June 26, 2008

The Gardner Museum of Boston

Posted in museums at 1:46 pm by classicalmusic

The Elegance of the 1900’s

The Gardner Museum opened to the public on New Year’s Day 1903.  The building is an elegant 15th century Venetian-styled palace containing three stories of galleries all surrounding a central flowering courtyard.  It houses the Gardner collection of paintings, sculptures, tapestries, furniture, rare books and decorative arts, and it is a real joy to go through the collections.  I was there many years ago so that I don’t know what it looks like today after a great renovation job that took about two years.

The Gardner collection which includes some of the greatest artists in the world (Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Raphael, Botticelli, Manet, Degas, Whittier, Sargent) was haphazardly placed as though Mrs. Gardner had hung the pictures herself wherever she felt like it.  There was no real trail to follow and one could just have a good time looking around at everything available.  When tired of viewing, the lovely central courtyard provides a peaceful and restful place to relax and collect your thoughts.

The day I visited, there was a chamber concert held in one of the elegant rooms.  Unfortunately the chairs were hard and wooden and the players were not the greatest.  I left at the intermission, but the beautiful palace and its huge collection of art have stuck in my memory all these years.

June 12, 2008

The Medici Chapels and Michelangelo’s Hideout

Posted in museums at 1:27 pm by classicalmusic

Michelangelo’s Hideout

I am back in Florence again, my favorite Italian city.  A visit to the Medici Chapels is one of the “musts” in Florence.  Very grim on the outside, they are opulent and exquisite inside, and everyone goes to see the Medici tombs sculpted by Michelangelo with his beauties:  Day and Night, Dawn and Dusk.  However, the chapels hold a secret that not too many people know about.  If you are in the know and ask for a special ticket, you are allowed to enter what was, for three days, Michelangelo’s hideout.

During the many fights and intrigues of the members of the Medici family, Michelangelo managed to get on the wrong side of them, and, frightened that he would be killed, he looked for a refuge.  Inside one of the chapels he found a trap door in the floor that led to a small underground hideaway.  And there, with only a torch and no food or water, he hid himself for three days till he felt it was safe for him to leave and run.  While there, with the black pitch from his torch, he drew on the walls of this dungeon.  Today, at certain hours, a limited number of visitors are allowed to go down into this hideout, which is only about ten meters long and three meters wide, and view these sketches, made in the dark.  They are amazing!  It makes you feel like you have gotten inside his head!