I have just made my first real visit to Florence, which is a bit rubbish. We have all gone as a family (minus one daughter, in Central America, having just recently spent 6 weeks at the British Institute in the City), behaving like proper tourists to see all the cultural sites. At one level, it is all rather passé. The images you see are all so iconic I feel I know them. However, seeing them up close is so different from the images reproduced in a textbook. Not only are the textures and colours so much more alive, I found myself trying to put myself in the shoes of the artist to understand what they were attempting to achieve.
Take the Ognissanti Madonna by Giotto (above): he was attempting nothing short of changing the way we saw the world. Before him most art was flat and stylistic: here he attempts perspective and a lifelike rendition of the human form. Looking back on it it all seems rather obvious to paint what you actually see, but at the time it was a proper hand brake turn.
To put it into context, we are on the cusp of developing the first real world technologies using quantum physics, a bizarre world where things can be probable but not certain, and connected across space and time. No, I don’t understand it either but it is going to take every bit as much fortitude for us to digest this wrenching change to the way we perceive the world as it did for our forefathers on the brink of the Rennaissance and the Enlightenment.