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15
May 18

We’re in Tuscany — at the Galleria Degli Uffizi

And today that means Florence, Firenzie. We started at the Galleria Degli Uffizi. It was a walking tour. We met our guide, who told us some jokes and trivia about the Medici as we waited to get into the museum. The Uffizi is in a 16th century palace turned administrative center (Uffizi means “offices”) turned museum, and one of the most popular and important in Italy.

The last of the ruling Medici family gave the art to the city, and the Uffizi became one of the first modern museums. It officially opened in 1765, making it one of the early modern museums in the world. Think of that. This has been a museum longer than the U.S. has been a country. It’s always nice to get a dose of perspective and history. And this place has plenty of both. There are 101 rooms here, and even still parts of the collection have to displayed in other venues for space.

The guided tour took hours off of wait, so for that alone it was worth it, but we saw some incredible works. These were just a few of the things we saw:

This thing is only 2,050 years old or so. (Scholars compare the statue to impressions on coins to date this to around 30 B.C.) You can see the changes around the eyes and mouth, and cleaning has removed some of the facial details. That’s a reworked statue of a young Prima Porta Augustus. That’s the head, but the experts would tell you the body is certainly a few decades younger than the head. Such is this museum that this all barely gets a mention, but he seems to be telling us to slow down, take a moment. This is fitting.

I like reliefs. And these pillars tell the story of military victories.

This statue of the god, Apollo, is one of at least four or five in the museum. This particular one is a second century piece, later restored by Giovan Battista Pieratti in the first half of the 17th century. Pieratti was both a sculptor and an architect. But a person that had one of those roles often had both.

And this dog was also a second century work. Something a little more lasting than Instagram, perhaps:

The signage, I believe, says the myth here is that this was the sarcophagus used for Hippolytus of Rome, a very important theologian of the ancient Christian Church:

So important was he that there are many legends surrounding him — and how often do you say that about a writer and religious scholar? Maybe his biggest influence has to do with time. He wrote the story of the world, spanning from creation (about 5500 B.C., based on the Septuagint) to the year 234. Pretty much all of the chronographical works that came after leaned on his work. He had a falling out with powerful Roman leaders and died in exile in Sardinia. And somehow this sarcophagus got attached to his story. But that the sign says it is a myth …

Here’s some of the detail on the side:

The boar is very important locally, but you could just study the faces for a good long while, couldn’t you?

This is Madonna and Child Enthroned with Angels by Duccio di Buoninsegna. It is the largest known painted panel from the 13th century. We learned all about the painting process during our visit. Seems you just didn’t go down to the store and pick up the new pigments. They were resourceful, the old painters, and getting ready to paint sounds as time-consuming as the art itself:

Giotto di Bondone created this from 1306 to 1310. The Madonna with child and angels motif is a common one, but this one was influential. How Bondone handled the space influenced artists for the next hundred years. See the angels holding flowers in the bottom foreground?

That’s apparently the oldest still life.

This took 10 years of a master’s effort. And such an artist was Cimabue that he was willing to break from his Byzantine tapestry style and adapt to the work of younger painters. It’s all about the proportions:

Apparently the scrolls have to do with Christ’s incarnation and the virgin, Mary.

Tommaso di Ser Giovanni di Mone Cassai was one of the first Renaissance painters and this 1425 work of Jesus, Mary and Mary’s mother, Anne, is thought to be one of his works.

This is really cool. The Battle of San Romano, by Paolo Uccello, is one of the paintings that changed everything:

It is one of three paintings commissioned to depict the Florentines’ military victory over the nearby Sienese near Pisa in 1432. (Both sides claim the win.) The war itself marginalized the political heft of the Tuscany region, and reshaped Italian politics for generations. And look at how the sizes of the bodies change in that painting above. That’s perspective, and this is one of the first mathematical demonstrations of that in art.

No one knows what this Sandro Botticelli painting is supposed to mean, but it isn’t for lack of trying:

The painting, which has themes of love, peace and prosperity has at least 138 plant species meticulously included in it. It is one of his most discussed, and most controversial, works.

The sign on this one says “two angels move the canopy curtains back to allow the faithful to see the Virgin and the Christ Child while another two angels show Jesus the nails and the crown of thorns of His Passion.”

This is definitely how I’m going to redecorate our house next time:

Just look at that ceiling:

I am standing next to greatness. This is the only panel that Michelangelo painted. The Doni Tondo features the Holy Family has a Hellenistic feel to it, doesn’t it?

That’s St. John the Baptist looking on from behind the wall, the males in the background are painted to look like statues. The painting was created in 1507 and the Medici family bought it before the century was out. The frame itself is a work of art, and it is thought that that was designed by Michelangelo, too.

By Zeus’ head! That’s Zeus’ head!

This is thought to be a 2nd century piece and was restored by Innocenzo Spinazzi in the 18th century. Spinazzi was originally hired by Grand Duke Leopold (you might remember his later name, Emperor Leopold II) to work on restoring classic works. Overtime he became a professor and the best sculptor in Florence.

Here’s a 2nd century rendition of the mighty Hercules:

And even as a 2nd century piece, this is a copy. The original was a 4th century B.C. thought to be from a sculptor named Lysippos. Behind his back Hercules is holding the fabled apples from the Garden of Hesperides. Lysippos was one of the three great sculptors of the Classical Greek era, and helped bring about the Hellenistic period. He was also Alexander the Great’s personal sculptor. In fact, just a few years ago a bronze bust believed to be Alexander was discovered/recovered from thieves. It is believed to be a Lysippos original, which is … what’s the term for “beyond exceedingly rare”? It would be the first.

Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, you may know him as simply Raphael, painted Madonna of the Goldfinch. It was painted as a wedding gift for a prominent merchant in 1505. If you look closely you can see damage to some of the wood:

There was a landslide in 1547 and the art was destroyed. But then it was rebuilt by Raphael’s friend, Ridolfo del Ghirlandaio, a prominent painters of altarpieces, frescoes, and portraits. The Medicis got it in the 17th century, and it has been on display for most of the time sense. It was most recently restored in 2010.

Styles of art have to intersect somewhere. This altarpiece, a 1500 example of Il Garofalo’s work, is one such work. It has to do with the soft lines and the bright colors:

It’s titled Madonna and Child Enthroned with St. Martin and St. Rosalia.

This is The Virgin in Adoration of the Child:

It’s a 16th century oil on canvas work from Antonio Allegri, or Correggio. The frame is a 17th century piece.

And this is Madonna of the Long Neck, for obvious reasons:

It is oil on wood, and was left incomplete, the 1540 painting was taken by the French after Napoleon came through in 1799. it was returned in 1815 and has been at the Uffizi since just after World War II. It was restored in the 1990s.

I got jostled about for this one. While we have seen so many magnificent works from globally renowned masters, everyone knows this name, so there was a crowd, a jostling crowd. But when you’re standing a foot away from a Leonardo da Vinci …

The Baptism of Christ is dated from 1470 to 1475. And if the dates are right and the scholars are right, da Vinci did his work on this in his late teens and early 20s. Researchers believe parts of the landscape, the representation of Jesus and the angel in profile are da Vinci’s work. Andrea del Verrocchio was his mentor, and this is maybe his technically his work. But the student oftentimes surpasses the teacher.


14
May 18

Where are we?

This guy just sits up there all day and keeps time. Him, a roller and a lonely squeegee. I wonder how long it took to create that. At least an hour, right? And when does that guy gets a break, who keeps things on schedule up there?

This particular art is in the Amsterdam airport:

Oh, by the way, we’re traveling. And Amsterdam was a layover, but also your first hint. We left Indianapolis this evening — it was supposed to be this afternoon, but that flight got canceled for whatever reason. So, instead of going through Detroit, we went through Minneapolis:

We saw cool clouds. I sent a picture of this to one of my former students:

He said that’s a virga cloud, which produces rain, as we see here, but the dry air evaporates it before the rain gets to the ground. He said that is what often creates the classic wispy look in clouds.

Anyway, our flight cancellation meant we got an upgrade. So we had those nice first class seats that all but turn into beds. This became a red eye, but I can’t sleep on planes. So I watch movies. Only this time the inflight selections were, I felt, somewhat lacking. I did watch Darkest Hour:

I fell asleep in the last few minutes, just before Gary Oldman’s big speech before Parliament. But I woke up in time to have breakfast, or lunch, or who knows, and watched the end of the movie. And then we landed in Amsterdam. And then another flight. And a car rental, and a brief drive and checking in and then dinner. Oh, finally food and sleep.

Where are we?

Here’s your second hint:

We didn’t have calzones, because the regional food here is bistecca fiorentina. (That’s your third hint.) Our host recommended a place, we went there, and had the bistecca fiorentina. And that was a delicious steak.

And now, the jet lag. Tomorrow we’ll figure out where we are.


4
May 18

Strategic planning

There is no parking here. This makes sense in a parking lot adjacent to campus on the day before graduation. This isn’t the biggest lot, and it is filled with faculty and staff. But if you block the bulk of it off those people have to of course go elsewhere with their cars for the day and that’s going to be an imposition on others.

It isn’t a problem for me. I typically park in a deck behind all of this. But it is amusing. I’m sure someone had a reason for this and it will become obvious soon.

At the end of the work day the barriers have been reconfigured. (I wonder, too, what was behind that move.) It gave a few spaces back, but for the full day these spots were removed from service for some reason:

I’m sure someone had a good reason for this.

Tonight we are trying a new side-head grip for her face cuddling.
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She loves having her head held. It’s not a squeeze or anything, and no one makes her do this. In fact she’ll work her little face into your hand if you leave it still long enough. I’ve looked this up, and it seems she might be trying to make me smell like her. Guess I’m the wrong kind of smelly.

Cat noses, what are you going to do?

We had some fine company recently, and our company brought us gifts and Allie got gifts, too.

They’re going over very well, as you can tell. Any toy that gets in her box is a sure hit.

OK. The blog is taking off next week, I think. But there will be a lot, a lot, of cool stuff in the few weeks after that. So do mark your calendars. And, in the meantime, you can find more on Twitter and check me out on Instagram as well.


2
May 18

What’s your super power?

I think we all have super powers. They vary, and some are more useful than others. I have two super powers. One has no practical benefit. The other is that I can always determine the right container for leftovers. It’s a small thing, this super power, but it’s useful.

But it occurs to me that a great super power would be able to see, in the smallest moment that this little moment is special.

I don’t have that one. I’d like it, but instead I just look back on a moment many hours later and realize there was a sweet little perfection today.

The Yankee and I went out for lunch. We walked down two blocks to the local fast food fake burrito shop and then we walked back up toward our building on campus. Just across the street we stopped at that flowerbed and I took a few pictures and a little sliver of video and this was a delightful moment to be with someone important. I’d like to be able to more often realize that sort of thing during, rather than after.

Everybody has one, or two or more. Everyone should have that one, I think. What’s your super power?


30
Apr 18

What I did at work on Saturday

We are going to finally, officially say it:

Spring is here, at last:

It was late, but is not here to last. We’ll probably move directly into summer in a week or two. But for the moment, you revel in it. This is what I was doing on Saturday. Outside, dancing between the daylight and the shade, enjoying the breeze and the temperature and my sunglasses and the sun, waiting on a donor to show up to our building on campus.

A gentleman wanted to give something to the Media School. It fell to me to help get the thing in the building. The gentleman chose Saturday, so there we were. And he was on his way, late, but on his way.

He hopes out of his SUV, his two middle school children and a film student, and they all start offloading chunks of cast iron. I knew what it was, or what it would be again when he had it indoors and reassembled, but in its constituent parts it didn’t look like much. And then you started looking at details. It’s an old car:

It has great tags, and easy-to-use controls:

The thing still worked, the donor said.

And this particular tag gave you the timeline. This is from about 1937. Still in working conditioning. Mechanically mint.

It was all made in the US. The East Coast and the Midwest. Do you know what it is yet?

The only problems are a few scratches on the finish, like this one:

And some peeling 80-year-old paint:

It has a glass piece on top, still original, still pristine:

And if you’re still trying to figure it out, this piece should look a bit familiar:

Here’s the top part, beneath is the big heavy cast iron setup:

And here’s the full machine:

This is a movie projector.
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It was donated by a locally-based actor, James Lee Guy, who is very successful in Chinese cinema. He donated it to The Media School because he is a passionate, passionate film fan. He’s owned it for several years, having picked it up from a man who was running a private screening room in his home a few towns away. Before that this had been in a drive-in theater. Guy estimates it was made in about 1937. It still works and now is a fine display piece.
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A most generous donation, indeed.