Duomo Demons, Florence, Italy

demons tormenting damned duomo florenceThere's a lot of debate about the Vasari paintings that cover Florence. I think the safest thing to say about Giorgio Vasari was that he was a better businessman than a painter. He got the best commissions of the day, including the Duomo and the majority of the Palazzo Vecchio. Compared to the other Renaissance masters of Italy, his work just doesn't hold up to that of, for example, Michelangelo, Titian, or Raphael. But nevertheless, he got the work. And if you go to Florence, you can't really avoid it.

So here's a small part of his fresco of the interior of the Duomo of Florence. The fresco is a wild contrast to the rest of the stark decoration of the interior of the church, which was influenced by the mad monk's Girolamo Savonarola‘s puritanical preachings. But, Savonarola's reign was violent and, thankfully, brief, and excess again prevailed. Too bad this particular example of Mannerist excess is so out of character with the rest of the church, but at least you can't really see the detail unless you climb the 300 or so stairs to the gallery.

Which I did. When you get there, though, the view of the painting is obscured a good deal by a plexiglass shield that I'm sure is there to keep people from jumping. Unfortunately, it hasn't been cleaned in years, so much of your view of the frescoes is quite dissolved into a fuzzy obscurity. The only way to get a look like this is to stand on your tippy toes, reach as high as you can, and point your camera over the plexiglass toward the art. Pray your autofocus is accurate, and this is what you get. Oh, and it's not really lit at all either, so the ISO is rather high. Hence the grain.

But, you do get this vision, which is probably more Dante's than Vasari's. And one should always pay attention to Dante's visions, if not for their expression here, at least for their influence on the faithful to this day.

Like I said, this was reaching over the plexiglass, pushing the shutter and pray kind of photography. White balance was set to automatic, ISO was 5000, 1/60 sec at f/4.5 which is wide open on my 70-300 zoom lens. At least by resting the lens on the glass, you don't get much shake. In this situation, I just make a lot of exposures. One of them is bound to be usable.

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