Sunday, March 16, 2008

Museo dell’Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore

Madonna of the Glass Eyes
After the big day in Rome yesterday, it was nice to take it easy and visit the Museo dell’Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, our backyard. It’s one of the main museums we haven’t gone to yet and it was recommended to us several times. It was a pleasant surprise. I’d say we appreciated it more because we have the context of living here for several months and we have seen the artist names and knew bits and pieces of the story of the duomo. The museum is located east of of the duomo, behind the apse. From the museum you can look out and see the duomo.

The institution of the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore was founded over 700 years ago to manage and preserve the entire church complex: main cathedral, bell tower, baptistery, crypt, and museum. The main exhibits in the church are about the decorative phases the church went through and the different pieces that decorated it throughout history and were then removed (oh, the vagaries of changing tastes). Luckily key pieces were saved and are now displayed here.
We didn’t know that the façade wasn’t completed until the 19th century. Considering the first stone of the church was laid in the late 12th century it seems like a long time. However, one thing you’ll come away with (and that is a sub-context of this sabbatical) is that the length of time we use commonly to judge events, namely our lifespan, really isn’t that accurate for judging or really understanding historical events.

The museum displays are well laid out and the audio guide a definite plus. We spent about 2.5 hours wandering around. The most famous piece is of course is Michelangelo’s pietà, called the Bandini or Florence Pietà. Michelangelo did four pietàs (“piete” I guess to be exact?). I was told the pietà (literally, piety) as a composition was a northern influence in Italy artwork. According to one person I was talking to, before the pietà theme came to Italy “the Italians liked happy things like Madonna and baby and the three kings.”

The Vatican Pietà, 1499.
Pieta (Vatican)

The Florence Pietà 1553. The older figure in back is considered to be a self-portrait, representing Michelangelo himself. It is also thought that Michelangelo intended this composition for his own tomb.
Florence Pieta

The Palestrina Pietà, 1550?
Palestrina Pieta

The Rondanini Pietà, 1554-64.
Rondanini Pieta

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