To Touch: Eternal Marble at Galleria Romanelli
by The Curious Pear
Statues are an essential part of Florence’s beauty. They are found all over the city; muscular bodies suspended in battle, elegant angels staring into the clouds, noblemen draped in plush robes, cheeky nymphs, chubby cherubs, titanic horses caught mid-spook, gods and demons and renaissance icons, all rendered in angelically smooth marble. Of course, the celebrity of Florence’s marble statue collection is Michelangelo’s David, who sours at over fourteen feet. But fine artists have been building flesh and bones from marble for centuries. And sculpture is still one of Florence’s finest crafts.
Over at Galleria Romanelli, sculpture artists are celebrating Florence’s artist past and embracing its future. In the soaring-ceilinged gallery, statues fill every corner. A soldier stands to attention, his head almost reaching the ceiling. A horse stares ahead into the distance. A gathering of smooth-skinned bodies congregate in the corner, their hair tumbling down their backs. Behind the gallery you will find the studio room. The space has been run by the same family of sculptors for two centuries. Brothers Raffaello and Vincenzo Romanelli celebrate locals materials in the space, blending together traditional sculpting methods with contemporary twists. This room is where blocks of marble and bronze turn from inanimate objects into corporal figures. When we visit, the white washed room is flooded with light. A prized sculptor is at work on an intricate bust, carving out the features as his model sits serenely for him. In here, visitors can come to learn the basics of this timeless art. Students from the famous Accademia di Belle Arti di Firenze visit regularly, using the space to perfect their skills. The walls of the studio are surreal, filled with half-finished heads and marble faces watching blankly over the room. We sit for a while, watching the sculptor scoop out the features of the bust. It strikes us that the sculptures that fill Galleria Romanelli are frozen in time. They represent the classical, unmoving beauty of Florence, as alive today as it has been for centuries.