Five Art Works in Europe That Left Me Speechless!

Monet's Water Lillies - Photo by McKrista1976 on Flickr

When you travel, there are plenty of moments that leave you completely speechless; you see something so awe-inspiring that you get goosebumps.

Well, for the past year, I have encountered many such moments, sitting on planes at least once every two weeks. But for the sake of this post, I will limit my universe to Europe and artworks created by a single artist.

Also as a heads up, I am no art connoisseur and have had no formal education in art or a field remotely even close to it. Some works of beauty just need to be felt and not necessarily understood.

In no particular order, the instances where my jaw dropped when I saw some of these brilliant works of art.

#1: Michelangelo’s David (Accademia, Florence, Italy)

Michelangelo’s David is one of those art works that never lets you down.

The reason I state Michelangelo’s David because there was one created by Donatello as well in the Bargello museum in Florence which is equally pretty but just a lot smaller in size. David lives up to all the hype despite the fact that you are greeted with its replica at the Piazza Della Signoria.

At almost 510 years old, David was created by Michelangelo when he was hardly 30. He worked for 3 years on a block of marble which was rejected by most sculptors and created the 17 feet tall David.

The statue shows the precision with which Michelangelo understood the human body almost 500 years ago. He has carved David’s veins with intricate detail and that was the moment when I was left absolutely spellbound.

David’s expression is confusing as well and many people are unsure whether he has already confronted Goliath or is about to do so.

From his perplexing glance, to the veins on his body, Michelangelo’s David deserves every bit of your attention.

Michaelangelo's David by jay8085 on Flickr
Michaelangelo’s David by jay8085 on Flickr

#2: Adoration of the Mystic Lamb (St Bavo’s Cathedral, Ghent, Belgium)

If you are in Brussels or Bruges, a stop at Ghent is highly recommended to see Jan Van Eyck’s Adoration of the Mystic Lamb.

The beauty of this Flemish art which explains the A to Z of Christianity lies in its detail and the fine brush strokes.

It is one of the most stolen art pieces in the world and was stolen seven separate times. In fact, a part of it still remains stolen (The Just Judges) and to this day, a detective is still working on the case to find the missing piece.

Hitler stole this altar piece during World War II and it was later recovered in a salt mine in Germany (watch the Monument’s Men for more details).

Ghent Altarpiece by Jennifer Mei on Flickr
Ghent Altarpiece by Jennifer Mei on Flickr

#3: Claude Monet’s Water Lilies (Orangerie Museum, Paris, France)

Monet’s water lilies at the Orangerie museum are an awesome experience; they take impressionism to a completely different level.

The water lilies are huge, spectacular and detailed, but most importantly: peaceful. There is something so calming about them. Not many paintings have left me with a sense of calm. And after a long day of visiting tourist sites, this is exactly what you need.

In a perfect oval room, Monet’s water lilies provide you with that inner peace that you seek when you are in the lap of nature.

Claude Monet's Water Lillies by McKrista1976 on Flickr
Claude Monet’s Water Lillies by McKrista1976 on Flickr

#4: Ugolino and his children (Rodin Museum, Paris, France)

From peaceful Monet’s water lilies, my next stop was the Rodin Museum which left me with the exact opposite feeling.

Rodin’s Ugolino and his children, the topic that has also been referenced in Dante’s Divine Comedy, leaves you angry, hollow and squeamish. Ugolino’s hollow eyes just intensify that feeling. There is something so evil and at the same time so pitiful about Ugolino lying over his dying children and contemplating of devouring them. It made me wonder: is hunger is more powerful than grief?

In spite of the horror it evokes, it remains as one of the favourite art pieces that I have seen.

Ugolinoa and his children by Joe DeSousa on Flickr
Ugolinoa and his children by Joe DeSousa on Flickr

#5: Sistine Chapel (Vatican Museum, Rome, Italy)

My neck hurt pretty badly after 5 minutes of gazing up at the ceiling of the Sistine chapel.

I have no clue how Michelangelo painted the massive frescoes up there for four continuous years.

The ceiling demonstrates nine scenes from the book of Genesis and judgement day on one of the walls. Of the nine scenes, Creation of Adam is extremely popular.

The one thing I love about Michelangelo’s paintings is that you can tell he was a sculptor. His paintings look more like sculptures superimposed on one another and that feels to me like his signature. From what I have read, he hated painting the magnificent Sistine chapel. I am only left perplexed as to how gorgeous would it be had he loved painting the Sistine Chapel.

In my book, it’s criminal to go to Rome and not see the Sistine Chapel.

Sistine Chapel by BriYYZ on Flickr
Sistine Chapel by BriYYZ on Flickr

How about you?

Well, I restricted my list to five but there are many other paintings from Leonardo da Vinci, Picasso, Renoir, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Botticelli, Titian and Caravaggio that I absolutely adored but have not included in this list.

I am curious to know about the art works that left you completely speechless – which ones would you love to take a trip to see? Tell me in the comments!

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