Saturday, December 12, 2015

Florence Museo dell’Opera Stone Fragments Mosaic

Florence Museo dell’Opera del Duomo Stone Fragments MosaicDear Art Lover,

     Fragments tend to interest me sometimes more than “perfect compositions.”  Maybe it is the idea of “less is more,” but I tend to think it has more to do with the simultaneous feeling of mystery (what did it look like originally when complete?) with education.  With fragments, one can often understand more about the process used… in a sense:  removing a mystery, albeit a different one.
     Here, I am still in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo in Florence, Italy.  Here is what the museum wrote for the display titled, “Fragments of Magnificence.” 

“During demolition of the unfinished medieval Cathedral façade in 1587, most of the surface decoration was lost; the few surviving fragments are shown in this room.  Among these are pieces found while excavation beneath the nave of the Santa Maria del Fiore to uncover the remains of the old cathedral, Santa Reparata.  In the course of those excavations in 1965-1973, the pavement of the new Cathedral had to be removed, and on the underside of some white marble slabs 14th-century decoration came to light, confirming that the Opera del Duomo had recycled its costly stone to suit the needs of an evolving project.
     The carves slabs and those with colored and gold mosaic inserts made the Duomo façade an image of the heavenly Jerusalem described in the New Testament, whose walls are made of precious stones (Revelation 21, 18-21).  Especially at sunset, when the Cathedral front glows in the waning light, the allusion to that future city must have been clear.”


Florence Museo dell’Opera del Duomo Stone Fragments Mosaic

Florence Museo dell’Opera del Duomo Stone Fragments Mosaic

Florence Museo dell’Opera del Duomo Stone Fragments Mosaic

Florence Museo dell’Opera del Duomo Stone Fragments Mosaic
What might look like popcorn under the mosaic is actually marble.

Florence Museo dell’Opera del Duomo Stone Fragments Mosaic

Florence Museo dell’Opera del Duomo Stone Fragments MosaicFlorence Museo dell’Opera del Duomo Stone Fragments Mosaic

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Florence Museo dell’Opera del Duomo Stone Fragments Mosaic~ Kelly Borsheim, sculptor, painter, writer, teacher

Florence Museo dell’Opera del Duomo Stone Fragments

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