Category Archives: Firenze

Art Attack! Botticelli

A couple days ago I went to the Uffizi Gallery with my Figure Drawing class in order to spend a couple hours drawing hands, feet, and faces from the paintings in the gallery. The point is that sometimes it’s easier to first learn how to draw a 2-dimensional drawing from other 2-dimensional objects rather than draw a 2-dimensional drawing from a 3-dimensional human being standing in front of you.

Anyway, throughout my wandering through the Uffizi, I stumbled upon Botticelli’s Spring and The Birth of Venus.

The Birth of Venus


This was a big moment for me. I’ve been seeing these pieces all my life in art classes, books…everywhere! I distinctly remember looking at that blue guy (Zephyr) when I was about eight years old and being really freaked out. He’s a scary dude. Seeing these for the first time is comparable to…actually, I’m not sure what it’s comparable to. It’s not even really comparable to seeing a famous city for the first time, because that city is the sum of all it’s years of growth and decay, while a work of art was simply created, and has since been slowly decaying. It was created by one person (usually) with great care and devotion. That alone is enough to make works of art worthwhile, but once you see something like “The Birth of Venus” in person, there is another whole layer there. In a print it’s impossible to see the brushstrokes and detail that Botticelli applied to his works. You can’t see the flakes of pigment that have come off and the preparatory colors underneath. It’s incredible. And it’s all right here in Florence.

(Also, a brief foray into actually looking at them: can you tell they’re both by the same artist? Look at the way the women are shaped and distorted, and the way the people relate to the background. They don’t exactly float on top of it, but they aren’t interacting with it much either.)


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I made it to Itlay on Tuesday, 2:30PM Italian time (5:30 AM California, 8:30 AM New York) after a short layover in Frankfurt, Germany. There were about 3 NYU staff at the Florence (Firenze) airport, holding big signs and waving us through from baggage to the bus that took us through the historic center of Italy (Il Centro) up to campus (the estate La Pietra). Italy actually reminds me a lot of Southern California. There are the smallish mountains covered in brush everywhere, with lots of trees and blue sky. Replace any dry brush with greenery and palm trees with the tall spiky cypress trees and you have Firenze. Oh, and replace any buildings with hundreds- and maybe thousands-of-years-old architecture. It took about a half hour from the teeny Firenze airport to the estate and it was mostly all uphill, as Firzenze is half situated on the side of a mountain and half at the bottom of one.

Campus is absolutely beautiful. I’m not sure of the specifics, but it was donated years ago to NYU by a rich, old guy who lived in Firenze. I’m not sure if he was American or Italian, but either way, he gave his 57-acre estate, with 5 villas and olive groves, to NYU for students to come and study. The olive trees are harvested by the 8 gardeners and students during the Fall semester and are made into olive oil, which my host family tells me is some of the best in Firenze. Impressive when the oil is mainly overseen by Americans. Now that I think of it, I’m not sure if the oil is actually made on campus or if they send it somewhere. How is olive oil even made? Any thoughts?

Anyways, since NYU is technically a non-profit organization (or at least, NYU in Florence is non-profit) they can’t sell the oil. They serve it in the cafeteria and somehow my host family has gotten their hands on some. I’m assuming NYU must give it to the host families as a gift.

The rest of this week is all orientation and classes start on Monday. For now we’re just trying to find our way around the city and learn how to say “Grazie” without accidentally saying “Gracias” (which kept happening at dinner for some reason).

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