Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Inside Brunelleschi’s Dome Florence Italy
Cari Amici (Dear Friends),
It is true that we, as a public, no longer know how to read paintings. As a general rule, our society is no longer familiar with the symbols from cultures centuries old. Without recognizing these symbols (often mythological or religious), we miss much of the meanings in the paintings of our past. These were the days when visual art and literature were much more closely related.
However, some artworks still retain the general idea for even the least learned of us. I am thinking now, for example, of the artwork frescoed onto the upper inside of the famous Duomo in Florence, Italy. In my last blog entry, I spoke about Italian architect Filippo Brunelleschi’s brilliantly designed duomo (cathedral), topped with Florence’s landmark red cupola.
I actually went inside the Chiesa di Santa Maria del Fiore (The Church of Saint Mary of the Flowers) on Christmas Eve just before midnight. The music was entrancing. I took these photos before a security guard asked me to stop. Sometimes it is better to ask forgiveness than permission, maybe even especially inside of a church. I made these images a little bit larger than normal because there is so much going on in each one. I understand that my blog site reduces the images, but if you click on them, you will view the original version.
I love this first image. From a distance, my composition of lights against the darks reminds me of a nautilus shell. And I adore the guys hanging out of the architecture near the top of the dome. Honestly, I do not know many of the stories told here myself. For instance, there are two groups of three people interacting with one another in the lower level of the figures in light. I do not doubt for a second, though, that they have very specific identities and lofty purposes.
It does not require an art history major to see that the figures near the bottom are surrounded by darkness and suffering in one way or another. The bodies twist and fall in a rhythm of pain and are tortured by gruesome creatures. This is Hell.
For my taste, I enjoy certain individual parts of the fresco. But overall, the composition is too symmetrical for my eye. The bottom and the very top tiers look much more interesting to me than the cubby-holed, orderly middle. I guess this artwork is a lot like society, huh? Nothing ever changes!
In this last image, you can see the railings clearly. I believe that tourists are permitted up there (and higher) as part of the dome tour. Although the overall colors in this image are more red, I believe the lower contrast is closer to what the real artwork looks like. Enjoy.
If you would like to learn more about Florence’s Duomo, click here
Find out how many artists (and who were they?) who created the dome fresco (true or secco?) check out