Sure. We all know the names: Michelangelo, da Vinci, Botticelli, Dante, Raphael, Galileo, the Medici, Machiavelli, Donatello, and many more. But did you know that they were all from the city of Florence? And did you know that most of these guys actually knew other?
There are so many fun things about that period of time that will tickle your fancy so much, that once you know them, you’ll want to hop on a plane and go to Florence. Tomorrow morning.
There are so many interesting facts that I wrote a whole book about them. But for this post, I’ll stick to the first 10 quickies that pop into my head as I write this. You can find the book right here on Amazon.
1 Florence is the Capital of Tuscany. (Simple, I know, but you’d be shocked at how many folks don’t know this one.)
2 “Renaissance” is a French term meaning Rebirth or Awakening. It was a termed coined by Giorgio Vasari (the mysterious Vasari Corridor – remember Dan Brown’s “Inferno”?) to describe the era where a bunch of artists and thinkers (those same guys above) thundered out of the Dark Ages, and dragged Western civilization into an enlightened new era.
3 In those days, wealthy folks would decorate the outside of their homes with beautiful and artistic textures. Some even resembled lace, for example. This tasteful style of exterior home decorating was called “Graffiti.”
4 Michelangelo began his career by creating a ‘fake’ antiqued sculpture of a Sleeping Cupid. It was eventually bought by a Cardinal in Rome, who both realized it was a fake, and who also had a reputation for evisceration.
5 Speaking of Michelangelo: he is nearly as famous today for his tempestuous disposition as for his god-given artistic skills. In fact, he was difficult, even as a teenager. While he was in the Medici-sponsored art school, Peitro Torrigiano, a fellow art student and competitor (in Michelangelo’s head, ALL artists were competitors) had had enough of Michelangelo’s jabs about his work, so he hauled off and punched Michelangelo in the nose! The artist (forever after to remain an unknown artist), was quoted by Benvenuto Cellini as saying “I felt bone and cartilage go down like a biscuit beneath my knuckles.” And for the rest of his life, Michelangelo hated his flat bent nose and often asked God why he was made to be so ugly.
6 Were we talking about Michelangelo? So one day, he heard that the Papal army, led by Pope Leo X, was coming to take over Florence. The city of Florence, meanwhile, was split between those that wanted the Church to rule the city, and those that did not. Michelangelo chose the side that did not. Well guess what: he chose the wrong side. When the Papal Army neared, he heard that the Pope was personally gunning for him. So Michelangelo hid in a ‘closet’ under the Medici Chapel in the Church of San Lorenzo. And he lived in that tiny little space for a full 3 months! But whoa – you should see the drawings he left behind on the walls.
7 Many of the artists would put their own friends and family into their own work as seen here in Botticelli’s “Adoration of the Magi” where he placed the Medici family members in the place of the Biblical figures. In the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, Michelangelo not only put his own image, but he even threw in a few Cardinals, Bishops, and even a Pope or two.
8 Many of those famous Renaissance artists actually included their own images in their work: Michelangelo’s Florence Pieta, Sistine Ceiling, etc. Today, we call these “Selfies!” In this image, you can see the front of Cellini’s statue of Perseus holding the head of the Medusa. On the back of his head, Cellini carefully placed his own face, cleverly disguided as the helmet and hair.
9 Machiavelli was actually a really great guy. Who knew?
10 Sweet and popular with the ladies, Raphael died on his 37th birthday. He was so beloved by not only the local art community, but artists and art lovers around the world mourned his early passing in 1520. 200 years later, Raphael’s skull was removed from its skeleton and displayed in the Accademia di San Luca in Rome where new art students would place their pencils upon it for inspiration. This practice of Raphael’s Skull Worship was maintained until 1833 when Raphael’s tomb was opened and the skeleton was found completely intact, skull and all! And so the question remains: Whose skull was being worshiped for over 100 years?
These stories about the people of Florence have proven to be a great way to visit this historically-charged. And they are also a terrific way to introduce yourself to the subject of Art History.
My book “Florence Gems & Giants” is jam-packed with more of these little gems:
- Her Royally Embarrassed Highness
- Kidnapped and Sold into Slavery in North Africa
- The Pirate Pope
- The Execution of a Mad Monk
- Where the Bodies are Buried
- da Vinci’s Secret Woman
- The Plague Doctor
- The REAL Bonfire of the Vanities
- Drunken Bacchus
- Stripping Dante
- Getting High in Florence
- Dead Man’s Quarry
- The Spin Doctor for the Medici
- The Patience of Mona
- Stairway to Hell
- and many many more.
Happy reading, and happy travels!