Can you imagine: art history taught without art images!!

It is hard now to imagine a world in which reproductions of paintings were scarce ([Charles Eliot] Norton taught his art history classes [at Harvard] without them) and in which cities rarely had public collections of paintings (those that did exist contained almost no original Italian works).

Americans, for the vast majority of whom travel to Europe was prohibitively time-consuming and expensive, got their first introductions to Italian art by reading.

Berenson would aspire to follow Charles Eliot Norton in being, not only a lover of art and a bibliophile, but a friend of writers and a literary man.

Norton was close to John Ruskin, one of the English writers most responsible for the new view of Italian art that emerged among certain writers in the mid-nineteenth century.

Rachel,Cohen. Bernard Berenson (Jewish Lives) (p. 42). Yale University Press. Kindle Edition.

 

Palazzo Davanzati and Elia Volpi

One of my favorite places in Florence is the Palazzo Davanzati. One look at one of the rooms in the palazzo will show you why I love it.  I visited it on my very first trip to Florence, almost 40 years ago.  It hasn’t changed one bit, except maybe it is even better now with more didactic info available.

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We have the art dealer, Elia Volpi (1858–1938), to thank for having saved the Palazzo as it appears today.  In Florence, Volpi is known as the “father” of the Museum of the Old Florentine House in Palazzo Davanzati, as he was responsible for restoring the building and turning it into a private museum in 1910.

 

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Now the museum, on via Porta Rossa, is opening its “Homage to Elia Volpi the Painter” exhibition, which offers the chance to discover a lesser-known side of the illustrious collector and antiquarian, that is, to see him as an artist.

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Volpi trained at Florence’s Academy of Fine Arts. The current exhibition focuses on his training and the paintings he produced from the 1870s through the 1890s, with examples of his sketches and finished paintings, mostly in pristine condition.  All of these works have been donated to the museum from private collections.

Volpi’s sketches are testament to his studies of the Italian Renaissance masters and, along with the male nudes, show off the early artistic skills of a young Volpi.

The paintings demonstrate his broad range; during the 1880s he explored church scenes before concentrating on the subjects and style of the Macchiaioli and more contemporary artists such as Francesco Gioli and Niccolò Cannicci.

 

The show also includes a multimedia section featuring a video that focuses on the artist’s personal life and a touch-screen panel with photographs that demonstrate the creation of the museum.

 

The exhibition is open from May 6 to August 5 in the Palazzo Davanzati Museum.

 

The source of this info comes from:

http://www.theflorentine.net/art-culture/2018/05/elia-volpi-exhibition-palazzo-davanzati/

Città Nascosta, Firenze

cittanascosta

Chi siamo

Città Nascosta – Via Lungarno B. Cellini 25, 50125 Firenze

Tel. 055.68.02.590 / 055.68.01.680 | info@cittanascosta.it

 

Fondata nel 1994, Città Nascosta è un’associazione culturale nata per promuovere la conoscenza del patrimonio artistico e storico di Firenze e della Toscana.

Le attività proposte prevedono visite guidate, itinerari ed eventi personalizzati, esperienze uniche e indimenticabili, alla scoperta dei gioielli d’arte più nascosti della città e della regione.

Storici dell’arte, architetti, botanici, restauratori, proprietari e addetti ai lavori accompagnano i visitatori, offrendo sempre una prospettiva originale e privilegiata, con un’attenzione particolare alla qualità dei contenuti e alla modalità della loro divulgazione.

 

Le fondatrici

FOTO_B2_lowMarcella Cangioli, storica dell’arte e Presidente dell’Associazione, coordina e gestisce l’associazione.
Maria De Peverelli, storica dell’arte, lavora a Londra e si occupa di collezionismo privato.
Tiziana Frescobaldi, storica, si occupa dell’immagine e comunicazione dell’azienda di famiglia.

 

Città Nascosta oggi

Marcella Cangioli, presidente, storica dell’arte. Si occupa della promozione, del coordinamento e della gestione delle attività dell’associazione, e dei progetti speciali in italiano e in lingua straniera. Contatto: marcella@cittanascosta.it

Arianna Nizzi Grifi, segretario, storica dell’arte. Si occupa del programma dei soci “Percorsi d’Arte”, del coordinamento del programma dei soci “Sostenitori” e dell’organizzazione delle attività per clienti italiani. Contatto: arianna@cittanascosta.it

Sylvie Levantal, consigliere, storica dell’arte. Si occupa dell’organizzazione delle gite, viaggi e delle attività per i clienti stranieri, in particolare francesi. Contatto: info@cittanascosta.it

Emily Grassi, consigliere, storica dell’arte e guida turistica di Firenze e provincia. Si occupa della comunicazione, del coordinamento del programma “Grand tour fiorentino” e dell’organizzazione delle attività per i clienti stranieri, in particolare anglofoni. Contatto: emily@cittanascosta.it

Carlotta Quentin, consigliere, storica dell’arte. Si occupa della segreteria organizzativa e dell’accoglienza dei soci italiani e stranieri, in particolare anglofoni. Contatto: info@cittanascosta.it

Bagni di Lucca

 

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In its heyday, Bagni di Lucca, with its cool climate and great variety of hot springs had been a very fashionable European holiday resort and spa town. Beautiful elegant hotels had been built all around the spas. Villas, owned by heads of state and various ambassadors and dignitaries were crammed with antique furniture, musical instruments and rare books.

Ponte della Maddalena, Tuscany

There were cultural centres, casinos, Anglican churches and cemeteries, restaurants and theatres. Famous poets, singers, playwrights, writers, actors and actresses used to flock there in the summer months. Presumably, many wars and marriages were arranged and important state decisions taken inside those thick stone walls, so far from indiscreet ears.

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With the advent of fascism in Italy, renewed nationalism and World War Two, the “guests” of Bagni di Lucca suddenly became completely undesirable, and were later either deported or forced to flee.

Their properties were confiscated which meant that the local fascist bosses, for the most part rude uneducated thugs, suddenly had access to and became owners of luxurious properties full of rare works of art. There are tales of grand pianos being chopped up for firewood, rare books being transported to the local paper mills  and being sold by the kilo, manuscripts being burnt on bonfires, and paintings being thrown out on to the grass where rain and sun eventually got the better of them.

Some of the villas miraculously passed into the hands of new owners. Deeds were drawn up, and illiterate mountain folk suddenly felt like princes and princesses. Some were used for more sinister purposes, housing torture and detention centres for political opponents, intellectuals and partisans or worse, boarding houses for Jewish and gypsy children before they left for their final destinations.

The grand rooms and theatres, which had housed great composers and musicians, were turned almost overnight into brothels or barracks for Mussolini’s troops.

At last! Many dignitaries thought that law and order has been restored. We are in charge again and those foreigners got what they deserved!

Of course, things didn’t quite turn out as expected. Italy did not get its empire, but instead a humiliating loss in which not only did it once again have to bow down to the overwhelming power of the Anglo-American armies, but it also had to sign really unfair future agreements, thus becoming a near slave to the foreign oil barons, military-industrial complexes, big Pharma religion and cars and motorways.

After the war there was no money for the upkeep and maintenance of the once magnificent hotels and spa complexes and anyway the whole of Italy was busy doing other things. People were emigrating in hordes, abandoning villages, hilltops and mountains for large industrial cities in the north, going to work in the booming car industries or in foreign cities.

The people were all working like busy bees for their new masters, building motorways and high rise blocks of flats, spraying clean fields, vineyards and fruit farms with toxic pesticides, getting rich and watching TV.

Bagni di Lucca became a ghost town. Gone were the shepherds and their flocks, the orderly rows of vegetables, the pigs, cows, geese and ducks, the large families and old traditions. Winters passed and vegetation covered the villages and country lanes. Vines grew over and smothered the beautiful old buildings until there was nothing left, except memories in books which no one ever opened.

Small factories sprang up in Bagni di Lucca: paper mills spewing out clouds of black smoke and colouring the rivers pink and blue, and the souvenir industry which exported plastic figurines to many parts of the world. The owners of these businesses became very wealthy and the only people left who had not emigrated elsewhere worked entirely for the “benefactors” who could therefore pay as little or as much as they liked, as people had no other alternative.

In the 1960s and 70s, people had started to talk about the possibility of starting up the tourist business once more but this was generally discouraged by the benefactors as it would have meant distraction for their workers. So by the time the international association arrived in town they were entering a world which might as well have been in a time warp.

Actually, as we later found out, they, being mostly highly intelligent and educated people, had vision and they had realised back then that it was time to flee the big cities before globalisation, the de-industrialisation of Italy, mass unemployment, climate change, wars for oil and water and social unrest hit us all. They were right about that, they just chose the wrong place.

Welcome to Tuscany.

Lord, Anna. Welcome to the Tuscan Dream: Italy’s Broken Heart (p. 63). Scribo Srl. Kindle Edition.

 

 

How art history became an academic (& my favorite) field of study

Before Charles Eliot Norton had become Harvard’s first professor of that discipline, art history had, in general, been considered, not a field of study, but a matter of craft and technique to be taught by painters to other painters.

Scholarship about art, and especially about Italian art, entered a new era as the German universities began developing large-scale historical studies like those of Swiss scholar Jacob Burckhardt, whose Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy was published in English in 1878.

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In Great Britain, tastes were influenced by the work of Norton’s close friend Ruskin in books like The Stones of Venice (1851–1853) and The Seven Lamps of Architecture (1849).

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Following Ruskin, Norton loved best in Italy the powerful moral uplift of Dante and of Italy’s medieval Gothic architecture. In Norton’s art history courses, the Renaissance was the unhappy termination of the Middle Ages, which had been the last great era of spiritual unity and well-being.

There was a joke current among Harvard undergraduates that Norton had died and was just being admitted to Heaven, but at his first glimpse staggered backward exclaiming, “Oh! Oh! Oh! So Overdone! So garish! So Renaissance!”

“Norton,” Bernard Berenson commented drily years later, had done what he could at Harvard to restrain “all efforts toward art itself.”

Rachel,Cohen. Bernard Berenson (Jewish Lives) (p. 45). Yale University Press. Kindle Edition.

 

Italy’s beauty and complications recognized even in wartime

 

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“Trapani! Trapani, don’t you see?” [British] Capt. Edward Croft-Murray exclaimed as the skyline of the Sicilian coastal town first appeared through the porthole of the Allied aircraft. [The Brit] Sitting next to him, Maj. Lionel Fielden, who had been drifting off into daydream for much of the flight from Tunis, opened his eyes to the landscape below. “And there, below us,” Fielden later wrote, “swam through the sea a crescent of sunwashed white houses, lavender hillsides and rust red roofs, and a high campanile whose bells, soft across the water, stole to the mental ear. No country in the world has, for me, the breathtaking beauty of Italy.

…As soon as the first Monuments Officers reached Sicily, the implications of such a mandate [to preserves as many cultural works as possible] proved as difficult as its scope was vast. The Italian campaign, predicted to be swift by Allied commanders, turned into a 22-month slog. The whole of Italy became a battlefield. In the path of the Allied armies, as troops slowly made their ascent from Sicily to the Alps, lay many beautiful cities, ancient little towns and innumerable masterpieces. As General Mark Clark declared with frustration, fighting in Italy amounted to conducting war “in a goddamn museum.”

 
Read more: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/how-monuments-men-saved-italys-treasures-180948005/#W8OkkTPqF2Ar2s8S.99