The Bark, the wonderful modern dog culture magazine, recently featured a story on Lorenzo Ghiberti's famous bronze doors from Florence's Baptistery that are now touring America – well not all the doors, but several panels that represent them.
One of the panels depicts the story of Jacob and Esau and is compositionally centered on two dogs. Professor Amy Bloch of SUNY Albany proposes that the dogs represent the two brothers, one hairy (Esau) and one smooth-skinned (Jacob), who tricked his brother out of his inheritance.
The panels and part of the frieze, which took 27 years to make (1425-1452) and 25 years to restore, are on view now at The Art Institute of Chicago until October 14. Then, they travel to The Met from October 30 to January 13, before they return to Florence where they will be displayed in a hermetically sealed room at the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo.
I lived in Florence from 1987-1988 and rode by these doors almost every day on my way to school. I confess I never noticed the dogs, but at that time I never noticed any dogs. During my stay there, I was devoted to my bicycle and in a way, it was my first pet. I named my bike La Strada ("the road" in English and based on Fellini's film), and though I wouldn't say it had a personality, I was crazy about it and definitely emotionally attached. When my family came to visit my mother took this beautiful portrait:
My two sisters and I had an magical night riding through the dark streets of Florence together, stopping for gelato, and cruising through the spooky piazzas of lesser-known neighborhoods. When my boyfriend came to visit, I rented him a bike for his birthday and we rode up into the hills for an adventure. He gave me a red bell for my bike as a parting gift. I still cherish that bell as a reminder of my time in Florence and my beloved bike. (And my boyfriend, who is still a great friend.) Anyway, here are some pictures I took from the Campanile next to the Baptistery:
And here are some photos of me on my bike taken by my friend and roommate, Renée, who now lives in Milan and works for Corbis Photography.
P.S. When I left Florence I found La Strada a nice home with a family to play with it. I think it had a good life, and maybe it's still out there on "the road."
P.P.S. More dogs on Monday. I got a little carried away today. Florence can do that to you.