Oct 262014
 

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An Autumn Sunday morning in Florence. Sleepily, I pad into our crowded little kitchen for a cup of espresso. The air has the vaguely musty smell of wash left on the drying rack mixed with the lingering scent of garlic infused with last night’s Parmesan cheese. I wedge myself between the drying rack, the washing machine and the sink to get to our little vertical slit of a kitchen window. Reaching over the bottles of olive oil and partially consumed table wines, I open the little portal of our own lives, and in floods a whole panorama of Florentine roof tops, historical sites and Italian sounds.

It happens to be the day the clocks are set back an hour, this in a city where the experience of time can be set back centuries. A few blocks over, Giotto’s Campanile and Brunelleschi’s Duomo hold center stage in this piccolo panoramico, yet this Sunday morning it is the even closer bell tower of the Church of San Gaetano that captures attention. Throughout most of the week, the bell sounds emanating from this often under-appreciated baroque edifice reminds one of pots and pans slowly sliding off a shelf. This day however, large bells are being hand-rung by energetic clergy in the tower, their sonorous harmony resonating with those longings for peace and harmony held deep within my heart.

It is silent now. The full cup of espresso remains untouched. My heart is touched to over-flowing.

 

 

 

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Sep 052014
 

Ponte vecchio bomb4

 

The man was Gerhard Wolf, a career diplomat who was posted to Florence in 1940, soon after the heady days of Mussolini’s triumphal visit to Florence with his staunch admirer, Adolf Hitler. Consul Wolf was later to become declared an honorary citizen of Florence.

Life had continued along in Florence reasonably well until 1943, when the exasperated German high command occupied Italy. Consul Wolf then became instrumental in preventing the Nazi’s from removing art treasures from the city, while working to save many Jews from deportation, including the famous art historian, Bernard Berenson. Herr Wolf was aided in his efforts by Rudolf Rahn, the deputy ambassador to Rome, and Ludwig Heydenreich, director of the Florentine Kunsthistorisches Institut.

On the Ponte Vecchio, at mid-span, is a plaque commemorating his achievements, particularly the preservation of this historical bridge.

Wolf 2

By the summer of 1944, the allies were advancing on the outskirts of Florence. The German military commander ordered all the bridges over the Arno to be blown up. Gerhard Wolf succeeded in negotiating for the preservation of the Ponte Vecchio by having the army blow up a stretch of buildings adjacent the bridge along the south bank of the Arno river, thus rendering the bridge itself inaccessible.

Ponte Vecchio bomb

 

Wolf 1

There is a touching side note to these events.

Gerhard Wolf was born in Dresden.

 

The plaque in Italian reads: “Gerhard Wolf (1886–1962). German consul, born at Dresden—subsequently twinned with the city of Florence—in played a decisive role in the salvation of the Ponte Vecchio (1944) from the barbarism of the Second World War and was instrumental in rescuing political prisoners and Jews from persecution at the height of the Nazi occupation. The comune places this plaque on 11 April 2007 in memory of the granting of honorary citizenship.”

 

 

 

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Jul 302014
 

Living here in Florence, immersed in the veritable epicenter of great artistic works, one might be forgiven for generally visualizing the artists as wizened old men with stringy beards.

Loggia Rucellai

Loggia Rucellai

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It may bring to mind images of an aging Leonardo’s self-portrait…

Leonardo

 

 

 

 

 

…or even the grimacing actor Charlton Heston portraying the tormented genius, Michalangelo.

Charlton

 

 

 

 

As it turns out, many of the famous artists of the Renaissance, the “Rebirth”, did not live so very long beyond their own day of birth. Two young artists stand somewhat as bookends to that flourishing period of art.

Raphael Raphael is often referred to the greatest painter of the High Renaissance. By the age of 24, he was already creating masterpieces in Florence such as the Madonna, La Belle Jardiniere (1507).Raphael2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In what was then the Vatican library, Raphael completed his greatest masterpiece, The School of Athens (1511).

Raphael5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pope Leo X commissioned the artist to do his portrait. The expressions on the three men in this painting are a bit pensive, (the man on the left, Giulio de’ Medici, also became pope). Perhaps coincidental, but that same year, 1517, Luther posted his Ninety-five Thesis, sparking the reformation

Raphael4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By 1520, wealthy patrons were clamoring for more and more works by Raphael, but that same year, after a brief illness, he died in Rome at the age of 33.

 

Mosaccio’s paintings are considered seminal works and helped usher in the Renaissance period. In 1425, the 24 year old Mosaccio took over from the older Masolino da Panicale the painting of the Brancacci chapel in Florence’s Santa Maria del Carmine.

The Tribute Money

The Tribute Money


massacio3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By 1428 he had completed several large pieces that became the talk of the town and influenced the works of succeeding artists of the age. What other influential works he might have done, we will never know; Mosaccio died that same year, not quite 27. Below is a self-portrait that he, like many artists of the day, snuck into much larger paintings. Beside him is the famed architect, Alberti. Alberti is much appreciated in our household, as he designed the very building in which we reside, the Palazzo Rucellai. The man on the right is Brunelleschi, whose crowning achievement is also Florence’s most prominent landmark, the Duomo.

Massacio; Self Portrait

Massacio; Self Portrait

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Raphael and Mosaccio, two young artists…both who helped define their times…both dying before their time…both (not so) Old Masters.

 

Charles Dusenbury, Florence, Italy

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Jul 212014
 

To view Florence from a distant hill is to round the corner within a grand museum and be transfixed by a magnificent tapestry. The eye dances to and fro as it takes in the full grand sweep of beauty; the mind boggles as it searches for the familiar landmarks of the Duomo, the Palazzo Vecchio, the gentle s-shape the Arno river under the Ponte Vecchio.

As with any great work of art, one is drawn to inspect up close; to examine the individual colors and threads and knots. It is only by going down into the city of Florence and wandering within the maze of ancient buildings on narrow curving streets that one gets the impression that Florence is more like a three dimensional, semi transparent, overlapping patchwork quilt.

FlorencePatchwork3_JPG The changing esthetics of ages past are loosely knit together by cobbled stone lanes and flaking mortar. The colors and designs of generations of artists and architects are sometimes preserved in their full original glory; sometimes they are totally obscured by succeeding works; often they partially reemerge through those later overwrites.

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Dec 202013
 

 

Uffizi on the Arno River

Uffizi on the Arno River

No visit to Florence would be complete without taking time to pause for reflection at the Uffizi Art Gallery.

The early arrival of evening in Florence brings with it the opportunity to take a stroll before dinner. This view is from the Oltrano, the “other side” of the Arno River. Just downstream to the left out of sight is the Ponte Vecchio. That is the Uffizi directly across the river. One of course usually sees this museum from the other end where it touches onto the piazza with the Palazzo Vecchio. That is the tower from the palazzo lit up in the top middle of this view. You are looking all the way through the Uffizi courtyard to the piazza at the far end where that little patch of reflected blue light is.

Seen from any angle at any time of the day or night, one feels blessed to experience that unique blend of art, and architecture, and nature that is Florence.

 

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Dec 192013
 

 

Arno River, Florence

Arno River, Florence

 

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.

 

 

 

 

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Dec 142013
 

The great immortal masters left us incredible works of art and architecture; they left us something else equally as precious, a depiction of the daily lives of the mortals in their midst.

This at the base of a large sculpture by Nanni di Banco, “Four Crowned Martyrs”, ca 1410-15, commissioned by the stone masons and wood carvers guild. A modern woodworker would feel right at home in the shop on the left. Note the one fellow with a wood plane, the other with a bow and string powered hand drill. There is a level on the wall between them and also calipers. Saw horses haven’t changed much over the years either.
The stone workers are chiseling away, apparently creating a cupid. One miss hit and…oops. Oh well, perhaps most angels are girls.
Around 1335, Andrea Pisano did a series of bas relief plates that appeared on the Giotto’s Campanile, the Duomo’s bell tower. The foot pedals and the shuttlecock in the weavers hand would be familiar to today’s craft weavers.
Those two oxen are working hard to pull that plow. Forty years ago, I came across a live scene such as this. Having never seen such large white beasts of burden, I inquired as to what he called. them. The farmer looked at me with a rather blank look. Then, with one of those anybody-knows looks, gave a cryptic answer: “Vaca”. Now believe me, for a boy raised on Borden’s milk, these beasts were a whole lot bigger and more muscular than any Daisy-the-cow I ever saw.
Well perhaps had you lived in Florence in the 1300’s, you would have preferred to an artist…
Or a sculptor…
Or to do your best to chart the stars in their courses, the Music of the Spheres, a century before Galileo developed the telescope and his heretical notions about man’s place in the universe.
After all that work, you deserve a chance to kick back and have a drink.
Besides, it’s 1335. You have been working hard to clean up and rebuild Florence after the flood of ’33. So get plenty of rest. You are going to need it. There is a whole lot of work ahead of you to build all those foundations of art and architecture upon which future generations will stand and be acclaimed as the Masters of the Renaissance.
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Dec 132013
 

City sidewalks, busy sidewalks. / Dressed in holiday style / In the air / There’s a feeling / of Christmas / Children laughing / People passing / Meeting smile after FlChr1This is our little neighborhood street, Via di Servi, leading from the Duomo back behind the camera to Santissima Annunciata, and our apartment. Interestingly, the cupola of the Duomo was designed by Brunelleschi. Turn 180 degrees the other way and Ospidale delgi Innocente (Foundling Home), facing onto Piazza Annunciata was also his design, not to mention Chiesa San Lorenzo and Santa Spirito, where the young Michelangelo was allowed to learn anatomy from the very recently departed.FlChr3As Cynthia and I came into the Piazza Duomo, we were surprised to see so many carabinieri, Italy’s federal police force. They came fully equipped with a fleet of squad cars,  a mobile command post and a dark blue bus, and, as it turned out, a full-dress marching band. They struck up a stirring march tune and lead the crowds through the middle of town and off to the Ponte Vecchio. Nothing like Sousa and Psalms to get you in the Christmas Spirit.

That is the Battisterio San Giovanni  behind them. It far antedates the Duomo and Giotto’s tower beyond. Dante Alighieri was baptized there in about 1265,as was virtually every Florentine up to the mid 1800’s. The building had been there so long that eventually it was generally considered to have been originally built by the Romans.  Actually, it was begun in 1059, a time of great anxiety and anticipation because the end-times seemed due or even past-due. Many additions were added inside and out over the centuries.FlChr4And what wood you like for Christmas, little boy? There are countless little shops all over this town, each with its own little specialties. Their lit up windows contrasting with the rough-hewn dark stones make the whole place look like a Disney creation. How they all make a living is a real wonder, but in this season of wonder, and this season of shopping tourists, perhaps economic miracles really can happen. FlChr5

Now really, would Dante have approved of such carryings-on? Certainly those two lions, those Florentine symbols of strength, sobriety, and commercial enterprise seem to have a rather stern appraisal of this scene. In “Paradiso”, Dante portrayed the various levels of eternal discomforts for those who strayed from the straight and narrow. Perhaps though, as he stands firm-faced upon this pedestal, Dante may look down on these happy American coeds, remember the fleeting  joy of his beloved Beatrice, the fleeting joy of youth…and smile.

 

 

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Dec 122013
 

Several folks have asked, “Just where are you?” Now, as an easily distracted day-dreamer myself, any number of people have asked me that question, often with a very quizzical expression on their face. However, in the context of now living daily in a lifelong dream here in Florence, allow me to orient you to Florence, my dream world.  We are here!

From this familiar view from Piazzali Michelangelo, you can see we are three blocks north of the Duomo. The Ponte Vecchio is to the left. That’s the National Library at the bottom right. Santa Croce is behind it. When we were first living here, just 4 years after the flood, the library was a major headquarters for painstakingly cleaning and drying each precious page of thousands of volumes of priceless manuscripts from all over FlorenceOverall location

The red arrow to the bottom right is our location. A better view follows.  The top center arrow is the building I practiced dentistry in 43 years ago. That’s the Baptistry and Duomo just to the right;  the bluish roofed building to the upper right is the Mercado Centrale, with Chiasa San Lorenzo between it and the Duomo. The bottom left is Santa Croce, with its piazza in front where the German Christmas Market remains until December 15th. Apatment location

That faint red arrow in the center of the picture is pointing to our kitchen window, overlooking the tile roof of a 16th century church that is now the headquarters for the Dante Alighieri Society. Note the little bell tower way at the back. I haven’t figured out how to get there yet, but…

Our living room looks across the narrow street to the side walls of Basilica Santa Annunziata, founded by the Servite Order in 1250. Leading out of its piazza off screen to the top left is Via di Servi, going 3 blocks to the Domo. To the bottom left is the archeology museum, a veritable multi-storied warren’s den of priceless artifacts from local excavations down through the Etruscans and even before.

I share all this to in some small way communicate the nearly overwhelming sense of blessing and gratitude Cynthia and I feel as we experience a rejuvenation of spirit here in the birthplace of the Renaissance, Florence, Italy.

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Dec 152013
 

China’s new unmanned lunar rover running around on the moon sounds a lot like a chapter out of the book I wrote in 2009. Here is the intro from COMPUTER BRAIN : “Competing for a $30 million prize, a team is developing an unmanned lunar rover that performs well, perhaps even a bit too well. Aerospace writer Midge McConnell becomes suspicious of the hidden technologies behind the rover’s performance. Her investigations will take her from Hollywood, to the halls of academia, through the Air Force’s Satellite Surveillance Headquarters, onto a lethally guarded Texas research site, inside an exotic lakeside Chinese Traditional Medicine Sanatorium, and to a rocket launch deep inside of China.”Computer brainYou will note that is a Chinese rocket on the cover. It is in fact the same kind of “Long March” rocket used for China’s recent success. I hope you get a chance to take a free look inside the book on Amazon. It will show up on any computer. Here is the link.

http://www.amazon.com/COMPUTER-BRAIN-Dr-Charles-Dusenbury-ebook/dp/B00213JP5K/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1387129836&sr=1-3&keywords=charles+dusenbury

Yes, the $4,612.00 that shows up on some internet browsers for the hard copy may seem like a steep price, but you must realize that each page is individually printed on sheepskin velum on Guttenberg’s original 1439 movable type press in Mainz, Germany. What with removing all the umlauts over the O’s and U’s from the German print, and the book binding and gold embossing each leather cover, it seems like a real bargain to me.

However, I went back into my Amazon author’s account and made a few slight adjustments. If you go to the following link you will find the price has come down by several thousand dollars .   😉

 https://www.createspace.com/4195530

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