Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Christmas Scenes in Florence, 2019

Visitors to Florence at Christmastime are used to seeing a tree situated between the
Cathedral with its neo-Gothic marble facade and the octagonal Romanesque Baptistery.
The 50 ft. (15 meter) fir tree was donated to the city of Florence by the town of Moena in the
Trentino province in the Dolomites, the Italian Alps.  Moena is also known locally as where the Fiorentina soccer team practices during the summertime at a minimum altitude of 3,000 ft.
Florence's traditional Christmas tree is decorated with hundreds of glowing LEDs, glass ornaments and holiday red gigli, stylized lilies, Florence's coat-of-arms, which actually derive from wild irises that grow spontaneously in the area.
To the left of the first photo, the gentle reader will see the top of the city's presepio, or Nativity scene.  Below the wooden roof of the stall, figures are made of terracotta in the local tradition by the artisans of Impruneta, who are specialized in this craft.  Their ancestors supplied the terracotta tiles used in the Cathedral's iconic dome or Cupola,
created by Brunelleschi in the 15th century.

Obviously, at midnight on Christmas Eve, Baby Jesus arrives in the manger; on January 6, the feast of the Epiphany,  Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, the donkey and the ox in terracotta are substituted by
living, breathing humans and animals, who await the Three Kings (Re Magi), who arrive bearing gifts in a colorful pageant.
 Well, this year, Florence also hosts "Three Modern Trees" as installations across the city, in conjunction with the Novecento Museum of 20th and 21st Century Art.  The trio can be viewed, like the one in piazza Duomo, through January 6.
The most traditional one, (above) surrounded by the Renaissance arches of
piazza Santissima Annunizata, is by Domenico Bianchi.  As the theme of Christmas lights throughout Florence is the 50th anniversary of the moon landing,
the artist used symbols to create a movement to evoke
the connection between space and time,
united in the cosmos.  

The most unconventional, yet striking tree, is located in piazza della Repubblica.  Its author is Michelangelo Pistoletto, who uses it to illustrate his current artistic project "Terzo Paradiso"
(Third Paradise) to inspire and illuminate contemporary society,
for which he redesigned the eternity symbol (a horizontal number 8) to include three circles, not one.  The outer circles represent, respectively,
the natural world and the modern, man-made world of artifice.
The central, larger circle, is meant to embody the union of the two opposites which create healing and balance in a sort of New Age and utopian garden sanctuary necessary to achieve if
the planet is to survive.

Its location is symbolic as well -- the medieval ghetto and slum-like medieval dwellings and market crowding the space, originally the location of the ancient Roman forum, were demolished in the 19th century to create Piazza della Repubblica.  An inscription above the arch reads "The Ancient Center of the City/From Centuries-Old Squalor/Brought to New Life.

I would imagine that the artist had this in mind when presenting his futurist tree to Florence.

Then, there is Mimmo Paladino tree in piazza Santa Maria Novella, standing before the Romanesque splendor of the church of the same name as a sort of bridge to the Novecento Museum of 20th and 21st Century Art directly across from it, located in a Renaissance building.

Paladino created a cone of light filled with numbers that switch on and off in a sequence,
also playfully alluding to the the game of Bingo, which is a popular pastime among Italians
after gargantuan holiday meals.
A little lightness after the heaviness; perhaps this also inspired Paladino. Numbers are symbolic as well, but one cannot enter the artist's mind to understand his reasoning,
so let's leave it at that...

Paladino's tree does, however, have a beautiful, shooting star, on top.
Maybe we are all supposed look higher.

Buon Natale/Merry Christmas
to you and yours!

                                                                               reporting live from Beautiful Florence
                                                                               -- Rosanna

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