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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