Science, Art, and the Fig Leaf

Continuing our exploration in Florence, Italy, we started at the Museo Leonardo da Vinci Firenze, one of 2, different Leonardo da Vinci museums in town. Inside we checked out a collection of models of da Vinci’s machines, and reproductions of his paintings. The collection was small, but interesting. We enjoyed a few minutes away from the crowds of summer tourists.

Fighting the crowds through the main plaza, near the statue of David by Michelangelo, We ducked into the Palazzo Vecchio. Again avoiding the crowds, we had great luck at the Palazzo, where we were able to check out a family exploration backpack. The kit had costumes, perfumes of the time, binoculars for looking at ceiling paintings, a drawing kit, and dozens of activities and challenges to complete in each section of the museum. We especially enjoyed searching for animal symbols hidden in the large frescos and creating our own Medici portrait using magnetic eyes, mouths, and clothing. That should cover art lessons for today. Boy responded to the museum survey that the family backpack was “excellent.”

We have seen a great deal of art, both ancient statuary and Renaissance painting over the last few days. Boy had been a bit distressed by the amount of nudity. Despite explanations about artistic technique and tradition, he was happier when we saw statues covered with Victorian style fig leaves. His main take away on the famous statue of David? “If he was a shepherd, and about to shoot his slingshot at a giant, why isn’t he wearing the clothes of a shepherd? He wouldn’t have been working outside naked.”
He had similar thoughts on the warrior statues, carrying shields, wearing helmets and leg protectors, but otherwise nude. “That is a stupid way to go to battle.”

There have been plenty of saints and martyrs in the art as well. We have all done pretty well identifying the saints and martyrs in different paintings around the galleries. For example, “look, there is the bloody head guy again,” or “that is the guy with lots of arrows in his chest.” The gallery identification cards gave us the names of the martyrs (Peter the martyr has a bloody head, Saint Sebastian is full of arrows, etc). We have done less well on the “why.” Even the quick Wikipedia searches, that tell us the bare bones (Peter the martyr was killed by an axe blow to the head), leave us unclear on why the artist chose to include the martyr in that particular painting or why he was martyred in the first place. Apparently, Mom and Dad need to do some research on lives of the saints.

The family backpack at Palazzo Vecchio

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