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  • Writer's pictureLilium

A Fresh Guide to Florence - Picture Palace

Miracle of the Relic of the Cross at the Ponte di Rialto by Vittore Carpaccio

"In this revelatory documentary, hip-hop legend and art lover Fab 5 Freddy (aka Fred Brathwaite) saddles up to explore 15th-century Italian renaissance art in 15th-century style – on horseback.  Amidst superstar artists such as Michelangelo, Giotto, Ghiberti and Carpaccio, Fab discovers groundbreaking images of a multi-racial and multi-ethnic society that have slipped through the cracks of art history."

As I write this article the documentary only has 7 days left on BBC iPlayer and will no longer be available to watch until it resurfaces somewhere on Youtube, never the less I felt it important to share, not just because of the art and history featured in the documentary but also the valuable and memorable lesson it taught. The power of the historian.

During the documentary Fab discovers people of colour all though Venice including Alessandro de' Medici, Duke of Penne and also Duke of Florence, was ruler of Florence from 1531 to his death in 1537 but historians had tucked them away at the back and let them "slip thought the cracks" of not just art history but in most cases any form of documented history all together. Race was irrelevant in 15th century Venice, what was important was your birth rights, it was later historians whose own feelings and biases that coloured history or to put it better took the colour out of it.

This is a lesson I will always keep in mind when I am writing myself, to not pick and choose information carelessly and to not trust one exclusive source to be unbiased when researching the history of individuals and movements.


Below is a linked photo that will take you to BBC Studios where they have a 2 minute trailer where Fab talks about his own experience in being at the centre of an artistic renaissance and an introduction to the art he will be talking about.


“When I was a kid, I would cut school to travel around Manhattan museums. I would show up and toss a nickel in the admissions box then spend a day in fantasy land, going from English armour to Renaissance paintings, pop art to expressionism.”

I noticed as I researched and read articles from major magazines that they had formed their opinions before even watching the documentary purely on the two facts of the topic and who was presenting it. One writer was incredibly stroppy because Fab connected the Italian Renaissance to his own Renaissance in Brooklyn, stating the fact that Fab had referenced his own work to "the greats" made him pick up the remote to change the channel.

I don't see the problem of connecting the two. They were both great artistic movements that changed their genre forever and just because the artist in Brooklyn were creating art with whatever materials they could get their hands on and working with records and not oil paints, doesn't mean their impact wasn't real and valid. It's just art through a different lens.

“You’ll always run up against ignorant people and you have to tear through those boundaries, whether you like it or not. That’s why I was so taken by the technical innovations of Renaissance art and even by what the punks were doing in the 80s because they were all challenging people. I’m lucky I’m still here and I’ll keep on pushing those boundaries. There’s still so much to discover.”

- Fred Brathwaite aka Fab Five Freddie


Below is a small selection of some of the art work featured in the documentary


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