Italian Art

Posted: October 6th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: ATW Updates | No Comments »

When many people think about classic art and art history, one of the first places they think about is Italy. And why not? Leonardo Da Vinci, Raphael, Donatello, Michaelangelo, and many others the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles aren’t named after. Today, art still plays a large part in Italian culture. So, I thought I’d take you on a quick spin through some of the art we saw in Italy, and the roles they played and still play today.

Art is, and will always be, a form of earning money for the artists. Whether they’re spray-painting the Coliseum for passing tourists:


Or just asking for donations from people admiring their chalk reproductions.


There’s the classic art. The Renaissance meant a rebirth of the arts, and many of the great pieces coming out during the time are essentially Hellenistic art redone for then-modern sensibilities. (By the way, that’s not the original David. And not even the only David). Art is constantly being reinvented and reinspired, over and over. What’s new and improved today, will be “classic” hundreds of years from now. Pssst! There’s a hidden Michaelangelo etching on the wall of this building. If you’re facing the David, go to your right, to the very corner of the wall. There’s you’ll see the face of a man scratched out on the wall. Michaelangelo supposedly drew it to prove a point. Even if it wasn’t by him, it was attributed to him by Vasari all the way back in the 1500’s, so it’s been there for a good long while.


Even then, pets were beloved companions, especially in art.


This unfinished Pieta sculpture of Michaelangelo’s is one of my favorites (called “The Deposition” or the “Florentine Pieta”), and also one of the few self-portraits of Michaelangelo. It was meant for his tomb, but abandoned after he found a flaw in the marble.


And, we can’t forget Ghiberti’s “Gates of Paradise”, commissioned for the Florence Baptistry, mentioned in Dan Brown’s Inferno. These are the originals, meticulously restored and kept in a climate controlled area in the museum connected to the Duomo, while the reproduction suffers the aging effects of weather and tourists. I wish the other doors, designed by Pisano, could have the same protection.


If you look closely around Rome, you will see hundreds of Mary paintings & sculptures scattered on  street corners all over. They were actually meant to prevent crime. In a deeply Catholic country, people thought that if the bad guys felt Mary was watching them, they wouldn’t want to commit the intended crime. And you know what? It actually worked. Now, we’re gifted with an open-air art gallery, with these pieces ranging from the very simple to the beautifully elaborate.


And, of course, there’s a plethora of religious-based art in the hundreds of churches across all of Italy. Do you know why they were so intricate and expansive, with symbols that repeat over and over? Most people were illiterate back in the day. They couldn’t read the Bible for themselves. So, these paintings were meant to tell them the important stories of the Bible. In order to identify the “characters”, symbols were associated with each important personage, to allow people to immediately know who’s doing what and what’s going on. Also, there was no such thing as radio, TV, or internet. Looking at these paintings was a form of entertainment. That’s why there are so many details. So that each time someone comes to gaze upon it, they can spot something new and exciting. Like a spectacular Where’s Waldo game.


This is one of Raphael’s works (I also have it in postage stamp form!). Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of the Sistine Chapel (not allowed) and only blurry photos of other beautiful religious art (dark lighting+no flash=blurry photos).

If you’re an art lover, Italy’s definitely the place to go. In fact, we spent a good 4 hours at the Uffizi Gallery. I was determined to see EVERY single piece of art in the expansive gallery. By the end, I limped back to our hotel with a headache, but I did accomplish my goal. I’m still undecided as to whether it was worth the pain. I’d like a return trip, however, because I would like to spend more time with some individual pieces rather than rushing through at the end.


Let me end with one of my favorite paintings by Caravaggio called “The Entombment of Jesus”. In person, as you pass by it, the angle of the stone table beneath Jesus actually changes depending on your position. If you’re ever there, go take a look at it in the Vatican’s collection.


Art serves many uses, many of which have changed and shifted through the years. Still, it’s greatest use, in my opinion, is to capture our fleeting perceptions of what is beautiful and important in the world and within ourselves.

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