The waterlilies of Claude Monet

Yesterday I saw the new film, The Waterlilies of Monet, at the Odeon theater in Florence.  I didn’t know much about the film, just that it featured Monet and his waterlily paintings.  That was enough to get me there.  I’m happy I saw it.

The film is a bit strange, part mystical, part historical.  I don’t think it will have wide appeal, but it appealed to me.  Here’s info from the press release, in first Italian and then a rough translation. And the film’s trailer.

Milano – Per soli tre giorni, il 26, 27 e 28 novembre, in esclusiva nei cinema LE NINFEE DI MONET. UN INCANTESIMO DI ACQUA E DI LUCE. Un percorso, narrato da Elisa Lasowski de Il trono di spade, che ci porta alla scoperta del più grande progetto pittorico di Claude Monet: le Grandes Décorations, le ninfee.

For just three days, on November 26th, 27th and 28th, exclusively at MONET’s WATERLILIES cinemas. A SPELL OF WATER AND LIGHT. A journey, narrated by Elisa Lasowski of The Game of Thrones, leads us on a discovery of Claude Monet’s greatest pictorial project: the Grandes Décorations, the water lilies.


Il film, prodotto da Ballandi Arts e Nexo Digital, condurrà il pubblico a Parigi, tra il Musée Marmottan, il Musée de l’Orangerie e il Musée D’Orsay, a Giverny con la Fondation Monet, la casa e il giardino dell’artista, e tra i magnifici panorami di Étretat. A guidare gli spettatori alla scoperta dei luoghi, delle opere e delle vicende del maestro, ci sarà Elisa Lasowski, attrice ne Il Trono di Spade, mentre la consulenza scientifica sarà affidata allo storico e scrittore Ross King, autore del best seller Il mistero delle ninfee. Monet e la rivoluzione della pittura moderna, edito in Italia da Rizzoli.


The film, produced by Ballandi Arts and Nexo Digital, takes the public from  Paris, between the Musée Marmottan, the Musée de l’Orangerie and the Musée D’Orsay, to Giverny with the Fondation Monet, the artist’s house and garden, and shows the magnificent views of Étretat. Guiding the audience’s discovery of the places, works and events of the master, is Elisa Lasowski, actress in The Game of Thrones, while the scientific advice will be entrusted to the historian and writer Ross King, author of the best seller The mystery of water lilies; Monet and the revolution of modern painting, published in Italy by Rizzoli.

Il grande progetto di Monet
Seguendo il percorso della Senna, il film prende le mosse da Le Havre, dove Monet trascorre il primo periodo della sua vita artistica, e risale il fiume verso gli altri paesi dove ha dimorato: Poissy, Argenteuil, Vétheuil, e infine Giverny. Qui, a 70 anni di età e ormai quasi cieco a causa della cataratta, mentre piovono le bombe della Prima Guerra Mondiale, Monet concepisce il progetto di dipinti di enormi dimensioni, nei quali lo spettatore possa immergersi completamente. Il soggetto, le sue amate nymphéas. Dopo dieci anni, nel Musée de l’Orangerie di Parigi, la sua speranza trova finalmente il giusto compimento, nelle magnifiche sale ovali da lui stesso disegnate. Nel maggio del 1927, l’amico George Clemenceau inaugura finalmente il museo dedicato alla Grand Décoration.

The great project by Monet
Following the route of the Seine, the film starts from Le Havre, where Monet spends the first period of his artistic life, and goes up the river to the other areas where he lived: Poissy, Argenteuil, Vétheuil, and finally Giverny. Here, at 70 years of age and now almost blind because of the cataract, while the bombs of the First World War are raining down, Monet conceives the project of paintings of enormous dimensions, in which the viewer can immerse himself completely. The subject, his beloved waterlilies. After ten years, in the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris, his paintings find superb fulfillment, in the magnificent oval rooms he himself designed. In May 1927, his friend George Clemenceau finally inaugurated the museum dedicated to Grand Décoration.

Go get truffled! San Miniato, Tuscany

Want to see a darling hill town in Tuscany?  Then head for the hills! Get yourself to San Miniato, a very lively and attractive hill town near Pisa, famous for the white truffles found in the surrounding area.

Want to see truffles? The famous tartufo aren’t very pretty, but oh my goodness, do they taste good in Italian cuisine! Here’s a basket full of them:

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I visited San Miniato yesterday, 17 November, during the annual truffle sagra held by the town.  Fall has definitely arrived in Tuscany and it was cold and overcast.  It almost makes me wistful about the heat of last July.  Almost. The next 2 pictures capture the weather as well as the beautiful vistas as seen from San Miniato of the beautiful Valdarno.

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The truffle festival also features artiginale production of prosciutto, and there were lots of pork products on show, to taste, to purchase, and you could even buy specialized equipment for the home to slice the hams.  All shown below:

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But the truffles are the raison d’être:  The festival San Miniato hosts every November is devoted to the gastronomically precious white truffle found locally. The white truffle is more highly valued than the black truffles found in Umbria and the Marche, and commands very high prices, reflected in the cost of restaurant dishes that incorporate truffles. In 1954 a record-breaking truffle found close to the nearby village of Balconevisi weighed in at 2,520 grams (5.56 lb) and was sent to the United States of America as a gift for President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

But even if you aren’t a fan of truffles or hams, there is still much to enjoy about this little gem of a town. For example, there is a lovely church with important Quattrocento frescoes:

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The ceiling and upper sections of the basilica walls are painted with trompe’oeil marble architecture:

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And the town’s Duomo has a simple Tuscan facade which doesn’t prepare you for the opulent interior filled with porphyry marble columns and a gorgeous, gold leafed ceiling:

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The Duomo is dedicated to both Sant’ Assunta and Santo Genesio of Rome. It was originally a Romanesque building, but it has been remodelled several times and exhibits Gothic and some Renaissance arcchitectural elements. The façade incorporates a number of colorful majolica bowls. The interior has Latin cross plan with a central nave with two side aisles. The cathedral’s campanile, a fortification annexed in is called the Matilde Tower and features an asymmetrical clock. Very charming.

In medieval times, San Miniato was on the via Francigena, or the main connecting route between northern Europe and Rome. It also sits at the intersection of the Florence-Pisa and the Lucca-Siena roads. Over the centuries San Miniato was therefore exposed to a constant flow of friendly and hostile armies, traders in all manner of goods and services, and other travelers and pilgrims from near and far.

Archaeological evidence indicates that the site of the city and surrounding area has been settled since at least the paleolithic era. It would have been well known to the Etruscans, and certainly to the Romans, for whom it was a military post called “Quarto.”

The first mention in historical documents is of a small village organized around a chapel dedicated to San Miniato built by the Lombards in 783. By the end of the 10th century, San Miniato boasted a sizeable population enclosed behind a moat and protected by a castle built by Otto I.

In 1116, the new imperial vicar for Tuscany, Rabodo, established himself at San Miniato, supplanting Florence as the center of government. The site came to be known as al Tedesco, since the imperial vicars, mostly German, ruled Tuscany from there until the 13th century.

During the late 13th-century and the entire-14th century, San Miniato was drawn into the ongoing conflict between the Ghibelline and Guelph forces. Initially Ghibelline, it had become a Guelph city by 1291, allied with Florence and, in 1307, fought with other members of the Guelph league against the Ghibelline Arezzo.

By 1347 San Miniato was under Florentine control, where it remained, but for a brief period from 1367-1370 when, instigated by Pisa, it rebelled against Florence, and for another brief period between 1777 and 1779 during the Napoleonic conquest. It was still part of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany when the Duchy was absorbed into the newly formed Kingdom of Italy in 1860.

The first walls, with defensive towers, were thrown up in the 12th century during the time that Italy was dominated by Frederick Barbarossa. Under his grandson, Frederick II, the town was further fortified with expanded walls and other defensive works, including the Rocca and its tower.

The city is enclosed within a well-preserved medieval precinct. Main landmarks include:

The Tower of Frederick, built by Frederick II in the 13th century on the summit of the hill at an elevation of 192 metres (630 ft), overlooking the entire Valdarno.

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I love the frescoes showing all the parts of the Italian peninsula in the corridors of the Vatican.  Interestingly enough, the tower and San Miniato is among them:

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During World War II the tower was destroyed by the German army to prevent the Allies from using it as a gun sighting tower, but was reconstructed in 1958 by architect Renato Baldi.
The remarkable Seminary, located in the central, unusually shaped Piazza della Repubblica, has a unique and spectacular set of frescos decorating the outside. as you can see in this photo and in my video taken yesterday:

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If you can’t get to San Miniato yourself, at least you can enjoy this great Youtube video of the town filmed with the help of a drone.

 

 

 

The Neptune Fountain in Florence is disassembled for restoration

Nine bronze statues, depicting nymphs, fauns and satyrs, were removed with a crane and taken to a workshop in via Livorno, where they will be restored by Ires e Nicola Salvioli Restauri. Work on the fountain began in February 2017, using funds donated by the Salvatore Ferragamo fashion house, which is providing 1.5 million euro throughout the project. The bronze statues will be restored not only on the outside but on the inside as well, which has deteriorated substantially due to water and atmospheric agents.

 

In 1559, Cosimo I de’ Medici held a competition for the creation of the city’s first public fountain, with Bartolomeo Ammannati and his Neptune design eventually taking the prize, judged the best for its clear exaltation of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany’s glorious seafaring achievements. The sculpture was completed in 1565 and inaugurated for the wedding of Francesco I de’ Medici and the Grand Duchess Giovanna d’Austria on December 10 of that year. Close observers might notice that Ammannati used Cosimo I’s features to depict the strapping Neptune rising above the other figures.

http://www.theflorentine.net/news/2018/11/restoration-continues-neptune-fountain/

The statue of Dovizia, Firenze

I love to let my mind wander into the distant past, trying to picture the way things might have been.

Last week I was invited to visit a show in the beautiful exhibition space of the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze on via Bufalini.  There I bumped into a heroically-sized statue of a somewhat recognisable woman.  “Hey, I know you!” I thought to myself.

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She certainly looked familiar.  I wondered if she was related to one of the four allegorical statues of the seasons occupying the corners of the Ponte Santa Trinita. (Those four statues were done by Pietro Francavilla [Spring], Taddeo Landini [Winter] and Giovanni Caccini [Summer and Autumn] and placed on the bridge in 1608.)

Fortunately, a label attached to the statue revealed the figure and the sculptor: La Dovizia (Abundance) by Giovan Battista Foggini:

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Ah ha! I now knew exactly what I was looking at!  My mind zinged back into two places almost simultaneously, first to the camp and later the Forum of Roman Florence. and then to the Renaissance placement of a statue of Abundance by Donatello.

Both of these past moments happened in the space now occupied by the Piazza della Repubblica in Florence. The giant woman I encountered last week on the Via Bufalini was the statue of Abundance that replaced Donatello’s (now lost) figure on the same column, a replacement which occurred in 1721 (according to the label).

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The column, still topped by a statue, sits at the exact point where the two Roman roads intersected in ancient Florence, the cardo (now via Roma and via Calimala) and decumanus (now via degli Strozzi, via degli Speziali, and via del Corso).

 

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Now I needed to find out more about Giovanni Battista (Giambattista) Foggini, to satisfy my curiosity.  He was an artist in Florence (1652 – 1725) who became, in 1676, the court sculptor for Cosimo III. He went on to become the Medici’s Architetto Primario e Primo scultore della Casa Serenissima as well as Soprintendente dei Lavori (1687–1725).

Foggini is best known today as the creator of many small bronze statuary figures and groups. In 1687, Foggini acquired the foundry in Borgo Pinti that had once belonged to the sculptor Giambologna. This allowed him to specialise in small bronzes, produced mainly and profitably for export. His adaptation of Pietro Tacca’s Moors was, for example, the basis of the bronze and ceramic reproductions for the connoisseur market well into the 18th century.

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One of my grad school professors published an article on the Donatello Abundance (“Donatello’s Lost Dovizia for the Mercato Vecchio: Wealth and Charity as Florentine Civic Virtues by David G. Wilkins).  Here are couple of excerpts from that scholarly publication:

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Here is an image of what Donatello’s lost sculpture might have looked like:   Screenshot 2018-10-15 at 11.08.14

You just never know who or what you will bump into in this fascinating city of Florence.

 

 

Villa la Quiete, Firenze

I recently visited, on a lovely parcel of land just outside of beautiful Firenze, a once-magnificent villa known as Villa la Quiete. Located upon the Castello hill, at the foot of the Monte Morello, this villa is considered to be among the most important settings of its kind.  It takes its name from a fresco by Giovanni da San Giovanni entitled, La Quiete, which dominates the winds (see below).

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The Medici family particularly loved this area and owned some of its most beautiful residences, including the Villa di Careggi, Villa di Castello, and the Villa della Petraia. You can locate Villa la Quiete on these 2 Google Earth slides below and, in the last one, also locate the 3 Medici villas just mentioned.

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This parcel of land has lots of history, naturally.  In 1438 it was given by the Florentine Republic to the condottiere Niccola da Tolentino, for his military services. In 1453 the Medici acquired the land, and later Cosimo I passed it to the commander of the Order of Santo Stefano.

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In 1627 the property was again acquired by a Medici, this time by Cristina di Lorena.  She had the palazzo rebuilt, and had a suspended passage constructed (a small variant of the Vasari Corridor), connecting the villa to a nearby Camaldolese monastery.  Cristina also commissioned the painting of la quiete che pacifica i venti, by Giovanni da San Giovanni in 1632.

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Cristina’s name even appears in another fresco, by Giovanni da San Giovani. in which curious anagram masquerading as a hymn inscribed on a scroll supported by putti in flight.

The villa has, thereafter, been known as Villa la Quiete.

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The complex was bequeathed to Cristina’s grandson, the Grand Duke Ferdinando II. Later on, in 1650, the villa was sold to Eleonora Ramirez de Montalvo, who dedicated it as a country retreat for a congregation she founded, the Montalves.  At that time the villa was called Istituto della Quiete.

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After Eleonora’s death, her friend the Grand Duchess Vittoria della Rovere administered the Institute, and sponsored the construction of the Montalve church, completed in 1688.

Anna Maria Luisa de’ Medici, the last descendant of the Medici family, resided in the villa between 1720 and 1730 and she furnished it with objects from the Palazzo Vecchio and Palazzo Pitti.

Anna Maria had the villa renovated and redecorated and she installed a beautiful grand garden, bringing water to it by a pipe to the nearby Fonte delle Lepricine.

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The director of this new, vast garden was the botanist Sebastiano Rapi, who just happened to be the person in charge of the Giardino Boboli.  Rapi, with the support of Anna Maria, brought the best botanical and fruit species from the various Medici villas.

Even today, the specimen magnolia trees they selected still grow in a courtyard connecting the garden to the palazzo.

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The garden today remains one of the rare examples of an 18th-century garden, with no changes in the plantings, other than refreshing them.  You can see the layout of the formal, rectangular gardens, lined with pots of lemon trees, in the Google slide:

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The secular order of Montalve, dedicated to the education of girls of good family, only had to abandon their church of San Jacopo di Ripoli in 1886, and they brought their numerous furnishings and works of art with them to the Villa la Quiete.

It was only in 1937 that the order became religious. The villa complex remained for a long time the seat of the education institute, ending only in 1992. The last pupil graduated in 2001.

In February 1992 the villa, together with the entire real estate of the Conservatory of the Montalve alla Quiete, passed University of Florence. A small part of the villa has been used by the University for the Center for Culture for Foreigners and Polo offices. 

It is possible to visit the villa, as I did, only by appointment and in the months of July and August on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. To arrange a visit, contact the Ufficio Servizi Didattico Divulgativi, Sistema Museale D’Ateneo, tel 055-2756444 or by email to edumsn@unifi.it.
In a few days I will be writing a post about the artworks located in the villa.

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Group shot: the Surrealists

The surrealists in the autumn of 1942: in the last row Jimmy Ernst, Peggy Guggenheim, John Ferren, Marcel Duchamp and Piet Mondrian, in the center row Max Ernst, Amédée Ozenfant, André Breton, Fernand Léger and Berenice Abbott, Stanley William Hayter, Leonora Carrington. Photography by Hermann Landshoff in the Münchner Stadtmuseum in Munich

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The surrealists in the autumn of 1942: in the last row Jimmy Ernst, Peggy Guggenheim, John Ferren, Marcel Duchamp and Piet Mondrian, in the center row Max Ernst, Amédée Ozenfant, André Breton, Fernand Léger and Berenice Abbott, Stanley William Hayter, Leonora Carrington. Photography by Hermann Landshoff in the Münchner Stadtmuseum in Munich

Mandatory photo credit:

Münchner Stadtmuseum, Sammlung Fotografie / Archiv Landshoff / BPK/Alinari Archives

WARNING:

Permission must be required for non editorial use. Please contact Alinari Archives

Photographer:

Landshoff Hermann

Image date:

1942

Personaggio:

Ernst Max, Duchamp Marcel, Léger Fernand, Guggenheim Peggy (1898-1979), Mondrian Piet, Breton André (1896-1966), Carrington Leonora (1917-2011)

Collection:

BPK/Alinari Arch