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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Have For Florence Fans!,
This review is from: An Art Lover's Guide to Florence (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. She of course visits the Uffizi, the Medici palace, and even dedicates one chapter entirely to one of the most famous works in the world, Michaelangelo's "David." Over the course of her chapters we revisit, or are introduced to, the "crème de la crème" of Florentine artistic offerings. With the skill of a jeweler examining a rare gem, her version of "cut, clarity, and color" is to reveal each work through the lens of "politics, sex, and religion." The result is a broad based and fascinating understanding of some of history's greatest works of art.
An Art Lover's Guide To Florence is not a "guidebook" per se, though I certainly would want to have a copy in my hand the next time I'm wandering those picturesque streets along the Arno. There is a helpful map at the beginning, but her objective is not to have the reader follow some predetermined route and throw a bit of trivia at them when they get there. The reader is free to explore the city as they wish, armed with a deep understanding of what they are looking at. Whether you are planning a visit to Florence, or are just interested in the cache of treasures that city holds, this book will entice. With her witty prose, insightful perspectives and uncanny ability to "make learning fun," Testa leaves the reader feeling as if they've gotten a private tour of Florence, by someone privy to secrets not often shared with the public.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Storytelling At Its Finest,
This review is from: An Art Lover's Guide to Florence (Paperback)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.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a Story Lover's Guide to Florence,
This review is from: An Art Lover's Guide to Florence (Kindle Edition)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.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Take this to Florence and read it as you're sipping wine,
This review is from: An Art Lover's Guide to Florence (Paperback)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.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars excellent guide to prepare a visit to Florence,
This review is from: An Art Lover's Guide to Florence (Kindle Edition)I find the book very useful in setting the framework in which artistic works can be better appreciated. I would like to see similar works for other cities. GA
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History told through art.,
This review is from: An Art Lover's Guide to Florence (Paperback)This book is easy to read and gives the background history of Florence through the art. Prior to visiting Florence I will make notes from this book to be a travel guide.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More than I expected,
This review is from: An Art Lover's Guide to Florence (Paperback)I bought this because I thought I "ought" to buy it to prepare for an upcoming trip to Florence.
However, it proved to be not only an interesting way to present art, and an interesting history, and also a Good Read.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great resource,
This review is from: An Art Lover's Guide to Florence (Paperback)Great preparation for our trip to Florence, well writtne and interesting. Will use it to plan my week in Florence this fall.
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An Art Lover's Guide to Florence by Judith Anne Testa (Paperback - September 15, 2012)
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