished pieta. Above is my sketch of it. I only included the arm of the figure on the left, mostly out of laziness, but also because it is not the most interesting figure anyways.

The pose of Jesus is just perfect, lots of pathos, and a feeling of fate (as in somethings must be). I always liked the main figure behind Jesus, the man in the cloak holding Jesus in a way that he is almost presenting the body of Christ to us the viewers. I've always assumed the figure is Michelangelo himself, presenting the body of Christ, or his sculpture of Jesus to us the viewer. Apparently, the pieta was meant for Michelangelo's grave. Now the idea of the cloaked figure being Michelangelo himself makes even more sense.

Anyways, regardless of the identity of the cloaked figure the main achievement is really the body of Christ. Here, although still muscular, the Michelangelo makes the body of Christ seem weak and beaten by lengthening the limbs, and by the wonderfully limp/languid/resigned pose. The way the other figures support the body of Christ is also important, as they do it with such grace and care, yet the physical weight of the figure is also apparent. The slumping body being laid down as gently as possible, but the weight of the dead body pulls everything down. Man, this sculpture is really the finest poetry.

BTW: christ doesn't have a left leg in Michelangelo's sculpture. Really it just isn't there - this is after all an unfinished sculpture! It doesn't really seem to matter though, does it? Maybe the leg ruined the composition, and that's why Michelangelo quit the sculpture ('cause really you can't have Christ with a missing leg). Also, a beautiful detail is how christ holds the (in my drawing) missing figure on his right holding up his leg - he holds his arm so lovingly around her shoulder, but he's dead, right! It's such a beautiful contradictory gesture. His love extends past his death - that's the death of christ in a nutshell isn't it? I'm telling you this sculpture is sooooooo crazy good.

Saturday, June 11, 2011



Sabine in Florence

There's Sabine walking down the lane toward the two cypress under a blue sky. Beautiful! Sabine also got to enjoy wearing a dress during the hot weather. Looking very cool with her shades next to a statue in the Boboli gardens. Don't ask what is going on with the statue above, looks like a May-September romance. Sweet.


In florence you are often looking up. Up at a blue sky, up at a church tower, and almost always up at a painted ceiling. Sabine is showing the correct pose for looking up, not looking directly over your head, but a little nebenbei, otherwise you get dizzy and tip over ;) Really, there was so many ceiling paintings, and a total lack of any kind of furniture in most of the rooms we visited, I began to imagine that back in the day the denizins of Florence lay around on pillows staring up at their ceilings. It would be great to look at the ceiling paintings this way, more dreamy, like laying in the grass watching the clouds roll by. More seriously, it is a totally different thing to look at a painting hanging on the wall. Is there a difference between reading a book on your back, or sitting upright? I think, actually, yes. They should throw around a couple of those really super sized pillows in the florentine palaces for the viewers to enjoy the ceilings properly.

BTW: a lot of the paintings in the palaces were painted on wooden planks then installed on the ceiling. You would think ceiling paintings are always frescos. But installing wooden painted planks on the ceiling makes a lot of sense - it is no fun painting on your back, painting dripping down your arm or in your face. And then you need scaffolding, and you can't really step back from your painting to get a different perspective on it.....


Ahh, a meat store! Look at all those prosciutto legs hanging from the ceiling! I think this man is in heaven. They cut the prosciutto by hand here, which means kind of thick and uneven slices, not the typical machine cut prosciutto I'm used to buying at the supermarkt. But then thicker = more meat per mouthful! I also had carpaccio, which I think is meat from lung. Sounds Bleahhhh, but taste good. No, after a quick google, carpaccio is simply raw meat - maybe it was lung maybe it wasn't. Anyways the meat looks nice too, a deep wine like red. The meat is a little dry. But in this case, since the meat is cut pretty THIN, it melts on your tongue. Mmmmm.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Perseus and the head of Medusa

Without wading too deep into greek mythology........ here is a bronze statue, by Cellini (ca. 1550) of Perseus who cut the head off Medusa. Perseus was given winged sandals from the god Hermes, a sword from Zeus, a invisible cloak from Hades, a mirrored shield (to be able to look at the Medusa) from Athena, and finally and most practically a bag from Hesperides for Medusa's head. Thus fully outfitted he went to cut the head off Medusa. A gross detail to the sculpture is the bloody stump of Medusa's head. What looks like the shredded muscle of the cut off neck is upon closer inspection, writhing snakes. This refers to the fact that two creatures (Pegasus and Chrysaor) sprang from Medusa's severed neck.

Another cool detail to the sculpture: when looking at the back of Perseus's helmeted head you can see the image of the sculptor's face! The banding of the helmet forms the nose and eyebrows of the face, and Perseus's hair becomes the sculptor's beard. This type of hidden image is somewhat typical for renaissance art, and in painting the most extreme example of this trickery can be seen in the "fruit face" paintings from Giuseppe Arcimboldo.

Monday, June 6, 2011


Sabine and I took a much overdue 'sans-kids' vacation to Florence (thanks Oma and Opa for watching the kids). What a city! Don't know where to begin. How about a picture of the main Doma (taken from inside the tower), and two pictures from our hotel/B&B. We stayed outside of the city center, a 10 minute bus ride away, another 10 minute walk up a hill. The hotel had a splendid view over the country side, with a perfectly situated pool! The hotel itself was a converted old smallish stone castle, with beautiful relaxing gardens all around it. We highly recommend it: I Parigi Corbinelli.

The walk up the hill to the hotel was hot at times, but let us soak in the country side. One evening after dark the whole way up the hill fire flies were floating about. We even caught one. They are really strange because they make no noise, fly slowly enough that you can catch them, and the only thing you ever see is their bright flashing glow - we never saw the actual bug! It's a little like catching pure light! Very magical, and it was the first time Sabine and I had ever seen fire flies. If it hadn't been for learning about fire flies from reading children's books, I think we would have been pretty spooked. Dancing specks of light as if from the spirit world.