Today I am taking you on another (semi) educational tour, following the (more) educational tour I took with my school. First, a confession. When I read on the school’s activity sheet that there was an excursion to the “Museo dell’ Opera,” I thought to myself “hmmm…I’m really not that into opera…but what the heck, a tour’s a tour!” But, as I learned when we arrived at our destination, “opera” means “works” – so what we were actually going to see was the museum of the works of the Duomo (yay!).
I know I have shown you pics of the Duomo before, but to put the museum’s contents in context, below are a few more shots I took after the museum visit (they don’t even begin to capture how amazing it looks, especially at dusk when I took them). One of the things I found out in the museum was that (like many things here) the amazing artwork on the facade of the Duomo (started at the end of the 1200’s, complete with Brunelleschi’s dome in the 1400’s) was added during the Renaissance (you can see tiles from the old version inside the museum) (pictured below). (In the museum were also sketches and models of various architects’ and artists’ ideas for how the Duomo should look, as well as parts removed at some point, like Donatello’s balcony) (ditto). Here are a few of the highlights of what’s inside…
Wait. Before we get inside I need to show you one more thing – the outside doors to the Baptistry (this is not actually part of the Duomo, but across from it, and is actually a couple of hundred years older)(row 3, 1st photo). These doors (created by Ghiberti in the 1400’s) are known as “La Porta del Paradiso” because when Michelangelo saw them he thought they were so beautiful that they must truly be the doors to Paradise. Notice the crowds staring and taking photos? Well, ya know what? They’re fake (the doors, not the people)! (Well, not so much fake as very careful replicas that were installed when the real doors were moved inside in the 1980’s). I had no idea. But there inside the museum are the real doors – and without the huge throngs of tourists in front blocking my view (pictured next). Check out the amazing detail of the figures (last pic in row)!
There are two more pieces inside the museum that specifically caught my interest. The first (pics 1/2 on last row) is yet another “unfinished” piece by Michelangelo (a Pietà). He created this when he was 80 years old! (In fact, the face of Nicodemus is a self-portrait). If you notice the side view of the right, you can see where the stone looks rough (just like the statue in my post from Palazzo Vecchio and like the “prisoners” in L’Accademia you’re not allowed to photograph). On the other hand, apparently some student of Michelangelo went and “ruined” the figure on the left by finishing it! I just really dig Michelangelo’s philosophy of “freeing” the art already in existence (why can’t I “free” the already existing masterpieces in my pad of paper?!?!?).
Finally, we have Donatello’s haunting “Penitent Mary Magdelene” (1457). The figure is shocking, meant to convey how worn down she became by fasting and through true penitence. You can read more about it here. The weird thing is, I could swear I’ve seen this statue somewhere else before (it’s kinda hard to forget), but I can’t find any record of it leaving this museum (if you know more, please let me know). By the way, this is made of wood!
Well, that was my tour of the “opera” museum. Thank you, as always, for coming along!