Cinque Terre in Disneyland

The beauty of Cinque Terre will feature as the stunning backdrop to Luca’, a new animated movie by Disney and Pixar due for release in June. The animation is by Italian artist Enrico Casarosa, from Genoa who dedicates his first feature film as director to his childhood holidays in Liguria. And locals at Vernazza were all abuzz with the news!

Luca shares summer adventures with his newfound best friend Alberto but all the fun is threatened by a deeply-held secret: he is a sea monster from another world just below the water’s surface”.

In the meantime maintenance work continues, the boat slip is finished and dredging has begun in the bay in Vernazza. While another landslide at the beginning of the trail to Monterosso needs to be attended to unfortunately.Cinque Terre, Vernazza

On other trail areas – Vernazza to Corniglia,  Park maintenance has progressed and another fallen wall has been repaired and new steps over the marshy area are almost complete.

Cinque Terre hike trail safety ropeCloser to home the National Park has bolted a safety rope into the rockface on the narrow part of the trail leading into San Bernardino to help hikers who are less surefooted.

Spring flowers are abundant and some locals haveSpring flowers Cinque Terre cleared new areas for vegetable gardens and new vineyards. All it needs is a little sunshine and Nature’s colours warm the heart and brighten our spirits.

 

 

Due to Covid 19 the Cinque Terre remains quiet, bereft of tourists, an opportune time for repairs and maintenance to this fragile territory while looking forward to better times to come.Cinque Terre Springtime

 

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Uffizi Gallery aiming high on social networks

Uffizi Gallery, FlorenceWhether it be for work or play social networks have become an integral part of our lives and in many cases helping us to survive the trauma of Covid 19. Uffizi Gallery in Florence is no exception and having plunged into social networks only 2 years ago it is rating very high on them and in fact the most followed Museum of Italy.

Since Eike Schmidt took over as Director in 2015, there have been some major changes in the layout and presentation of the works of art, the launch into social networks and the use of popular ‘influencers’ to attract a new audience and increase curiosity and interest. While we may not all agree with the changes he is certainly following his idea of making the Uffizi Gallerypop, cool and a little rock“! Take a look at the recent video on Uffizi’s Instagram as an example of catching the interest of a younger audience, together with placing some works of art at kid’s height.

Uffizi Gallery, Masterpieces at kid's height

Photo credit: www.corriere.it

And for us bigger kids, following uffizigalleries on facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter the posts are a constant delight and a wealth of information. Not just a passive presence but also an opportunity for dialogue and debate. A series of cooking lessons – Uffizi on the plate– based on still life masterpieces by some of our local chefs kept many of us entertained this winter

And we celebrated the arrival of Spring live from the  Botticelli room, 23 March with an intense explanation of the history, mystery and intrigue behind the painting, and the symbolism associated with the over 500 plants and flowers featured.Anenomes Boboli GardensThe impression this year is that of seeing them for the first time, on the green and pristine expanses of the Boboli Gardens, still not open to the public. Anemones are fragile and very delicate flowers, “animated by the wind”, as the word itself, derived from the Greek ἄνεμος (anemos) = wind, says. In fact, they are born on wind-swept meadows at the end of winter, among the blades of grass, with tremulous corollas that the slightest breeze “animates”, shakes, shakes and easily knocks down. A transient and glorious flower, the anemone has always announced Spring. It goes without saying that every day at the Uffizi is Spring.                                                                             The most famous is that of 1482, by Sandro Botticelli.                                                 May the season of Rebirth be for everyone!”Spring by Botticelli

The five most popular works so far from Uffizi Gallery on social media have been dedicated to – Michelangelo’s Tondo Doni, the Laocoonte by Baccio Bandinelli, Pallas and the Centaur by Botticelli, and the Annunciation by Leonardo da Vinci, and the Gaddi Torso.

The Annunciation by Leonardo da Vinci

Chiara Ferragni at Uffizi Gallery

Photo credit – www.forbes.it

The influencer who made an appearance was Chiara Ferragni, who has over 20m followers and who Schmidt described as our ‘modern day Venus‘ but I will leave you to judge that. And while many, including me, did not approve of her presence she supposedly increased Uffizi Gallery followers on social networks by 27%, so may have opened up a whole new world to a younger age group, and that’s very encouraging.

Uffizi Gallery also does rather cheeky clips on ‘TikTok’ the one here shows Venus shouting to keep a 1m social distance during Covid 19.

So there is something for everyone from Uffizi Gallery on social networks and it has certainly been a boom for the Museum and an enormous benefit for all of us. Do take a look if you are not already a follower – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok…..

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Twentieth Century Art – Alberto della Ragione Collection, Florence

Florence Art museums open and close according to Covid 19 restrictions, and many have kept us entertained and informed with online presentations.Museo Novecento, Florence

One such Museum is Museo Novecento (Twentieth Century Art Museum) of Florence which is often ignored except for passionate art lovers of the 1900’s like me. Housed in the old hospital of Saint Paolo behind the beautiful Renaissance loggia by Michelozzi. The Museum’s collection is impressive and an important representation of the period. When open the Museum also holds some interesting temporary exhibitions of International artists. However the Alberto della Ragione collection has been the major contribution to the Museum with some of Italy’s well known artists of the time.

An online presentation gave an insight into this fascinating man and somewhat unlikely art collector, Alberto della Ragione. He was a newcomer to Art,  who followed his feelings and often ignored comments from art critics of the time, buying what he liked while delving into the lives of the artists who produced the work.

Born in 1892 in Piano di Sorrento near Naples, he transferred to Genoa for his profession as a naval engineer. He was highly esteemed in his profession, traveling widely around Italy to port cities where he specialized in recuperating sunken vessels. A lover of music and books he ventured into Art buying his first painting in 1928 a Still Life for his dining room. The joy it gave him, started what would become a lifetime passion for Art and a great distraction from his work.

Fortunato Depero 1932 Nitrite in Speed

Fortunato Depero 1932

His spare time became consumed studying Art, visiting exhibitions, being disappointed in some and wanting to understand more about the actual artists active at the time, particularly those not approved of by the fascist regime.

The major part of his collection was bought between 1932-45 crucial years of political turmoil, racial discrimination and World War. In the end he cultivated great friendships with his group of artists, playing an important role as Patron in their development as well as offering refuge to some fearing prosecution for their anti-fascist views and/or Jewish heritage. He bought a Gallery in Milan, offering contracts to the artists thereby giving them a permanent income so they could concentrate on painting.

Renato Guttuso 25.7.43 Portrai of Alberto della Ragione Renato Guttuso, one of the artists in his group and with whom he had a great friendship, rang him on hearing that Mussolini and the fascist regime had fallen. and went immediately to Genoa to celebrate with him. Guttuso insisted on painting his portrait as record of that important day 25/7/1943, including another of his own paintings in the background.

His collection is a wonderful  mix of futurists work – Fortunato Depero, Gino Severini, portraits – Renato Guttuso, Virgilio Guidi, Ottone Rosai: still life – Mario Mafei, Antonio Donghi and landscapes particularly connected to his love of the sea – Filippo de Pisis, Carlo Carra` to name just a few.

Museum Novecento Twentieth Century ArtThe collection is displayed in various sections under themes – Cavalry, Gestures, Suspended Poses; The artist and his world; Still Life; Nudes, the Female; Landscape; Sculpted Paintings, painted Sculptures; Farces; and Faces, Portraits. Here you see only a small selection of  the 250 works of Art that make up the collection.

Gino Severini The Window with Doves 1931In the end the Milan Gallery closed in debt and della Ragione looked for a solution for his collection, drawn to Florence and his Florentine friends as the ideal artistic city. In 1970 he donated his collection to the Council of Florence but unfortunately it never became visible to the public until its inclusion in the Museo Novecento in 2014 when the Museum first opened. . Alberto della Ragione died in 1973, so fortunately never knew of the years delay before his collection could be fully appreciated. The Museum certainly deserves to be included in the list of Florence Art Museums to visit  when life returns to ‘normal.’Francesco Menzio Head of a Woman 1933


 

 

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Beauty beyond Limits, Forte Belvedere, Florence

Iron Ore Hills Siena provinceBack to one of my favourite places in Florence, Forte Belvedere to see what will be the last of outdoor exhibitions this year. The ‘Beauty beyond Limits‘ photographic exhibition by photo reporter Massimo Sestini. Twenty monumental photographic works reproduced in a 5 x 3 metre format, capturing glimpses of Tuscany portrayed from an aerial perspective. Fantastic images full of colour and texture, idealizing our love of geometric order. All part of various initiatives around the concept of ‘Tuscany, Renaissance without End’, promoted  by The Tuscan Tourism Board.

As  the curator Sergio Risaliti says “Sestini wants to show us how photography transforms the landscape into a picture, in pictorial language, with its contents returned to the gaze in terms of structures and figurative terms. The landscape as a work of art is born from the union between the artist, the photographer , the technological tool, the performing gesture decided upstream “,

Aerial view on Florence

Florence, aerial view and the real thing

And he has taken shots of some beloved places, that I never get tired of seeing no matter from what perspective – Florence, Cathedral, the Palio of Siena,  the countryside of Val d’Orcia,….

Landscape of Val d'Orcia, Siena

Val d’Orcia

 

Bike race, dirt roads, Siena

Bike race, dirt roads, Siena

The incredible texture of the landscape shots from 600m or so above is powerful.

 

 

 

 

Sestini also managed to include in the exhibition one of his personal passions whichRolling Stone concert, Lucca started his career in photography, taking photos at rock concerts before he moved onto newspaper reporting. Rolling Stones concert in Lucca 2017.

And of course in the setting of Forte Belvedere it’s a pleasure to wander amongst the photos as well as savour the fantastic view over Florence.View of Florence

While the view and exhibition would normally attract thousands of visitors, this year Covid 19 has sadly left the bar empty and only a few wander the grounds. Still I am sure they are already planning next year’s exhibition at  Forte Belvedere as it has hosted many stunning ones over the years – Gormley ‘Humans’, ‘Sounding of the Gong’, Zhang Huan ‘Soul and Matter‘, Folon and more…

Massimo Sestini continues with an exhibition indoors in Santa Maria Novella church complex that will continue into 2021 with photos related to Dante Alighieri as  it will be 700years since his death. Dante 700.I hope to get to see that, since lockdown is still permitting Museums to remain open….so far.

Florence will have its Renaissance after Covid 19 leaves us!                                          For those coming out of lockdown – Be careful, for those slipping into lockdown – Be patient and everybody Stay Safe!

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Florence frescoes in Brancacci chapel

Santa Maria del Carmine church, Florence church.While it’s still hot, the other best place to get cool is hiding in museums or churches, and Florence has no lack of either. A favourite and lesser known church, very unassuming with an unfinished facade is the Santa Maria del Carmine church.  It houses one of the most important frescoe cycles of the early Renaissance period in the Brancacci chapel. So called, as it was commissioned by Felice Brancacci, a wealthy Florentine Andrea Verga cultural mediator guidewool and silk merchant and politician, to illustrate the life of St Peter in honour of his grandfather Peter who had made the family’s fortune. Also in recognition that the  Great Western schism of the church had been resolved in 1417.

To get the best out of my visit. Andrea Verga, a young enthusiastic ‘cultural mediator’ employed by Muse was my delightful storyteller.

The frescoes make a fascinating story, and as appropriate in educating the population of today as they served to educate the population in the past. They illustrate the artistic developments of the three artists involved, and the political climate with portraits of friends and important statesmen featuring in episodes..

Miraculously the frescoes were spared by the great fire of 1771 that devastated the rest of the church, covering the frescoes with smoke. They were brush cleaned in 1904 but it was not until the late 1980’s that a thorough restoration returned the frescoes to their vivid colours.

Painted between 1424 and 1428 by  Masolino da Panicale and his young pupil Masaccio. Masaccio being considered the first great artist of the early Renaissance and associating with other such greats as Brunelleschi and Donatello. However, the frescoes remained unfinished due to his premature death at only 26 years in 1428, and were completed some 50 years later between 1481 and 1483 by Filippino Lippi.

The Original Sin by MasolinoFrom the fairytale figures af Adam and Eve in ‘The Original Sin‘ by Masolino to the more innovative style of Massaccio who uses light and shade to give more realism to the scene, and more consistency and solidity to the figures as in ‘The Tribute Money’.  Three scenes in one, where Christ shows St Peter  how to get coins from a fish to pay the city entrance tax as the Roman tax collector (in the short orange tunic in the foreground) demands, and St Peter, always in a yellow robe, pays (on the right).The Tribute Money by Masaccio

St Peter preaches and converts the thousands‘ by Masolino (on the upper left) to ‘The Baptism of the Neophytes‘ by Masaccio (on the right). Note the transparent water and the figure shivering as he waits his turn to be baptized. Below left ‘Healing the sick‘ by Masaccio where St Peter on passing has healed a lame man and another two wait to be healed.

Distribution of Alms and death of Ananias by Masaccio In the ‘Distribution of alms‘ my trusty guide Andrea,  tells us that Masaccio came from a very poor family and was easily able to portray the poverty of the time in the mother holding the child wearing a dress too small. It also highlighted the lesson to be learnt as the rich had been encouraged to share their wealth but Ananias had kept some of his share apart and St Peter knowing that he lied calls him out. Ananias fell dead at his feet from shame.

In the ‘Healing of the Cripple‘ and the ‘Raising of Tabitha‘ by both Masolino and Masaccio ( top frescoe below) we were to note the scene of everyday Florentine life in the background – washing hanging out, a monkey sneaking along the facade, a child tugging at his mother’s skirt. The two elegant figures in the centre, one dressed in wool and ermine fur trim, typical of the 13th century (on the right), the other in damask silk customary in the 14th century with velvet turbans indicating the fruitfulness of Oriental trade.Brancacci chapel frescoes

‘The Crucifixion of St Peter‘ and ‘St Peter and Simon Magus before Nero‘ were painted by Filippino Lippi. St Peter crucified upside down as a sign of humility to Christ, as in death we return to our birth position. In the archway staring at us is a portrait of Sandro Botticelli, Filippino’s friend and teacher, and probably a self portrait of Filippino St Peter Enthroned by Masacciowith the beret on the extreme right .behind the blue robe

We can see other famous portraits in ‘St Peter’s Enthronement‘ by Masaccio – in the right corner hardly visible is tiny Masolino beside a self portrait of Masaccio in red robe next to Brunelleschi with the black hat, and Leon Alberto Battista ( humanist and architect) in black robe.
St Peter Raising Theophilus from the dead by Masaccio and Filippino Lippi

The last curiosity I will share is the elaborate ‘photoshop’ that occurred in the scene ‘Raising of Theophilus Son from the Dead‘ Here Theophilus (in pink on elevated stage) is a portrait of Florence’s bitter enemy the Milan tyrant Visconti and in the crowd around the son the Brancacci family had been featured. However as the Brancacci family were exiled from Florence in 1436 for being anti Medici, Filippino Lippi had to redo the heads!

To think such a tiny chapel holds a wealth of information in these frescoes of which one could write about for pages; the political significance, the religious symbolism, the personal differences.  Funnily enough  Masolino and Masaccio are nicknames as they were both officially named Tommaso but nicknamed ‘little Tom’ for Masolino and ‘clumsy or messy Tom’ for Masaccio. I am forever enchanted by the ‘mess‘, particularly of a youngster only in his 20’s!


 

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Raffaello, 500 years after his death

Self portrait 1506 Uffizi GalleryIn the midst of Covid19 Lockdown is the celebration of Raffaello, the great Renaissance painter and architect, 500 years after his death on the 6th April 1520.

A grand exhibition  ‘Raffaello’  has been organised in the Quirinal Stables in Rome to open on the 5 March until 20 June. However Covid 19 changed all that, although the exhibition may still be extended.  Over 100 paintings and designs are in the exhibition from all over the world, 40 of which have come from the Uffizi Gallery in Florence which has an extensive collection of Raffaello‘s work.

In such a brief lifespan (1483-1520) Raffaello produced some remarkable and beautiful masterpieces, in paintings, frescoes and designs. Born in Urbino ( Le Marche) he lost his mother at 8 years and was orphaned at 11 when his father died. His father had been a painter and recognised the potential in his son, introducing him to the well known painter Perugino where Raffaello completed his apprenticeship. At 17 he had already surpassed his master in technique and skill in composition, perspective and sensitivity to his subject.

The Engagement of the Virgin Mary 1504

 

Raffaello’sThe Engagement of the Virgin Mary’ 1504   (Pinoteca Gallery Brera, Milan)  has definite similarities to his master, Perugino‘s work ‘The Marriage of the Virgin’ yet if you compare the two the pupil has outclassed his master in perspective and naturalness in the figures.

In 1504 he arrived in Florence, which at the time was experiencing a moment of great creativity with artistic masters such as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. Raffaello studied their work and develops his own ‘in which naturalness of gesture and idealized beauty are in perfect balance.’

He still remains very attached to his birthplace and is sought after for his talents, producing many portraits of important members of society – like the Duke and Duchess of Urbino (Uffizi Gallery)Duke and Duchess of Urbino

and an important Florentine couple – the merchant Agnolo Doni and his wife Maddalena Strozzi 1506 (Uffizi Gallery)Agnolo Doni and wife Maddalena Strozzi 1506

 

Madonna of the goldfinch 1505/06He works on some variations on the theme of the Virgin, a subject which will accompany him throughout his life, like the Madonna of the Goldfinch also part of the Uffizi Gallery collection.

His fame reaches Rome, where he moved to in 1508 to become the official painter of Pope Julius II and his successor Leo X. In 1508 he began the frescoes in the Vatican Rooms and papal apartments. He was also called upon to continue the frescoes of legendary figures and mythological episodes in the grandiose Villa Farnesina, home to a wealthy Sienese banker, Agostino Chigi.

This is definitely on my list of places to visit next time I am in Rome as his ‘Triumph of Galatea’  a nymph standing on a shell drawn by dolphins fleeing from the amorous advances of the dreaded Polyphemus, has to been seen in real life.

The Veiled Woman 1516

Raffaello was officially engaged to married but seemed reluctant, and is known to have had many affairs. The great love of his life being the baker’s daughter Margherita Luti ‘La Fornarina‘ depicted here by Raffaello (Palazzo Pitti, Florence)

His bride to be died in 1520 and Raffaello suddenly on his 37th birthday. Giorgio Vasari, painter and historian of the time wrote it was from ‘exhaustion and excessive passion’ and historians today believe it was from some mysterious illness.

His last commissioned and unfinished work the  ‘Transfiguration’ was placed on his coffin. There was a grand funeral, attended by large crowds and important people of the day. Raffaello‘s body was carried by four Cardinals and buried in the Pantheon in Rome with an extraordinary epitaph:

‘To the memory of Raffaello, son of Giovanni Sanzio of Urbino, the most eminent painter and rival of the Ancients. Behold his almost breathing images and you will easily see the alliance of Nature and Art. With his works of painting and architecture he swelled the glory of Popes Julius II and Leo X. He lived 37 virtuous years and died on the day of his birth, April 6 1520.

This is Raffaello, in his life great Mother Nature feared defeat and in his death she feared herself to die.’

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Who was Natalia Goncharova?

Self Portrait with yellow lillies 1907-08It’s always a pleasure to discover a new artist, and Natalia Goncharova was totally new to me and a delightful discovery. Intriguing because she was Russian, unconventional and painted in my favourite period of Contemporary Art, the same time as Picasso, Gaugin. Balla, Matisse and others. Multitalented as she designed sets and costumes for the Russian ballet and continued painting and illustrating right up until her death in 1962.

Palazzo Strozzi in Florence housed the exhibition and her paintings were a fabulous blast of colour, a unique mix of artistic styles, ‘forging her own unique fusion of tradition and innovation of East and West’ having spent a considerable part of her life in Paris mixing with various European artists and styles.

Born in 1881 in the Tula Province of Russia, Goncharova spent many of her Summers Goncharova in traditional peasant dresson her family’s estate and photos show her in traditional costumes of Tula with her mother and cousin.

In 1901 she meets her lifelong partner Mikhail Larionov, also an artist, and despite their ‘open‘ relationship their creative partnership lasts for their entire lifetime.

Her work is exhibited in Paris and they are both influenced by the Parisian artists and styles, Cezanne, Gauguin and les Fauves ‘the wild beasts‘ like Matisse.

There was an ample description of her life which included her Avant-garde approach – 1910 she is the first woman artist to show nudes in Russia and is arrested and charged with pornography and offending public morality but fortunately acquitted at her trial!

Goncharova Futurist body Art‘In 1913, together with Larionov and Ilia Zdanevich, Goncharova holds body painting performances and they saunter down the most elegant streets of Moscow with their faces painted with images, uttering offensive words intended to shock conservative passers-by in accordance with the principles of futurist body art‘!The Harvest (5 of 9 parts) 1911-12

 

 

 

 

All part of the development of a distinct Russian style of Futurist painting which they  call Rayonism, a new way to express energy and movement incorporating Russian folklore and traditions in a pre-revolutionary Russia.

Such a fascinating life story and such a complex artist and not only as she moves into designing sets and costumes for the Russian ballet – on religious themes, influenced by the byzantine mosaics in Ravenna, Italy and early Tuscan  Renaissance artists,

and Spanish dress when the Russian ballet performs in Spain. Intricate and delicate designs yet bold in their portrayal.

The selection of works exhibited gave a wonderful overview of Natalia Goncharova‘s artistic career and enticed me to find out more and hopefully to see again in a future exhibition. As she said “The art of my country is incomparably deeper than anything that I have come to know in the West”

 

And what you see here is only a part of what was on display!

After living together for over 50 years Natalia and Mikhail marry in 1955, to ensure that the surviving partner can inherit the other’s paintings. In 1962 Natalia Goncharova dies and her work is left to Mikhail Larionov. He remarries in 1963 to Alexandra Tomilina and dies in 1964. In 1985 Tomilina leaves their entire collection to the Soviet Government, but there is a legal tussle from the French Government during 1988-89 who claim several of Goncharova’s works in lieu of death duties!


 

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The Botany of Leonardo da Vinci

Santa Maria Novella church, Florence

It seems appropriate to finish the year with a post on Leonardo Da Vinci since we have been commemorating 500th anniversary of his death with all sorts of events. Besides it’s fascinating to learn more about his genius as a Scientist, Botanist, Biologist and more; his holistic approach and prolific notes and designs crammed onto every page of the Codes.

This time the exhibition – The Botany of Leonardo  focused on ‘the philosophical and technical content of the time in which Leonardo Da Vinci lived in order to explore his study of the forms and Leonardo Atlanticus codeprocesses of the plant world in greater depth, through his outlook as a “systemic” thinker, highlighting the connections between art, science and nature’ ( Exhibition Notes). 

I was fortunate to be taken through the exhibition with a guide who added a little more spice in the introduction to Leonardo sharing details essential to understanding his scribblings since he was left handed and wrote from right to left. At that time left Leonardo's left handed scripthandedness was considered the devil’s hand and children were punished severely. Leonardo instead had been rather pampered by his paternal grandfather who indulges his left handedness and encourages his studies with a private teacher so he never comes under the stricter teachings of the classics and humanities. As a child born out of wedlock, the freedom allowed in his grandfather’s care means he is spared from the dogmas of the time developing a ‘freethinking attitude full of experience and experiment that foreshadows the scientific methods developed more than a century later by Bacon and Galileo.’  (Walter Isaacson “Leonardo da Vinci”). Examples of Leonardo’s writing are only easily read in a mirror reflection.

Model of furnaces used for chemical and pharmaceutical productionThe guide continued to emphasize Leonardo‘s respect of Nature as he experimented with alchemical processes, studying the cause and effect, and despising anyone who tried to replace Nature and break its laws, manipulating it for their own end. Two model furnaces were on display from St Mark’s Foundry similar to what Leonardo designed having recognized the power of fire in transforming materials, in particular metals.

The Refactory housed the main exhibits and we are welcomed immediately by a live plant wall with a projected ceiling decoration of Leonardo‘s from the Sforza

Castle in Milan where he had spent many years in the service of Ludovico il Moro. His codes cover extensive scientific studies on light, perspective, urban planning and architecture, engineering, mechanics, human and animal anatomy, an endless search to understand the complexities of his surroundings with an interdisciplinary perspective.

He sees similarities between processes, structures and patterns e.g. his study of the human body and blood circulation is compared to the vital sap that nourishes trees, or tributary branches of a river.

Building on ancient Roman theories Leonardo discovered the principles of what we nowPhyllotactic tower call phyllotaxis – the set of rules governing the arrangement of leaves along a branch, explaining how this arrangement helps the plant to receive air, light and water. Used in green architecture today.

He understands that plants respond to environmental stimuli, growing towards the light and the extent to which they are effected by gravity. Plants on a slowly turning wheel had been planted at various angles and only those upright were doing well, and those upside down were in a very sorry state.

And of course Leonardo, the artist, wrote endless recipes on preparing pigments, dyes and oils from the plant world for paintings and drawings.Leonardo's plants in The Annunciation

His meticulous studies being reproduced in his paintings and drawings of plants.

 

 

 

da Vinci's vitruvian treeThe exhibition was truly fascinating with so much more than can be described here. And catering to today’s world, ended with an invite to do a ‘Selfie‘ inside the ‘Vitruvian Tree’  one of Leonardo da Vinci‘s most famous drawings – ‘focusing on the measured relationships of the natural world, in search of the divine proportion between man and the living system’ ( exhibition notes). An invite to place ourselves within the regular forms of geometry and the equally perfect forms of Nature.Leonardo's vitruvian man

 

 

 

The man was a genius. His attention to detail is incredible, with such an advanced scientific approach that makes me think we are moving backwards while he was way ahead of us!


 

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Our Italian Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty, New Yorik

Photo credit: Museo Opera del Duomo

The Statue of Liberty is such an icon, the symbol of America, which has welcomed millions of migrants and visitors to the New York harbour. Yet the statue perhaps is not so unique and to prove the point the current ‘Sisters of Liberty’ exhibition in New York will surprise many American visitors. Our Liberty of Poetry statue by Pio Fedi, placed in the Santa Croce church in 1883, is considered to have inspired Frederic Auguste Bartholdi’s Statue of Liberty inaugurated in 1886. In fact Bartholdi was in Italy at the time fighting alongside Garibaldi in the ranks of the Frankish soldiers during the Franco Prussian war. And its thought very likely that he saw the draft design if not the completed statue.

The Liberty of Poetry statue was placed over the tomb of Giovanni Battista Santa Croce churchNiccolini, in the Santa Croce church in Florence. He was a playwriter of dramas related to national redemption and the freedom of the people, and an avid supporter of the Unification of Italy. The statue is enormous, even bigger than Michelangelo’s David and for this reason in fact cannot be moved. But a replica has been made and sent to New York where “visitors will discover and interact with the symbols, voices, and heroes that have defined our modern concept of liberty” (excerpt from brochure)

So compare for yourselves here:

Italian and American Sisters of Liberty

photo credit: Museo del Opera del Duomo, Firenze

Staue of Poetry

The idea for the project came from the U.S. Consulate General of Florence which celebrates 200 years of diplomatic relations and wanted to demonstrate the long standing cultural ties between Italy and the United States. Generous contributions for the exhibition came from American Express and our luxury Four Seasons Hotel Florence

When the exhibition was confirmed it caused a flurry of activity amongst the Friends of Florence  organisation who paid for the restoration of the Liberty of Poetry.  So newcomers to the Santa Croce church can now see it in its original splendour alongside the other famous tombs of Tuscan greats – Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, Ghiberti and the tribute to Dante Alighieri.

In fact the Santa Croce church is one of the oldest and largest Franciscan basilicas in the world and considered by far the most magnificent, for its architecture by Brunelleschi and Donatelli, frescoes by Giotto and Agnolo Gaddi and it houses more skeletons of Renaissance masters than any other church in Italy! Definitely worth a visit. The piazza is also a favourite one for Florentines and hosts the historic football match ‘calcio storico’.

Another statue by Pio Fedi is on display in the Loggio dei Lanzi in front of the Palazzo Vecchio the Town Hall of Florence – The Rape of Polyxena of 1865. Although largely ignored as it sits behind the famous bronze statue by CelliniPerseus with the Head of Medusa.

But our Italian Statue of Liberty….of Poetry I think takes the cake!Liberty of Poetry


 

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New Madonna at San Bernardino

San Bernardino churchHow does a small village like San Bernardino, in the Cinque Terre, with only 10 permanent residents, 3 dogs and about 5 stray cats manage to keep its community alive? It has certainly been an experience being a part of this village,  warmly welcomed each time I visit, and feeling the need to contribute whenever I can to this small community: helping with maintenance, lobbying the Mayor for better services and listening to the local grumbles. Volunteer labour is an essential part to keeping this village alive, which in the past rebuilt the entire church!

Best of all is helping out at any festivities which are now few and far between. Even our local bar has closed as the younger generation have found work elsewhere so the social meeting point is now sitting by the bus stop. Yet the locals have not lost their resilience and resist by having the world come to them, renting out their rooms and apartments to tourists during the season. When this generation disappear the village will only be for second home owners and tourists passing through unfortunately.

Yet San Bernardino is in the hearts of many, especially those from Corniglia as it is their Sanctuary dedicated to the Madonna. And at the festival to the Madonna early September a procession led by the local priest still hikes from Corniglia to celebrate. In fact it is the religious festivals which unite these communities (like many others throughout Italy) and bring back life and laughter to the hearts of all.

Madonna dei Tarsi statueSan Bernardino is entrenched in the heart of a local sculptor, Giuliano Carro, who having seen the public fountain moved to the opposite side of the church square thought something more spiritual should be placed on the space it left. So after months of study and work, and on finding a large sandstone boulder he took up his chisel and gave life to this statue: Madonna dei Tarsi
Described by the Mayor of Vernazza “as a work that is the result of the sweat of one of our artists who, out of pure passion, driven by boundless love for our places, without asking for anything, in all humility, and satisfied only by the ecstatic gaze of those who will linger and admire his finished work.”

Attendance at the inauguration was a must and with over a 100 people the air was charged with chit chat and laughter, like a huge family gathering. Young and old from Vernazza and Corniglia, and those who introduced themselves to me were invariably called ‘Basso‘ the family generated from this village.

Vernazza mayor with sculptor Giuliano CarroThe honor of unveiling the Madonna was given to the 3 oldest members of the community, looked on rather jealously by the two youngest members. And while Giuliano could hardly get the smile off his face, when asked by the Mayor to say a few words he responded  “I am a man of few words, and work with my hands.” He did however share one of his poems for the occasion (read by another local!)

 

Hands
the sun has not yet dawned
your footprints leave little trace
while you caress
the earth under the moon
step by step, like always,
every day until evening

Respecting it as you would a mother,View from San Bernardino
you love these plants like children
that cling to the rocks,

that challenge the absurd
but which without you
they wouldn’t last an instant

always thinking of your world
you are not afraid of it
for your life, when it ends
in every stone there is a memory
hands passed over a face
as a tear falls between the vines

to the moon, to the sun, to the stars
show your huge hands
hard hands, suffered yet true,
frank hands and outspoken words,
hands full of earth, yet never dirty,
huge hands, full of love

and his comment in the brochure- ‘Stop here for a moment and think about the difficulty and poverty but also the greatness and the dignity of the people that for centuries have shaped this earth. Think of their immense fatigue, their defeats, their will, their strength, their sweat. And then, if you want to, lay a flower, or say a Prayer.’

Mayor, Sculptor, Revered guests of honourThe crowd were almost moved to tears. My amateur video failed to capture the moment the drape fell as I had to join the grand applause and cheers that I am sure could be heard as far as the ferry boats chugging along down below!

It was time to party! You could not believe the amount of food and wine that was passed out to the tables, all volunteered from San B  and Corniglia locals . Generous helpings served by us with pride and affection to all the visitors who ate happily in front of the most panoramic view of the Cinque Terre.

The music blared old favourite songs and the partying and dancing continued on into the night. That’s what brings and keeps this community together.

The Madonna dei Tarsi now quietly sits and keeps an eye on us all and the rest of the Cinque Terre below.Cinque Terre, Madonna dei Tarsi statue

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