Sunday, January 1, 2012

Saying Goodbye to CSU Summer Arts!


Last day of class presentations and the beginning of saying goodbye was delicious! See exhibit below :) Along with Italian cappuccino, the fresh apricot deliciousness will be greatly missed:

Although most of our friends were finished presenting, there were a few more who chose places that we didn't get to yesterday. One of these was Ghiberti's "Gates of Paradise" doors at the Baptistry of San Giovanni (across from the Duomo). The baptistry has three sets of doors, but this one by Ghiberti is of particular importance. The story goes that in 1401 all the major sculptors in Florence entered a competition for the commission to cast doors for the Baptistry. The artists chosen as finalists were Ghiberti and Brunelleschi. Ghiberti ultimately won out and became the sculptor to create them- leaving Brunelleschi free to design the famous cupola of the Duomo! After spending more than 20 years designing and casting relief sculpture Ghiberti's doors became a jewel. The doors were his calling card and rightly so. Not only did Ghiberti create a masterpiece, but in doing so he taught an entire generation of master sculptors his craft. Vasari wrote about Ghiberti and his workshop and Michelangelo dubbed them the "Gates of Paradise."

The doors survived much: including the bombing of Italy during World War II and the invasion of the Nazis -one of whom coveted Ghiberti's doors for his private art collection. To make sure that their beauty would not be lost, a foresighted Florentine had a mold made in the 1940's and the doors, along with other priceless art, were hidden away. While the doors weren't destroyed, the mold created to save them was used to cast several copies that were sold. One copy happens to be at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco!

The story of the doors doesn't end there. After 500 years of wear and tear, and more recently years of smog, acid rain and other damage Ghiberti's doors were under threat.

Enter wealthy, Japanese businessman with a particular fondness for Florence and Ghiberti's doors.

In 1990, Choichiro Motoyama, who had been a high-end fashion retailer in Japan and spent his life importing Western high fashion from all over Europe, including Florence (of course!), paid to have a copy of the original doors created for the Baptistry and for himself, so that a copy could be installed in place of the original.

In his own "Words To Live By"- published in The Japan Times, Motoyama says: 
Never forget those who were good to you. I learned so much from Italians and have gained great business from them, so I wanted to give back something unique to Italy. In 1990 I commissioned and donated a replica of the "Gates of Paradise," Lorenzo Ghiberti's gilded bronze doors to the Battistero di San Giovanni (the Florence Baptistery), so the original masterpiece (which had been severely damaged by a 1966 flood) could be safely protected. 

His generous gift to Florence, allowed the original doors to be placed under restoration. They are currently housed in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo.

The Gates of Paradise feature stories of the life of Christ

The workmanship is exquisite. Here are some more details. You can click on the images to make them bigger!

At the doors we bumped into Marco who was giving an American couple a private tour! We were all delighted to see him and asked him to come to our going away party. Many of us had purchased his book about Leonardo Da Vinci's inventions and we were hoping that he would sign them.

After the presentations were over with, I had fun walking around the city. Here are some more pictures of street art and shop windows! The crazy heads are in the window of a very fancy leather goods shop!

Self portrait ;P


Since I had a good deal of time before the goodbye dinner, I decided to see the exhibit I have been thinking about since coming to Florence! At the Palazzo Strozzi is a small, but very interesting exhibit that shows the development and relationship of two young artists, Miró and Dalí, to their older generation Spanish master painter, Pablo Picasso.

The exhibit design was interesting and very well executed. It begins with a painting by Picasso just on the cusp of the invention of Cubism and works backward in time- showing an unraveling of the artists' individual development and unique styles. The wonder of this exhibit for me, was seeing the early works of Miró and Dalí - starting just before they began the movement that would be called surrealism and unraveling back to their child and young adult attempts to find a style. There were very fine examples of these early works from some of the best museums in the world!

All three artists had several common traits and life experiences. They were Spanish born. They were child prodigies. And they had notably choleric dispositions in their youth and arguably throughout their lives. All three also explored a lot with style; Picasso was a chameleon, while Miró and Dalí found very specific "voices" that we recognize to be theirs alone.  I found, Dali's evolution to be especially surprising in its diversity. Before his very famous surrealist melting clock, there was a lot of warmth, and more Cezanne-ish, Picasso-ish, Expressionist-esque stuff. It gave me a whole new appreciation for his very particular voice as an artist and also a great love for what came before the melting clock.

Anyhow, it was great to be able to see the artists' explorations prior to Cubism and Surrealism. Although I was running on fumes, I loved the exhibit! Picasso's early work. Drawings and paintings from his teenage years. Stories about the lives of the artists as children. At the academies they attended. The scandals they caused. Their divergence from the norm, etc. After seeing this exhibit, I can't wait to see Picasso's work at the de Young back home!

After the museum and lunch (Kebap of course!) I headed home for a quick refresher and then to the CSU campus to turn in my paper, hear one more teaching presentation and say goodbye to the faculty.

There was a lot of food and chatter, but before we said our final goodbyes- we took a walk, as a group, for the final student presentation. It had been raining, cats and dogs as my Grandma would say, but thankfully the rain stopped long enough for us to see...

Villino Broggi-Caraceni
Admittedly, I hadn't wanted to go for yet another walk, but boy was I glad that we all went. This villino is just a stone's throw away from our campus and a gorgeous example of art nouveau architecture. I'm sad I didn't take more pictures, as the glass features of the house- in natural shades of brown, purple and green- are really lovely! As is the intricate iron work!

Saying goodbye! Here is our CSU Summer Arts Faculty and Staff (excluding Marco). Jane and Refugio our wonderful and helpful staff and our professors Marsha Steinberg -a Florentine artist (originally from L.A.) who taught us sketching, and Professor Christine Junkerman- our Renaissance maestro from SJSU!

Marco did make an appearance! It was actually quite a funny one. Refugio was in the middle of this very heartfelt speech, when suddenly there was an energy shift in the room and Marco in the doorway. The whole room explodes with Maaaarcoooo! :) He also gave a very heartfelt and funny speech, and scrawled his signature in our books!

Bye CSU Summer Arts! :(

Rather than heading straight for home, I decided to walk around and photograph the city. The rain had stopped and it was a nice afternoon. Cooler than it's been lately. This was my last Friday night in Florence, and although it was my last chance to go to services at the gorgeous temple I decided to forgo Shabbat and just walk the city.

But I did spy, with my Canon eye, some other people headed to temple...

Although I'd been through this Piazza a hundred times, I decided to go back to the Piazza del Duomo and photograph some more. The soft light after the rain was beautiful.

"The Stone of Dante" cafe just across from the Duomo.

Laundry hanging in the window of one of the houses along the Medieval streets near the Duomo.

And here she is...

What may not have been, had Brunelleschi designed the Baptistry doors...

The main thoroughfare headed home that passes between the Duomo and the Baptistry!

The Facade

The Facade and Companile

The masses....much less because of the rain

The Baptistry.

The central tympanum

Passing by...

More of the Piazza- Medici crest on the corner!


Passing by...

Headed home... the day started out straight ahead, at the door of the Baptistry facing the Duomo!

Sunset on the way home. Along with some of the only trees you'll find within the city center!

Park near our hostel. The decoration of the lamp post is actually kind of crazy!

Sunset reflected in the windows!




(Day becomes night). 

Buona notte tutti!

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