Italy Impressions #4: Two dudes, a virgin, and a kid.

4/4/13 ...and buns of solid marble.

There are no photographs allowed in the Galleria Dell' Accademia, but you've all seen the David. I think that was my "I am actually in Italy" moment. I've seen the David in so many films and photographs, that when I walked into the gallery, I had to blink.

His hands are actually very large.The veins on his hands are so lifelike I expected him to twitch.  He's not sinuous, but the muscle definition is warm, strong and relaxed. His feet are also very large.

These are my only bodily observations.

As for other observations, Italy touts them with vigor and humor.

IMG_1912(David DongSML)

IMG_1912(David DongSML)

So the pieces which grabbed my interest were actually the paintings. The way I deal with sensory overload is to zoom in on very small details,and slowly expand my focus, so in the David room, I zeroed in on details . The walls leading up to the David were full of fascinating renaissance  pieces, all dealing with religious subject matter of course, mostly surrounding the Virgin Mary. The Annunciation (The moment the angel comes to hip Mary to her super sacred pregnancy)  is a very popularly depicted scene...for hundreds of years...which was news to me, not having studied these things. I should not have been surprised at how many pieces throughout the centuries are recreations of the same scenes over and over again - I mean, most modern churches have the exact same story-pictures on display, over and over again, so I guess the tradition holds firm.

However, one  depiction stood out to me in particular, Francesco Granacci's Madonna and Child.

IMG_3568(me thinkingSML)

IMG_3568(me thinkingSML)

Here is as picture of me considering this picture, since taking a picture of the picture was not allowed.

A couple of things to preface. In many of the Madonna and child paintings you come across, from the Renaissance and from further back, you see the same stage plot:  Madonna and child in a throne, flanked on the right and left (one level below) by John the Baptist and St. Francis. St. Francis is generally pretty obvious in a brown robe, with a monk's bald spot in the middle, (sometimes the painter adds his stigmata). John is usually dressed in red, often looking sort of bedraggled, like...a wandering baptist...the type who could totally come across a young Jewish guy with big ideas, and y'know. If you don't know, ask a friend. (Hint: the History channel just did a show on this. I think there may be a spin-off book.)

Other details of this typical scene include the dual staffs of the saints: John holding a long staff with a cross on top, Saint Francis holding another type of long scepter. The placement of the staffs is also a theme, many times they form a "v" shape beneath the throne of the virgin. In the more recent paintings (using that term loosely here), John often looks more regal, and sometimes holds a Pope's scepter, while St.Francis stays largely unchanged.

The thing that got me about Granacci's piece was initially the placement of the scepters. The lines of the scepters do indeed form a 'v' beneath the Virgin's throne, but the 'v ' is not central. St.Francis' staff  is at a proper angle to the mid point, but the other Saint's staff pushes the 'v' shape off center, crossing in front of a papel headpiece on the ground (I don't know the proper name for this sartorial wonder.) Also, the sightlines of the characters in the piece are all very specific. There are four cherubs, two to the  upper right and two to the upper left of the Virgin. The upper arches of the outer wings, of the inner cherubs (stay with me now) are equidistant from each other, and also from the edges of the painting. This suggests a deliberate geometry,  which points up the actual middle of the painting, and furthers the strangeness of the off-center 'v.' One more odd thing. Most of the cherubs are looking off to the left (viewer's point of view) the Virgin is looking down to her right at St.Francis, St.Francis is in profile, looking directly across at the other saint....who is looking right at the viewer. The guy who is responsible for throwing off the geometry, is looking at you.

Oh and one more thing, it's not John the Baptist, it's someone named St.Zenobius, who is dressed in the iconic garb of St. John. Later I found out that Saint Zenobius was considered the first bishop of Florence, so this is a local reference.

Well, that set off my "ancient Christian iconography x-files alarm" for the time being! Hope you didn't just die of boredom. I could stew on that all day. And I did.

Photography is not allowed in the Academia, so in case you are unfamiliar with the work, I submit my rendering of Granacci's "Madonna and Child" from memory. Enjoy.

art adap 1

art adap 1

Raya Yarbrough

Singer, Composer, writer of absurd stories about LA, chanteuse on Outlander, BSG, DaVinci's Demons, & I used to date Dick Grayson.