Day 29: Firenze third day of school

I left the apartment early to go to the Bargello as soon as it opened at 8:15. I wanted to be ahead of the tour groups.

Sunday, when it was sunny

The Bargello is a Medieval structure that has had different functions including a prison. It was the first national museum in Italy and is devoted to sculpture.

Morning May 10

My homework assignment was to pick a painting, a sculpture and a monument to discuss. I described my painting yesterday. For a sculpture I decided on Donatello’s bronze David. I say bronze David because the Bargello also has a marble David by Donatello. Marble David was in London when I went, part of the V&A exhibition.

Bronze David was the first freestanding nude statue since Antiquity and thereby represents an important instance of the rebirth of Classical ideals, i.e., why the era later was labelled the re-naissance.

Donatello’s nude David also justified Michelangelo creating his more famous nude David. The Bible, specifically the first book of Samuel, says David refused to don armour but says nothing about not wearing clothes.

This David was created around the same time Florence started identifying itself with David as the victor over a bigger enemy, brains over brawn. Later Davids in addition to Big Mike’s included Verrocchio’s, which allegedly is based on the young Leonardo Da Vinci.

Bronze David’s further significance includes the fact it is one of the most controversial works of art because of the figure’s androgyny, sexuality and erotic appearance, at least, to modern viewers.

Elisa told me the image has become a symbol for the LGBTQ+ community in Italy, which historically may not support gender fluidity but, I suppose, current perception matters more. The contrast with Donatello’s earlier machismo St. George (which is very nearby) feeds further discussion.

I could also write about the Renaissance analogy between David and Jesus, but will stop and instead add photos of some of the other art in the Bargello.

Fresco of Dante
Donatello’s Marzocco, Florence’s lion symbol
Verrocchio’s Doubting Thomas
Learning from Donatello, this is also a shell

Calling Michelangelo Big Mike should not suggest I don’t think he was an artistic genius. There’s no question about that. The Bargello has his Bacchus done when he was in his early 20s about the same time as his Pietà in St. Peter’s.

His Brutus was finished by another sculptor but significant because Michelangelo supported Florence as a republic and did not support the Medici dukes who took over. Thus, the Brutus suggests he was in favour of killing tyrants.


My choice for discussion of architecture was Brunelleschi’s Pazzi Chapel which I described visiting earlier on May 8.

For lunch I went to Palazzo Portinari, the family name of Dante’s Beatrice, and now a hotel that retains the structure of its Renaissance courtyard. A great refuge from the rain.

After, I went to the Ospedale degli Innocenti and its museum. A lot of people and pigeons were taking refuge from the rain and art students were trying to work under drier conditions but not many people were going into the museum which was recently (2018?) renovated.

The building was by Brunelleschi. Orphaned and abandoned babies and children were housed and trained in this location in the 15th century.

View from the café area

The art gallery portion was empty.


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