Saturday, February 20, 2010

Florence con Amore

The Sunday Skip:  Florence can be overwhelming for any visitor and seeing the sights through the conventional Lonely Planet guidebooks might turn out to be a chore.  But Florence can also be a meditative experience that absorbs one fully and completely into the arts.  To prove it, I'd like to introduce Jane Fortune, an art connoisseur and part-time resident of Florence who, I'm very fortunate to say, happens to also be the mother of a my long-time friend and pen-pal, Jennifer Medveckis-Marzo.  Jane gave me permission to write a bit about her on my blog, for which I am both excited and honored.

Cultural editor for The Florentine, Jane Fortune has served as a member on the board of trustees at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (Philadelphia) and is on the national advisory board of the National Museum of Women in the Arts (Washington D.C.) as well as on the board of governors at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.  She has also published two books that have become indispensable to me while traveling through Florence:

Florence con Amore:  77 Ways to Love the City -- This book includes a chapter on 'places that soothe the soul' as well as restaurant recommendations and must-reads.  Florence con Amore begins by describing the tight relation between art and religion in the city, explaining that there are two essential artistic themes that arise when touring museums and churches:  the Annunciation and the Last Supper.  After giving examples, the tour of Florence continues with descriptions of the schools of art, theaters, and the guilds of Florence.  There are many golden nuggets to explore in this book and it’s also replete with stunning pictures.

Invisible Women:  Forgotten Artists of Florence --  While Florentines pride themselves on the sheer volume of extant art, storage rooms of museums burgeon with artwork that can't be displayed in galleries for lack of space.  The problem seems to be more acute for women artists with only 138 paintings by 124 women on public view in the city.  Meanwhile, more than 1,500 works by women currently languish in various Florentine deposits, often relegated to unprotected corners of storerooms where rats scurry and rain drips on canvases caked with pigeon droppings.  

Through meticulous research into these depositories, Invisible Women gives a glimpse into the lives and artwork of more than twenty women painters, from the sixteenth century Suor Plautilla Nelli to the twentieth century Adriana Pincherle.  (Artemisia Gentileschi features as well.)  The chapter called the Women Artists' Trail includes a map of where you can find the paintings of these women in the city (my favorite description being the private walkway of the Vasari Corridor with 27 exhibited works by 21 women).  The book also has a twenty-two page Inventory of Women that includes as much biographical material as the author could find.

Jane Fortune is currently writing a new book on the women sculptors of Florence, so stay tune!

I'd like to finish this post with picture-impressions of my own visit to Florence:

You can find Jane Fortune's works at most bookstores throughout Florence.  To order on-line, you can go to The Florentine website or here.

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