There’s a chapel in the Palazzo Vecchio, Vasari’s OTT Kunsthalle, that houses a fresco by Bronzino, and it’s an absolute stunner. Photographs do not do the thing justice. The room was too dark to photograph, and the stuff online looks blank and dull in comparison to the real thing. The colors are sharp, crystalline. They jump off the wall like neon. Bronzino mastered Michele’s drawing style, and he’s packed the image with well-known precedents. The composition “feels” Postmodern, one thing over another, one quote after another, a billboard collaged on a loose theme. The truth is Mannerism and Postmodernism have a lot in common – too much strong culture to overcome, too many indelible images, too much undigested innovation and nothing new to express – latecomers to the game, so to speak. Basically, what artists do in these times is make embellishments, though sometimes they can be grand ones. Clem called this Alexandrian culture. But that Bronzino fresco and his particular embellishment of a lot of known precedent, is an absolute knockout.
Over the river is the Palazzo Pitti, and it is filled with STUFF! It’s like a Renaissance Costco that we are not members of, filled with merchandise that none of us could afford. The ugly lump of bricks has all the charm and humility of a ‘roided out WWE wrestler. Inside, though, are a number of well regarded old masterworks – a very charming portrait by Raphael of a lovely young woman, a couple of grand Titians, a great small copy of a Carracci that I would have stolen in a heartbeat if that guard hadn’t woken at the wrong time, and a lot of well done works by a lot of well known names. But for me all the endless imagery of violence, death and suffering is totally depressing. Maybe because I’m older and over it, I’m finding it hard to be around these kinds of images for any length of time. I’m looking for something life affirming, and I could care less about the “triumph in sacrifice”. That and the fact that so many of these paintings are just drowning in darkness – for absolutely no good reason, whatsoever. I do like and understand the need for dark theatricality, but many things in life, both good and bad, did and do happen in the pure light of day.
OK. I was determined not to look again. I knew it was coming. I’d seen it many years before, and it bothered me then. But it’s like a car wreck. You just can’t NOT look. I did. And I’m still cringing at that horrid image of the poor, half naked woman stripped and restrained by two ugly thugs who are about to tear her breasts off. I know she’s a saint, and she’s somehow supposed to be “triumphant”, but COME ON already, you sick bastards! Are you kidding me? How anyone could be accepting and serene at a time like that is beyond me. The absolute kicker, the insult to the injury, is the lovingly detailed, realistically painted, long sharp blade, stage front, ready for use after the vicious iron pinchers have done their job. I think Louis CK was right. The number one killer of men is heart disease. The number one killer of women is men.
Time for a strong drink….