It takes a gifted artist to become a great teacher and those who dare to teach never cease to learn.
Monday, April 27, 2015
Squash from the Grand Ducal Garden of St. Francis in Pisa by Bartolomeo Bimbi (1711) - Note the leaning tower in the background (weight 160 pounds noted on the label)
Monday, April 14th was likely one of the absolute highlights of our Italy tour. We started at the Botanical Collections of Museum of Natural History where Prof. C. Nepi prepared an outstanding private tour at the botanical section “Filippo Parlatore” which is typically closed to the public. The Botanical Gardens (Orto Botanico) date back to 1545, when Grand Duke Cosimo de' Medici purchased the land from the Dominican sisters.
The museum includes several historical “closed” herbaria, the earliest is Cesalpino’s from 1563, including 768 species of plants in three volumes. The Cesalpino herbarium is probably the oldest herbarium still in existence. In addition the museum houses six other historical herbaria, including that of Webb (close to 400,000 specimens) and Beccari (The Malaysian herbarium and The Palm herbarium). Beccari’s collection from Malaysia also includes over 2,000 specimens in jars, either desiccated or in alcohol. We also saw a collection of botanical paintings by Bartolomeo Bimbi (1648-1730) showing the biodiversity in the gardens of the Medici Villas, and hundreds of wax, terracotta and plaster of Paris models of plants and fruits (oldest of these date to the end of 17th century). These collections show how the industrial large scale fruit growing has caused a genetic impoverishment and many of the 17th century varieties are now lost forever.
We walked through the halls of the open herbaria: The Herbarium Centrale Italicum and The Cryptogamic Herbarium containing at the moment circa 5 million specimens. This part was established in 1842, before the unification of the modern Italy.
In the afternoon we visited the collections of Cabinetto dei Disegni e Stampe at Uffzi, where after the warm welcome by the department director dr. Marzia Faietti, dr. Lucilla Conigliello presented numerous works by Jacopo Ligozzi and Giovanna Garzoni. This was an absolute privilege as these priceless works are always rested for five years after exposing them to the day-light. Mrs. Conigliello is a specialist on Ligozzi and gave us an exceptional presentation of the original works. Before we left, Dr. G. Marini arranged a great finale by showing us several extremely fragile original drawings by Leonardo da Vinci, each demonstrating e different technique used by the master.
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