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06 December 2010 @ 11:59 pm
2010 Travel Advent-ures of Brammers, part 7  
Palazzo Strozzi is one of the places in Florence that you should have on your list if you plan to visit the city. Located near the centre of town, it is a late-Renaissance great house built around a beautiful open courtyard, with benches all around its perimeter. On the ground level are several shops and offices, including a very good book/gift shop and cafe. There is genuinely free wireless internet in the courtyard, and students and young people checking their Facebook and email on most benches. But the most exciting thing is that upstairs is a huge temporary gallery space.

You would think that in an art-focussed city like Firenze there would be a lot of spaces where you can mount exhibitions, but in fact, there are very few. So the Strozzi is where all the best temporary exhibitions are mounted, and this time was no exception. A massive Bronzino retrospective is showing there at the moment, until January 23. And if you have any way to get there that does not involve penury or illegal kidney sale, DO IT!

Wall after wall of Medici portraits were the main feature, most of which are only ever seen in the dim darkness of the Uffizi, where you trot into a twilit room, are pushed past by the queue behind you, and trot out again in short order. This time they were clear and bright and you could, if patient, spend as much time in front of each one as you like. Most of the major portraits were here, and many of his early religious works, too. My old mate Cosimo, who I regularly visit in the Art Gallery of NSW was making a guest appearance. We caught up, he was looking well -- a great deal of very good cleaning and restoration has been done on the works, some of which I felt as though I was seeing for the very first time without their patina of grime.

But this was not my very best art moment, oh no ...

One of the good parts of the costume conference was a paper mostly focussing on the late Kristian Fredrikson, presented by one of the terrific crew from NIDA. Fredrikson was a leading ballet costume designer, whose works stretched from classical to revolutionary, often with an emphasis on wit. Very happily, the NIDA team had arranged an exhibition of his costumes, which we attended that night at the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi. The Palazzo itself is a beautiful building, full of casually brilliant art like this Fra Filippo Lippi: 

And the exhibition was fabulous if tiny -- almost unbelievable that they could do it all for only AU$5000 and shipped all the way from Sydney: 

As soon as I finish this post I need to finish my letter to the head of NIDA telling him what gems he has in his costume department! But the best was yet to come. My friend H1 appeared and grabbed my arm. 'I have found a treasure!' she declared. Trusting her implicitly, I followed. She was right, she had! 

What both of us had forgotten (being dim) was that this palazzo is home to the Chapel of the Magi! Many of you have probably seen reproductions of the most famous wall from this chapel:

Now imagine it stretching across the whole of your field of vision, and up to a high ceiling, the golds shimmering richly, the reds vibrant and the faces of each man and horse showing every detail as though they could step out and lecture you on the power of the church, or at least the power of the Medici. It was wonderful and beautiful, and the rest of the chapel was nearly as magnificent as this. H1 and I stood in awe for some little while and were even serious, until overcome with the need to find the zombie horses in the frescoes (there is always at least one!)

Buoyed by such a wonderful evening, we faced the conference the following day in high spirits. It had been a very up and down conference, much more so than the Janet Arnold Memorial two years before. At that one, there was one bad paper and one mediocre one. At this one, there were many that were pleasant but just not new. It has been many years since I was in dance world, and most of my time there was as a performer, yet I listened to much of the theory presented here and already knew what they were going to say. Even the theorists discussed were people I was studying at university twenty years ago. Happily, the day after the Medici-Riccardi visit there were excellent papers, including one on the Diaghliev exhibition at the V&A, one on the dance collection with an emphasis on Pavlova (not the meringue-based dish) at the Museum of London, and one on the dance artefacts at the Hermitage. Overall, my fave papers of the whole thing were all collections-based, and this is not just because I am a museum junkie!

We had a minor drama that afternoon – the hot water disappeared. We rang the apartment manager and he promised to send someone around. Tragically, the only person available was a tall, dark god with tousled hair and a ready smile, and H1 and I had to pretend we were very very busy in the kitchen and leave H2 to deal with him while we giggled like schoolgirls. We're not proud of ourselves, but sometimes hiding behind laptops is the only way to preserve any faint echo of cool.

Happily the problem was a switch that had been accidentally switched off. Mr Godlike was astonished that anyone would do such a thing, but the pragmatic H2 asked him why they didn't just have a little sign saying Hot Water and On in the appropriate spot. Mr Godlike looked at H2 as though she was the biggest brain box in the world and said he would organise just such a thing. After he left, H2 shook her head at us and told us we were ridiculous. Alas, it is true.

That night we trotted along to the Museo di Casa Martelli, which has been lovingly restored, but was a very odd choice for a large group of textile specialists to be taken to, lacking in, well, anything relating to textiles. Still, nice frescoes:

Later that night we were out for a womble when I saw the Greatest Child Wrangling Device Ever:

The photo is not great, but if you look carefully, you will see the man holding what amounts to a super-tough coathanger, from which is suspended a harness, at this time occupied by his nearly-toddling small child. He puppeteered the child all around the piazza, while maintaining complete control, but letting the little muppet feel as though it was a proper big kid. HILARIOUS as well as genius!

The next day had a morning full of final addresses, which we all decided to skip given the fact that we would feel obliged to heckle after some of the disorganisation that had preceded. In fact, I was half keen to attend, as Sir Roy Strong had been scheduled to give an opening address and I had attended the session wholly to heckle him (it is one of my lifelong goals) and he failed to show. But H1 and H2 encouraged me to come shopping instead, which gave me the chance to finally take a photo of this fellow in a shop window:

I have no idea what he is meant to be, but love him nonetheless. That afternoon, a bus was taking seventy or so textile nuts to Siena. Given my previous posts, you may be wondering how the weather was going. It was going like this: 

Oh yes, this is going where you think it is, but it will have to wait for tomorrow to get there ...

And very quickly, THANK YOU to filmatleven  and absynthedrinker  for such lovely early Chrissy presents! You're so kind! 
Also a HAPPY LATE BIRTHDAY to the brilliant red_rahl  and HAPPY EARLY BIRTHDAYS to lisztful  and drgaellon , may the present fairy be generous, your friends fabulous and your faces perfectly untroubled by the passage of time. Or at least so busy smiling that no one notices the character lines ;-)
Anwynanthraxia on December 6th, 2010 08:15 pm (UTC)
Your chappie in the shop window looks like Sniff and the Hemulen had a child.
Jaeenchanted_jae on December 6th, 2010 08:36 pm (UTC)
The Ramblings of an often very distracted person.annes_stuff on December 7th, 2010 09:57 am (UTC)
Oh, peacocks and kitties, very nice!
Kieranfilmatleven on December 7th, 2010 10:01 am (UTC)
auntpurl: Dayum!auntpurl on December 7th, 2010 02:20 pm (UTC)
So, you make mention of a tall, dark, hot god, but then post no accompanying pictures?