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Orsanmichele and Donatello's Saint Mark

Orsanmichele and Donatello's Saint Mark, Florence, 1349 loggia (1380-1404 upper stories) Speakers: Dr. Steven Zucker and Dr. Beth Harris. Created by Beth Harris and Steven Zucker.

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  • female robot grace style avatar for user Cassandra Hamilton
    What style of architecture is Orsanmichele considered? Who commisioned it? What does the word "loggia" (from the description) mean?
    (12 votes)
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    • female robot grace style avatar for user Liane C Troutt
      From wikipedia, "A loggia is an architectural feature that refers to a gallery or corridor at ground level, sometimes higher, on the facade of a building and open to the air on one side, where it is supported by columns or pierced openings in the wall." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loggia)
      According to http://www.museumsinflorence.com/musei/orsanmichele.html#, the website for Orsanmichele's museum, after a fire in 1304 severely damaged the loggia of the time, "In 1337 the Silk Guild commissioned a new loggia, finished in 1349, from the architects Neri di Fioravante, Benci di Cione and Francesco Talenti." See the website for the further development of the Orsanmichele.
      I think that the architecture style is high Gothic, but I'm not very sure.
      (11 votes)
  • marcimus pink style avatar for user cara.ann.pomeroy
    Why were guilds called upon to furnish the building with statues? Was it required of them, or just suggested? DId they get to pick the subject? Did they all use them as a means to advertise (such as the attention to the linen in this statue)?
    (3 votes)
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    • blobby green style avatar for user Wolfgang Demmel
      At the time, the guilds were highly competitive for what honor they could do for Florence: civic pride if you will. Why does Donald Trump need all those buildings with his name on them? Guilds represented craftsmen, the masters of Florence not specifically in arts, but more generally any "Made in Florence" products. The guilds also honored their patron saint as seen by the choice of saint and the relief below. The city assigned each major guild a niche and documents exist between the city and the guild when they were slow to fill their niche.
      (5 votes)
  • mr pants teal style avatar for user skirwan78
    Were these statues painted as well?
    (3 votes)
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  • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user Meriadoc Schachte
    was Donatello's statue of saint mark painted like the ancient Greek statues were?
    (2 votes)
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    • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user Миленa
      That is a good question! They were not painted. Renaissance artists wanted to imitate the art of ancient Greece and Rome. But because the paint had disappeared from surviving Greco-Roman statues, artists incorrectly assumed the originals were not painted -- thus, they did not paint their own statues.
      (5 votes)
  • winston baby style avatar for user Lazy Joe
    How were the original sculptures placed in the niches? Did the artist create the piece in their studio and then carefully had it taken to the location; or were the sculptures created near/on site?

    It is astonishing that the originals were able to be removed and relocated, which sparked my curiosity on how they got there in the first place.
    (2 votes)
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  • orange juice squid orange style avatar for user Suzanne
    In the shot of the building there looks like there were windows once and they were filled in with cement.Or was it always like that?
    (2 votes)
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  • orange juice squid orange style avatar for user Paul Norwood
    Is this plaster over stone? The nose at looks like it has a peeling outer layer.
    (1 vote)
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    • blobby green style avatar for user Jon Ferguson
      The original is carved from marble. Remember these sculptures were exposed to the elements for at least two centuries before put into a museum, so wind, rain and simple neglect will have taken its toll on the stone. Flaws in the marble may have also contributed to what looks like 'peeling'.

      Plaster would not have survived so well through the years
      (3 votes)
  • leafers ultimate style avatar for user Hana
    what does grainery mean?
    did I spell it right?
    (1 vote)
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  • female robot grace style avatar for user Dana Hager
    Is there a place to see the other sculptures?
    (1 vote)
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  • winston baby style avatar for user Liotun Dahazrahazyeh
    so the building was once open center?
    (1 vote)
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Video transcript

(piano playing) Dr. Steven Zucker: We're on the first floor of Orsanmichele, which is this extraordinarily complicated and important building. It's a grainary and it's odd to think of a grainary right in the middle of town. Dr. Beth Harris: Well, we don't often think about granaries. Granaries were a place to store grain. Dr. Zucker: But this was incredibly important because there were years when a town might be under siege and you couldn't get to the fields, or there might be bad harvests. Dr. Harris: Right, so right here on the first floor of Orsanmichele, there was a grain market and it was open. Dr. Zucker: And then upstairs there were the storage areas and those are huge spaces. Dr. Harris: So this was, at one point, the church and then became a grainary and there was an image of the Madonna that was located here that was believed to have miraculous powers and at some point it burned and then another image of the Virgin was created Dr. Zucker: Was endued with the same powers and I think we're up to the third version. This was by Bernardo Daddi, but it's surrounded by this extraordinary alter, which was by [Orcania], who we generally think of as a painter. Dr. Harris: It's an amazing tabernacle housing this miraculous image of the Virgin, so we have to imagine that this space was once open. Dr. Zucker: Okay, so the walls that are there now we're not there originally. This was really a part of the city. The city, in a sense, flowed through it. I think it's important to think about this place as an intersection of the spiritual, it was a church, and of the sort of everyday business of the city, that is it was a grainary. In even it's location, it's midway between the great cathedral the Duomo and of the town hall, the Signoria. Dr. Harris: It's here that the first Renaissance sculptures were created for the niches on the outside of this building. It's in this context that the first, really, humanist Renaissance sculptures are born. Dr. Zucker: Let's go upstairs because sculptures that used to be in the niches are now all protected upstairs in the area that used to hold the grain. Dr. Harris: We just climbed up a long flight of stairs and we entered a large open space, filled with the sculptures, the monumental figures, that stood on the outside of Orsanmichele in the niches. Dr. Zucker: So, now if you go outside, you see casts of the originals, which are here because it's safer from the elements. Dr. Harris: To protect them. Dr. Zucker: Yeah. Dr. Harris: In the very early 15th century the guilds of Florence each were responsible for completing a figure for a niche on the outside of Orsanmichele and the guilds each commissioned a sculptor of their choice and we're sitting in front of Donatello's Saint Mark, which was commissioned by the Linen Drapers Guild. Donatello gives us this classical figure. Dr. Zucker: So, what is classical about it? I mean, the first things your eyes see, of course, is this incredible contrapposto that comes through even under that heavy cloth. I mean, look at the way, for instance, that his right engaged leg, the drape falls down to almost as if that's the fluting of the column. Dr. Harris: And we can see his left knee pressing through the drapery, so Donatello is really reviving contrapposto, which hasn't been seen in western art in a thousand years. Dr. Zucker: But it's so beautifully handled. You have the sense of the absolute stability of this figure and yet the sense of his movement. Dr. Harris: The thing that's most impressive is the psychological intensity of this figure, which is really overwhelming. There's a sense, almost as though, along with the contrapposto, he's going to move and he's going to speak. There's a real sense of the dignity of Mark here and I think by extension, that sense that one has in the Florentine Renaissance of the dignity of man, of human beings. Dr. Zucker: There's a kind of intensity. There's a kind of focus. There's a kind of deep human sense of understanding in that face, in the just little bit of the furrow of the brow that you can see and the way that the head is cocked slightly and it's off-center in terms of the shoulders, turning back around and there's an interior awareness, a kind of interior intelligence that comes through so starkly. Dr. Harris: At the same time, without a halo. Dr. Zucker: Yeah. Dr. Harris: I have no doubt that this is someone who sees something that ordinary human beings don't see, when you look at his eyes, he is, in a way, seeing past us. Dr. Zucker: So, isn't that the core of the story of the Florentine experience in the 15th century? You have this intensely devout culture and yet at the same time, you have a culture that is beginning to really celebrate human experience, the individual and the idea of the rational. (piano playing)