Piazza Davanzati

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Today for my Public Presentations class, we went to Piazza Davanzati! We are in the midst of informative speeches right now, and we are pretending that we are tour guides showing our classmates different sites throughout the city. This is why you study abroad: to learn and do things you can’t do at home and to gain a global perspective. I was reminded of that today while climbing up the stairs of this building that used to be a family home during the Renaissance. It was very cool, and those who delivered today did a great job. It felt like I was on a real tour!


The bedroom


Tonight I went out for pizza at Gusta, a popular pizzeria for college students. 5 euros for a big pizza, and it was yummy! Definitely up there on my list of favorites along with Simbiosi and Santarpia. We want to keep trying new restaurants in Florence. We had to stop for gelato on the way home.



I’m giving my speech next Thursday at the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella. I have to practice a lot this week and get to know the text well. Check out my speech below! xo ~e.

Good morning everyone. I hope you are all wide awake after an Italian breakfast which I am sure you have discovered involves a cappuccino and a cornetto! My name is Emma, and today I am going to introduce you to the The Last Supper painting that is right here behind me. We are currently in the refectory in the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella. I spent a lot of time here when I studied art history in Florence several years ago.

The practice of painting the Last Supper (called a cenacolo in Italian) commonly appeared on the back walls of refectories in Italy. A refectory is a room used for communal meals in an educational or religious institution. This entire hall was a refectory for monks to enjoy their meals in silence on long benches several hundred years ago. Last Supper cenacoli advocated meditation and prayer in refectories. The Last Supper, known as the last meal Jesus shares with his disciples, is described in all four canonical Gospels in the Bible. The scene represents the reactions given by the twelve apostles when Jesus reveals that one of them will betray him.

Unlike this Last Supper painting on canvas, Last Supper scenes are typically illustrated as frescos. Do we have any art lovers who know how frescos differ from standard paintings? Frescos are mural paintings created with a certain technique that involves rapidly painting water color on wet plaster on a ceiling or wall.

Alessandro Allori painted and completed this Last Supper scene in 1584. The artist and his inspirations, Bronzino and Michalaenglo, incorporated Mannerism into their art. Mannerism exaggerates proportion and balance, resulting in asymmetrical and unnaturally elegant works. This style became outdated when Allori died, so he was one of the last artists to create art using Mannerism. His initiative to experiment only encouraged late sixteenth century artists to try something new.

You might be wondering why the painting is a funny shape with the semi circles on both sides. Any guesses as to why? It has to do with this fresco, also Allori’s work, over here. The canvas painting actually hid a portion of this fresco that was completed roughly ten years later after the painting was. Take a look at the gray areas on the sides of the fresco. Can you see how this painting would fit perfectly there, almost like a puzzle piece? The canvas painting saved this part of the fresco that above shows a livelier Last Supper scene from destruction. This part was remained hidden behind the canvas until it was discovered in the early nineteenth century. That means it stayed unseen for just over three hundred years. Who would have guessed?

Looking more at details in this painting, you can identify the Last Supper scene I mentioned earlier. Jesus holds the bread with his right hand and wine in his left. The young John is positioned on the left of Jesus, and Judas, the betrayer, is in the front of the table on the left looking down at a handful of silver. Almost all the apostles look towards Jesus in astonishment from his news. Apparently the dog does not seem too rattled by the revelation. The colors are fairly neutral and muted; however, the pink, red, green, and gold clothing stands out. The details of each apostle reflects humanistic artwork (focus on people and beauty), suggesting it was created during the Renaissance.

To compare, have a look at Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper painting.  da Vinci clearly assembled the apostles in groups of three, and all are on the same side of the table. Here the apostles are not in obvious groups, and they are scattered on all sides of the table.

In conclusion, Last Supper paintings pay homage to communal meals that monks and Jesus and his apostles shared hundreds of years ago. To this day, Italians in particular cherish and savor meals shared with other people. That is something we can continue to appreciate about the Italian culture. As you sit down to enjoy your Thanksgiving feasts in a few weeks, I hope you will remember the Last Supper and this painting’s unique history.


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