By Stuart Frost
Last week I was fortunate enough to spend three days in Florence with chief curator Peta Motture working on the second of our three People and Place gallery films. Filming the location footage for Donatello and Florence posed a different set of challenges to the Charlemagne and Aachen film the previous week.
Anyone who has been to Florence will be able to confirm that it has an extraordinary wealth of medieval and Renaissance art and architecture. Donatello would recognise many of the elements that still dominate the modern cityscape. The remains of the Aachen that Charlemagne knew are few, fragmentary and have been significantly altered over time.
The locations selected for the Donatello and Florence film included the Old Sacristy in the Church of San Lorenzo; the Baptistery, Duomo and Campanile; the Medici Palace; and the Church of Orsanmichele. Footage of these buildings will help viewers understand the different contexts for which Donatello produced sculptures.
One the first day filming started at 7.30am in the Old Sacristy. It was remarkable to be inside the church and to be able to enjoy the atmosphere almost alone. By 6pm we had moved to the Piazalle Michelangelo which provided us with a magnificent view of the city laid out below, the River Arno dividing it into two. The picture I’ve used here, at the top of the page, shows the Duomo to the right and the tower of the Palazzo Vecchio to the left. The cathedral and the centre of government dominated the medieval and Renaissance city.
The higher number of different locations for this film meant that there was more walking between places than previously. Walking through a city as attractive as Florence is no great hardship of course, although cameraman Ian and director Linda may disagree as they were the ones who were carrying all of the equipment! Rapidly moving mopeds, buses and horse-drawn carriages posed a different sort of challenge.
Florence attracts a vast number of tourists throughout the year and the historic core of the old city is a busy, bustling place. Aachen attracts far fewer and it was much easier there to take shots without inquisitive tourists wandering into view. In both cities I was struck by how accommodating and helpful the authorities were. A particular highlight was the opportunity to film Donatello’s famous bronze statue of David, only recently returned to a vertical position and still under-going a remarkable programme of conservation work in the Bargello.
The location filming for Donatello and Florence is now complete but work on editing the footage and finalising the captions still remains to be done. We also need to film Donatello’s Ascension relief, a star object in the V&A’s collections, and to integrate film of that object with the location footage.
The finished Donatello and Florence film will be available in Gallery 64 Donatello and the Making of Art from late November 2009 onwards. It will also be added to the V&A’s website.
If you’d like to find out more about some of the locations mentioned here please click on the weblinks I’ve provided below. I’ve also posted some additional photographs on the Flickr site for the Medieval and Renaissance Galleries Project.
Click here to find out more about the Medici palace.
Click here to find out more about the Bargello.
Click here to find out more about the conservation of Donatello’s David. The text for this site is Italian but there is a good selection of pictures.