Saturday, April 6, 2013

Orvieto Cathedral Duomo Italy

Cari Amici (Dear Friends),

Here are some of my images from the Duomo (Cathedral) of Orvieto, in the region of Umbria, Italy. The building was started in late 1290. The church is designed with stripes of stone, alternating green and white similar to the Duomo in Siena that earns the nickname of “the zebra castle” with one of my friends back in Texas

While many hands are sometimes involved in the designs of Italy’s landmark buildings, Sienese architect and sculptor Lorenzo Maitani gets the credit for designing the façade. It does not feel like it when you are there, but the position of the church is such that one may see the full face of the church from a great distance from the city. It rises above the other architecture and Caroline told me that on a sunny day, that gold is gloriously broadcast about!

I also enjoy the addition of the pink stone on the façade. As in the famous Duomo of Florence, Italy, the white, pink, and green combinations serve to simply and sooth the eye when framing the more complicated compositions of the mosaic designs. The dark green bronze sculpted doors and sculpture also do this. I was amused that this piece of architecture featured so many statues of animals seeming to “take a leap” off of the face of the church.

Oh, the stories these carvings in marble tell! It is a shame that the lower part must be covered by a semi-transparent protective barrier. I often wonder what is the protection from – vandals or the extremely high numbers of adoring fans and maybe believers who just want to rub on the artwork. Enjoy!

Click here for more information about the workshop:

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Orvieto Italy

Cari Amici (Dear Friends),

Once the site of an Etruscan acropolis, Orvieto, Italia, is one of those places that you see in a lot of postcards. While my friend Caroline and I did not have much time on our way back to Florence from southern Tuscany recently, she wanted to show me the impressive Duomo (cathedral) in Orvieto, so we drove on up the hill and into the parking garage. Very few vehicles are allowed into this walled city and it was fun to ride up into it in an elevator with a dog! [Dogs are pretty much allowed everywhere in Italia.]

Even on the overcast day when we were there, you may get a sense of history and beauty of this town that I will definitely revisit! This little outdoor bar/ristorante shown here is right next to the Duomo of Orvieto, but I will keep those Duomo images for the next post.

Also, I had hoped to publish this post on Easter Sunday because I was really struck by the gentle face of Jesus in this fresco, also not far from the Duomo. But time slipped away from me and timing has rarely been my strong point. I have written about the Tabernacoli fiorentini, which got my attention by their sheer abundance and my friend Simone’s explanation about these shrines having been created outside in order to slow down the spreading of the plague. The protective Plexiglas makes most of these tabernacles very difficult to see, much less photograph. Peccato!

There is a simple composition in this fresco that felt comfortable in my brain the way many others have never done. In art, vertical lines often portray an emotion of security, the way that tall buildings and trees give us a sense of strength and solidity. [Horizontal lines are peaceful; diagonals are where the action is.] The slight lean of Christ’s body and his parallel cross break up the normalcy of ordinary vertical lines and it feels to me as if there is a sense of movement or life in this image.

And while it has obviously worn away, the fresco-making process shows us the outline of what once was a huge sweep of drapery on the figure that leads the eye up to the Cross. I suspect most people would not think of such a thing, but I like it that the diagonal lines are looking down from the right. We in the Western world read from top left to lower right. I flipped this image in my mind’s eye and decided it had more grace and surprise for me, maybe even a more contemplative feel, by having this diagonal energy moving “back into” the composition (ie from upper right to lower left). So, I am now curious to know how a person who reads in another direction would response to the shapes in this figure composition.

I also think it is cool that you do not see the figure’s lower legs or feet. A good design is a good design, even as it is eroding before our eyes. I hope you enjoy my snapshots of Orvieto, Italy.

Because time got away from me and I have been very busy dealing with my taxes and a new housing contract and other such head-twisting tasks, I decided to extend the early bird savings deadline for my portrait workshop in Florida… the new deadline will be April 17, 2013 – two days after the IRS tax filing day. Just in case you are as side-tracked from art as I have been lately. Click here for more information about the workshop: