Friday 13 January 2012

First-rate Art...

and third-rate scholarship. We were in Florence on Wednesday, with the Belfortes, for an exhibition at the Strozzi which was supposed to explore the relationship - accommodation, maybe? - between commerce and religion in the fifteenth century, as manifested in florentine works of art from the period. It's a valid thesis, and the works of art advertised were reason enough on their own to make it worth seeing. (The title of the exhibition was 'Botticelli, Bankers, and the Bonfires of the Vanities' , and although I've no great liking for Botticelli, there was enough on offer otherwise to whet the appetite.)

Many of the pictures were excellent: at the very least, a couple of beautiful Fra Angelico's, a wonderful Jacopo del Sellaio, and three panels of a predella by Pesellino that I would quite happily have pocketed had nobody been looking.  All-in-all, it was a morning well spent. As long as it remained  possible to ignore the banalities on the accompanying narrative panels, that is. The 'art' occasionally had to struggle quite hard to rise above the inadequacies of the text, for which joint responsibility (or do I mean blame?) was presumably shared between the two curators,  Ludovica Sebregondi and Tim Parks. La Sebregondi is apparently an art historian - although anybody reading her contributions to the signage of the exhibition could be forgiven for not having realised it - and so perhaps has less excuse than Mr Parks, who is, when all's said and done, a popular novelist. Ok, he has one light-ish weight work of Medici-related social history to his name, as well - but I'm not sure that really qualified him for the position of joint curator of this event. Who knows what struggles between these two went into the labour pangs of the enterprise, but as a scholarly exploration of a complicated - but not too complicated - subject, the end result read as though it was aimed at an audience of eight-year-olds, and was quite frankly pitiful.  

Oh, and there was a further highly-ignorable dimension to the event which, fortunately, I managed to tune out fairly comprehensively. Throughout the exhibition,  an undertone of distaste was discernible with the whole subject of banking and commerce, and wealth and luxury that could quite easily have come from one of the great-unwashed who were so recently camping on the pavement outside St Paul's, and clogging up Wall Street. Tiresome, witless, and childish. The subject deserved better.

However...lunch afterwards at Cammillo (just for a change!) was even more delicious than usual, with the stracotto I had being about as close to a work of art on a plate as you could hope to get. And as we subsequently headed off to Santa Maria Novella for our train, we waved the Belfortes off and into the Armani shop, where they had every intention of wallowing in luxury, encouraging commerce, and flouting every sumptuary law they could think of! Plus ca change...

Tonight's Dinner

Phyllo Shells, filled with Fegatini and Mushrooms, in a Marsala Cream.

Prawn Curry. 

Pineapple Soufflés Glacés


Anonymous said...

I have found that any art exhibition includes those narrative panels and they seem to have been written by imbeciles and mean nothing at all.

It is Botticelli whom I have to thank for instilling my love of art and my time at Art College, though I do understand why you say you have no great liking for him.

I hadn't realised that Tim Parks wrote novels, though I have read several of his non-fiction works.

Pomiane said...

In fact, I'm told his fiction is pretty highly-rated, so the sniffiness of my comment (in that regard, at any rate) was probably unmerited.
Botticelli? It's the china-doll lifelessness of his subjects that I dislike. Give me a decent Ghirlandaio any day, for preference.