Aug 25, 2012

Firenze - Falling in Love

There's a special feeling I get when I see an outstanding work of art. It's a tingle in my gut that falls somewhere between sensuality, submission, and joy. I get it when I see one of Pollock's drip paintings. I get it when I see Demoiselles D'Avignon. And I've gotten it twice here in Florence. 

The first was with Botticeili's "The Birth of Venus". It was painted in 1484 and I can't help but wonder why his contemporaries didn't just throw in their paint brushes when they saw it. His painting skill and choice of characters, their interaction with one another, the balance between them, even the elegance of the setting are all pitch perfect. What gives me that tingle though is the look on Venus' face, a look that she's directing right at me. Many of Botticelli's artistic contemporaries have their subjects staring into space or at the other characters in the scene. Not Venus. Her glance makes this painting come alive. And what a glance!  It's at once innocent  vulnerability and sensual flourish, complemented by a demure gesture of modesty. Her gaze captures all that I love about youthful femininity—blooming sensuality, a newly found elegance, innocence, vulnerability. In other words, human poetry. 

As many of my six readers know, I'm a big fan of Frank Lloyd Wright. I get a similar tingly feeling everything I visit Fallingwater. The mark of brilliance in any of the arts, including architecture, is the ability to simultaneously present two opposites in complement of one another.  Wright's genius with Fallingwater was in creating a tranquil dwelling above a natural hazard, and incorporating the sounds, sights and even access to that hazard as an integral part of a building typically associated with safety and refuge.

In the same way, Botticelli manages to portray a Venus who you want to both protect and ravage, with her as eager party to either.

August is not the best time to visit Florence. Tourists like locusts,100° heat, $5 gelato and most shops closed for vacation. Seeing this one painting makes it all worthwhile.

1 comment:

Lucy said...

The Birth of Venus, grown woman being born of the sea is by far one of my favorites. I saw the real thing many years ago at MOMA in NYC and wrote a college paper on it.

My first impression was, wow--what an incredible work of art!! It's size alone made an impact on me; the colors, depth, etc. I agree with the blog author--I felt as though she jumped out at me--as if she was really there. Her presence almost alive...