Friday, July 30, 2010

Cellini Ponte Vecchio

Cari Amici (Dear Friends),

When you visit Firenze, Italia (or Florence, Italy, if you prefer translated proper names), you will no doubt see the famous Ponte Vecchio (“old bridge” or, literally, “bridge old”). She was the only bridge over the River Arno in Florence that was not bombed during World War II.

And she has traditionally housed merchants and much later, the Vasari Corridor – the private passage built for the Medici family and designed by Giorgio Vasari in 1564-5. The corridor above all of the shops allowed the powerful rulers to move from one palace to the other across the river without actually mingling with the common folk. These days, for a not insignificant fee, you may pass through this corridor and see a portrait gallery along the walls with other artworks and feel what it might have been like for the Medici.

On the Ponte Vecchio herself, there is a very well done bronze portrait sculpture of Benvenuto Cellini (1500-1571). The son of a musician and instrument maker, Florence-born Cellini was also a musician [a flute player, like myself only much better, I am sure], and goldsmith, sculptor, painter, and soldier. The most famous and seen sculpture by Cellini must surely be his bronze “Perseus with the Head of Medusa” that is featured in the Loggia dei Lanzi in Piazza della Signoria in Florence. I must say I especially love the backside of this standing figure!

Like another Italian artist Caravaggio, Cellini killed people, also for emotional reasons more than justice or self defense. And no doubt his autobiography would be a racy read.

Built of stone and wood, the Ponte Vecchio has shops built along it, as was once common. First there were butchers, but today, jewelers occupy most of the spaces. The butchers were apparently asked to leave to enhance the prestige of the Vasari Corridor above them. Gold merchants quickly took over.

More tomorrow…

1 comment:

Casey Klahn said...

I did visit the PV, and have drawn a few images. You have revealed some of the secrets, though. Thanks for that!

I bought my wife a locket in one of these shops.


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