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Why Florence? Why the 15th Century?

January 11, 2012
Procession in Florence, St. John's Eve 2011

Procession in Florence, St. John's Eve 2011

The title of this post is the title of the intro lecture for my course, “Text and Context in 15th Century Florentine Art,” that begins next week.  Today I cleared the decks and actually organized my images (in Prezi) and wrote the durned thing (using Scrivener).

The answer to the two questions are pretty easy actually.  Why Florence?  Because the art of Florence is what I know best.  Why the 15th century?  Because–remember I’m a biased, linear-thinking, old-fashioned art historian–15th century Florence has everything an instructor needs to keep students engaged over the long, cold winter here in Cleveland.

Want intrigue and conspiracy?  How about the Pazzi Conspiracy and the assassination of poor Giuliano de’ Medici in the Duomo on Easter Sunday 1478 and the dramatic escape of brother Lorenzo.

Want romance?  Who can forget naughty Fra Filippo Lippi’s abduction and seduction of the young nun Lucrezia Buti?

Want politics and competition?  There are all the lovely sculptures in all those niches on Orsanmichele to discuss, including my personal favorite, Nanni di Banco’s “Four Crowned Saints.”

Nanni di Banco, "Four Crowned Saints," Orsanmichele

Nanni di Banco, "Four Crowned Saints," Orsanmichele

Want over-the-top sensuality?  Take the time and really let your students look and marvel over a couple of Davids–Donatello’s bronze and Michelangelo’s marble.  Michelangelo’s “David” is technically out of scope for this class but, because I can, I may also go even further out on a limb and throw in Bernini’s “Rape of Proserpina.”   All three artists  really knew how to work their respective media in order to work their viewers into a frenzy.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about look at…

Donatello's "David"  The Bargello

Detail, Donatello's bronze "David" (in the Bargello)

the feather on young bronze David’s thigh

David's Hand 1504

the right hand and wrist of marble David

Bernini's "Rape of Proserpina"

Pluto's hand on Proserpina's waist, Bernini's

and Pluto’s hand digging into the flesh of Proserpina’s marble waist.

Like every art historian I’ve chosen far too many images to show on the first day of class and, even so, am nearly frantic about the beautiful objects that have been left out.  But those “good” worries aside, bring on the semester.

Let’s see if it’s still possible to convert others to the Quattrocento.

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