This morning we planned to go see the Badia, a church that started off as the oldest convent in Florence, founded in 978. We have had a hard time finding out when it is open, because it is under reconstruction and the new temporary entrance, through a monastery, doesn't have any time posted. We had seen it open for services, no tourists allowed, but there was a sign inside about when tourists were allowed, a few hours Monday afternoon. The slight problem was that we didn't remember what it said. We had one time written down, but was it from that sign or one of several contradictory books? We couldn't quite remember whether it is open from 15 to 18, or from 13 to 17. So we got there about 13,30 (European for 1:30 pm) and found the door open but somebody standing there saying it was "Chuiso", which we have learned means closed. His English was limited to "I don't speak English", so I replied that my Italian is limited to "Io non parle Italiano". But we finally figured out that it is open tomorrow 8 to 12.
Oh well, check out some other places. State museums are closed Monday, but churches are mostly open. So we went by the Accademia (closed) on the way to see if San Marco was open (it wasn't). The Archaeology museum is down a couple of blocks (also closed) next to San Annunziata (open 8 to 12 and 1430 to 17) and it was now 13. But across the square was an open door so we went to Ospedale degli Innocenti.
Ospedale degli Innocenti was an orphanage, and it has a very nice museum that isn't mentioned in our guidebooks. It wasn't crowded (only 2 or 3 other people there at any time), the pictures are not under glass, and they don't yell at you for taking photos. There are lots of Madonnas and children, of course, and they are still in business with child care classes etc.
They have this Botticelli that looks just about like a Filippo Lippi in the Uffizi. It turns out it was about the first thing Botticelli did when he was an apprentice to Lippi.
There is also a large Adoration of the Magi by Ghirlandaio, said to be one of the masterpieces of that quarter century, showing Flemish influences. What I noticed is that the style is a lot like his frescoes, but because he had so much more time than for tempera than anyone can take painting on fresh plaster, he filled in all kinds of tiny detail like the northern European paintings.
Notice the gold embroidery on the edge of the red cloth. Most of the really old paintings have this, and it always looks like some kind of script, rather than just decoration.
Then, when we left, San Annunziata was open, but they had a mass going on. The schedule lists eight masses a day, but this time wasn't one of them. The church is named for an Annunciation that was painted there, so I just had to go in and look. The painting was at the back, a good 100 feet behind the congregation, so I took a couple of pictures. The story is, the painter couldn't get the face of Mary, but when he went to sleep, an angel came and did it for him. People were so impressed by this that the city wall was moved to include the church.
The picture is covered with glass that hasn't been cleaned in awhile, which suppresses the colors. The figure of Mary has a crown and a jeweled vest which are solid, three dimensional, apparently added to the painting in a display of piety.
Then, since it was now 1530, we decided to stop by the Badia on the way home, just to check. It was open! The thing that hits you when you enter is this crucifix by Giotto, hanging in mid air against a dark background. Amazing. The more I see of 16th and 17th century art, the more I like the 13th and 14th.
Well, I'm not sure it is Giotto, because if it were, something here or in a guide book would almost certainly say so. It has Jesus with his eyes open and both feet nailed separately, something that was changed after St. Francis had his vision of the eyes closed and both feet on one nail, at the time he received the stigmata, about 1224 I think. So this may be older than Giotto. But it has most certainly been very carefully restored. Maybe I can learn more about these the next time I hit the upstairs gallery of the Accademia.
There was also this Madonna and Child on the wall. Taking a picture to get some of the sharpness (not all, by any means) requires a solid support, avoiding too much glare requires the right angle, and getting both requires getting so far away that telephoto is needed and even more solid support. So I spent some time on taking this, and have straightened out the perspective angle using Gimp. I say all that because, somehow, working at getting a picture helps me remember it much better.
They also have some frescoes in a back orange garden that they are quite proud of and someone told us they are the only things here worth seeing. But I just can't care that much about flaky old pictures of the life of St. Benedict. To each his own.
When we left, it was raining, so we stopped at a grocery store on the way home to get pasta and sauce and cheese and rucola and chicken for supper. Which turned out great. It is still raining, Pat has done the dishes while I typed this, and we are about to play Scrabble.
Life is good.