Thursday, August 11, 2011

Italia--Steeped in Art; Overwhelmed By Art

In Volterra and Pisa we had a wonderful guide named Vincenzo.  He provided the most sensible and beautiful explanation of the early purposes of Renaissance painting, and connected it to modern forms of art.
Painting, especially religious painting, was created to help common people, who were unable to read, understand the formative stories and legends of their culture, especially Biblical stories.  The story of the Assumption, for instance, in which the Virgin Mary was visited by an angel and proclaimed the mother of God, was painted and repainted countless times.

The compositions and characters were similar in each "version" of the story in every painting, even though the depictions changed according to accepted cultural norms.  But the stories were the same, and by using iconic imagery, they could be passed down through the generations.

In a similar way, said Vincenzo, essential stories, from fairy tales to Shakespeare, are re-told many times; and our evolving forms of art, like graphic novels and 3-D movies, provide contemporary culture new modes of delivery for familiar stories that are the foundation of our artistic traditions.

I was consumed by sculptures, frescoes, paintings, and other forms of visual expression.  It is no wonder so many in Italy seem to grow up inspired to develop talent in visual arts. 
The art around me was overwhelming.  Here is just a sampling of the artifacts and images I managed to capture on my camera... I tried to do them justice....

                                  The Vatican--St. Peter's Square and one of many amazing obelisks.

A detail of one of thousands of paintings covering almost every wall and ceiling surface in the Vatican halls.

The dome of St. Peter's..Surrounded by lush green, a perfect compliment to its formal beauty and perfection.

The Gallery of Maps at the Vatican, and the breathtaking golden ceiling...

The Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) in Florence was the only bridge in Italy purposely not destroyed in WWII by enemy explosion. The exterior of the bridge appears to be a small villlage. Inside on the the well-traveled walkway are a number of jewelers.

The Opera Museum on Rome. An interesting edifice flanked by angelic sculptures on the bridge that leads to it.

Inside the Colosseum there is a mural that depicts the common activities that took place there at the time. Men would gather to talk politics, play board games, sleep, relax, as well as witness the violent games in the "arena", from the Latin word for "sand" which was spread on the floor to clean the blood from these spectacles.  "Gladiators" were named for the Latin word "glateus", the short heavy sword they used in their staged battles.

A look at the dome in the pantheon, a famous ancient cathedral with a hole in the top of its dome.  It is conjectured that the design was patterned on the movement of celestial bodies, and the light coming in was carefully modulated because of it.

Just one of the stunning design structures and arches on the site of the excavated Forum.  One can spend weeks here for serious study of this site.

Paintings, mosaics, and murals like this appeared regularly above doorways all over Rome.  This was on a small church. 

Some of the fourteen medieval towers that fortified the medieval town of San Gimignano, that look something like a hi-rise skyline from the distance.  For this reason the town was dubbed "the Manhattan" of Tuscany".

ANIMALS were a welcome inspiration for beautiful artifacts, from the most ancient times:

A simple iron horse-tie still affixed to a wall in Sienna. 

Part of a massive fresco on a wall in the burial hall in Pisa.  I love the expression in the horses' eyes, and the little dog curled in the arms of its mistress.
(I learned that Frescoes are so fragile because they are painted on wet plaster, which dries very quickly.)

A Vatican sculpture of the goddess Diana, goddess of the hunt, with a faithful dog at her side.

Even the common lamp-posts in Florence had leonine feet!

This print was hanging in our room in the hotel Caravaggio, naturally!

A Cathedral bedecked with all sorts of awesome white scupltures...Closer inspection revealed a lone angel with black wings... Maybe just needs some restoration? It was haunting anyway.

A detail of the famous Duomo in Florence.  My photographs could not possibly convey its magnificence.

From the terrace at the famous Uffizi gallery, near the Accademia (home of the "David"), and which contains the renowned paintings of Botticelli among others.  Just an "artsy" composition to showcase the layers of beauty.

A replica of David in the square next to the Uffizi. (In the sculpture to the right, what is the kneeling man gazing at so intently??)

Modern Art is also highly represented.  Outside of the Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens in Florence was this startling and unusual piece, which I believe is by sculptor Robert Barni.


  1. What a beautiful selection of pictures that perfectly capture the essence of Italian culture and art.

    Thank you for sharing them with us.

  2. Thank you for joining me to help me re-visit this very special time. I had so much fun capturing unique images and sharing my view. I am excited to have reconnected with my love of photography, too.

    Thank you for your encouragement!