Sunday, March 25, 2012

My Favorite Artworks at Museo di San Marco, Firenze

The most unique venue in Florence, Italy was Museo di San Marco, which located in the Convent of San Marco, an austere yet luminous presence in the colorful city of Firenze (Florence).

This Dominican convent had an ancient history and had its most infamous resident, Fra Girolamo Savonarola, a Dominican friar and proto Taliban who galvanized the citizens of Florence by his eloquent preaching on morality and then terrorized them when he pushed further into absolutism.  This museum hosted both his profile portrait by the great Fra Bartolomeo (see below) and the painting of his execution - Execution of Savonarola on the Piazza della Signoria 1498, attributed to Francesco Rosselli.

Its other residents included the famous painter known as Fra Angelico , who had left many wonderful frescoes in the cells of this convent, and even Cosimo Medici had a cell built for himself, where he could stay sometimes.

I was very taken by the simplicity of many Fra Angelico's frescoes on the life cycle of Jesus - austere, cool, meditative and becalming but the most impressive impression made on me was his slightly more colorful one - Annunciation.  The surprised Mary was all humility.  Her deep blue robe formed a solid foundation for for and also framed her and the angel Gabriel, whose fantastic multiple-colored wings, echoing Mary's dress, serving as the other end of framing devices.  The main portion of Gabriel and Mary were in pale pink or cream colors, weightless, emitting lights from within.  The setting, simple yet elegant arched loggia, and a classical style garden, was like the depiction of the Convent of San Marco.  The lines of Fra Angelico were precise and delicate.  His figures and facial features were equally characterized and very beautiful to behold - in a remote, otherworldly way.  We were there to witness a great legend, behind a slightly blurring gauze.

Fresco, 230 x 321 cm
Fra Angelico

My second favorite was a most unusual portrait - the profile portrait of the said Fra Savonarola.  His head, largely hooded under dark cowl, except for his sharp eyes, beaked nose and pursed mouth, with a startling determination and authority.  The contrast between light and dark was so strong that it took a strong heart to look at his portrait closely.  Fra Bartolomeo clearly grasped the fanaticism of this unique, notorious figure.

Fra' Bartolomeo: Ritratto di Girolamo Savonarola
Ritratto di Girolamo Savonarola (Portraitof Girolamo Savonarola),
Fra Bartolomeo, c. 1498.
46.5 x 32.5 cm.

My Favorite Museum Collection Series

>> My Favorite Museum Collection Series 22: My Favorite Sculptures at Loggia dei Lanzi (Loggia della Signoria), Firenze
<< My Favorite Museum Collection Series 20:  Vasari Frescoes and Michelangeo Sculpture - My Favorite Works at Palazzo Vecchio, Firenze

List of My Favorite Artworks in the Museums I've Visited

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