Happy Birthday to two great "Florentines"


Today, March 6th, marks the birth date of two gifted Florentine poets. One not necessarily recognized as a "poet" and the other not necessarily recognized as a "Florentine".

On March 6th, 1475 Michelangelo Buonarroti, master architect, painter and sculptor, was born. This characteristically creative yet introverted Pisces was also a gifted poet writing sonnets about his art, love and spirituality.

The poem, "Com'esser, donna, puo quel c'alcun vede..." written for his Platonic friend Vittoria Colonna speaks of the lasting quality of the works of art he "will" leave behind only after he, upon death, "will" turn to dust.

Never marrying, and without a direct heir, he willed a great deal of his possessions to his brother's son, his nephew, Lionardo. Today his nephew's modest palace, the Casa Buonarroti, can be visited with original works from his uncle, the master. The marble reliefs of the Madonna of the Steps and the Battle of the Centaurs are on display both completed when Michelangelo was a teenager.

Michelangelo, though dying in Rome on Feb. 18 1564 (same "important" date from the previous blog entry), was given a hero's funeral in Florence a few months later when his bier was transferred to Florence and a tomb monument was created by artist Giorgio Vasari.

The tomb is located at the Church of Santa Croce where the personifications of architecture, painting/drawing and sculpture weep the loss of the great Master. His poetry, unfortunately, not represented.

Michelangelo, shares his gift of poetry writing and his birth date with another creative "Florentine", Elizabeth Barrett-Browning. Though born in Durham, England on March 6th, 1806 Barrett-Browning lived out her adult married life in Florence and died here in 1861 in the arms of her beloved poet-husband Robert.

Elizabeth, considered one of the most respected poets of the Victorian era, published her first poems as a teenager.

After a fall and the death of her brother, Elizabeth lived for many years in an "almost" invalid state until a young man (six years her junior), Robert Browning, became enchanted with the poetess' romantic verses and declared his love for her. Quite incredulous of his devotion, it was the power of her pen and her dark hair and complexion that won his heart and subsequently he won the hand of his "little Portuguese girl" Browning's "pet name" for Elizabeth.

After being disowned from her family because of her marriage to Browning, Robert whisked Elizabeth to Florence where they lived on via Maggio at the Casa Guidi. The change of climate did her well as the couple welcomed their only son, fittingly called, "Pen" in 1849.

The romantic masterpiece, "Sonnets from the Portuguese" (her nickname), which begins "How do I love thee let me count the ways..." was written during her years in Florence on via Maggio.

The culmination of these kindred spirits' coincidental (or not so coincidental?) lives can be read in the verses of Barrett-Browning's Casa Guidi's Windows where she draws inspiration from the Michelangelo's sculptures for the tombs at the Medici Chapels (New Sacristy of the Church of San Lorenzo) of Dawn and Dusk with direct reference to Michelangelo's own poem written for the same sculptures. Later Barrett-Browning published her epic poem "Aurora Leigh" using the name Aurora (dawn) for her heroine who is half Florentine and half English.

In 1861, for reasons still not clear, at the age of 55 Elizabeth died in Florence where she is buried today at the English Cemetery on Piazza Donatello.

Two creative, poetic Pisces, recognized and respected in the arts when they were mere adolescents - living in and later laid to rest in Florence - both born on the 6th of March -separated by 331 years - have left their art for us to enjoy.... Today March 6th, 2009, visit their "homes" to recall their lives here in Florence (the Casa Buonarroti and Casa Guidi), see the tomb sculptures that inspired their poetry at the Medici Chapels and make a pilgrimage to their tombs at Santa Croce and the English Cemetery... and above all... read their poetry.

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