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Santa Maria Nuova Facade

As of December 15, 2015, those who seek an opportunity to discover an incredible collection of art in Florence now have a wonderful option: the Ospedale Santa Maria Nuova. This, the oldest hospital in Florence, now offers guided visits to some of is vast collection of treasures.

Arcispedale_di_santa_maria_nuova,_affreschi_di_antonio_pomarancio,_1614,_strage_degli_innocenti

Fresco by Antonio Pomarancio – 1614

The hospital was founded in 1288 by the father of Dante’s beloved Beatrice, Folco Portinari. He was asked to build the edifice after being approached by the matriarch of the founder’s family, Monna Tessa.

 

Over the centuries, donations have been made to the hospital in thanks for the care and service provided to various families.The rich variety of art  include works by Pietro di Niccolò Gerini, Andrea del Castagno, Della Robbia, Bernardo Buontalenti, and Pomarancio. Visits to this complex offer visitors rare glimpses of an invaluable, little-known, collection of renaissance treasures.

213-483px-Del_Castagno_Andrea_Crucifixion_and_Saints

Andrea del Castango, Crucifixion with Saints

Architecturally, the beauty of the structures, interior arches and various vast superb rooms with ceilings covered in frescoes, add yet another dimension to your visit.

Your visit to Santa Maria Nuova takes you through  many places of historical and artistic interest; the entrance to the area dedicated to Spedalinghi Hospital and the ” Hall of Crosses “, the cloisters of the ” Medicherie ” and ” Bones ” as well as the Church of Sant’Egidio , with its adjoining women’s gallery which once was the area reserved for nuns to attend religious services

In order to visit the Osepdale, you will need to contact them directly through the links below. Tours are organized with no more than twenty in a group, and are always lead by a guide so that the privacy of patients is observed and the size of groups well controlled.

To arrange your visit, here are details:

Address: Piazza Santa Maria Nuova, 1, 50122 Firenze, Italy

Visits last 40 to 50 minutes and groups can be no larger than 20. A professional guide always accompanies the group.

Reservation number, exclusively for these tours:  055 20.01.586
Tours are available to schedule from 9.00 – 13.00 / 14.00 – 18.00
Saturday, 9.00 – 13.00
Email: info@exclusiveconnection.it

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News that the Museo del Opera del Duomo (Museum of the Works of the Duomo) in Florence is closed for over a year for an expansive restoration has been met with mixed reviews. The new museum will nearly triple the old museum’s size and will include a full scale replica of the facade of Florence’s first Duomo, Santa Reparata. The North/South and East doors of the Baptistery – the original panels, that is – will also be placed on display in the new spaces of the museum for all to enjoy. Concurrently, the Baptistery exterior is undergoing extensive renovation, to include the replacement of all of the original door panels with copies.

It is  a bit sad, and disappointing to the thousands how will visit Florence over the next year,  to think that the Nicodemus Pieta, Donatello’s Magdalene and the Della Robbia – Donatello Choir lofts, along with numerous other treasures of Renaissance art,  will not be seen again until the fall of 2015 when the museum is scheduled to reopen. Architect Rendering Museum of the Works of the Duomo

There are, however,  numerous options for visitors to experience the art of the Renaissance in Florence; the Uffizi, the Bargello Museum, the Museo di Firenze com’era, and – until 20 July 2014 – an extraordinary exploration of the art of Rosso Fiorentino and Pontormo at the Palzzzo Strozzi. (More on that in another post).

So…if you wish to visit the treasures residing in the Museum of the Works of the Duomo, enjoy Florence this summer and come back in the fall of 2015 to celebrate what promises to be an incredible reopening.

Architectural Section
Museum of the Works of the Duomo – 2015

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It is difficult to imagine a more spectacular surprise on the outskirts of Naples, amidst the “architettura fascista” of the cities notoriously ugly preferia (suburbs), than the Reggia (Royal Palace) of Caserta.

Facade Reggia di Caserta

Facade
Reggia di Caserta

Though Charles VII initiated construction on the palace, he was never to spend one night in the structure. In 1759 he abdicated to become the King of Spain. It was left to Charles’s third son, Ferdinand IV of Naples, to bring the palace to its near completion. Vanvitelli’s original plan included two large colonnades, never realized, comparable in size to Bernini’s monumental installation surrounding St. Peter’s Square in Rome.

Following Luigi Vanvitelli’s death in 1773, his son Carlo assumed responsibility for the project. It was during the sons’ oversight that a garden of over 300 acres was designed and installed. The water garden extends nearly one half mile where, in 1780, an English Garden was designed and installed by Johann Graefer, a German born, English trained landscape architect. The garden design is also complimented by a floral garden on the east side of the palace.

The design and scale of the beautiful and complex water features and garden have been compared to those of Peter the Great’s palace, Peterhof, in St. Petersburg, Russia.

 Visits to the palace offer a number of tour itineraries and options. Visit the web site (see IF YOU GO below) for further details. The most important rooms in the palace are the King’s Theater, modeled after the Teatro San Carlo in Naples, Throne Room, Staircase of Honor and Palatine Chapel. The most impressive exterior view of the Palace and estate is from a high point in the gardens.

View Gardens Reggia di Caserta

View
Gardens Reggia di Caserta

Visitors can easily reach the main entrance at the Palace using the regional train system from Napoli Centrale to Caserta. The grand approach to the palace is directly across the Sottovia Carlo Vanvitelli from Caserta’s station.

 Stunning. Breathtaking. Unbelievable. These are words that somehow inadequately describe this palace of unforgettable beauty. If you are planning a trip to Naples and the Amalfi Coast, I highly recommend at least a half-day visit to the Reggia di Caserta and gardens.

 IF YOU GO:

Train service from Napoli Centrale begins very early during the week (5:09AM) and trains run approximately every forty minutes. The trip takes approximately fifty minutes each way. For further schedule details refer to: www.virail.com or www.trenitalia.it.

Reggia di Caserta

Web: Reggia di Caserta

Entrance to both Palace and Gardens: Euro 10.80 per person

Palace Open:

8:30 to 7:30PM daily

(Closed Tuesdays, January 1, Easter Monday, May 1 and 25 December)

 Garden Park:

 Open daily 8:30AM

Closings: January, February, November and December at 3:30PM, March at 4:00PM, April at 5:00PM, May at 5:30PM, June – August at 6:00PM, September at 6:30PM, October at 5:30PM

 

Map  Reggia di Caserta

Map
Reggia di Caserta

 

 

 

 

 

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It was during a recent visit to the Alte Pinakothek in Munich that I encountered The Annunciation by an artist whose name I did not recognize: Fra Carnevale.

Portrait Fra Carnevale 1470 Artist Unknown

Portrait Fra Carnevale
1470
Artist Unknown

My curiosity was roused and I began to research this little known, reclusive, Renaissance artist.

Between the years 1420 and 1425, records are scarce; a child by the name of Bartolomeo di Giovanni Corradini was born in the city of Urbino. Little is known of his childhood. At the age of sixteen, he entered an apprenticeship under the guidance of a respected artist from Ferrara, Antonio Alberti. With the encouragement and connections of his master, the twenty year old Corradini moved to Florence in 1445 and, for one year, studied under Fillipo Lippi, one of the finest painters of his age. 

While Corradini’s apprenticeship in Florence was but one year long, he studied works by Donatello, Brunelleschi and Battista Alberti. It was during the apprenticeship that his fascination with architectural perspective began.

In the latter part of 1448, he left Florence and returned to Urbino.

Here is some important historical background about Carnevale’s home city.

Between the years 1444 and 1482 Urbino was controlled by a powerful condottieri, Federico di Montefeltro. From within the walls of Palazzo Ducale in Urbino, Federico assembled one of the finest libraries in Renaissance Italy. His interest in art and the creation of a center for learning, caused him to issue numerous artistic commissions across Italy.

Presentation of the Virgin at the Temple Fra Carnevale, Circa 1467

Presentation of the Virgin at the Temple
Fra Carnevale, Circa 1467

The Dominican order in Urbino was centered in the Church of Santa Maria della Bella. It was amidst the convolutions of power, politics and religion that Federico first encountered Fra Carenvale, who had taken the Dominican vows in 1449.

One of Carnevlale’s earliest works, part of an altarpiece for a church in Urbino, is Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple (Circa 1467). This particular work clearly demonstrates Carnevale’s fascination with perspective. The powerful arch and background of his work nearly overpower the figures in the foreground. An interesting side-note about the work is that the shape of the altarpiece is recognizable at the top of the painting. The two figures that surmount the arch were originally the edges of the painting’s frame.

One other work stands out among the many created by Carnevale: The Ideal City (ca 1480 – 1485). This was one of several commissions by Duke Federico di Montefeltro of Urbino for his palace.

In a long rectangular frame, the artist has created a sterile, balanced and bleak study of a city. Perspectives are finely focused, the four Cardinal Virtues of Justice, Prudence, Temperance (Restraint) and Courage (Fortitude), top four columns near the center of the work.

Why the artist chose to include only twenty-one figures in the work remains a mystery. There is a sterility to the painting. While the scene is balanced in its geometric form, the work exudes no warmth, no emotion. Were the intent to replicate Carnevale’s interpretation of an ideal world, one based on Roman concepts of balance and form, then the artist has well succeeded. This work does show a clear retreat from the emotion demonstrated in his 1467 work of the Virgin and Temple, possibly in reaction to his ascetic and withdrawing life in the Dominican order.

https://i1.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/5c/Fra_Carnevale_-_The_Ideal_City_-_Walters_37677.jpg

The Ideal City
Fra Carnevale
ca. 1480-1485

The three panels in Carnevale’s only polyptych (altar piece with three or more panels) have been dispersed across Italy. Visitors can view one panel each in the Pinacoteca di Brera and the Pinactoteca Ambrosiana. The third panel is in the province of Le Marche Italy, in Loreto’s Museum of the Holy House.

This elusive and little understood artist created numerous works that remain enigmatic gifts to the world of Renaissance art. He is much worthy of more study. 

Following is a partial list of his known works and current collections:

Birth of the Virgin, Metropolitan Museum New York

Annunciation, National Gallery, Washington, DC

Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple, Boston, Museum of Fine Arts

 

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Vesuvius Sunset

She is a beauty, Napoli.

From a coastline that wraps beneath Vesuvius toward the long outstretched arm of the Sorrentine peninsula, it is blessed by an ethereal natural splendor. Awaiting those who venture even farther south than Sorrento is the spectacular, rugged coastline of the cerulean sea-washed Amalfi Coast.

Such proximate beauty, such struggle, such passion. What a confounding place is this city. I’ve traveled into and around Naples for many years, yet never have quiet made sense of it all. . .until now.

Energy hovers over Vesuvius like an invisible veil. In the nearby towns of Vico Equense and Castelmare di Stabia, the ruins of Pompeii to the confining, choking lanes of Naples’s quartieri Spagnoli, that energy ignites the lives of Neapolitans. Such energy can be fierce or frightening, energizing or enervating.

Geologists and seismologists are forever anticipating the terrible loss of life and infrastructure when (not if) Vesuvius deigns to yield to her enormous, growing pressures. That veil of invisible power, of a tension that builds beneath our very feet, becomes palpable.

On an afternoon visit to the Capella Sansavero in the heart of Naples, I studied Giuseppe Sanmartino’s Cristo Velato, the Veiled Christ. This is baroque sculpture at its finest, highest art. Intricate lines of linen cloth lay across the face of the deposed body of Christ, the veil so intricate and fine that it tempts visitors to pull the fabric away. Don’t, however, be deceived. The veil, the entire work, is solid marble: cold, intractable, unyielding.

Read on.

Giuseppe SanmartinoCristo Veluto, 1753

Giuseppe Sanmartino
Cristo Veluto, 1753

That unseen yet palpable energy from Vesuvius pervades Campanian air. It is as thin and intractable as Sanmartino’s veil. In Naples, life happens in the street; there are few other places to go. In the narrow lanes of this ancient city, people live on top of each other. Secrets are rarely held.

To ride the bus in Naples is to ignite every human sense. Everyone, to a person, seems on alert. While many people believe that life in Naples is one of reckless abandon, nothing could be farther from the truth. Everything is an issue; from where to park, to the lackluster and unpredictable schedule of the city’s transportation system, to how to avoid paying any bill, to the intense odors of a Monday morning’s bus ride. This city is – in every possible sense – alive. Lover’s quarrels, negotiations for apartment leases, arguments over bills and marriages all happen in the open, for all to see and hear.

Then, there are the churches, by location pattern-less, constructed in many parishes in the most haphazard manner imaginable. They seem scattered by some enormous hand, as if they had been dice tossed during matches of religious zeal to ‘own’ human faith.

Naples is a dream; existing between love and hate, blood and life, the sacred and the profane. When visitors consider that unemployment hovers near forty percent, that there is little room to breathe in the quarters of the city and that the Neapolitani exist within a culture of struggle every day to protect their own sanity, an acceptance and understanding settles. There is, indeed, a veil that falls across Naples. It is one of life, of nature’s unpredictable whims, of human furies, of fading religious zeal. Underneath she simmers like Vesuvius, incites vent to human emotion, all the while giving an impression, to the uninitiated, of careless ease.

Naples is a city of passion, of life; raw, engaging, frightening and inspiring.

Don’t reach for the veil. It’s cold, solid rock.

Of and Age in Naples

Of an Age in Naples

As I made my way along darkened lanes, barely illuminated by streetlamps, I came across one such church, an open door, and the sound of voices. Beckoned to enter by an elderly woman, I shuffled up the worn, roughly carved, steps and entered. From within candle lit stalls rose the voices of passionate belief, of that rare and elusive beauty that is our human voice. A moment’s peace from within as the unending cacophony of life that is Napoli droned in the background.

Visit Naples? Absolutely. She is a jewel, a challenge, a confounding conundrum of love, art, passion, of life!

I will be presenting, in this blog, details about the treasures of Naples in future posts.

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