I turned the corner and WOW….the Baptistery of Florence had suddenly changed colours. It was no longer the dignified monument that it has been for centuries but a massive cupcake landed from Mars! It looked fabulous, a giant splotch of energy and colour that illuminated the entire Piazza as people stood in awe or rummaged for their phones to capture the sensation.
I had heard that the Baptistery was to undergo restoration work for the next 18 months, and expected to see the scaffolding camouflaged as they do on important monuments and palazzi, but had not expected it to be so gay. Laudomia Pucci, son of Emilio Pucci, had promoted the idea to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Florence as the Fashion Centre. In 1957 Emilio had designed a foulard of the Baptistery in rose and orange and it seemed a great opportunity to combine an artistic installation with the Moda celebration. Remember his fab designs in the 60’s and 70’s which have made such a comeback now. The current installation certainly caught everyone by surprise.
The 2000m fabric cover will draw more attention to the Baptistery which is mostly appreciated for its fabulous East side doors by Ghiberti which Michelangelo described as “fit to be the gates of Paradise”. The originals are in the Museum of the Cathedral and I was one of the early birds to see them on their first day after restoration. Unbelievable precision and detail in the gilded bronze panels reflect Ghiberti’s devotion and expertise, in the 27 years it took to create them.
Many visitors to Florence don’t realise that the interior of the Baptistery is also worthy of a visit as the pavement and the vault are beautifully decorated with 13th century mosaics illustrating stories from the Old testament, especially the life of St John the Baptist. St John is the patron Saint of Florence and soon the city will be celebrating again as the 24th June is his name day.
The Luna park atmosphere continued as I crossed the Arno, and my eye caught a floating car, a cute Fiat 500 ‘bambino’, and a small caravan bobbing alongside a large iron posted bed…what was going on? A circus on water? Closer investigation showed various props that were to be used in the evening’s festivities.
This was not the only treat as a dinner had been organised on the Santa Trinita bridge for the selected elite of the Fashion industry and non. Andrea Boccelli entertained them with his melodic Opera followed by a spectacular circus-like performance with fireworks on the Arno river. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see it, but heard people raving about it and have included a photo link here of the evening’s entertainment.
Florentine Stefano Ricci was the guest of honour since he is the President of the Florence Fashion Centre and initiator of the evening’s event. His company has created some very interesting tributes to the Art world – the first to surrealism and René Magritte, another to contemporary Scottish painter Jack Vettriano and the following a Tribute to Uffizi Gallery – Stefano Ricci fashion house
So while we must wait some time before we see the result of the restoration work on the Baptistery, at least we will be entertained by its new stunning look. A timely task since its last clean was in 1938-1944 so the façade is somewhat encrusted with pollution and the marble requiring some consolidation work. The Museum of the Cathedral is financing the foreseen €1million 800,000 for the job and we hope to see it again in all its splendour in the Summer of 2015.
The frivolity continued with a street artists’ cheeky interpretation of The Duke of Urbino painting pasted on a wall. The original in the Uffizi gallery by Piero della Francesca
Ps. The party is over now and the Baptistery has regrettably returned to its dignified self!