Monday, October 11, 2010

Europe 2005

Part 5: Rome and Florence

In the summer of 2005 my parents and I spent two weeks traveling in Europe. I continue today with the special series of posts documenting our European adventure! (To start at the beginning of this series, click here.)

Above: St. Peter's Basilica - Vatican City, August 29, 2005.

Monday, August 29, 2005

I have to say that my initial impression of Rome was not a very good one. Overall it looks very shabby, with rubbish in the streets, graffiti on many building walls, prostitutes lining the roads, and even one guy taking a dump in the street! Political corruption has dogged Italy for years - and its effects, it would seem, are most clearly manifested here in Rome.

But then there is the city’s history - the ancient Roman ruins and the opulence of the Vatican. These aspects of the city were quite overwhelming. I’d like to spend a week or two here. As it was, we saw what we could in a singe day that ended up being quite exhausting.

One of my goals in Rome was to find a stature of Antinous (or An-tee-no, as Maria, our wonderful local guide, pronounced it!). He was the male lover of the Emperor Hadrian, and after his mysterious drowning in the Nile, Hadrian declared Antinous a god and built statues and shrines in his honor all over the empire.

Unfortunately, the wing of the Vatican Museum that houses a statue of Antinous was closed, while the National Museum of Archeology which, according to Maria, has the “most beautiful” statue of Antinous, is closed on Mondays!

Opening image and above: The Colosseum.

Above: The Italian city of Florence - Tuesday, August 30, 2005.

After Venice, Florence was my next favorite city that I visited during my 2005 tour of Europe. Indeed, I was quite enthralled by the beauty of this city - known as the “Jewel of the Renaissance.” Many famous works of art are housed in Florence, including Michelangelo’s “David,” which is housed there. The original is safely indoors and, upon entering to view it, visitors are told that photography is strictly prohibited. However, as you’ll see from the images below, at least two replicas of the famed statue can be seen (and photographed) in other parts of the city.

Above: The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, the cathedral church (Duomo) of Florence.

notes that the building was “begun in 1296 in the Gothic style to the design of Arnolfo di Cambio and completed structurally in 1436 with the dome engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi. The exterior of the basilica is faced with polychrome marble panels in various shades of green and pink bordered by white and has an elaborate 19th century Gothic Revival facade by Emilio De Fabris.”

Above: A replica of Michelangelo’s “David.”

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

I’ve paused in my wandering through the streets of Florence to enjoy a cool lemon soda at Caffé le Torri, a little streetside café.

One of the first places we visited upon our arrival was the gallery that houses Michelangelo’s incredible “David.” What a beautiful work of art it is. I’d never been that impressed or moved by photos of it, yet seeing it in the flesh, so to speak, is something altogether different. And in many ways, it is like seeing living human flesh – in all its detail and sensuality.

4:20 p.m.

I now I sit before the church that houses the bones of Michelangelo. I feel quite tired from walking around the old city and so am quite content to simply sit in the shade for a while, on the pavement still radiating the heat of the day. And it has been a hot day - as it was yesterday in Rome.

I’m on my tenth roll of film! I’ve tried to be sparing in what I photograph yet find it difficult to resist some really beautiful and interesting shots. Some views, however, have remained potential shots. I’m thinking of the many beautiful European men I’ve seen on the streets, in the hotels and cafés. Today, for instance, I observed a workman pausing in his labour beside his cement mixer. The man was posing naturally and beautifully - a rival to “David.” No, bettering David, for he truly breathes, moves, sweats.

As I've noted
previously, it seems Michelangelo would have shared my appreciation of and attraction to the male form. Notes Wikipedia:

Fundamental to Michelangelo’s art is his love of male beauty, which attracted him both aesthetically and emotionally. In part, this was an expression of the Renaissance idealization of masculinity. But in Michelangelo’s art there is clearly a sensual response to this aesthetic

The sculptor’s expressions of love have been characterized as both Neoplatoni and openly homoerotic; recent scholarship seeks an interpretation which respects both readings, yet is wary of drawing absolute conclusions.

. . . The greatest written expression of his love was given to Tommaso dei Cavalieri (c. 1509–1587), who was 23 years old when Michelangelo met him in 1532, at the age of 57. Cavalieri was open to the older man's affection: “I swear to return your love. Never have I loved a man more than I love you, never have I wished for a friendship more than I wish for yours.” Cavalieri remained devoted to Michelangelo till his death.

Michelangelo dedicated to him over three hundred sonnets and madrigals, constituting the largest sequence of poems composed by him. Some modern commentators assert that the relationship was merely a Platonic affection, even suggesting that Michelangelo was seeking a surrogate son. However, their homoerotic nature was recognized in his own time, so that a decorous veil was drawn across them by his grand nephew, Michelangelo the Younger, who published an edition of the poetry in 1623 with the gender of pronouns changed. John Addington Symonds, the early British homosexual activist, undid this change by translating the original sonnets into English and writing a two-volume biography, published in 1893.

The sonnets are the first large sequence of poems in any modern tongue addressed by one man to another, predating Shakespeare’s sonnets to his young friend by a good fifty years.

. . . It is impossible to know for certain whether Michelangelo had physical relationships (Ascanio Condivi ascribed to him a “monk-like chastity”), but through his poetry and visual art we may at least glimpse the arc of his imagination.

NEXT: Paris

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Europe 2005 - Part 1: London
Europe 2005 - Part 2: Bruges and Brussels
Europe 2005 - Part 3: Germany and Austria
Europe 2005 - Part 4: Ah, Venezia!

See also:
Michelangelo: Gifted Artist, Lover of Beauty and Secret Reformer of the Church

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