Savonarola preaches fire and brimstone in Renaissance Florence, King Charles of France invades Italy: and Botticelli paints a new Adoration of the Magi that evokes his times like no other. Yes, I have written about this before, in December 2013, but here is an improved version reflecting notices from the Uffizi Gallery, custodians of Botticelli's unfinished Adoration. Click on the image for the article.
CRAZY for PAZZI CHAPEL
PAZZI for the PAZZI, Crazy for the Pazzi Chapel is all about sustaining and restoring the wonderful Pazzi chapel -- chapterhouse -- at Santa Croce in Florence. This is one of Europe's greatest architectural and spiritual masterpieces, one the world's most beautiful and moving spaces whether one is religious or not. Now the responsible Opera di Santa Croce is seeking crowd-funding for necessary restoration work, especially (no doubt) in light of serious shortages of government funding. JOIN IN -- Go for it, at this link:
There are times when I think that a height of civilization is reached sitting quietly under a renaissance loggia, gazing at a renaissance garden, watching the changing play of light and shadow. Nowhere suits this better than the garden loggia of the Palazzo Piccolomini in Pienza......
Excellent news from Florence! The Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore is cleaning another of the magnificent panoply of stained glass windows in the cathedral; and it is the grandest of them all, the largest and one of the most colourful: the facade's main oculus, depicting the Assumption of the Virgin Mary to be crowned by the welcoming Christ in heaven. The window was designed by young Lorenzo Ghiberti, at the same time as he was making his first set of bronze doors for the Baptistery after the famous competition he won in rivalry with Brunelleschi in 1401; made by the expert glassworker Nicccolò di Piero Tedesco ("the German"); and installed by the end of 1404 or early 1405. Ghiberti boasted of the accomnplishment in his memoirs. Evidently the Opera and Florentines were just as pleased with the result since Ghiberti went on to become their cathedral windows designer par excellence. He designed himself (or with his busy workshop) not only the other two facade oculus windows of Saints Stephen and Lorenzo (made 1412-1415), but the whole vivid, sparkling series of stained glass for the fifteen apse tribune chapels' windows and fifteen more for the tribune windows above (a more complicated chronology, from the 1430s into the 1440s). Only with the designs for the eight extraordinary oculus windows of the cupola was he challenged: his design for the single most prominent window in the whole church, the Coronation of Mary by Christ which everyone sees when entering the cathedral, straight in front of us at the eastern end, was turned down in favour of a design by Donatello. Four more of the cupola windows were designed by "the younger generation", one by Andrea del Castagno and three by Paolo Uccello; but Ghiberti designed three of the eight, too.
In total, Santa Maria del Fiore was endowed by the Opera with no fewer than forty-five marvellous stained glass windows, forty-four of which survive (one of Uccello's was, alas, destroyed by lightening in the nineteenth century). Over recent decades, beginning in the 1970s, the still-active Opera has directed and overseen an ongoing cleaning and restoration campaign for all of them, with the work expertly done by the Florentine Studio Polloni & Co.. The Assumption oculus will be the thirty-fourth to be cleaned (if I count correctly!), and is projected to be re-installed in summer 2015.
In the meantime, visitors see the four cleaned and restored nave windows (the earliest, dating to 1394-96, all designbed by Agnolo Gaddi, whose frescoes in the main apse chapel of Santa Croce have very recently also been cleaned and restored, beautifully), and the cupola oculus windows, especially the three or five most visible from the nave side of the choir -- one of the grandest company of artistic masterpieces in Florence still in their original place today, by Donatello, Ghiberti, Uccello, del Castagno! In fact, the closest views of any of the cathedral's coloured glass windows is reserved for those who pray or attend mass in the southern apse tribune. After all, the cathedral was and is a church, not a museum!
I confess a personal interest: I will be writing more on the coloured glass windows of Santa Maria del Fiore....
[Image: Assumption of the Virgin, designed by Ghiberti, 1404/05: from BIVI Vetrate Italiane Banca Ipermediale delle Vetrate Italiane]
Here for December and the New Year, a new interpretation of Botticelli's last Adoration.....
BOTTICELLI's UNFINISHED ADORATION OF THE MAGI,
AND THE UNFINISHED MISSION OF KING CHARLES VIII
How the political and religious ferment of late quattrocento Florence is revealed in an unfinished painting by Sandro Botticelli, in which appears King Charles himself
Best wished for the season and an Epiphany !
Image from The Book of Hours of King Charles VIII, Biblioteca Digital Hispanica.
NEW on site: SEARCH OUT BERNARDO DADDI AND CIVIC FLORENCE
Find out more here : or click on the image to go directly to Bernardo Daddi's fourteenth century Florence.....
The current Pope, Francis, recently criticized his own predecessors and their curia, the Roman Catholic church's central administration and -- literally -- the pope's "court" and "courtiers": "Heads of the church have often been narcissists", said Francis, "flattered and thrilled by their courtiers. The court [curia] is the leprosy of the papacy." His sentiments are not unprecedented. His fifteenth-century Tuscan predecessor Pope Pius II, Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini, wrote in his fascinating memoirs of how " as a rule, the members of the curia are perverse and inclined to slander, since nearly all of them are slaves to avarice and ambition". Speaking to his conclave of cardinals, Pope Piccolomini was more analytical but not less scathing: "We are in the position of insolvent bankers. We have no credit. People say that we live in luxury, amass wealth, are slaves to ambition ... and they are not entirely wrong. There are many among the cardinals and the other members of the curia who do these things and, if we re willing to tell the truth, the luxury and pride of our curia is excessive. This makes us so hateful to the people that we are not listened to even when we speak the truth." Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose? The Renaissance lives....
Boris Brigoriev, 1914, from Wikimedia Commons
Even 'Renaissance In Tuscany' acknowledges -- proclaims ! -- that one of the pinnacles of modern civilization is found elsewhere: the quintessential Paris café-bar.
Just back from re-visiting Paris (lucky us), with memories fresh and rekindled of hours spent people-watching over café (not 'coffee', nor 'latte' and certainly not 'cappuccino') or, later, a glass of wine or occasionally in colder weather a marc de bourgogne; fresh croissants or tartines for breakfast (hurray for baguettes and jam with incomparable French butter!); efficient, rapid waiters, whose professionalism -- mistaken for unfriendliness by some used to gushing 'my-name-is-Buttercup...' servers -- is matched by their quick welcome and quips for regulars even of short duration; the daily 'menu' and luscious tarte tatin with sinful crème fraîche; flashes of high and low fashion, especially during Saturday-shopping hours and at the ends of working days (o.k., our primary haunts are the 6th arrondissement); expected and unexpected brief encounters with friends, acquaintances-by-face, once in a while minor celebrities of one sort or another, but above all strangers made neighbours by and in this haven of urban civilization, the Paris bar-café.
P.S.: And French dark chocolate, oh my goodnesss!! -- bravo especially to 'A la Mère de Famille'!!
OK, we have just visited the new exhibition at the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence: "Springtime of the Renaissance: Sculpture and the Arts in Florence 1400-1460": GO SEE IT IF YOU POSSIBLY CAN ! Familiar as many of the works may be, if only through illustrations, they are all together overwhelming. Florence is of course the ideal place to see this exhibition, where one can also visit the Bargello national sculptures museum and so many of the locations for which the great sculptures of the early renaissance were made -- above all Orsanmichele and the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and its campanile. The exhibition will be at the Palazzo Strozzi until August 18 (friendly staff at the Palazzo Strozzi suggest visiting Mondays or Tuesdays for least crowds, but I have no doubt reserved times will fill up as news of the exhibition gets around). But you can see it later, as well, at the Louvre in Paris from 26 September to 6 January, 2014. As Michelin says about three-star restaurants, "vaut le voyage"!!
By my hero --Donatello. And topical, with the opening of a grand exhibition featuring the cleaned and restored Saint Louis at the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence on The Springtime of the Renaissance.
See more at my Renaissance 100.....