October 6, 2017 (Friday)

by Yule Heibel on October 5, 2018

Yesterday: first full day in Florence, we walked to the Duomo, but decided against standing in the long, long, long line. Instead we walked to the 13th-century Church of Santo Spirito, where we saw a limewood three-quarters-life-sized Crucified Christ carved by the 18-year old Michelangelo as a thank you to the Augustine Abbot for letting him stay there for a year to study anatomy using cadavers. We visited the Rectory and the abbots’ chambers — something about the former’s greater antiquity and simplicity made it seem weightier, more appealing.

From here we we went to the Palazzo Strozzi to see Il Cinquecento a Firenze. It was most impressive to see three huge Mannerist altarpieces brought together in one room: Rosso, Pontormo, and Bronzino.

I took some photos of a model of a river god (sculpture) that Michelangelo used to show to patrons to get the commission to carve the real thing. It struck me that this piece must have been shockingly modern at the time. Props to the patrons for agreeing to the work — but then I had to wonder about today’s patrons, always wanting to be fashion forward and avant-garde, and look at the shit they support…

After a late lunch we hiked back to Santo Spirito to visit the actual church. I thought about how a place like this was like a 1980s mall of its day: the very rich families with their dedicated chapels were like the anchor tenants. Smaller retailers (families) and shoppers (worshippers) made up the rest. On Sundays and at services, everyone went there, got together. The less monied “window shopped” the rich stores / families. Filippino Lippi’s Pala Nerli altarpiece (1494), total knockout.

Then we walked to the Church of the Ognissanti, which rewarded with another standout masterpiece, a Giotto altarpiece, just hanging there (ha), no big deal… Florence. Wow.

We were now exhausted so we went back to the hotel to watch the dusk settle and the swallows screech down the day.

After 8p.m. we meandered over to the Arts Inn, a hip sort of retro bar, where we listened to cool music – from The Doors, David Bowie, Stevie Winwood, Traffic, Lou Reed, Neil Young, et al.: a total mixed bag – and shared a charcuterie plate and a large carafe of organic red wine. Good day, great evening.

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