Friday, January 29, 2016

I LOVE Florence

 If and when I return to Oregon and anybody asks me where I got my garland of magenta fabric flowers and my greenish earrings with arabesques inside them and little dangly purple stones, I will answer, “Florence, darling!” with all the lively European flair I can muster. “Where in Florence?” they might ask, thinking I must be talking about Florence, Oregon. “Oh, by the Ponte Vecchio,” I will say nonchalantly.
The Ponte Vecchio. 

Okay, okay, I am being a snob. I will try to come back down to earth when my Italian frenzy starts to wind down. But for now, the breathtaking beauty and the abundance of wine and prosciutto have gone to my head. Florence, Oregon is also very nice. In fact, I have some lovely jewelry from Florence, Oregon, too. The matching blue necklace and earrings marked the occasion of me turning sweet sixteen. For fifteen years I’ve regarded my sixteenth birthday present as being the most valuable thing I owned. It wasn’t until about a month ago when I carefully laid out my blue necklace that I realized it was just a piece of blue string with some plastic beads strung on it.

The unique value we assign to things is what makes it truly valuable, not its worth according to the rest of the world. In a jewelry store, most women I know are able to connect with a piece that really speaks to them. I usually know the size, colors, and shapes that complement my face and wardrobe. But when walking around a museum, I wonder how many people who are taking selfies with the Botticellis and Raphaels really connect with the paintings, or if they are just taking a selfie so they can have their face next to a famous painting, the same way we hold earrings up to our faces in front of a mirror in a jewelry store.

At the Vatican. 
Kill You. Kiss Me. 
Judith Slaying Holofernes 

Walking around the Uffizi Gallery, I came to Artemisia Gentileschi’s painting of Judith slaying Holofernes. I probably paused for the longest amount of time admiring this work. The audio tour’s description did not do this painting justice, or give any back story about Artemisia Gentileschi’s life. The way Gentileschi painted the blood like small strands of beads gave it a realistic appearance when stared at from a few steps back. In my opinion, her technique was superior to Caravaggio’s style of painting blood like lasers shooting out of Holofernes’ neck. Gentileschi’s trauma of being raped also gave her an advantage in depicting the struggle and the combined strength it would take for the women to get the job done. I look at Gentileschi’s painting with admiration and think, sisters are doing it for themselves.

At the Vatican yesterday, and the Uffizi and Accademia Gallery today, I saw works by Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and Michelangelo. All this was incredible, especially seeing David, but seeing the word “Pax,” painted on a wall as I walked up a staircase really threw my mind in a whirl. I suddenly remembered playing on a swing set in a playground when I was about seven years old and introducing myself to a boy the same age. He told me his name was Pax. I thought the little boy was beautiful, but I found his name especially beautiful. On the walk home, I told my mom about this boy and his wonderful name. “It’s Pax,” I said. “Like Max, but with a P.” My mom said, “Pax means ‘Peace’ in Latin.” The name’s deeper meaning made me love it even more and I thought if I had children when I was older, I might have a boy and name him Pax.

Florence is a more recent name I’ve identified as a possibility for my hypothetical offspring. I have always thought it would make a great name for a girl. Now if I ever have children or adopt, the name Florence will be a serious contender. This is a great city to be named after, full of artisans, history, friendly people, delicious food, and some of the most extraordinary paintings and sculptures I’ve ever laid eyes on. In the gift shop at the Uffizi, I bought a print of Bronzino’s painting of a little girl, “Bia de’ Medici,” and a print of “Boy Playing a Lute,” by Vittore Carpaccio. I thought these children could be siblings, although their class difference is apparent, like the prince and the pauper. Maybe their names could be Pax and Florence. In my imagination, it’s possible, just like it’s possible for a piece of string holding plastic beads to be a precious necklace, something like what a Medici princess might wear. 

Kelley and me drinking Chianti 

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