A Foot and a Finger in Milan

Finding myself with a few hours in Milan between trains, I made a bee-line for the famous cathedral. Out of the subway I came and… Ecce Duomo! 

 It’s an astounding place, it’s white marble exterior covered with sculpture, and its interior blazing with color from the enormous stained glass windows. 

  Love the guards’ cockaded hats, by the way.

 One of the the main sights inside is Marco d’Agrate’s gruesome statue of St. Bartholomew, who was flayed in his martyrdom. 

Mark Twain had seen this statue in Innocents Abroad, and wrote,

The guide showed us a coffee-colored piece of sculpture which he said was considered to have come from the hand of Phidias, since it was not possible that any other artist, of any epoch, could have copied nature with such faultless accuracy. The figure was that of a man without a skin; with every vein, artery, muscle, every fiber and tendon and tissue of the human frame represented in minute detail. It looked natural, because somehow it looked as if it were in pain. A skinned man would be likely to look that way unless his attention were occupied with some other matter. It was a hideous thing, and yet there was a fascination about it some where. I am very sorry I saw it, because I shall always see it now. I shall dream of it sometimes. I shall dream that it is resting its corded arms on the bed’s head and looking down on me with its dead eyes; I shall dream that it is stretched between the sheets with me and touching me with its exposed muscles and its stringy cold legs.

It is hard to forget repulsive things.

Twain is being a little over dramatic here, of course, for the real point of this St. Bartholomew is to call into question worldly things. Still, it is repulsive. The best I can do to express that is to show you his foot.  

The Duomo used to be the tallest building in Milan until it was outdone by the Pirelli skyscraper in the 50s and more recently the Unicredit Tower.  Banking, after Fashion, is Milan’s biggest business, and its home is the Borsa a few blocks away.

Having done due diligence in seeing the Dupmo, I rushed on over to the Borsa to see Maurizio Cattelan’s L.O.V.E. (Liberté, Ofio, Vendetta, Eternità).I had written a post on this before, but had not seen it in the flesh, so to speak. An enormous hand recalls Constantine’s hand in Rome, of course–so an indictment of power–but also Adam Smith’s invisible hand–an indictment of the free market. People complain about the difficulty of modern art, but as a commentary of la crise in 2008, it could not be more clear. In its own way, it’s a caution against the things of this world.


About Uncomely and Broken

I am a classicist in Sewanee, Tennessee.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s