La Primavera del Rinascimento — The Springtime of the Renaissance

The Palazzo Strozzi is my favorite venue here for art exhibitions. The building itself is graceful by Fiorentino monument standards–delicate rustication of the exterior stones, a reasonably sized interior atrium, and well proportioned rooms used for display on the piano nobile. The exhibitions are always “smart”– well thought out and brilliantly curated. I am always happy to go there, and often it is the only exhibition I visit in the Centro.

La Primavera del Rinascimento is splendid–a documentation, primarily through sculpture, of the evolution from purely spiritual gothic art into the earliest experiments with humanistic imagery. Of course, the catalogue was impossibly heavy and expensive, so I did not get that, and there are never postcard reproductions of the pieces that interest me, so we have to be satisfied with photos I took of the brochure images.

Donatello and his mentor, Brunelleschi were well represented, as well as the Pisanos, especially Andrea. The rooms start with a lovely display of Roman statuary, the inspiration that was “reborn” in the Fourteenth century. How fascinating to see the pagan and Christian imagery side by side: Imperial postures repurposed as Condottieri and bankers; Eros portrayed as putto or angel; and Mary evolved from a Gothic symbol into a loving, caring mother. Bellissima!

We are treated to the competition panels for the Gates to Heaven by both Ghiberti and Brunelleschi. The overwhelming emotion portrayed in the Ghiberti “Sacrifice of Isaac” adds to its technical expertise (It was cast in one piece) and allows us to see why Ghiberti was the winner.

An interesting addition to the exhibition experience was a meditation on feeling. Posters offering testimony to personal sensory experience with all forms of artistic expressions were interspersed with the explanatory graphics. Here are some that especially resonated for me.

A sculptor commented that his connection to his work was through the earth, not the chisel. Clay was his medium, not the resulting bronze casting. He could feel with hi fingers in the clay that the form was correct before he could see it with his eyes.

A painter commented that even in two dimensional work, feeling is vital. The canvas must be silky smooth before starting to paint. The brush becomes an extension of the arm, hand, and fingers, feeling the strokes of color as they are applied.

How would you describe feeling a piece of music, a sculpture, or a painting?

Below: Duccio, Madonna col Bambino
Ghiberti, Sacrifice of Isaac
Donatello, Carafa Protome
Filippo Lippi, Madonna col Bambino
Andrea Pisano, La Scultura

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