Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Millesimi Wine Shop Florence Italy

Cari Amici (Dear Friends),

Here it is, Christmas Eve, well, technically Christmas, I guess. I enjoyed a lovely dinner and conversation with a sweet friend earlier, missed my goal of getting inside the Basilica di Santa Croce just to touch base with Michelangelo’s tomb (hey, he is my Jesus), and have been working on sharing images and other things before I get on a train in the early morning to spend Christmas by the Italian sea with friends. But, hey, that is what having no family around means, right? Work-a-holic. Ha.

I am actually just now starting to relax while I gear up for my week of solitude so that I can finally finish a collection of pastel and charcoal drawings that I need to complete. I recently shipped out the following pastel painting. It is a commissioned portrait of twin babies, a boy and a girl. They have the most amazing blue eyes, with his being darker.

However, I found this a bit difficult because I only met these lovely children briefly and had to work from photographs that I did not take. It was an interesting challenge to try to pair up photos that were not necessarily taken at the same time, get the sizes and lighting right, and try to capture the spirit of people I just do not know. For example, I began to get an impression of the twins based on the photos I was first given. I wrote to their grandmother, who commissioned this work, and told her my guesses about their personalities. Well, I was 100% wrong! The one who looked shy and demure in the photos was the dramatic and often dominant personality and vice versa. So glad that I asked! Anyway, I am pleased with what I was able to do with pastel on paper and subtle lighting (flash images always are difficult to work from since they flatten the forms). I hope the family loves the art once it arrives in America.

Hmmm, I just realized that I am writing a post combining babies and booze. Ah, well, sono io… I needed some spirits for a couple of events I was invited to attend this season and I decided to “shop locally” which in Firenze means going to a small shop in my neighborhood instead of the grocery store. One would think that I might know something about wine and bubbly by now, but all I know is that I prefer red wines and I prefer those from Sicily and Sardinia. Other than that, I am pretty much at a loss.

Imagine my delight: What a pretty store is Millesimi SRL! It is not far from my home in the Santo Spirito neighborhood of Firenze and is located on Borgo Tegolaio 33 r (the “R” means ‘red’ and in Italy, the red address numbers usually designate a business property, whereas blue means residential). This street is located between Piazza Santo Sprito and the Palazzo Pitti. I have walked by this place often and thought, “Someday I will go in.” Done. Happy about it, too.

Everything is organized beautifully and I was able to see quickly what kind of selection there was and that there was a large variety of offerings, in price, region, color, everything. However, after taking a walk through, I decided to ask for advice. This is Christmas after all, and why not? Besides, it was an opportunity for me to practice speaking Italian. Sadly, I can usually explain what I want, even if awkwardly, but I often have a difficult time understanding others. I am working on it. I find that like anything else really, trying is what really tips the scales.

Anyway, I told Gianni (sounds like “Johnny”) what I was looking for and my budget and he led me to some lovely choices. He wrapped them up in pretty packaging for me. My experience was such a good one that I hope to have reasons to return. And he let me take these images of the place. How could I resist the poinsettias with the wines and bubblies? I hope you enjoy. And I list the contact information here, in case you want to order something yourself.

Millesimi SRL
Borgo Tegolaio 33/R
50125 Firenze Italia
Tel. (+39) 055 2654182
E-mail: millesimisrl@tin.it

Tanti auguri per un buon natale!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Gabriël Metsu Letter Painting

Cari Amici (Dear Friends),

Another oil painting that I admired in the currently running exhibit “Vermeer: il secolo d’oro dell’arte olandese” ("Vermeer: the Golden Age of Dutch Art") in Roma is “Man Writing a Letter (1662-1665)” by Gabriël Metsu.

This painting has so many beautiful things going on, mostly the light and the warm colours. The shapes are subtle, with enough diagonals to keep things from becoming stale. The subject matter is intriguing in that the viewer must wonder who the man is writing to and what he is writing about. The various textures are rich, from the luxurious tablecloth (which looks more like a rug to me) to the man’s clothes to the elaborate frame, the floor, and the globe. I like it, too, that while most of the image is quite tight in its rendering, the painting on the wall actually looks painterly. This better creates the illusion for the viewer that he is looking into a real space that contains a work of art.

There are a few details that bother me in an otherwise gorgeous painting.

  • I do not believe the hat is actually hanging on the chair. Nor do I believe that it is about to fall off. I do not get a sense of movement that would help me feel that.
  • I do not like the exaggerated curve on the right side in the “trim” between the red and black sections of the triangle of fabric that hangs off of the table corner. I am referring to the parallel lines in the fabric that point to the man’s right knee. The curves imply that the fabric is wavy, but the way the lighting was painted suggests one large rounded form.
  • I love the squared-off front of the man’s shoe for the foot on top. However, the way the lighting hits this shoe seems to make the foot look too twisted and I find this confusion distracts me.

Back to the good stuff. I find the mathematics in this painting to be intriguing. The canvas has been divided into four even quarters. The shadow behind the window does this. And thus, I find it interesting how each quarter has a set of shapes within that differs from the other quarters. I am not sure if that makes sense. What I refer to is how the top right quarter is basically a block within a block. The top left is similar, but the globe and man’s head are round shapes that break into the block forms.

The lower left quarter has predominant reds, a basic block shape (the table) contrasted with the large cone shape off to the right half. And finally the lower right quarter of the painting has predominantly black shapes, with receding diamonds in the floor pattern and one large dark, interesting shape pointing across the canvas to the top left where the other black shapes are.

Like the painting I wrote about in my last post, the painting by Gabriël Metsu is a well-balanced composition of symmetry and asymmetry.

I also include here the painting that was hung to the left of “Man Writing a Letter” and this one was created in similar dates and titled, “Lady Reading a Letter.” I was not as drawn to this painting as I was her companion piece. Perhaps it is the higher key (overall lighter tones) or the softer colors. Or maybe the letter reading is not as prominent an action in this painting, which lures me to view the woman looking behind a curtain, not through a window but to a concealed painting! Or the dog takes my attention. Also, mathematically speaking, the shapes are not related in as interesting a way (for me) as the first painting. But, to each their own and they both are beautifully executed.

Happy Birthday, Mamma Mia! The letter to you is on its way across the Pond.