"I painted, and my painting was equal to truth;
I gave my figures poses, animation, motion
And emotion. Buonarroti taught all the others
And learned from me alone."
--Annibale Caro, epitaph for Masaccio
found in Giorigio Vasari's "The Lives of the Artists"
Most people reading my blog know that I went to go paint in Italy last July. It was such a rich, intense experience, that it has been taking me a long time to process it. I've been doing it in stages (see: Story of My Trip to Italy: Part 1 and Part 2. Now, in Part 3, I will tell you about my first visit to Florence, which was a field trip with the other artists in the JSS program in Civita. First, I got off the bus and immediately found an amazing gelateria. Gelato is like ice cream, but better. Melone was my favorite flavor!
After wandering a bit through the streets on my own, I met up with my roommate Kristen at the Brancacci Chapel. This chapel is in the Santa Maria del Carmine church, sort of on the outskirts of my tourist map of Florence. We spent a couple hours there (Kristen stayed even longer!) and I had a very intense experience looking at Masaccio's frescoes, especially the "Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Eden" (1424-27). Looking at the despair on their faces brought me to tears. (So I guess I'll need to update this old blog post: The Only Painting that Has Ever Made Me Cry.)
I did a little pencil sketch of The Expulsion (below).
my diary in Italy, July 14, 2017...
Today I went to the Capella Brancacci in Firenze, and saw "The Expulsion from the Garden of Eden." I cried. Kristen, my wonderful roommate, who was sitting and sketching beside me, held my hand. I confessed everything to her [things in my personal life causing me anguish.] She comforted me; I felt better afterwards. Later, I went to buy a postcard of "The Expulsion." The man who sold postcards in the foyer must have guessed my sorrow. We had a meaningful talk in Italian (can you believe I can do that!?) about the two Adam and Eve paintings, the one that had touched me so emotionally (Masaccio's) and also the other one by Masolino, which faced it across the chapel. The man selling postcards told me that Masolino's painting was more hopeful, because it caught the moment before the couple had sinned, before it was too late, and therefore there was tranquility and beauty in the image. He really wanted me understand this: he gave me the Masolino postcard for free, as a gift. How did he know I was sad? How did he know I needed that?
In the early fifteenth century, when they were commissioned to create frescoes for the chapel, Massolino was forty, and Masaccio was only twenty-two. I wonder if Masaccio's art is more emotionally raw because he was so young? Perhaps Masolino, in his maturity, had come to value equanimity and peace of mind over the passions and emotions of youth? We will never know what sort of work Masaccio might have created later in life. Unfortunately, he died at the young age of 26; some rumors suggest he was poisoned...
Anyway, my experience at the Brancacci Chapel really stuck with me. When I returned home from Italy, I made these two still life paintings as a response.
Now, back to Florence... So, I left Kristen at the Brancacci chapel and found a cute little restaurant where I had this amazing lunch of spaghetti bolognese and prosecco. Mmmmmmm.
I spent the rest of the afternoon wandering in the famous Boboli gardens. I was so full of good pasta, and the sun was so hot, that I found a nice quiet place in the shade under the trees and I took a nap!
Below...more photographs from the dreamy Boboli Gardens.
I climbed to the top of the gardens and looked down at the rooftops of Florence:
Finally, I realized it was getting late and I didn't want to miss the bus back to Civita. I hurried out of the gardens and down the street, running into my artist friend Christina on the way. Together, we stopped for one final gelato indulgence before we said farewell to Florence!
Epilogue: It wasn't my last visit to Florence! I returned alone, at the end of my art residency, to spend a few magical days in that beautiful city. I will write about that adventure in a future blog post! I promise.