I was probably in middle school when I read Irving Stone’s The Agony and the Ecstasy. Oh good lord, I loved that book! When the 700+ pages were finished, I went to the letters of Michelangelo in I Michelangelo, Sculptor. Irving Stone, the author of The Agony and the Ecstasy, had Michelangelo’s letters translated when he was working on the book. He had them published once he was finished. As a person who loves to read correspondence, these continued to draw me into the world of popes and art and egos. I went next to Stone’s similar take on VIncent Van Gogh – Lust for Life. Again, I found this amazingly interesting and captivating story that brought me into the Vincent fangirl club.
In high school, I had a world history class where we spent a few days in the darkened classroom looking at slides (real slides; not Powerpoint slides) of Italian Renaissance art. Not living close to any art gallery nor having parents who were particularly interested in art, this was probably the first time that I had seen large scale images of these beautiful objects. There was the Pieta, the Sistine Chapel, the David, St. Peters …. My adolescent self swooned, and dreamed that maybe someday, I would see those objects in person.
In college, Professor Hans Freund was a most charming professor who taught classes in history and the arts. Professor Freund had been one of my boyfriend’s professors, and he got to know and like us as a couple outside of the classroom. I was more of a sciency person in college, but when I saw that he was teaching a class on Renaissance art, I asked him if I could just sit in. He welcomed me to do so. For a semester, I got to sit in an Ivy covered old chapel on my college campus and listen to this delightful man gush over Renaissance art in a charming German accent. It was my own ecstasy. The finale of this wonderful adventure was that we got to go on a field trip to New York City where we visited The Cloisters and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Professor Freund also invited my boyfriend along so we could enjoy this adventure together. Even though I had lived my entire life in New York, it was my first trip to the city. I am guessing it was 1981- pre-Giuliani – and the city, to me, looked like a scene out of Blade Runner. Inside the museums, however, I saw beauty up close. I could see brush strokes and read signatures. Fantastico!
Since I was a girl and read about Michelangelo’s life and Renaissance times, I dreamed about one day actually going to Italy. I imagined seeing the beauty that was described or shown in books and classrooms. There have been years since then that I thought that it could happen, and there have been times that I figured that life would go by without my getting that chance. For most of us, life is that way. It is not a straight trajectory giving us a vantage point of seeing what is up ahead. It is the long and winding road where you can’t see the things around each corner.
But this I am pretty sure is true. The boyfriend that I had when I was eighteen years old – the boyfriend that I shared my love of all things Michelangelo to during the times that we were getting to know each other and falling in love – the boyfriend who introduced me to Professor Freund – the boyfriend who took me to a museum in St. Louis and walked me straight to my first Vincent painting and let me stand there long to take it in – the boyfriend who has imagined many what-if vacations with me – the boyfriend who became my husband thirty years ago, is going to Italy with me soon. It is still hard for me to believe, but the road is straight enough at this point that I can see it and I know it is going to happen.