Ancient Rome Part 2

IMG_4365Finally, I am getting to the second part of the post on the ancient quarter of the city after a brief detour through the Borghese Galery and our adventure trying to reIMG_4390ach the Spanish Steps.

Returning to the Coliseum, this time to tour the structure, we spent the afternoon wandering the ruins of the Flavian Amphitheater and the ancient Forum. We were able to visit both sites towards the end of the day as the light was fading. The low light helped to create a unique and almosteerie atmosphere in the ancient Imperial capitol. One could almost feel the presence of thousands of years of human occupation…or it could have just been the thousands of cats staring at us from the many nooks and IMG_4394 crannies in the old ruins.


Posted in Art History, Travel | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

St. Peters and the Sistine Chapel

IMG_4280I took a solo trip to visit St. Peter’s Basillica. When I arrived the security checkpoint wound around St. Peter’s Square and was a four hour wait just to get in. Determined that there had to be a faster way in I popped into Christiana Tours just off the square. I had two options, I could see St. Peter’s itself and bypass the line or I could visit the Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museum but I could not do both. Weighing my options I decided I could not leave Rome without visiting the Sistine Ceiling. I purchased my ticket and waited arounIMG_4281d the square marveling at Bernini’s Colonnade around St. Peter’s. Once inside the Vatican Museum I could have wandered for several days. Unfortunately, I had a three hour time limit. I hurried to Raphael’s School of Athens and then to Michelangelo’s ceiling. I think I enjoyed viewing the School of Athens more because I was able to gt up close and personal. It was fun to imagine Raphael sneaking just down the hall to peer into the Sistine Chapel and viceversa. They were working on both pieces at the same time only a few yards away from each other. Don’t mistake me, I loved spending time in the Sistine Chapel but the crowds hurriedly moving through the chapel eager to check off one more site took some of the joy out of it. I hoped to spend time gazing upon Michelangelo’s work but I continued to be jostled by the enormous crowd. There were a few moments of bliss as I staked out a quiet corner and stared up at the ceiling. Seeing it in context, it all made sense. Why Michelangelo placed the panels where he did and progress from creation to Noah’s flood. Alas, no pictures were allowed but one of the highlights for me was when a priest came into the chapel to lead everyone in prayer.

IMG_4314To call the Vatican Museum immense would be a gross understatement. It literally could take several days to see everything. It houses one of the most important collections of Renaissance and Baroque art in the world but also one of the largest collections of ancient art and artifacts. I suppose I will just have to go back sometime to really soak it all in. For now this concludes my postings of my Italian pilgrimage. I will return to more about Bartram and my own work in the future. In fact my art will be in an upcoming show the same month I will be participating in the Bartram trail conference in Florida. More to follow on that very soon!

Posted in Art History, Travel | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Borghese Gallery

I realized as I was writing that I needed to break up my trek to the Parthenon from the Coliseum and the Forum. After visiting the Pantheon we headed to the Borghese Gallery. Since I was unable to get my Bernini fix gazing uponIMG_4261 the statue of St Teresa we would head to the largest collection of Baroque art in the city. The Borghese contains several important works by Bernini, Caravaggio, and others. Well known as art collectors the Borghese family had pieced together one of the most important collections of 16th and 17th century art. When I look around Rome I see Bernini. Yes, Augustine may have a city of marble but Bernini filled that city with writhing and twisting figures 1600 years later. Every church, fountain, or palace seems to have been touched by Bernini. Beyond his many sculptures his most visible work is the colonnade at St. Peter’s square.

The Borghese family was known as one of the most important art collectors in Rome. Of Caravaggio_-_David_con_la_testa_di_Goliahistorical interest, the Borghese gallery houses what is believed to be the last painting painted by Caravaggio. He painted his version of David for Borghese to deliver to the Pope but the artist died before ever reaching the city in 1610. The painting depicts David with the head of Goliath most interestingly Goliath is a self portrait of Caravaggio himself. Caravaggio seems to acknowledge the monster he thinks he has become and is symbolically offering his head to the officials in Rome in the hope of saving his actual head. The artist had been on the run for 4 years after the murder of a local thug, a well connected thug it seems.

I would be remiss if I did not complete the narrative of the Dutch football fans I alluded to in the last post. Arriving at the Borghese gallery more than an hour early we thought we would kill some time by walking through the park to the Spanish steps. Little did we know that the Dutch football fans were gathered there before heading to watch the Euro Cup being played that evening. Passing numerous orange jersey’s we were undeterred. How bad could it be really? Well we never made it to the steps. We ended up on a road above them but due to the smoke, yes smoke, and huge crowds we could see very little. Hearing chants and what sounded like shotgun blasts we decided the most prudent thing was to head back to the calm of the museum and just wait. It was not until later in the evening as we watched the news at an Irish Pub near the hotel that we realized what we had thankfully missed. The Dutch fans began throwing beer bottles at police and this escalated into a full riot with the police firing teargas into the crowd. During the mayhem the Bernini fountain at the bottom of the steps was damaged. It was most unfortunate but I am glad we manage to miss the worst of this incident. Here is a link to an article on the incident.

Next time I will finish our tour of Rome with the Coliseum and Forum, finally!

Posted in Art History, Travel | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Ancient Rome

Fountain of Moses

Fountain of Moses


Sketch from inside the Pantheon

It is impossible to to take a single step anywhere in the city of Rome without encountering visible remnants of the old empire. You are literally standing on layer upon layer of history. As we walk from Termini, the main train station, to our hotel we come face to face with the Baths of Diocletian. The following morning I planned on making an early morning trip to the Pantheon but taking a wrong turn I ended up at the site of Nero’s Golden Horde. I could see the Coliseum and the Forum but was far from the Pantheon. I made a cursory walk past the Forum and ColiseuIMG_4228 m. The lines were full of Dutch Football fans, a foreshadowing of our adventures later in the day. I made my trek across Rome to the neighborhood of the Pantheon. As I made my way to the site I passed a gaggle of priest. Apparently, the Pontifical University of Rome is nearby. I was able to spend several hours sketching and admiring the Pantheon. The Pantheon is still a functioning church even to this day. The fact that it was reconsecrated as a church is likely the reason it has survived in such a good state today.IMG_4229 IMG_4231

Posted in Art History, Travel | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Barberini Palace

IMG_4178 I had not intended on visiting the Barberini. It was not even on my radar from my readings. As an admirer of Caravaggio it should have been but I was ignorant of its collection. I had an afternoon to kill and I intended on visiting the Bernini sculpture of St. Teresa in Ecstasy at the Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria just a block from out hotel. I actually walked by the church several times before realizing I was in the right spot. Unfortunately, the church was closed for renovation. Walking to the Barberini fountain, also a Bernini creation, I saw signs for the Barberini Palace. It was on my walk back to the hotel so I decided to stop in and check t out.

800px-Caravaggio_Judith_Beheading_HolofernesIt was a smaller and less crowded museum than the ones we visited in Florence. In fact, I found it almost desolate on the afternoon of Ashe Wednesday. It was filled with statue busts by Bernini as well as a staircase designed by him. As I made my way through the painting collection I was walked into the room containing Caravaggio’s Judith Beheading Holofornes. Since the gallery was empty and open late I was able to sit and exam the painting. Something that is often hard to do in crowded gallery with hundreds of tourists jostling around trying to view the work. I was struck by the color and Caravaggio’s handling of the paint. This is something that is not adequately captured in photographs. Judith almost seemed to be holding her breath in both excitement and horror as the falchion sliced through Holofernes next. The movement of her face and chest is another feature that photographs just cannot capture. I have always loved Caravaggio’s work but seeing this piece in person has given me a new respect for his work. The Barberini seems to be somewhat forgotten by the guidebooks and general tourist population. It is a shame since it houses such an important collection.

Posted in Art History, Travel | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Renaissance Sketches

In IMG_4000San Lorenzo I came across several Renaissance sketches for unfinished works. They provide a rare glimpse into the working habits of the master artists of the Renaissance.













Posted in Art History, Travel | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Duomo

Our bedIMG_3985 and breakfast was situated just off the square near the Duomo allowing us the opportunity to easily tour the church and its famous Baptistery. Unfortunately, we there during the off season and the museum that holds the original Gates of Paradise was under renovation. So we had to settle for the replicas.

After seeing the lines for the “off season” the day before I stepped out of the bed and breakfast to see a tremendous line of tour groups waiting for entry into the Duomo. Determined to outsmart the tour groups, who all seemed to congregate at the same spots and clog everything up we headed toward the train station. Our first stop was Santa Maria Novella known for one for the first paintings to utilize linear perspective, Masaccio’s Holy Trinity.  From Maria Novella we made our way to San Lorenzo and finally to the Duomo. The crowd for the church had subsided and now every tour group in Florence was attempting to make its way to the top of the dome of the Duomo.

Masaccio. The Holy Trinity

Masaccio. The Holy Trinity

Posted in Art History, Travel | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Uffizi and Academia

Alas! No pictures from the Uffizi since photography was forbidden. We almost gave up in despair when we noticed the lines to enter the gallery. Having just arrived we had not purchased our Firenze card, a fast pass for all the major sites. However, I had a cunning plan. Scouting out the neighboring Palazzo Vecchio, which offered few lines we determined that we could purchase our Firenze there and come back to the Uffizi. Success our plan worked and what could have been a four hour wait was no mor10978658_10153701837780663_3175580803708302897_ne than 5 minutes.

I had a similar experience with the Academia the following day. Seeing the lines wrap around the block I was discouraged but continued on to the gate hoping my Firenze card would save the day! I was not disappointed. The Michelangelo sculptures were amazing of course, the prisoner series greats you as you enter and leads you to the colossal David. However, it was their plaster cast room that was the surprise treat for me. I wandered in almost by accident and I was fascinated by their collection based on classical Greek and Roman or Renaissance sculptures. Once they were the tools of learning for young artists now they have their own wing in the museum.

Posted in Art History, Travel | Tagged , | Leave a comment

An Italian Sojourn

10994055_10153688243945663_2199835184373987528_nLet me apologize for not posting sooner. I had every intention of posting while in Italy or just after returning, unfortunately, my busy schedule as a teacher/artist prevented this until now. During the week of Carnevale we traveled to Florence and Rome with every intention of being in Venice for Fat Tuesday. However, that was not to be and we stayed an additional day in Florence. To be quite honest it was probably for the best. There is so much art and architecture it could take you months and years to see it all. Staying at la Residenza Giotto just of the we just steps away from the Duomo. Despite some difficulty finding it initially it was a pleasant and quite stay and the patio has views like this!11002598_10153689097045663_4481260444552849164_n



Posted in Art History, Travel | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Howard Pyles Palette

Pull from James Gurney’s blog:

Howard Pyle’s Palette

Howard Pyle at his easel.

Howard Pyle at his easel.

Blog reader Walt Morton asks:

“Did Howard Pyle teach or endorse a particular palette of colors? He was so methodical and analytical, I believe he had an ideal palette underlying his methods.
Yet I find no printed evidence.”

Offhand I didn’t know the answer, so I reached out to my lifelines.

Kev Ferrara says:

“It is my understanding that Pyle’s emphasis was always on values, and color was of secondary consideration. [Harvey] Dunn said that Pyle ‘preached tonal values 24-7’ and had a very negative view of his own abilities with color. In fact Dunn reported that Pyle claimed he didn’t really understand color at all. Given the many beautiful pictures in color by Pyle, we may take this anecdote with a grain of salt… something Dunn said which was designed more to drive home to his own students the preeminence of values in picture making.

“Regarding actual palette set up, Harvey Dunn said that Pyle taught his students to ‘Keep shadows and light absolutely separate both on palette and on picture.’ Dunn elaborated elsewhere: ‘Keep light colors and shadow colors separate on palette, shadow colors on left, leaving a division between, and then light colors on the right.'”

Howard Pyle, The Dancer, 1899
Ian Schoenherr, author of the Howard Pyle blog, says:

“I have almost nothing to add to what Kevin said. In my transcribed records, there’s little mention of the specific pigments Pyle used.

“However, in a letter Gertrude Brincklé wrote from Italy on March 12, 1911, she said: ‘Mr. Pyle colored a print of Holbein’s ‘Richard Southwell’ for me – not just tinting, [but] modeling with water colors, white, vermillion, cerulean blue, thick colors.’

“And two observers assumed that Pyle added vermillion to his black and whites (starting in the early/mid 1890s). Likewise, an 1897 news item said, ‘He even uses color sparingly where that will add to the ‘value’ of his scheme. Black and red is his favorite combination, with the introduction now and then of blue and yellow.'”

“Like Kevin said, there are a few photos of Pyle with palette in hand – and I think only one (from early 1899 – above) shows the paint side – but that doesn’t help much.”

Thanks, Kev and Ian.
Book: Howard Pyle: American Master Rediscovered

Posted in Art news, Brandywine School | Tagged , | Leave a comment