It’s funny. I was planning to write something about my visit to the Great Synagogue in Florence last week. When, first Googling to get the correct name (make sure it wasn’t the ‘Grand’ or ‘Central’ or whatever) that I accidentally clicked on a link to Florence Syndrome.
Florence has been on my mind follow last week’s trip.
I was going to mention Florence Nightingale*, she of the lamp, as that was the city where she was born in 1820.
In one of the churches there is a small commemorative plaque.
Anyway, fancy there being an associated condition.
It has another name, that is Stendhal (19th century French novelist) Syndrome, although given the narrative, let’s stick with Florence.
It appears this is a psychiatric, or perhaps psychosomatic syndrome associated with a profound physical response to art (rise in heart rate, palpitations, breathlessness). It would probably make the artist’s day to know that their creation had such an effect .
We often forget that one of the aspirations of art is to connect the physical with the spiritual or the eternal, linking a pen or brushstroke with creativity or imagination.
It is easy, particularly when there is so much art on display in a place like the Uffizi to become inured. ‘Not another Annunciation,’ you sigh, forgetting that for the artist, perhaps during or after the creation of the art there was something special going-on; this was their link between their everyday and divinity.
Art in the current era is so monetised, transformed into postcards, keyrings, and memes that we forget how special it can be.
Imagine a 14th century peasant seeing a gold-leaf portrayal of a scene from the life of Jesus. In a time, devoid of electricity or even books, the experience must have been transformative.
I remember as a student in Dundee back in the 90’s there was a fashion for 3-D posters; these were images of Marilyn Monroe and beefburgers that when looked at but not looked-at, came alive. I was never able to see them, perhaps I was too grounded.
PS I’ve no idea what this is in this image, if it is inappropriate, please let me know!
Art often aspires to trick us into believing that our perceptions are befuddled and, that what we see is real or what is not real is real. Dali was a connoisseur.
I sometimes wonder what it would be like to travel back in time with my iPhone and show it to someone from two or three hundred years ago. Sure, there would be no connectivity, but until the battery ran-out I’d be able to show them some of the apps and maybe the camera.
I suspect this was a similar experience for those seeing their first Pieta.
In a way, because we are exposed to so much that is beyond our imagination or perhaps our ability to create, TV and movies and cartoons we have forgotten the magic involved in creativity.
I have certainly never diagnosed anyone with Florence Syndrome.
It would be funny if I did…
‘Diagnosis – Florence Syndrome’
‘Treatment – avoid visiting Florence and/or trips to art galleries. Watch more TV’
The irony of this is that I had intended to discuss the synagogue and I have gone nowhere near it.
Such is life.
Here is a picture.
*Interestingly, Wikipedia describes Florence N as a statistician. Who would have thought?