When we entered the square and looked up to see the looming tower of the Palazzo Vecchio, Lucy immediately said “I want to go home”. So I stared at it for a while, this infinitely-recognizable symbol of Florence, and realized… she’s right, man. That is one scary tower. Something about the squareness, the turret keep that actually gets larger at the top, engenders more dread than fancy.
The amazing thing about the Uffizi Gallery in Florence – besides, of course, seeing the births of both Venus and Spring – is the way talent itself unfolds before you. You start out in the proto-Renaissance rooms with the tilted Medieval heads, and as you work your way through the 1200s and the 1300s, you see artists collectively getting more brilliant.
Somebody figures out how the mystery of lighting, and everyone else follows suit. Somebody is amazing at depth perception, and all the other artists learn the trick. Not to be crass and a dude, but it’s like basketball: Naismith invents the game, but it takes decades for people to figure out how to make it amazing.
Turn the corner into the Renaissance, and someone jumps out at you as arrestingly special: Botticelli (Dr. J) and then Raphael (Larry Bird). Then you notice an artist has figured out how to make people undeniably human and full of pathos – look at the placard, and you see it’s a teenage Leonardo da Vinci (Michael Jordan).
My daughter, for her part, always gravitates towards whatever has the highest emotional Geiger counter; in this case, it was the Death of Jesus, showing him post-crucifixion in the arms of Mary Magdalene, with blood seeping from the usual places (had to sneak the photo – any art historians know the painting?). She and Tessa discussed the image for the better part of 15 minutes before I talked her into seeing the Madonna of the Goldfinch. ‘Cuz we like goldfinches. Almost as much as gelato alla fragola.