World ? Europe ? Italy ? Florence

Florence: The Greatest Artistic Masterpieces

  • Michelangelo's David (Galleria dell'Accademia, Florence): The Big Guy himself, the perfect Renaissance nude, masterpiece of sculpture, icon of homosexual camp, and symbol of Italy itself.

  • Sandro Botticelli's Birth of Venus (Gallerie degli Uffizi, Florence): Venus on the half shell. The goddess of love is born from the sea; a beauty drawn in the flowing lines and limpid grace of one of the most elegant masters of the early Renaissance.

  • Leonardo da Vinci's Annunciation (Gallerie degli Uffizi, Florence): A young Leonardo had already figured it all out in this painting, with classical details, graceful figures, and his patented sfumato technique of blurring all edges and fuzzing the background to achieve a remarkably realistic illusion of depth and perspective.

  • Lorenzo Ghiberti's Gates of Paradise (Battistero, Florence): In 1401, young Ghiberti won a sculpture competition to craft the doors of Florence's Baptistery. Fifty-one years later, he completed his second and final set, boosting the Gothic language of three dimensions into a Renaissance reality of invented space and narrative line. Art historians consider that 1401 competition to be the founding point of the Renaissance. Michelangelo looked at the doors and simply declared them "so beautiful they would grace the entrance to Paradise."

  • Filippo Brunelleschi's Dome (Duomo, Florence): Florence's noble orangey-russet cupola reigns over the town in perfectly engineered immensity. When the cathedral was built, all the learned architects in town agreed the space was far too large to support a dome. Brunelleschi revived the secrets of Rome's ancient Pantheon to prove everyone wrong.

  • Masaccio's TrinitȤ and the Cappella Brancacci (Santa Maria Novella and Santa Maria della Carmine, Florence): The greatest thing since Giotto. Masaccio not only redefined figure painting with his strongly modeled characters of intense emotion and vital energy but also managed to be the first painter to pinpoint precise mathematical perspective and create the illusion of depth on a flat surface. The world's first perfecter of virtual reality.

  • Fra' Angelico's Annunciation (San Marco, Florence): This is the summation of the devout friar's exacting early Renaissance style -- a graceful Mary, a deep cloistered space, and a carpet of wildflowers behind the rainbow wings of the angel Gabriel, communing intensely with the Madonna.

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