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This year I am scheduling a number of posts on the fauna of Rome.
The living animals, like birds, cats etc., and the symbolical ones associated to my city history, art, and identity.
In fact many monuments, art works, palace facades have carved animals that have different meanings.
In fact many monuments, art works, palace facades have carved animals that have different meanings.
Animals, above all birds, are a natural presence surrounding us all the time.
On the other side, the city is full of marble animals to observe that enhance our historical comprehension, aside from being very beautiful too.
I’ve been to a Masks atelier in Venice where all phases of masks making were explained. I’ll try to make a mask in the future, in the meantime I’ll share info with you.
You’ve to be an artist since the first step is making a clay sculpture of the mask. When its dry and its surface is smoothed you have to pour a mixture of liquid plaster gypsum on the model to create the cast you’ll use to produce the masks.
A contrast originated between artists and tapestry workshops:
The artist provided the preparatory draft that was sized and painted either by the artist himself or by a workshop specialized artist.
Draft and models circulated. The workshops used the same models several times.
Clients chose their tapestry between these models whose details could be combined: like figures, backgrounds or floral motifs.
The workshops also took inspiration from major artists copying details or figures that were used out of their original contest.
The controversy between artists and tapestry workshops broke out in bruxelles in 1476. The result was the prohibition of intervening on the painted models from the weavers. Only background and decorative elements could be changed.
A period of crisis and rivalry between Flemish and English manufacture along the 1300 hundred produced a major change in French and Flemish tapestry production.
The workshop specialized in luxurious production. The ateliers were converted to use the techniques allowing the use of finest materials, fine details and artistic expression.
Refined tapestry production required big investment to purchase the costly raw material (linen, wool, silk, gold and silver) and the qualified technicians.
Entrepreneurs merchants anticipated the money needed for the tapestry production and to support the payment delays of the buyers.
First the wire bundles were sized to be placed on the loom creating the warp. 4 weaver were required to accomplish this task.
The second phase was to sort all the needed colored wires and to organize them in families of colors.
Thirdly the weaving of the rimming and finally the in weave of the design.
The loom could be vertical or horizontal.
The vertical loom allowed freedom of interpretation: the carton was placed next to it and could be interpreted by the weaver, vertical loom not allowed precision.
Horizontal loom had the carton placed below and allowed to copy the model exactly creating a mirror copy of the painting.
Horizontal loom was favored for exclusive commissions.
The weavers worked one next to the other on section of about 1m, or half a meter if gold treat was used.
Historically fabric was used to depict heraldic symbols. These kept being depicted but the subjects widely increased.
Sacred subjects were required for cathedral’s choir and were usually taken from the bible or evangelic episodes.
Pagan subject varied from the ornamental and vegetal patterns of the medieval times to most complex ones usually aimed to commemorate their commitments.
Hunting or war scenes were popular as episodes from ancient Greek and Roman history.
Historical and celebrative subjects were required too. Naturalistic themes continued to be produced as well.
Tapestry art developed mainly in northern Europe since its main function was to help with the warming of the rooms within the residences of kings and noblemen.
The technique was applied to create ornaments for chairs, bed, and other furnitures aside from the walls decoration. Nowadays the wall tapestries are the only ones preserved in museums.
The habit of transferring the ‘tapestry room’ and sets from one residence to the other was practical but damaged many manufactures. Cut were done to large tapesties to adjust them to the new locations.
Arazzi Room, Capitoline Museum, Rome
apestry has ancient origins; findings of weaven trheads were foud in ancient egypt and hellenistic greece.
In the odissey is remarked the endless weawing work of Penelope, ulysses wife.
The copto tapestries dating from the first centuries of christianity are considered the finest exemple from the past due to tecnhical skills and complexity.
The technique was introduced back in Europe by the Flemish after the crusade that placed Baldovino di Fiandra on Jerusalem’s throne in the 12th hundred.
COPTO TAPESTRY, Museo Alto Medioevo, Roma
The tapestry is characterized by the simultaneous creation of the fabric together with its decoration.
The tapestry makers pass the colored threads of the plot on the warp threads fixed on the loom.
It is an intermediate workpiece between picture and embroidery. The figures are superimposed on existing tissue in the embroidery.
The name ‘Arazzo’ (cloth of raza) comes from the town of Arraz where the best tapestries were produced in the Middle Ages.
The fourteenth and fifteenth century marked the heyday of the tapestry technique.
Several factories specialized in the production of tapestries in Europe producing artworks for the aristocratic or ecclesiastical patrons.
A splendid image of the original accommodation of the tapestries woven in the 15 hundreds in Bruxelles from cartoons painted by Raphael. The pope Leo X committed these priceless works to ornate the side walls of the Sistine chapel.
In Western culture it exist a widespread difficulty to accept the presence of colours in ancient art.
The neoclassical period and Winckelmann ideas are still rooted and we keep believing ancient temple’s ornaments or statues were merely white or plan.
Of course this is not true.
Just think about the function of a temple aimed to worship a deity who was represented at the top of the temple front.
Santa Maria Antigua, is a tiny church located in the roman forum, at the foot of the Palatine hill just below the Domus Tiberiana.
It’s a sixth century A.D. church with remains of fresco decorations dating from the Byzantine time until the middle of the 9th century.
It is considered the Sistine Chapel of a thousand years ago being the place where to study the evolution of art along 2 centuries.
The monastery of Tor the Specchi continues nowadays to be the house of the congregation of the Oblates of Santa Francesca Romana, an order the saint Francesca founded in 1425. The monastery is the place where she lived form 1436 till the end of her life in 1440.
The little cell where she slept is still visible today in its pure simplicity.
Its located in the very heart of Rome, just below the capitol hill but open to the public on March 9th only.
The monastery is still located in the same house that Francesca purchased in 1436 to be the residence of her religious community of ladies. It’s quite untouched since then. The oratory and refectory have wonderful frescoes ornaments and cycles splendidly well preserved.
The artists accomplishing these frescoes in 1468 are believed to be Antoniazzo Romano, Benozzo Gozzoli and their schools.
Michelangelo was a man inclined to ascetism.
In many of the letters he wrote to his relatives at home he remarked his poverty and strenuos life.
Giorgio Vasari report about the simplicity fo his clothes annd his reluctance to change them.
Condivi, Michelangelo's biographer, add that he often worked so hard that he had no food or sleep.
The legend of Michelangelo being a lonely painter taking care of the strenuous work of painting alone the 12.000 square feet of the Sistine chapel is not true.
When Michelangelo got the commission he was an extremely skilled sculptor but initially lacked familiarity with the complex fresco technique.
He also had still in mind the project of the tomb of Julius II and it’s believed he wanted to delegate a large part of the pictorial execution to assistants.
Michelangelo got a Florentine friend that he trusted: his name was Francesco Granacci.
The 2 artists had studied together in Ghirlandaio workshop and in the garden of San Marco, that Michelangelo eventually entered thanks to Granacci's advise. Granacci never begun a very renewed painter.
He was unambitious, an easy living man and had a relaxed temper. In fact he specialized in less important decoration as theatrical scenery, banners for churches and knights, triumphal arches for parades.
Granacci’s lack of desire for glory was engaging for Michelangelo. Granacci easily acknowledged his supremacy, there was not artistic competition.
He entrusted Francesco Granacci to recruit the assistant he needed in Florence.
The two painters had very distant personalities. Raphael was sociable and courtly while Michelangelo was a solitary man.
We know they once met in Saint Peter square: Michelangelo was alone, while Raphael was surrounded by many pupils and admirers.
Michelangelo said to Raphael: ' you, with your band, like a bravo'
Raphael replied: 'and you alone, like the hangman'.
It’s one of the most incredible places in Rome and often unfortunately seen just as a corridor, no matter how beautiful and long, to the Sistine Chapel.
In my opinion the Map Gallery is worth itself a visit to the Vatican museum.
First of all, it is over 400 years old.
Along the gallery there are 32 large maps depicting the different regions of Italy facing either the west coast, on the left inside, or the east coast, on the right end. From south leading north. The accuracy of the maps painted there is amazing if we consider the lack of technology of those days.
It’s a 75 meter long gallery with a splendidly vault decorated in trompe d’oeil executed in 1789.
On the walls are displayed tapestries belonging to two different periods and manufactures:
on the left wall there are tapestries woven in Rome by the Barberini workshop and commemorating important moments in the life of the Barberini pope Urban VIII.
Paintings and sculptures in Christian religious art contains by many symbols codified in the past century to define particular subject or saints. Below you’ll find a list of the most usual ones.
Aureole: encircles the whole body, belongs to God but is used for Virgin Mary too.
The ancient senate house or Curia in the roman forum was an imposing but sober building.
Externally the decorations were simple: travertine in the lower part and large bricks realized in plaster in the rest of the building. A remain of this plaster decoration is still visible today in the facade, below the roof.
The interior of the senate house was very different. The walls were covered with the most valuable variety of exotic marbles as the splendid floor.
Luckily the flloor dating to the ancient times survived throughout the centuries and it's still visible today.
The building changed function in the middle ages to become a church, the original decoration were kept and not spoiled.
A detail of a fascinating canvas painted by Antonio Canova, renewed neoclassical sculptor and leading personality of the neoclassical artistic movement.
This little cherub attract me for it's freshness, tenderness and curious attitude.
Palazzo Braschi Museum
This is one of my favorite Michelangelo's quote:
" Believe it or not, I can actually draw. "
This blog is aimed to share with you my Roman experiences, reflections and researches.