Last night I planned that I would visit the Palazzo Medici Riccardi. I have tried to visit it a couple of times in the past, but was unable to get inside. One time I arrived on Wednesday, when it was closed, and another time the woman told my friend and I that it'd be better to come back another time because there was already a group visiting the Cappella dei Magi (Chapel of the Magi). When a friend wrote me to tell me about the newly restored Madonna del Cardellino (Madonna of the Goldfinch) that is currently being exhibited at the palazzo I figured that it'd be best to see it before it leaves at the end of the month on a possible international tour.
I have gone past the palazzo many, many times and each time I want to go inside to visit it. This morning I planned an artistic date with myself and after having a caffè with a girlfriend of mine, I walked as quickly as I could down via Proconsolo and made a right on via dei Servi. I headed left on via de' Pucci, where there's a new Apple reseller to take a quick peek in the window. Before crossing via Cavour, I noticed the Medici family stemma (coat of arms) on the corner and realized how the palazzo reminded me of Palazzo Pitti with its dominant style.
The first thing I did when I entered the cortile (courtyard) of the museo (museum) was find the stairs that led to the Cappella dei Magi. I walked up the wide, low steps and found a doorway that was open. I peeked my head into the cappella, which was much tinier than I expected. I set foot inside and was taken aback by the colorful affreschi (frescoes) on each of the three main walls. I read on the sign outside that the affreschi depict the story of the journey of the Maji to Bethlehem. I listened to a few women in front of me point out Lorenzo il Magnifico as well as Gozzoli, the artist himself, in the affreschi.
When a few more people filed in, I decided that I should leave because the space was just too small for more than four or five people. I walked back down the stairs and into the cortile, which was magnificent. I took a picture of the statue of Orfeo (Orpheus) by Baccio Bandinelli, which is shown here.
I wanted to see the exhibition of the Madonna del Cardellino and when I arrived at the door a poliziotto (policeman) stopped me and told me that I had to drop off all my belongings (cell phone, camera, and anything metallic) at the guardaroba (cloakroom) around the corner near the giardino (garden).
When I returned, he asked me to walk through the metal detector and let me enter. I read the signs about the ten year restoration of the Madonna del Cardellino in the two rooms that lead to the painting. I had no idea how badly damaged the painting was many centuries ago during an earthquake.
I couldn't wait to see the Madonna del Cardellino, which was in a room with no lights. When I did enter the room, all I could see was the gently lit masterpiece. I stared at it for a few minutes while no one else was inside. I appreciated it even more after reading all about the restoration. With my untrained eye, I would never have been able to see that it was restored. I found it so unbelievable that I returned to the room where they showed pictures of the destroyed painting.
When I got back into the room, I heard an elderly Italian couple talk about a few of the details, like how Jesus had his foot on Madonna's. I had noticed it earlier, but I wondered what it meant. It seemed like a sign of possession to me. Ever since my friend George came to visit last year, I look at paintings very differently. I always want to see where they are looking and study their expressions and gestures even more. I had noticed many details, but never thought of the purpose in them.
When I walked back out to the cortile, I felt naked without my purse, so I retrieved it from the guardaroba before continuing my visit. I navigated my way up another set of stairs to see more of the palazzo. One of the sale (rooms) was occupied with empty chairs lined up facing an empty screen. In the other sala, there was a meeting being held, so I couldn't even enter. I was most surprised to find out that the palazzo is also the sede della Prefettura di Firenze (office of the Florence Prefecture).
I was pleased with my visit when I got back outside of the palazzo where the sun was shining brightly. It felt odd to walk down the sidewalk of via Cavour where people were walking by and cars stopped in front at the light. I walked down the same streets to go home and kept thinking about the Madonna del Cardellino. I'm happy that other people around the world will be able to admire the restored painting. Eventually it'll make its way back to the Uffizi where I hope to see it again.
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