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Posts tagged ‘Florence’

Florence, Land of the Medici (Part 2): Michelangelo’s David

It is one of the most famous icons in all the history of Art, and one of the world’s undisputed masterpieces of sculpture. Michelangelo’s David must have been reproduced more than any other statue across the globe: You’d be hard pushed to find a garden centre which didn’t contain a moss-covered replica, or an Italian souvernir shop which didn’t have a panoply of aprons focusing on David’s genitals, keyrings of the same, and your own personal desktop David in every size and colour variation. Yet despite it’s high visibility, nothing can prepare you for seeing the real thing. Nothing.

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I remember the moment of my first acquaintance with David when I studied art history in 2001. It was the day I was least looking forward to, since I thought David was too well-known and obvious to excite. But when I saw the original, the huge vast scale of it, the sheer perfection of his exquisitely sculpted flesh in marble, it made me cry. I stood before that masterpiece completely enraptured. And I have looked forward to making a second acquaintance ever since. Some 16 years passed before I could see David up close again, but as these photos show, he inspired me every bit as much on this second visit, and I took a long and happy pause to revel in every details of Michelangelo’s impossibly perfected magnum opus.

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Created between 1501 and 1504, David is the work not of an experienced sculptor at the height of his game, but of a junior Michelangelo in the early years of his career. Much nurtured by his patron, Lorenzo (the Magnificent) di Medici, Michelangelo enjoyed a swift rise to fame, but his talent was the true driver, something which was never so brilliantly exhibited as in the creation of this perfect nude. The work is yet more incredible when you consider that Michelangelo first had to sculpt around the previous abandoned attempts made by two other sculptors on the same block of marble. He also had to make the best of this mammoth hunk of stone which had suffered notable deterioration during the 26 years when it had lain abandoned in a sculptural workshop, exposed to the elements. But as Michelangelo always said, he did not create sculptures, but simply freed them from the marble. And with David, he gave liberty to the most perfectly formed being ever seen in the history of art.

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Of course David is not the only gem to be discovered in the Accademia Gallery where he can now be found. There reside a number of the unfinished Michelangelo’s sculptures commenced in anticipation of the great Pope Julius II tomb of which the sculptor’s famous Moses was also intended to be part. Likewise there is a room loaded full of plaster casts, all of which were used to give instructions to fellow scuptors who, like Michelangelo, would come to emerge from this indubitable city of the rebirth of Art. All of it makes a visit to the Accademia gallery a must, but book online to avoid the queues – it’s well worth the not waiting :-).

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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.

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.

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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.

ITALIA Season – Florence and San Gimignano: My photographs

I have no qualms in declaring that Italy was the making of me. When I embarked upon a Gap Year trip studying art history across the main focus points of artistic Italy in 2001, it opened my eyes to a realm of creativity that I had never before imagined could exist in such abundance. Growing up in Sussex, the limits of my art education had been trips to see recreated plastic Victorian seaside scenes in the local Worthing museum, and a Monet exhibition at the Royal Academy which, having been hyped up on TV, I dragged my parents up to London to see.

Italy changed all of that, and the city which really began my love affair with Italia was the city of Firenze. It is a city so richly overflowing with beautiful cobbled streets, consistently charming buildings, stunning architectural gems such as the Duomo and the Ponte Vecchio, and a wealth of artistic treasures, that it is hard not to become utterly seduced, not to mention that it sits at the centre of a vast plain of equally lovely Tuscan countryside.

When I returned to Florence some years later, my visit was brief, but the city had lost none of its charm. Staying only a few days, old sights were revisited as I tried to recreate those carefree days of 2001, trying to stumble upon those once-loved haunts while following my mental recollected map of the city (which did not always prove to be correct!). But my time in Florence was short, as the nearby city of San Gimignano beckoned, a city which is so complete in its preserved medieval heritage that UNESCO has ring-fenced the whole town and marked it with its rubber stamp of protective approval. No wonder the place was so overloaded with tourists.

In the mood of Italia Season here on The Daily Norm, I enclose some of my favourite shots from that trip. They’re not your typical photos of the cities, but small, detail shots of little items of life that amused or interested me. Enjoy!

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2012. 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. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Daily Sketch ITALIA – Norms in Florence

Next on the Italian tourist trail, the Norms have headed for Florence, for shopping in Milan was deemed inappropriate in the current economic climate. Taking inspiration from the significant artistic and architectural heritage of a city which was at the centre of the thriving artistic Renaissance, producing masterpieces such as Michelangelo’s David, the Giotto frescoes of Santa Croce, Botticelli’s Venus and the vast collections of the Medici tribe, this Norm has turned all artist, setting up his easel on the banks of the River Arno. From there he can enjoy a perfect view of the famous Ponte Vecchio, a street of merchants suspended across the river, and atop of which a secret corridor links the Palazzo Vecchio to the Palazzo Pitti – genius! Patiently, Artist Norm is recreating this magnificent view across the surface of his canvas, while a fellow tourist prefers the medium of photography to capture his impression of Florence, a city which is so beautiful, that it needed to be captured twice, reflected in double form in the waters which run peacefully through its centre.

Norms in Florence (2012 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen and ink on paper)

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2012. 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. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Daily Sketch – Birth of Venus

After the success of my wonderful Rachel Khoo inspired madeleines (and thank you so much Rachel for your kind compliment on twitter – the great chef herself has complimented the “perfect gold crisp crust” on my efforts, woo!!) I’ve been feeling all shell inspired. Not so inspired that I have redecked my city pad in shells and shabby-chic battered wood installations. No, my shell thoughts have been drifting further afield, to the long lofty corridors of Firenze’s ubiquitous Uffizi gallery, home to surely the most famous artistic depiction of a shell in all the world, not to mention the picture perfect Venus rising from it’s pearly-smooth contours. I am of course talking about Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, a work full of allegory, beauty, flowing locks and scattered rose petals. What more could you want on a Spring afternoon as you sit down with a cup of tea and a madeleine. And just in case you can’t make it all the way to Florence to see the original, why not gaze upon this Norm take of Botticelli’s masterpiece, breasts, flowing locks and all.

The Birth of Norm Venus (after Botticelli) (2012 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2005-2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.