Museums in Tuscany at home
Stuck at Home? These 5 Museums in Tuscany Offer Virtual Tours You Can Take on Your Couch!
Our usual first of April opening has been postponed. This doesn't mean you can't plan the things to do once you will be in Tuscany, at La Scuola di Furio! One of the reasons tourists form all over the world love Tuscany is that countless and priceless masterpieces are here! So, here is an incomplete list of very fine art pieces, where to find them and how to see them from the comfort of your own home!
This list is the result of my studies to be a professional tour leader and, more generally, a fan of the immense artistic heritage of our beautiful Tuscany, they are my personal notes. I'm sure you have other favorite masterpieces in the Florence area and all over Tuscany! Which ones are they? Write them to me, so I can add your reports to this list!
All the links are here (just click on the name of the museum you are interested in) and I will write something new everyday! So, read and visit what you can today, then visit in person soon!
Located in Florence, in Via Ricasoli, 60, the Galleria dell'Accademia was born from the will of the Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo of Tuscany. He wanted to give students of the nearby Accademia delle Belle Arti the opportunity to admire and study closely the masterpieces of the best Florentine artists. That's the reason it is called Galleria dell'Accademia. It was created to be the Galleria of the Accademia. While some museums are important and known for a number of artworks, the Galleria dell'Accademia is mainy famous for only one piece, the original statue of David by Michelangelo Buonarroti. Obviously it's a shame, since it offers a wide range of splendid artworks. With its 1.6 million visitors (the Uffizi had 2.2 million in 2017), Galleria dell'Accademia is the fourth most visited museum in Italy (however The Mall, the outlet center locateld in Reggello which houses 39 fashion luxury brands is the most visited place in the province of Florence of with a number of visitors that ranges between 2.5 and 3 million).
Well, coming back to Galleria dell'Accademia, from home we can admire the various sections (click on the blue writings to open the links):
An era that I personally find exciting, if it were not for the scarce raw materials available to the artists of the time. It is characterized by paintings with a religious subject on a gold background.
Taddeo Gaddi: Saint Francis riceives the stigmata
Maybe your children will appreciate the slightly comic style of a work by Taddeo Gaddi, one of Giotto's disciples, who made one of the panels of the wardrobe of the sacristy of Santa Croce, "Francesco receives the stigmata" in a "comic style". Very immediate.
Pacino di Buonaguida: Tree of Life
Pacino di Buonaguida's "Tree of Life" is a painting in tempera and gold on wood, a fusion between the ancient "tree of life" and the life of Jesus, in a Franciscan key.
The fifteenth-century painting collection also features subjects that are no longer just religious.
Sandro Botticelli: The Virgin and Child with two angels and the young Saint John the Baptist
"Madonna and Child, St. John the Baptist and two angels" by Sandro Botticelli, in which a caring angel helps the Virgin to support a child Jesus and in which we can admire Botticelli's mastery by looking at the veil on the head of the Madonna.
Dance scene ("Cassone Adimari"), work by Giovanni di Ser Giovanni, known as Lo Scheggia.
Cassone Adimari by Giovanni di Ser Giovanni, known as Lo Scheggia
While admiring this unusual work, depicting a daily scene, of city life, I realized that the author is Giovanni di Ser Giovanni, known as Lo Scheggia (and Masaccio's brother). Going to dig I understood that the "Maestro del Cassone Adimari" was the "Maestro di Fucecchio"! FUCECCHIO! Only then did I realize that in FUCECCHIO we have one of his works! "Madonna and Child and Saints Sebastiano, Maria Maddalena, Lazzaro and Marta" created for my parish, the Collegiate Church of San Giovanni Battista and now kept in the Civic and Diocesan Museum of Fucecchio!!!
Giovanni di Ser Giovanni detto Lo Scheggia: Madonna col Bambino in gloria tra i Santi Sebastiano, Lazzaro, Maria Maddalena e Marta
If you take a closer look, like in the picture below, you will see there is a MONSTER in the Scheggia altarpiece! A strange animal called "tarasca".
Giovanni di Ser Giovanni detto Lo Scheggia: Madonna col Bambino in gloria tra i Santi Sebastiano, Lazzaro, Maria Maddalena e Marta
According to the legend, a tarasca has six stubby legs and the body covered by an armor, like a turtle. Tarasca is from Galicia (Spain) but it reached Provence (France) stopping near the village of Nerluc and here in the Rhine bed he had made his lair. It quickly became the terror of the region, killing people devastating the lands. It was only thanks to Santa Marta's prayers that the problem tarasca was finally solved. It became smaller each time Santa Marta said a prayer! If now tarasca is familiar to you, it is because it has taken refuge in the famous role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons AND it plays the character of Bowser in the Super Mario Bros. video game series!!!
In this section we see how strong the Michelangelo influence on other Florentine artists has been. Here we find works by Fra ’Bartolomeo, Andrea del Sarto, Pontormo.
Carlo Portelli: Immacolata Concezione
"Allegory of the Immaculate Conception" by Carlo Portelli. Crowded painting intended for the church of Ognissanti. It represents Mary crushing the snake and beneath Eva, naked and seductive with a winking expression. The representation of Eve was so NOT appreciated that the career of Carlo Portelli sinked. And a fur (!!!) was painted on the naked Eve! It was removed by a restoration in the early 2000s.
Giambologna's model of the Rape of the Sabines in raw earth welcomes us in the Sala del Colosso of the Galleria dell'Accademia since its entrance to the museum (the marble version of the same artist is located under the Loggia dei Lanzi in Piazza della Signoria). We also find a plaster casts gallery with artworks by Lorenzo Bartolini and his pupil Luigi Pampaloni.
Michelangelo Buonarroti: David and a Prisoner Ph: Gabriele Mantellini
Here there are also a series of incomparable Michelangelo sculptures. The Prisoners Gallery with the four Prisoners created for the tomb of Pope Julius II, a pharaonic project that was increasingly reduced. The Prisoners are still stunning today. It seems that sculpted men are trying to free themselves from raw marble. Another unfinished sculpture but whose energy we still see today is San Matteo. While the Pietà of Palestrina is a work uncertainly attributed to Michelangelo (too ugly to be his artwork, look at Jesus' legs!). Then there is the most famous sculpture in the world, Michelangelo's David.
The look of Michelangelo's David Ph: Gabriele Mantellini
No sculpture stands up to comparison, Michelangelo Buonarroti's David IS the reason why the Galleria dell'Accademia is famous all over the world. Its history is complex. It starts long before the commission to Michelangelo. Even before 1400 the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore wanted to enrich the buttresses of the Cathedral with statues of prophets and virtuous figures. We are very lucky because we have a vivid testimony of the project in the fresco by Andrea di Bonaiuto, in the Chapter Room (Cappellone degli Spagnoli), a pre-Renaissance masterpiece in Santa Maria Novella. First it was thought to put marble sculptures, then gigantic terracotta images. One of these is a representation of the prophet Joshua, at least three times life-size, work done by Donatello in terracotta painted in white, and a gilded metal Hercules. Things in Florence and at the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore were going well and the patrons, perhaps getting a little carried away, asked Agostino di Duccio for a 5-meter marble statue of David, defeater of the Philistines, that they wanted to put thirty meters high (a five-ton statue at thirty meters high with late 1400 technologies!!!)! The patrons asked Agostino di Duccio to go to Carrara, to choose a block of white marble and to section it, in order to better transport it to Florence (again with late 1400 technologies). Then the sculptor would work on the single pieces that once transported and recomposed at thirty meters high would give birth to the prophet King. Agostino di Duccio, perhaps too confident of his real abilities, contravened these instructions and brought the whole block of sixty thousand kilos to Florence. Agostino di Duccio sketched a David, perhaps with one hand to hold a cloak to give stability to the statue but he never finished it and left Florence.
The years went by and the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore turned to Antonio Rossellino, asking him to finish the statue and to think about how to put it at thirty meters in height, too big a task for him. In 1501 Piero Soderini, confaloniere della Repubblica (a sort of mayor) thought it was well about time to start working again on the project, get the work done by a well renowned artist and find David a suitable location, in Santa Maria del Fiore or in another worthy place. Lorenzo di Piefrancesco de' Medici, known as Lorenzo il Popolano, cousin of the homonymous Lorenzo the Magnificent, recommended Michelangelo. Michelangelo was twenty-six years old at the time and he was in great demand, after the sensation caused by his masterpiece, the impressive Pietà today housed in St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City in Rome. Soderini tried to convince Leonardo da Vinci to do the job. But the genio di Vinci was already fifty years old and not too convinced that he wanted to do such a physically demanding job, preferring to devote himself to other arts. Michelangelo was still a young man full of energies. He already knew about this project, he had seen the unfinished work by Agostino di Duccio and he already had his ideas on how to transform that shapeless block of white Carrara marble into one of his greatest masterpieces. Michelangelo worked on the block by placing it vertically. After about two years of working in secret, Michelangelo was able to show Soderini (and only to him and his crew) the almost finished David. Not only had a statue of THAT size never been seen in Florence, but perhaps not even imagined! And that statue represented a bravely NAKED man!
Piero Soderini was conquered by Michelangelo's David and decided he wanted this masterpiece all for himself. Moreover, the statue was perfect to symbolize the values and themes of the new Florentine Republic. The era of the sculptures to be found only in churches ended, the square became the public space where to reaffirm political messages showing the great works of art. To decide the best location, a commission made up of the best artists in the city was set up. It seems that Leonardo da Vinci, perhaps slightly resentful of Michelangelo's genius, had voted to place David under a niche in the Loggia della Signoria. The chosen location was the arengario in front of Palazzo della Signoria. Already during the difficult transportation (it took weeks to move David of 600-700 meters) from the Opera of Santa Maria del Fiore, the David was attacked with stones thrown, probably by young people of families friends with the Medici, who saw in the statue the symbol of the Republic. In 1504 David was finally revealed to the Florentines, leaving them speechless. David was HUGE and BEAUTIFUL! To make immediately clear that the statue showed David and not some pagan deity, the statue was decorated with the crown of King David, the genitals were covered and the sling belt was goldened.
David's beauty is strong but it does have a purpose, it is inspired by God. The man before the Original Sin was perfectbecause "in the day that God created man, in the image of God made He him". Even though today it has become an abused pop icon, David's body is sacred, it is not a mere display of muscles. And its strength is not only physical but also spiritual.
At the time of the Renaissance, David was a very popular subject. It represents the strength of ingenuity that wins over brute force. Even a political message from a town, Florence, that was not as powerful as other cities of the time. It said: "we are small but mighty". Even if, in fact, Michelangelo's David is taken as a supreme example of beauty and perfection, it might seem that the artist has not really respected the proportions in sculpting the David. Small genitalia, large head, large hands. Could an absolute master such as Michelangelo have made such obvious mistakes? No, in fact, these too are signals to convey the message that the head thinks and the hands materialize the ideas and "physical" strength is not that important.
David marked many beginnings. He was the first David to be represented before facing Goliath, naked, with tense muscles (look the the veins on the hands!!!) and a very thoughtful look. Not a winner with the head of Goliath under one foot but a shepherd with a mission and the awareness that God is on his side. Michelangelo's David gave a statue with classic features a Christian meaning (King David is a prophet). Michelangelo's David managed to bring a statue that was born as a religious patron into the secular world. Art is now in a new and completely different phase, the 1400s have definitively set, a new world opens up.
The particular section of the Galleria dell'Accademia is dedicated to music. Here we can admire instruments from the 17th to the 19th century, some belonging to the Medici and Lorraine families.
Only some of the pieces at Galleria dell'Accademia
A viola made by Antonio Stradivari and a cello made for Ferdinando I de 'Medici, the third Grand Duke of Tuscany.
The oldest vertical plane in the world!