This is the week where I became sad, doubting myself, doubting my abilities as a student—my drive, desire to learn in this method, purpose in why I am in Italy, whether being here is really as good as it seems or not, whether it is beneficial, whether my perception of the place is romanticized by my own mind or not…seeing that this attitude pattern is no good, I had to roll over, out of bed at 7 and trek toward the river to spend some rare and valuable energy sketching. It is then that I realize I have purpose in Italy, that what I am doing is indeed for the good and benefit of my own mind and my confidence. I met a lot of (I’ll call them) street people when I was out drawing, many of them artists themselves, offering free words of encouragement and admiration. I also need to take daily encouragement from the lives and writings of our beloved past artists, one of Michelangelo’s sonnets reads:
With pencil and with palette hitherto
You made your art high Nature’s paragon;
Nay more, from nature her own prize you won,
Making what she made fair more fair to view.
Now that your learned hand with labour new
Of pen and ink a worthier work hath done,
What erst you lacked, what still remained her own,
The power of giving life, is gained for you.
If men in any age with Nature vied
In beauteous workmanship, they had to yield
When to the fated end years brought their name.
You, re-illuming memories that died,
In spite of Time and Nature have revealed
For them and for yourself eternal fame.
ON THE LIVES OF THE PAINTERS, to Giorgio Vasari by Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni from The Sonnets of Michael Angelo Buonarroti, Gramercy Publishing Company, 1948, p. 13.
Though I don’t see any eternal fame in my future as a person (he was speaking of the artists of his time), I still take encouragement from the poems of Michelangelo; the fact that he is so famed and admired by millions, yet has a romantic heart, one that looks deeper into the face of life and work toward the emotional, spiritual aspects—that which I sense the millions admire from a historical perspective—but no longer consider relevant for today. To suppress feeling and emotion is a tragedy, I am the one who considers it irrelevant, and this I have to learn to reverse while in Italy.
The history that is in this grand city is indeed scared, marked, and beautified with emotion. The groanings of the city throughout the ages are still heard and seen in the walls, the streets, and historical monuments. One of these such places includes the Ospedale degli Innocenti (hospital of the innocents), an orphanage. A wheel was located in this vicinity for unwanted small children, and typically newborn babies were laid in the wheel to be cared for by the nuns, while at the same time keeping the birth mother’s identity discrete. Records show that at one point over 3,000 orphans were entrusted here at this Florentine orphanage.
The turtle with sail symbols are across the Palazzo Vecchio, the Pitti Palace and Baboli Gardens, and other locations in Florence if you can look carefully. The story goes that Cosimo Medici as a boy had an encounter with a turtle, the turtle cautioned him that if he is slow and calm like a turtle, but strong and powerful like a sail, then he will have success. To be slow and cautious, and observant of the surroundings, taking care and studying the conditions, the turtle says that only then he can take confidence in a strong stride, forward toward a goal (from a youtube video, The Story of the Turtle and the Sail https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A_RMlh7ofpI). The symbolism and story of turtles with sails may have originated from Constantine’s time. I suppose then, I ought to take the symbolism of the turtle with a sail for my own life, too.