Sunday, June 7, 2009

Astrolabes and frescoes

Since Kristen is away with her school for two weeks, I've been doing some things that she's already seen or was not so interested in. In this sense, last Tuesday (a federal holiday), I visited the Galileo exhibition at the Palazzo Strozzi. It's the 400th anniversary of his first astronomical discoveries, and so they've put together quite a nice exhibition, less about Galileo himself as about the views that people have had about the skies above going back to the ancient Babylonians. There were some nice pieces, such as copies of some of Ptolemy's manuscripts, various star charts and astrolabes, and of course Galileo's telescope, observations of the moon and Jupiter, as well as one of his fingers (this is Italy, after all!).
Then today I visited the Brancacci chapel, part of the church of Santa Maria del Carmine. The chapel has some excellent frescoes, and features some of the few works by Renaissance master Masaccio. The rest of the work was done by Masolino and Lippi, no lightweights themselves. The frescoes, dating back to the 15th century, are in pretty good shape, having been restored (somewhat controversially) in the 1980's. You can really see that painters of that era were mastering perspective, as well as adding expression to faces (see the Expulsion from the Paradise).

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