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narrativa e di portafoglio

narrative and portfolio of Ian Siegel

This time I visited Florence alone, with intent to see the Uffizi Gallery and Accademia Museum. These museums appealed to me because of their collections of Renaissance art.

I’d be lying if I stated that I wanted to visit the Uffizi Gallery for any reason beyond a gander at Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, which I remembered being a big deal when we talked about it when I took an art history class as a senior in high school. While I sat on the bus that morning at 7am (I have no idea how I gathered the energy to wake up early enough to get into Florence at the museum’s opening) I did some reading on other Renaissance paintings in the collection and was surprised to recall several other works I studied in the same class four years ago.

Overall, the museum’s painting collection spanned the entire Renaissance, and the works are displayed roughly chronologically which make tracking the progress of techniques like perspective extremely easy for the viewer. I could write another novel-length post just on that, but I suppose I’ll save you the trouble…

Birth of Venus blew my mind.

Now that I knew a little bit of the kind of patience it takes to do watercolor paintings (and it takes a LOT), I had a new respect for the art form, and oil painting is that much more difficult time consuming. There was something beautifully lifelike about Birth of Venus; the cool, calm, and purely innocent expression of her face, the gentle, supple gradients of her skin and the curls in her hair, the lightness of the suspension of the flowers and leaves in midair. I think I fell in love.

Fun fact (and hopefully this isn’t most of the reason I wanted to see the painting in the first place): Some of the earlier versions of Adobe Illustrator feature a vector image of a close-up of Venus’ face and curly hair on the software’s splash screen. Adobe used Botticelli’s painting as a sort of test subject and publicity image because of the potential in the painting for Illustrator’s gradient capabilities. Click for a history of Adobe Illustrator splash screens.

The next stop on my morning visit was the Accademia Museum, the holding place for my homeboy Michelangelo’s David. Apparently, no visit to Florence is complete without a visit to David. It was definitely worth seeing; you turn a corner as soon as you enter the museum to see him standing under a dome at the end of a long hallway with a vaulted ceiling. The experience of seeing just that was really something spectacular, but even more intriguing to me were the halfway-finished sculptures of Michelangelo’s that lined the hallway (called Prisoners, because of the way that their unfinished state makes them look trapped inside the block of marble out of which they will forever be in the process of emerging).

What I liked so much about Prisoners was that you could see the process of the carving—all the other marble Renaissance sculptures are so beautifully polished and finished that you marvel at the statue and wonder how a person could make something so beautiful out of something like stone. While gazing upon the Prisoners series, I could see the rough process of creating the smooth, lifelike figures like the one that stood at the end of the hall. I don’t think it makes sense for me to get into describing it—it needs to be experienced. But here are some photos, anyway.

To be honest, the rest of Accademia bored me. The rest of their collection was mostly Medieval paintings like the few I saw in the Uffizi Gallery earlier that morning. So after maybe forty-five minutes I left for Siena again. A third day in Florence—I love this city.

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