Teamwork IV: Florence Baptist Church

Only a few days back at Scuola Mosaicisti del Friuli, and we have already started with our next group project: We copy the hell scene from the Florentine Baptistery. It is located in the lower part of the dome, which measures 26 meters on average and is completely covered with mosaic. Its design is attributed to important artists as Giotto and Cimabue. More than 100 years, from 1225 to 1330, people worked on the large scale mosaic with its huge figure of Christ, the angelic hierarchies, scenes from Genesis, the life of the Patriarch Joseph, scenes from the life of Christ, and John the Baptist, represented in four strips.

Christ is depicted as a judge (the circular image counts 8 meters). To his right hand he has the elected, to his left the damned among the dead. They rise up under him from their coffins and are sent by him to hell, that is raigned by a man-eating devil from whose donkey’s ears snakes crawl their way.

The scene is implemented by us in original size (3.00 x 1.77 meters). Since the photos that are available to us show little detail, we try to remain as close as possible to the original colors, but if necessary we improvise, invent color blends and can even add a little personal interpretation. We work with andamenti similar to Roman style but the space is filled in a different way. The Byzantine way of laying is much more chaotic, with its irregular surface and joints and tesserae that are often far from perfect. If we place ourselves in the working conditions under which the huge mosaic must have been originated in the Middle Ages, this imperfection is logic: Standing on a scaffold in an uncomfortable position and with low light conditions, no one can generate a plain surface. And it wouldn’t be appropriate for the dome either as only the vibrant surface reflects the light in a wonderful way.

With two classes totaling 25 people and three teachers this group work is an organizationally and thematically ambitious project. To get the softest possible transitions between the different parts, we go for a tour from time to compare with the work of our neighbors. How were color mixtures made, are there any differences in the way of laying? Each of us will mark its progress in a plan so that we keep track of how the work progresses.

The part of the huge mosaic we copy in school certainly is the liveliest of the whole dome. The intensity of the colors, all the gold and the design itself are breathtakingly beautiful. Currently, I am working on one of the horns and am curious what part I get next. By Christmas, the complete work is to be completed!

Photo Baptisery San Giuseppe: Wikipedia Commons

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4 Comments

  • Extraordinary documentation of the challenge you’ve undertaken together! How do you deal with the spatial geometry, and how will your completed work be displayed? Enjoy this opportunity. It’s unique.

    • Dear George, actually the part of the mosaic we copy is located in the lower part of the dome. So there is not too much distortion yet. Good question I asked myself, too!
      Thanks for your wishes. In fact this project is unique and I so appreciate being part of it!

  • what an amazing project you get to work on!! love the Florence baptistry, the time i visited, sat in there staring so long that i thought they might kick me out! interesting to work with so many others on a project like that and how it all blends together, really look forward to seeing pics of the project when it is complete!!

    • I would so love to see the original work with my own eyes, Mercedes! Cool that you went there. I imagine the mosaic must be beautiful! And yes, it is supercool to work on that project altogether! I will post more pictures soon!
      Best regards, Miriam

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