Firenze 4: Brunelleschi e Michelangelo

This was a day for some highlights of works by Brunelleschi and Michelangelo.

San Lorenzo, the Medici family parish church designed by Brunelleschi; Renaissance style is seen in the attempt to create a proportional relationship between nave and aisle (aisle bays are square whereas nave bays are in a 2×1 ratio), the articulation of the structure in pietra serena (“dark stone”), the use of an integrated system of column, arches, entablatures, a clear relationship between column and pilaster (as a type of embedded pier), the use of proper proportions for the height of the columns, and the use of spherical segments in the vaults of the side aisles.

Old Sacristy by Brunelleschi, with interior decoration and sculpture by Donatello.

Medici burial chapel (Capelle Medicee) in the New Sacristy begun by Michelangelo (articulation of the interior walls can be described as early examples of Renaissance Mannerism)

with Michelangelo’s largest sculptural ensemble (not quite finished because he left for Rome never to return).

Michelangelo’s Laurentian Library- commissioned to house the Medici library and was meant to emphasize the family’s intellectual prowess and wealth. The library is made up of two sections: the vestibule, or entryway, and the main reading room. The vestibule, which transitions you from the cloister to the raised reading room (for better light), is a masterpiece of mannerist architecture. The Roman cannon, set forth by Vitruvius, has been flipped on its head. Decorative features that should be reserved for a façade line the interior of this unusually, and even unnervingly, shaped room. Off-putting or unnerving is the dramatic staircase that flows out like water, pushing the visitors to the outskirts of the space. In the upstairs reading room, no detail was left unattended.

Michelangelo even designed the desks on which scholars would later read some of the most famous manuscripts from the Renaissance.

The library had an interesting temporary exhibition of works it owned related to women as writers (mostly of letters but also some poetry) or as owners of books.

Fragment of an poem by Sappho.

Galleria dell’Accademia David and

the ‘Slaves’– four of a group of six sculptures that Michelangelo began for Pope Julius II’s elaborate tomb structure, originally intended to have 40 such figures. It was to be Michelangelo’s most ambitious project before he was forced to severely downscale. He had to temporarily abandon the project in 1508 to work on the Sistine Ceiling. After finally returning to it in 1512, Julius’ death in 1513 forced the pope’s family to reconsider such an ambitious (i.e., expensive) project. They eventually asked for a much simpler (less expensive) wall tomb, roughly a sixth of the size of the original concept.

Santa Croce, principal Franciscan church, burial place of some of the most illustrious Italians,

such as Galileo, Machiavelli, Marconi and the composer Rossini. Other sculpted tombs: Varsari’s tomb for Michelangelo and Donatello’s relief of the Annunciation.

Giotto’s frescoes — the Bardi chapel, dedicated to Saint Francis and the Peruzzi chapel, dedicated to Saint John the Baptist and Saint John, were two of a group of four originally frescoed by the artist, and constitute the most important corpus of Giotto’s work after his Arena Chapel in Padua. Reflecting his fame at this time, he was commission by some of the richest banking families in Florence. Both fresco cycles have suffered, first from a whitewash that covered both chapels, then later by the installation of wall tombs, and finally poor 19th century restoration practices. Both cycles were renown. Artists came to study Giotto’s unique and realistic gestures, poses, and facial expressions that helped create believable, psychologically penetrating scenes that had not been seen since antiquity.

Cappella dei Pazzi, built as the chapter house (1470s) and designed by Filippo Brunelleschi; the building is considered a Renaissance masterpiece because it reflects perfect classical proportions.

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