Saltworkstudio Florence: Halos, Angels, Demons, and the In-Betweens

The heads of the saints or angels are drowning in gold, their heads barely breaking the metallic water. The halos expand to fill the whole heaven.

If you blur your eyes for a moment, you’re in a different world: the world of impossible beauty (angels) and unfortunately conceivable horror (the demons). There’s so much gold that it creates its own pattern in the negative spaces. Or should I say positive spaces? Heaven seems more real than earth.

This is what I call the “horseshoe effect.”
I think this is Lippi, not Botticelli— these beings look angelic, even without the wings. Here you see the misty or fine net halo above Mary. There seem to be little flare halos above the trio.
A particularly fine Byzantine style Gabriel. He’s holding the lily and has nice bird feather wings. The greenish cast of the face is because they painted the faces green first, so the flesh tones were true and dimensional because of the color contrast, but chemical reactions over the centuries faded out the flesh top layer so that the green shows through. He has the classic “plate” halo.
The Dixie Paper Plate halo, common in frescos.

You learn to recognize the angels quickly. Michael tends to have black wings and red shoes. Gabriel has the lily, and the other one is Raphael.

There are other angels as well. This memorial, composed of padlocks and silk, holds the names of women, gay and trans people murdered during domestic abuse.

Banks of silver lilies and flocks of incense censers hung above. I think incense and scent is related to the angels, because of the air element; the lilies also imply scent and perfume. These are Gabriel and Mary’s lilies.
And here’s a little altar to the angels of caffeine.
I caught the angelic Botticelli-faced person, from a previous post, walking the next day in the Boboli gardens with his friend. This scene has a touch of the angels about it for me.

Now on to the demons, and the in-betweens.

The six-winged Seraphim are holy, but if I saw a flock like that I would be properly terrified. That is UFO territory.

I found the coffin set in a wall, surmounted by scenes of damnation, in Santa Croce. If they couldn’t get piety, apparently horror would do fine.

I do like the in-betweens. Play the game like you did as a child: if only I were strong as a lion, could fly, could get rid of my enemies… and you get this Etruscan manticore… or is it a gryphon?

Archeological museum. The angel horse.

And now for some liminal self portraits, to add to the spooky ambience of October. Sometimes I did feel that I was the ghostly visitor, and the past was the living thing. Suzanne

In the Etruscan exhibit, with ghostly warrior, shield and oaks
Time travel
My mummies and me

Saltworkstudio Florence: Anti-heroic notes

First there’s art, love, passion, death— and then there’s gelato.

God is in the details. Surrounded by so many enormous, monumental works of religion, art, culture, and architecture, I want to take time to dwell on the small and particular in my days.

These are not gelato covers, yet a certain theme emerges.

I decided that I would eat my main meal midday, and that I would only eat in places I felt comfortable. Because I’m traveling by myself, the comfort level of the cafes were paramount. Did they smile? I also settled on never eating at a place that didn’t offer a changing daily menu written on a chalkboard, with no actual menus. This means the food is generally always fresh, depending on what the market offered in the morning. It also means I don’t have to deal with much choice: one to four pastas and one to three changing main dishes. This is how the Florentines tend to eat, and they eat early, from around 12:30 on. If you don’t order the pasta, you can get a main plate, generally meat and veggies or all veggies, a classic protein/vegetable dish. A good lunch cafe will run out of the most desirable “secondi piatti” and scratch it off the board, so I’ve learned to go early. My main cafe refuses to speak English at all to me, to help me learn Italian.

Seafood salad with tender calamari and tiny octopus, on a rickety table on the piazza.
My favorite waitresses
A slice of roast celeriac root covered with pecorino, fried sage leaves, and a carrot ginger compote. I started eating it before I remember to photograph it, a good sign. This is from my favorite cafe.

I walk everywhere, so I can’t speak to public transportation. I wear walking boots, over the ankle, all day. They have saved me many times on the uneven, ancient cobblestones and in the needed traffic dodges. Florence is now fairly traffic free in the middle, but you still need to be on your toes walking down ancient alleys.

Size of wine glass versus size of water glass. Priorities.

I avoided tourist places and found three cafes that I liked. In the evenings, I cook at home in the apartment and read, write or sketch, after a walk in the silky Florentine early evening. So I have not done a food tour. I buy premade cooked veggies and food at the supermarket and heat them up on my little induction stove surface in the apartment. The food cooks but the pan doesn’t get hot. Strange!

A home meal: salad, chicken and cooked vegetables, all premade from the supermarket deli.

Dealing with daily life while not knowing the language let you know that you are a little bit stupid all the time. You’re the outsider. It’s humbling. I think that’s why the classic pilgrimage was to a foreign land through unknown places, languages and customs. The humility, or humiliation in some cases, leads you to pray a lot.

Abstraction from ancient stones underfoot, near a fountain so it is foot and water-worn

Learning how to do daily life in a strange land leads you into places you normally don’t see. The apartment dwellers take out their own trash and recycling to well-organized, labeled city bins, often blocks away. Apparently you can sometimes leave out neat bags of paper recycling to be picked up, but I have never seen trash left outside on the sidewalk. One night after a football rally in Santa Croce square, where hundreds of people were drinking outside, I saw bottles and cans left on benches, gone by the next morning. Trash doesn’t automatically disappear here. You have to walk it out and dispose of it. Then you wash the sidewalk in front of your apartment. Thousands of years of tiny acts keep it all clean. It’s different.

Cigarette butts in salt. I bet it kills the odor. You can still walk outside through walls of smoke. In Sonoma I only encounter walls of another kind of smoke
Cats in an old cemetery

Florence makes things. It hand sews leather and makes book bindings. It still gilds things and makes silk, then fabric, then handmade dresses from the fabric. It’s a busy place with a frenetic energy, probably the least relaxed place in Italy I’ve ever been. It’s been cosmopolitan for 800 years and it shows. I look in shop windows and people are sewing, gilding, cutting, printmaking. It’s all still happening. The hands of Florence are always moving, often making something beautiful or decorative. Or delicious.