Friday, August 27, 2010

Santa Maria Novella

This is the other place I mentioned at the start of the last entry.  It is a famous old church, with fresco cycles by Ghirlandaio, and his frescos are certainly more appealing to the modern eye than the older ones in most churches.  The thing is, to me, though they are interesting to look at, with marvelous detail and bright colors and all, I don't get much out of them.  Somehow I don't remember a lot of them after a few hours.  I guess that means they just aren't what I am after at this point.  The church is just a huge empty room, apparently not used for anything except charging tourists 3.5 Euros to look inside.  The first thing you see inside is the famous Trinity by Masaccio (1425-1427) that introduced perspective to Renaissance art.  If you stand in the right place, it really does look like another alcove is built into the wall with the subjects suspended in space in the middle.  It is the old style Trinity (the Academy has some going back to 1260 or so) with the Father standing above, the dove of the spirit just below (looking like a crooked white collar, maybe the spirit in this picture is really the inspiration of perspective?) and at chest level God is holding up the cross with Jesus hanging from it.  It is a supremely authoritarian God, who looks like he is showing off the crucifixion as a great accomplishment.  Which is to say, it is not the kind of religion I care for, myself.  And it is such a famous old fresco that it hasn't been restored at all, which means it is pretty faded.  I am working on getting used to faded and dark pictures, so that I can see what they are about rather than just their condition, and I am making progress, but I'm not there yet.

The perfume factory associated with Santa Maria Novella is more interesting to me, and free.  It started as a pharmacy, selling various perfumes and herbal concoctions to ward off the plague, which killed a third to half the population in 1348 and reappeared occasionally for another century or so.  Most impressive to me is a small room near the back, used as a library of books about herbs and perfumes.  The walls and ceiling are covered with old frescos.  The signs say no flash photography, so I rested my camera on some bookshelves and took some time exposures.  Look at this Resurrection

Also, while I am at it, I highly recommend the free program GNU Image Processor to fix up distorted and poorly exposed pictures.  The above picture was all rotated and distorted before I worked on it with GIMP2.

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