Monday, January 24, 2011

The Tomb of the Medici - What can art history teach us about interior design?

Donna Antonucci

You never know where life is going to lead you. I love real estate , design, numbers, art, languages, running my own business.  You cannot fake or manufacture passion.  At times I couldn't tell you how my seemingly disparate interests would come together.

I studied Economics and Accounting in college but I also had an interest in languages, history, art.  I ended up with a second major in Italian literature and minor in Art History.  I had the great pleasure of studying at the Universita` Degli Studi in Florence across the street from L'Academia Delle Belle Arte where Michelangelo's David is today. I studied Art History for a semester before the University year started with an artist and professor where we went to see almost every piece we studied.  

Studying art and what the great masters did, what made their work so brilliant can be applied to your home to make it a more comforting and expression of yourself.  Ever great architect and interior designer has studied the Renaissance to understand flow and how to draw the viewer's eye through a space.  

I would like to share with you one of my favorite pieces by Michelangelo and what it taught me about space, how design can draw your eye, create tension and serenity.  ....

Donna Antonucci
The Tomb of the Medici is the Tomb of Lorenzo and Giuliano de' Medici that sits in a chapel adjunct to the Church of San Lorenzo in Florence, Italy.  

The tomb is for Lorenzo and Giuliano De'Medici.  It has a sarcophagus for each facing each other, an alter facing a sculpture of Mary and child.  
Giuliano's Tomb facing Mary and Child

The floor is busy with white and dark, blue green marble squares.  Above each sarcophagus is a figure of the Medici who is entombed below.  Both are twisting to look at Mary and child.  

Notice how the head of each seems small for the body. 

Giuliano De'Medici
Lorenzo De'Medici

Each sarcophagus has 2 sculptures on each known as Night and Day on Giuliano's and Dawn and Dust on Lorenzo's.  

Giuliano's Tomb with Night and Day (male figure on right)
Look at the face of Day.  It's unfinished yet it has an expression of shock not unlike what we all feel as we get up to face the day and the challenges of daily life.  The body is tense.  Michelangelo did this work in a dark period in his life and in Florence's life and the expression of the challenges of life are in this piece.  Look at the tension in the muscles.  You can feel his angst. 


Lorenzo's Tomb with Dust and Dawn (right female figure
Night, the figure on the left when looking at Giuliano's tomb, has less tension.  Of the 4 figures, Night is the most relaxed and the most complete.  It has far less rough, unfinished features of the 3 other figures.  In Michelangelo's time, he was criticized for installing unfinished pieces but today we know that he did this as part of his expression and message about life and about the two men for which this tomb is an honorarium.  Night, when we are at rest is when we are most like the life complete, at peace and still as we are in death.

Provided by Donna Antonucci
Prudential Castle Point Realty

  Read more after the jump....


The same logic follows with Dust and Dawn.  In the figure of Dawn the body is at more rest then Day.  The face has that expression that you might have if you were sleeping and the light of day hits your face and your consciousness begins to sense the light coming through your eyelids - the body still relaxed but with the beginnings of tension in the eyes. Conversely, Dust begins to show that relief that the day is over and rest is coming.  

There is a lot to distract you, make you look and think.  These photos don't do the experience justice.  When you walk into the chapel you really feel the emotion of each piece.  The muscle tension of Day, the rough and  unfinished faces and aspects of each piece, the small heads relative to the body of each Medici figure.  It grabs your attention and makes you ask yourself, why?  Why did he not finish the figures, why did emphasize the bodies of Medici figures?  Michelangelo seems like he is guiding the viewer to look from one feature of the tomb to the next as if it's an order.  The edges of floor is what you see first and it seems to lead to Mary and Child which is the absolute focus of the piece.  

Mary and Child
Mary, the Mother is what brings you into this world and it is Mary the Mother of God who you join when you leave.  You then look at the sarcophagi and notice that all of the figures are also facing Mary and then your eye goes up to the de-cluttered calm Capella.  This is a consistent pattern of what tourist do when entering the tomb and look at this piece for the first time. 

You realize that he is making a statement about life itself.  That it's a journal of days and nights where we struggle to get through to the afterlife where existence is complete.  The bodies of the figures are incomplete yet the bodies of the Medici figure are complete, detailed, highly polished. Emphasising the bodies of the Medici figures makes the statement that the bodies are done, done with the mortal coil and the Medici's are on to the next world. 

Now notice the dome or Capella.  This photo doesn't show just how high the space is but notice the simplicity.  The calmness in contrast to lower very busy, evocative lower portion naturally draws your eye upward.  That's just what he wanted you do, look at the Medici figures, feel that they have completed their lives and through the Grace of God they have now ascended to heaven.  

Now how does all of this relate to your condo in Hoboken?  

Well, you can do the same thing with your design.  You can create focal points when you enter a room that draws the viewer to a series of objects that express who you are.  Objects that are placed in juxtaposition being mindful of entry points and views from room to room.  

The classic study is a room with shelves, book and memorabilia from ones life.  It's busy but an expression of who the owner is.  A dining room or bedroom typically are less cluttered creating a feeling of calmness.  Plants and the integration of the outdoor living can also create a feeling of calmness - a return to simplicity.  

This is one of the reasons I love real estate.  I love walking into a unit and seeing how someone has set it up.  What statement does it make about the owner, how can it be arranged, what kind of flow does the layout have to create different views and feelings as you walk from area to area.  Does the arrangement of rooms have "Feng Shui"? 

This is also one of the reasons why if you are selling your place as to be de-cluttered, clean and devoid of personal photos.  It creates a feeling of calmness.  It makes less of a statement about the owners, a white canvas of the space if you will and allows the prospects to envision themselves there.  

I thank you for indulging me.  It was a pleasure those many years ago walking the streets of Florence and Siena.  I lived on Via Castello D'Alta Fronte, one street from the Uffizzi.  As a student of the University, I could visit the Uffizzi and L'Academia for free and I often did so on my way to class.

Provided by Donna Antonucci
Prudential Castle Point Realty

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