Jewelry Making Demonstration in Florence

Jewelry_demonstrationBy far one of my favorite activities we enjoy during the summer is a visit to the gorgeous studio of Paolo Penko, a goldsmith in Florence. Paolo still uses the old Renaissance techniques and is inspired by traditional Renaissance designs – some drawn directly from famous works of Renaissance art. Along with jewels in gold and religious icons worked in silver, he also knows a thing or two about making the famous florin (florino d’oro), Florence’s original currency, a gold coin first struck in 1252. Paolo introduces us to the tools, the trade, and the tradition while immersed in the beautiful works of art found in every imaginable corner of his gorgeous studio.Artist_desk Continue reading…

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Art in Florence: Top Twenty Artworks to See Before You Leave

ART_IN_FLORENCEAs adamant fans of the art in Florence, it often breaks our hearts to hear that travelers to this fair city miss out on some of Florence’s renowned works. Of course there are many reasons to visit this multi-faceted town, but one of the main motivations has always been to see Florence’s breathtaking painting, sculpture, and architecture. According to UNESCO (although it may be a somewhat Western centric view), 60% of the world’s most important works of art are located in Italy and approximately half of these are in Florence.
 
Art_of_florenceEveryday we see tourists herded into the Uffizi and Accademia as if they are the only two museums in Florence and countless more make the mistake of thinking that because there is no line outside the many other museums and churches, that there is nothing to see inside. On the contrary, there are many places in Florence that are full of masterpieces and (relatively speaking) empty of tourists. In response to this trend, we’ve made this list of the art in Florence that (we believe) everyone should see before they leave (in truth, the list is WAY longer than this. We had to narrow it down. And then narrow again); some works will be familiar, while others, I guarantee, will be completely new.
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Photo of the Week: Michelangelo’s Love-Hate Relationship with Fresco Painting

Photo of the Week: Michelangelo’s Love-Hate Relationship with Fresco Painting

There are so many things in Italy that cannot be captured on film, in a picture, a book, by a poem, ode or interpretative dance. The Sistine Ceiling is one of them. Well, let’s be honest, it’s the one. The number of oversized books and posters with endless reproductions and diagrams dedicated to this one space still cannot even begin to communicate the feeling you experience when you’re physically standing in that room looking up at Michelangelo’s love-hate relationship with fresco painting. Many others, who worked their entire lives on painting (and did nothing else), didn’t come anywhere close to this masterpiece. Not even compared to the ceiling closest to the entrance wall of the chapel, where Mich is still figuring things out and is, perhaps, a hair short of his normal state of perfection.
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Leonardo Lost: Seek and Ye Shall Find

This is hands-down one of my favorite stories. I mean it has it all: mystery, Renaissance celebrities, top-secret government sting operations, and a little Dan Brown-esque art history (that is actually FACTUAL). Also, for us at Select Study Abroad, it is particularly close to home. Not only is Leonardo da Vinci our BFF and not only do we personally take students to the scene of the “crime,” but our very own professor, Rab Hatfield, was involved, wrote a book on the subject, and gave us the opportunity of meeting (on several occasions) the man behind the mystery (No, not Leonardo! Read on!).

So the story goes like this:

There was this little thing called the Florentine Republic. It had a tough time over the years (those darn Medici are so troublesome), but at the very end of the 15th century it had been reinstated and things were looking good. Now, if you are a little republic in the Renaissance looking to flex your new governmental muscles there a couple things you can do. One of them just happens to be harnessing the artistic power of some of the most coveted and respected artists of the day to do your bidding. Lucky, for this little republic, they just happened to have access to two of the most significant artists available: Leonardo da Vinci (technically he is from Vinci, but whatevs) and Michelangelo. You know…no big deal.

So, you take these two BIG names and you give them a BIG project: decorate the massive walls of the Sala del Gran Consiglio (also known as the Sala dei Cinquecento) in the Palazzo Vecchio (the government building in Florence). In 1503, Leonardo was commissioned to fresco the “Battle of Anghiari” (a battle famously won by the Florentines) on one of the long walls of the rectangular Sala. He had finished his preliminary drawing (called a cartoon) and had begun painting it by 1505. In typical Leo fashion, however, he used a very experimental technique and before the brushes were dry the wall was already having problems. Continue reading…

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Michelangelo’s David: More Than Meets The Eye

As someone who lived in Florence for a number of years and lead countless students, tours, friends, and family to see Michelangelo’s David, I have been asked a variety of questions regarding this famous statue. Did Michelangelo model him after the real David? What was David’s last name? Why is his…ahem, you-know-what, so small? Why does he have a mullet? And, finally, the question that forever changed how I thought about the David…What makes him so important and special? The context surrounding this question, posed to me by a 16 year-old student on a study abroad program I was working for, may help set the scene.
It was a scorching day in the middle of July and it was my first time visiting the Accademia with a group of students…60 or so. Between the blazing heat, suffocating humidity, disgruntled teenagers, throngs of anxious tourists, and a “reservation line” that wrapped around the building, the experience was less than ideal to say the least.

The line at the Accademia can be scary.


As we were making our way through the entrance, Olivia – the sweet 16 year-old girl with a heart of gold and zero interest in art history – came to me with her question…What makes the David so special, so important? She quickly told me that she meant no disrespect and genuinely wanted to know why. I took a moment to look around and take in the hundreds and hundreds of people – tired and sweaty, yet eagerly waiting their turn to finally see Michelangelo’s famed David and knew it was a fair question to ask. So, I did my best to explain to her why I thought the David was special enough and important enough for countless visitors from around the world to include “him” on their must-see list while in Italy. I mean…the David is arguably the most famous statue by the most famous artist in the world and many people do not even know why. Well, without further adieu, here are just few of the countless reasons why… Continue reading…

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