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Posts from the ‘Florence Milan Zurich’ Category

Photographing Firenze

Whenever I go abroad, my camera is never far from my hands. If I had a preference, I guess I would capture all of those mesmerising European views with a paintbrush and canvas. But that’s just not practical with the pace of our travels, and photography offers the unrivaled ability to snatch moment upon moment in an endless succession of beautiful images. In Florence, my camera was with me less. The reason is quite simple: in a city with such a rich art historical offering, my eyes were otherwise engaged, and there is something about photographing paintings which makes me squeal inside. The masterpieces of artists require our undivided attention. Captured through the camera feels like a betrayal.

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So as a result, I don’t have that many photos of Florence, from this past trip at least.  It’s a city whose beauty speaks for itself, and whose bustling cobbled streets, ancient rugged stone walls, multiple church towers and tangible medievalism lends itself very easily to the camera, a fact which is proven by the few photos which I did take, collated together for this post.

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Here the golden pomposity of the Medici palaces is evident, as well as the proud riverside residences of the merchants who made the city great. The photos are peppered with the varying marble tones which decorate the most famous facades of the city’s churches, and demonstrate something of the scale of the grand urban planning which the ruling Medicis put in place when they designed the long airy galleries of the Uffizi and the broad sweeping shop-lined streets.

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Florence is a city which glows warmly in the summer and comes alive in the Spring. In the autumn it is a place of comfortable elegance. And as I was to discover on this past trip, at Christmas it was a city alive with the spirit and magic of the time. Florence truly is a gem for all seasons.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2011-2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Florence Nocturne

The inspirational capability of Florence is extreme. There is no doubting the city’s role in the rebirth of art in the western world and its transformation into the greatest proliferation of creativity seen since the age of antiquity. So there can be no surprise that it has inspired artists to paint, draw, sculpt and write ever since. I could paint the city endlessly. But time never stands to indulge me. I had time for just one small gouache, hastily designed on the train from Florence to Milan, but executed when time allowed me to reflect on the pastel shades and Renaissance brilliance of that impeccable city.

Florence Nocturne

Florence Nocturne (©2018, Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, gouache on paper)

My work, Florence Nocturne, is like a musical homage to a city lost in the dream-world of sleep but whose elegant topography remains unchanged by the twilight. It mirrors the city with simple lines – it was after all a city known for the relative austerity of its grandeur compared with the later embellishments of baroque Rome and romantically Gothic Venice, and its palette reflects the pink and green marble of the ornamental Duomo.

It captures the moment when the tourists have gone home and the city sleeps, but its pearly white facades remain aglow against the dark night sky. It is my poetic dedication to Florence, the city which inspired the greatest lights of Art, and which has continued to ensnare new generations of creatives ever since.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. For more information on the artwork of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, visit http://www.delacybrown.com 

Florence, Land of the Medici (Part 1): The Loggia dei Lanzi

I was in Florence in my imaginings, long before I set foot there on the eve of Christmas Eve. In the weeks preceding our trip, I had been variously transported to the great city of the Renaissance by Mary Hollingsworth, whose new revealing narrative of the Medici family enchanted me before I even turned to the first page. Charting the multiple highs and lows of a family who came to dominate the city of Florence and shape the very fabric of the city to their taste and fancy, the book reminded me that love them or hate them, without the Medici, Florence would never have become the gem which catapulted it to international fame and admiration.

So when I returned to Florence for Christmas, my first visit in over six years, I did so with a mind filled to the brim with tales of the Cosimos and the Lorenzos, of the audacious Grand Dukes and their self-made apotheosis. And in such a state, I could not help but notice their stamp wherever I turned in the city. Barely a metre would pass without their family crest of the 6 balls appearing like an apparition on every stone and surface of Florence. And in striving to fill my trip with some of the city’s greatest masterpieces of art, I was of course undertaking an inadvertent journey along the road of great Medici patronage which, most will agree, underpinned the birth of the Renaissance and promoted artistic excellence to new heights.

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No place quite smacks of Medici prowess as the Piazza della Signoria where our trip began. Not only does it play host to the Palazzo Vecchio, once Medici palace and seat of the Florentine government with its sturdy fortress-like walls ensuring all knew of the powerhouse within; it also contains some of the finest works of sculpture ever commissioned during the thriving Florentine Renaissance. Yes, there’s a copy of Michelangelo’s ravishing David (more about him another day), and a rather magnificent bronze statue of Cosimo I, mounted on a horse, but the very best works are contained within the Loggia del Lanzi, the great gallery of public proclamation and official ceremonies. Named after the Lansquenets guards posted there by Cosimo I de’ Medici, today it contains some of the most recognisable masterpieces of the Medici patronage (as well as a good number of ancient treasures collected by the family in Rome).

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You can spend a fortune on buying entry tickets for Florence’s many art museums, and a even greater amount of time in queuing, but spend an hour in the Loggia del Lanzi, and you will feast upon true treasure of art history and all for free. Thus we passed a wonderfully calm morning on Christmas Day, drinking in the drama, the emotion and the sheer artistic skill of these incredible works; of Pio Fedi’s ravishing but deeply traumatic Rape of Polyxena, and the equally dramatic, soaring masterpiece of Giambologna’s Rape of the Sabine Women; gazing at the sheer muscle and brawn of Hercules and the Centaur, and admiring the dexterity of antiquity as we enjoyed an equal number of early Roman lions and graceful Trajan women.

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Firenze is a city with much to offer. You could spend your time focusing on its famous gelaterias, its bustling leather markets or ambling from one glittering church to another. But one thing which you cannot fail to miss is the influence of the Medici. In many ways, their output will provide the visitor with the most enchanting treat of them all.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2011-2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Seeing Out Seventeen: NYE in Zürich

Happy New Year from The Daily Norm! I know, I’m five days late in wishing you these tidings, but what are 5 mere days when you have 360 left to enjoy? Plus, it has taken me as many days to recover my stride since touching down into normal-land after a grand tour of magnificent proportions, taking festive Florence, magnificent Milan, and the stunning Swiss city of Zürich in my stride. Of course there is much to share, and while I should be methodical about it, and take you straight into the bosom of Michelangelo’s prodigious David, back in Firenze where it all began, I am throwing chronology to the wind.

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I’m starting instead at the end, rewinding the clock just a few days to New Year’s Eve, to the wonderful city of Zürich. My reason for doing so is clear: Zürich is one of those places which is so idyllically Christmassy that it could appear on any Christmas card all covered in snow. Consequently, if I post my photos in three weeks time, Christmas will be as outmoded as turkey left overs, and that would do the city little favours. For as we discovered upon this first visit, Zürich is a gem of magnificent proportions. Far from being the glittering metropolitan of its banking-centre reputation, you will find a city with a true historical apotheosis at its heart: An old town emboldened with delicately gilded and modestly coppered greed spiked spires and oversized chiming clocks, characterised by twisting cobbled lanes and varnished wooden shop fronts which invite you to enter and bask in the glow of cosyness.

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It is a city which knows how to do Christmas, whose streets are strung with lights not just horizontally, but vertically too, so that the result is a total immersion in the magic of the season, almost like hypnotherapy into the world of the festive fairy. Meanwhile, it’s patisseries and grand cafes are an orgy of festive abundance, with light-strung, foliage-packed decor filling every last inch to create a true winter wonderland to engorge the senses.

Zürich is a place truly deserving of this voluptuous description, but for the rest, I’ll let the photos do the talking, from the pink rosy sunset over the magnificent Swiss lake on whose banks the city was born, to the light-strewn streets and picture-perfect chocolate shops. This post ends with the stunning 20 minute firework display which entranced the whole city who hung out on its bridges to see the sky aflame with colour. It was a truly spectacular way to see out 2017, and a privileged moment in which to get to know a fine European city.

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© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2011-2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.