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An Art Lover's Guide to Florence Paperback – September 15, 2012


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An Art Lover's Guide to Florence + Streetwise Florence Map - Laminated City Center Street Map of Florence, Italy - Folding pocket size travel map with train tracks & stations
Price for both: $24.33

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 306 pages
  • Publisher: Northern Illinois University Press (September 15, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0875806805
  • ISBN-13: 978-0875806808
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #156,842 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“An informative and erudite guide for art lovers, visitors or armchair travelers.”—Chicago Tribune

About the Author

Judith Testa is professor emerita at Northern Illinois University and author of Rome is Love Spelled Backward: Enjoying Art and Architecture in the Eternal City.

More About the Author

Judith Testa was born and grew up in the New York City area, moved to the Midwest to attend graduate school at the University of Chicago, and never returned to New York, except in spirit. She spent her professional career at Northern Illinois University, where she taught history of art and received numerous awards for excellence in teaching. During that time she developed an absorbing interest in Italy-- Rome in particular-- and in 1998 she published a book about art and architecture in the Eternal City, called "Rome Is Love Spelled Backward" (Roma Amor).

After a career devoted to teaching, talking and writing about art, during retirement she returned to a childhood love: baseball. The result was the publication of a biography of a star pitcher from the 1950s, a sinister, almost satanic-looking pitcher named Sal "The Barber" Maglie. The book, titled "Sal Maglie. Baseball's Demon Barber," was published in 2007 and won an award from the Society of Midland Authors as the best biography of 2007.

Her most recent book, published in 2012, is "An Art Lover's Guide to Florence." In this work she covers in detail the most famous and beloved works of art in Florence, among them Botticelli's "Birth of Venus," Michelangelo's "David," and the city's cathedral, with its stupendous dome. Instead of a paragraph or two about hundreds of works of art, this book covers only a couple of dozen works, and devotes a chapter to each. The author discusses the political background behind many religious works, and also explores the sexual meanings to be found in certain works of art.

Judith Testa lives in St. Charles, Illinois, and continues to write about Italy for the Chicago area Italian American monthly magazine "Fra Noi."

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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This book is easy to read and gives the background history of Florence through the art.
Linda Hutchins
I read the whole book and did not feel exhausted by the rich descriptions and fascinating stories or our cultural forebears.
E. Manning
The deals of the major work were fascinating as was the politics surrounding many of the art pieces.
James H. Rutherford

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By E. Manning on December 9, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Even though I love art and history, I often can't stand to read art history books, but this one is an exception. Most authors feel the need to describe every statue, every major and minor painting, every building and every single piece of pottery. In trying to cover everything, they cover nothing well and the result is exhausting. I'm so overwhelmed, I don't bother to finish the book.

But not this book. I consumed it eagerly.

Testa is up front in stating that her book will not cover every piece of art in Florence. Instead, she weaves beautiful, fascinating stories about the art she does choose to emphasize-- which is the greatest art the city has to offer. Instead of merely describing the works, she includes the historical and religious background and even salacious details that are part of the meaning of certain works.

I loved reading about the Florentines' struggle to avoid becoming the laughingstock of Italy with their cathedral's unfinished dome. I loved the gripping rivalry between Brunelleschi and Ghiberti and how childish they could be toward each other. And oh, the Medici. Testa tells their family travails in a way that makes you intimidated, envious, and happy they do not know your name. They appear not as distant historical figures, but as people like you and me, although with a LOT more money.

Testa's description of the Ospedale degli Innocenti, Europe's first foundling hospital, is heartbreaking and empathetic. She lets us see early attempts to take care of the less fortunate, often with mixed results. She ends the chapter with a Latin inscription from the building, adapted from the Bible's Psalm 27: "Our father and mother have forsaken us; the Lord has taken us in."

This author is a gifted historian and storyteller. I read the whole book and did not feel exhausted by the rich descriptions and fascinating stories or our cultural forebears.

I felt alive.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Terri M. Lipp on October 13, 2012
Format: Paperback
For many, the word "art" is archetypically associated with the astonishingly beautiful Italian city of Florence. And for an author to voluntarily take on the monumental task (yes, the pun is intended) of attempting to not only discern what is to be deemed, but then to describe in delightful detail, what are Florence's greatest artworks, is a bit daunting to say the least. However, Judith Testa has dedicated her life to the study of great works of art and she not only chose to assume responsibility for such a job, but she succeeds brilliantly.

Testa's approach to this seemingly insurmountable assignment belies the fact that she is a Professor Emeritus of Art History. The book is so full of historical and analytical background on each piece she has chosen to examine, that it nearly bursts its cover. Yet all the information she gifts to the reader, feels exactly that - a gift - and doesn't once come near reading like a text book.

In order to set the stage on which the art she discusses is to be displayed, Testa's first chapter is an informative brief of Renaissance Florence. She skillfully untangles the powerful Medici family history and lays it out for us in such a way that we appreciate how their genealogical lineage is interwoven with the tapestry that is Florence. Her "warts and all" approach to explaining the Medici and the time they lived in, truly helps the reader put the art of the Renaissance in perspective.

After we are introduced to the city framed in time, Testa starts us out at the Cathedral and its "Cupolone," the gigantic dome of the Cathedral and iconic symbol of Florence. We then follow her to the Baptistery, the Brancacci Chapel, Piazza della Signoria, Orsanmichele and others.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By J J. on May 18, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I loved that fact that Judith Testa doesn't even pretend to try to cover all the art in Florence, because as she says in the first chapter it isn't possible. What she does do is give you the social, political, religious, and in some cases sexual background by means of individual stories to turn lifeless stone and canvas into time capsules of the human condition. It is a beautiful and entertaining way to connect to the art and artists in way that is deeper than focusing on art techniques or flowery words describing what you are already seeing. In fact the author skips over a few semi-famous pieces because there isn't a good story behind them (don't worry there will be plenty of signs point the way and you won't need a book to find them). I felt much closer to the artists, architects, and engineers of Florence after reading this book and the art became more interactive and personal because of it.

It is also broken down into museum so you can focus on your next days activity at your hotel the night before.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By S. G. on February 26, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The title says it all. Maybe not the best fireplace reading for an average person, but on you're trip you'll find it invaluable to gain perspective -- especially with the ability to see everything in person.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Walter J. McDonald on November 8, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Professor Testa has selected about 40 of her favorite works of art and architecture in Florence. She provides the background story you won't find in guide books. This is truly an amazing, well-written book. Although each section has illustrations, I encourage readers to follow along with Google images to access views of the entire setting of each work. Her writing style is informal yet full of context and colorful insights. Rarely have I found an author so able to render academic research and knowledge into such readable format. Of particular interest is the very comprehensive bibliography providing additional information about each essay. If you are energized by the meaning and importance of Florence in art history, this book is for you. I also highly recommend Testa's "Rome is Love Spelled Backward," which offers similar thoroughly enjoyable background and deeper understanding of the art and architecture of Rome.
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