More than a dozen years ago I painted this watercolour of Florence from a photo taken on the steps leading up to Piazzale Michelangelo, a large piazza overlooking the city which affords spectacular views of the city. I preferred the view from the steps, which, together with the trees and foliage, framed the rooftops of the city in a pleasing way. My painting included the entire cupola of the Duomo but for some reason I cropped that edge out of the picture. You can see another cropping below that includes it.
Perhaps I didn’t like that second spindly tree trunk, or more likely, my skills at photography, and record keeping, were not as developed, but these two pictures are all I have left of the painting which has long ago been sold. What I do still have are the memories of that place and time, and of creating the painting afterwards, working for weeks totally absorbed in the process, loving the movement of wet paint on paper and developing meticulous layers of luminous color.
When I revisited Florence earlier this month I naturally had to return to that spot and revisit my memory of being there. I remembered my children skipping up and sitting on those stairs. I remembered it being wintertime. I remembered the restaurant at the back of the piazza called La Loggia, but I couldn’t remember if we ate there or not. I remembered it being a happy time.
Of course I had to photograph the city from the same vantage point. One of those photos is below. The interesting spindly trees on the right of the wall were gone and in their place were several large cranes that marrred the view, but the most significant changes were the ones in my life. My children had grown. I was with a new partner. I observed the city with fresh eyes and I took away new memories. I noticed the steps were a pilgrimage of crosses. I helped a street musician take a snapshot of himself with the same backdrop for a cd cover he was planning. I reveled in the warm sunny day and giggled through more attempts at selfies of ourselves with both phone and SLR cameras. And I shot a photo of La Loggia, though I didn’t eat there. One thing that hadn’t changed was that it was a happy time.