Piles of Bodies

I am using these last few blog entries to explore more creative thoughts than explanation of particular sites. I am still drawn to these history paintings, but want to think about how I might transform them in some way in light of my recent research here, as well as in light of recent contemporary events and women’ issues, perhaps.


Things that I have noticed, and that I find interesting, are as follows….


Women are not depicted as regular human beings in paintings. They are most often allegories or symbolic and idealized beings. The “fantasy woman”… and very often bare-breasted or (as Mary, breast feeding with one breast exposed).


The compositions of these works are always so “full” of people, of bodies, with wild, stacked spaces, much like the piles of stuff that I have been intrigued with in my travels.


Many of these spaces with all of the bodies exist on the ceilings, with strange points of view and odd proportions.


I am thinking to do something with that…. this odd view from the side, the perspective and foreshortening…. this combined with strange Medieval stacked space. Hm.


Today was the Epiphany national holiday in Italy, also known as the 12th day of Christmas. It is a celebration of the adoration of the Magi, as the Christian (and here in Italy, predominantly Catholic) realization that Jesus was the incarnation of the son of God. In Florence, the celebration involves a long, grand parade in magnificent costumes which evokes the arrival of the three wise men to the town of Bethlehem in search of the Messiah.


The celebration goes back centuries to the year 1417, when the parade was repeated every 3 or 5 years, and at one time even the male members of the Medici family took part in it. For this reason, it seems the celebration was stopped in 1494 when the Medici family was expelled from Florence. The celebration was resurrected in 1997 during the celebrations of the 7th centennial of the cathedral.


In relation to this, there is the tradition of La Befana, which I find interesting. http://www.italyheritage.com/traditions/christmas/befana.htm

For Italians, La Festa dell’Epifania on January 6th is as significant a holiday as Christmas Day; especially for Italian children! According to the story, the four figures’ fates were intertwined when the Magi happened upon La Befana early on during their quest. She charitably hosted them for an evening in her humble but cozy cottage; the next morning, they invited her to accompany them to Bethlehem. Busy cleaning her home, La Befana declined at first – but then, after they carried on their way – she had second thoughts. She quickly filled a basket with gifts for the baby Jesus and set off alone. Although she followed the same star, she was unable to find the manger before the Wise Men did on January 6, the Epiphany. Therefore, she instead leaves gifts for other children. Italian children leave out their shoes or put up stockings for the Befana to fill on January 5th, Epiphany Eve.


And so every Epiphany Eve, the old, tattered and soot-covered Befana flies around the world on a broomstick and comes down chimneys to deliver candy and presents to children who have been good during the year. For those who have fallen a bit short of model behavior, la Befana will leave lumps of coal.  Being a good housekeeper, however, many say she will sweep the floor before she leaves. To some the sweeping meant the sweeping away of the problems of the year. Unlike Santa Claus, La Befana has been an Italian tradition since the XIII century and comes from Christian legend rather than pop culture.


I got a nice view of the parade… and was rather amused by people watching across the way, while finding myself a little annoyed by the ones super close by… selfie sticks. Arg. Would love to destroy them all. Ha… overall, a nice holiday.

Santa Maria Novella

The students and I worked out in the piazza of Santa Maria Novella church today with some perspective drawing. We were lucky today, as the sun shone so nicely for us to draw in some warmth outdoors.


There was a street performer out to entertain us with his clarinet, accompanied by a boom box orchestra as he played slightly out of tune to the most classic “cheeseball” songs that one might imagine—opera, the theme song to the Titanic, and more…. The people around were also immensely interested in us as a spectacle, and so I am certain that we will all be place in a virtual photo album somewhere very soon.


Once inside the church, I told the students about the famous Masaccio piece there and gave everyone some free time to wander about and explore artifacts of interest.


I myself was drawn to a few frescoes by Domenico Ghirlandaio behind the main altar of the church. I have been thinking more about how women are depicted in the works that I am seeing here, the types of scenes, the location, the drama of the narrative, as well as the women’s sexuality as obviously depicted by men. I guess really what I am noticing are awkwardnesses in general… I find it awkward the way that women are often depicted, and these babies or cherubs naked and doing seemingly strange things (at least to my contemporary eyes). Still exploring… always looking for the unusual or unexpected in images.


There was a bit more to explore outside the church… a small museum and parts of the cloisters with some pretty fantastic Paolo Uccello frescoes. I find his use of space so much more edgy looking than other artists of his time… a surreal quality to them.


The New Year

In continuing my New Year’s Eve day and into the next, I headed across the Ponte Vecchio to the Boboli Gardens… It was really something of a quest to see what all I could do in one day without standing in line too long—ha! Good luck to those of you visiting Florence in 2018. The city has changed distinctly since I was here three years ago. There has been such an increase in tourist activity here… so many people, so many lines for everything–Even in Winter. You must have a reservation for virtually everything. Of course, it is still very beautiful, but it is so much more catering to visitors, in ways that I find to be somewhat less unique… this world culture that we are transforming into.

I got into the gardens with some perfect timing, actually… with the overcast sky creating some beautiful coloring and dramatic clouds as the sun began setting early in the day.



It was lovely to see this on the final day of the year.


This later transformed into a nice fireworks display on the Arno River.


There were masses of people. Serious masses. So many people. So many drunken people…. Rather overwhelming, but I made my way through the crowds quickly after to return to my apartment and enjoy some rather smaller scale sparklers on the little balcony leading out from my kitchen.


The year ended in Florence on a sweet note as I look forward to the many experiences to come in the new one.