Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Florence Museo dell’Opera Donatello Christ

Dear Art Lover,
  In Florence, Italy, the Museo dell’Opera, which houses the treasures of the famous Florence Cathedral (or Duomo in Italian), recently received a facelift.  You may now view more of the art and in a better context with how it was all intended to be viewed in the first place.  In some cases, you are viewing the original sculptures since pollution was causing too much harm to it in its original position on the Duomo or the nearby Baptistry. 

     I am often struck by how the quality of the figurative art changed back and forth over the centuries, as well as how much was accomplished only with hand-powered tools.  But then, they likely had other technical abilities of which I am simply unaware.  Still, did we lose the skills after Greek art or did artists just make a point to change styles?  I have heard that the current beliefs of the church often affected how representational artists were allowed to portray the human figure.  And churches tended to be the only ones wealthy enough to pay for difficult-to-create art. 

    I was surprised to see this marvelous piece of stone carving among some fragments on exhibit from the Porta della Mandorla (the Almond Door).  It turns out that this relief figure of the Man of Sorrows Christ that decorates an arch border is by Donatello!  It is funny seeing his work paired with obviously less stunning carved figures.  Here is a part of the museum’s own description:

     “The most richly decorated side-door of the Cathedral, that to the northeast call the Porta della Mandorla (Almond Door), was realised [sic] by various sculptors in the years 1391-1422.  The components shown here, from the archivolt and lateral pilasters, belong to the years 1404-1409 and illustrate the range of styles used in the early 15th-century Florence, with some of the figures still gothic while others proclaim a reborn interest in Greco-Roman sculpture.  The Suffering Christ from the door’s keystone, a work by the young Donatello, appears to be an early study for that artist’s wood crucifix in the Basilica of Santa Croce.”

Note that the Italians, as I suspect most Europeans, used British English more than American [hence the “sic” above.]
Note also that another sign under the arranged fragments titles the work by Donatello as “Rilievo con Cristo Vir dolorum” (Relief with Christ Man of Sorrows).  1404-1409.  Perhaps the two titles is simply a matter of different translations.

     In the image of the architectural drawing, the blue section of the pointed arch above the doorway, labeled F, is where the Donatello and gothic fragments originally resided.

     Enjoy!  I am happy to report that I am back to painting and drawing daily in my new temporary home.  Most of my things are still in storage until my real home is ready, but I have taken what I need from there and am working away with lovely views and birds singing daily.  Sanity is starting to return.

Happy birthday to my first brother, Paul! 



~ Kelly Borsheim, sculptor, painter, writer, teacher

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