Florence: The Bargello (and Islamic Art)

Office (ministry, if you’d like) turned police station turned prison and so on…here you have the Bargello, now a museum featuring sculpture and art from the ducal collection.

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I’ll say, I was initially disappointed that it’s open-air…t’was a cold day! But knowing how Italian museums lack air-conditioning in the summer…at least this offers ventilation (but little shade).

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I didn’t take photographs in/of the loggia where the most famous artwork reside…I expect a simple Google image search would be able to churn out better pictures.

The exception being Alpheus and Aregula, for looking at it filled me with an intense longing for my ex.

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There was a side-room on Islamic art that most people simply ignored, or walked through quickly (including the guided tours!)

I understand that this being Florence, they’ve got more than enough Florentine masters than they have time for, and besides, this is a minor collection. (Plus, nobody can deny that the religion has been getting a bad rep for the past decade or two).

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A pity to miss these, though. First, Islamic mosaic art offers some visual refreshment from the oil paintings and sculptures of Florence. European art places much attention on the human/god figure, and on its portrayal of the spiritual experience. If craning your head to study the divine beings on the ceiling of the Duomo hurt your neck, here’s an alternative.

In Islam, they take the 2nd commandment seriously: Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

As such, the glory of God and creation is portrayed through the mosaic form, through orderly but complex patterns in tapestry, through the simple beauty of calligraphy. You can catch a glimpse of all this at the little room in the Bargello.

Secondly, given how IS is being a menace and destroying so many things that Islam stands for, knowing real Islam is perhaps one of the only ways we steel ourselves against the falsity that is the IS.

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