Bright and early this morning on the 26th of May, our cohort gathered in anticipation of touring one of the highlights of our adventure in Italy- the grand Uffizi Museum and Gallery. Within its walls lies one of the largest galleries of paintings and sculptures hundreds to well over a thousand years old.
Being surrounded with wall to wall paintings depicting life in the time of the Greeks and Romans, the medieval times, and the Renaissance was humbling. The sheer artistry was enough to leave its viewer breathless and in awe, but the way these painters and sculptors depicted these images made a viewer feel apart of the human experience. So different, yet so similar, their struggles and triumphs were not so different from the ones we undergo today.
Having our first class yesterday made this opportunity all the more incredible. In Dr. Streufert’s class we just finished reading excerpts from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. One story from this work recounts the fable of Niobe, a woman boasting to be the best mother in the entire world. Her pride leads her to insult Latona, goddess mother to Apollo and Diana, whom she sends to kill all of Niobe’s children. We learn that because of Niobe’s hubris, pride, she loses the thing she prides herself in most.
While in the Uffizi today, we saw a sculpture of Niobe shielding one of her children from the wrath of Latona, and it evoked strong emotion from me personally. It’s easy to judge a character like Niobe for her arrogance, but when you can see the fear sculpted in a marble face, it becomes easier to relate to this fictional character’s desperation and struggle.
While I doubt any of us can sympathize as ever having dealt with a situation in any way similar to this one, we can all identify the effects that pride or arrogance might have had in our own personal lives. Though thousands of years can pass through time- we are all still very human.
It’s one thing to see a painting on a Powerpoint sitting in a classroom, it’s another thing entirely to see it up close in front of you- close enough to reach out and touch (but don’t try or the buzzers and museum bouncers will rat you out). It’s also one thing to read the writings of Ovid and Dante, then step outside and walk the very same streets that once inspired their works and cultivated their arts. It’s an experience that surpasses value, and every day is better than the last.