Tour Through Italy and Return to Greece

10, October 2016 § 2 Comments

By: Jun-Pierre Shiozawa

The Aegean Center in front of the Basilica of San Marco, Venice

The Aegean Center in front of the Basilica of San Marco, Venice

The past month the Aegean Center for the Fine Arts marked the 28th year of its Italy program.  The new group of students arrived in early September at the Villa Rospigliosi, the Aegean Center’s home in Italy.  Up in the hills overlooking the Tuscan city of Pistoia, the students became accustomed to life at the Villa; classes throughout the day including drawing, photography, writing and theatre, and sharing prepared meals by the Villa chefs, who have been with the Center since the very first years.

The bulk of the Italy program involves touring the great centers of the Italian Renaissance, including Florence, Siena, Venice, Pisa, Pistoia, Rome and for the first time ever for the Aegean Center, Bologna.

In Florence, the Center was able to visit the newly reopened Museum of the Works of the Duomo featuring a new layout which recreates the facade of the Cathedral with original sculptures set in niches.  We toured through the great churches and museums of Florence including the Bargello and the Uffizi.  As always, the Brancacci Chapel in the church of Santa Maria del Carmine was a highlight of the tours in Florence.  Inside the chapel the group was able to enjoy thirty minutes to themselves to study and admire the great fresco masterpieces of Massacio and Masolino.

On one rainy day, our bus brought us through the Tuscan hills to Siena, where we were fortunately greeted with clearer skies and sunshine.  The Cathedral of Siena was less crowded than usual and we were able to admire its incredible array of sculpture and decor, its fascinating floors and the colorful Piccolimini library.

During our second week in Italy, the Aegean Center visited Venice for three days.  Upon arriving, art history professor Jeffrey Carson led the tour through the Piazza San Marco  and up in to the Basilica of San Marco to see the original bronze horses, taken from the hippodrome of Constantinople.  The next day the Aegean Center toured the great painting museum of Venice, the Accademia and found some of our old favorites, works by Giovanni Bellini, Giorgione, and Titian.

After returning to Venice we continued our tours through Tuscany with a visit to Pisa where we enjoyed a bright sunny day in the “Piazza dei Mirocoli,” (the Plaza of Miracles) with its beautiful marble faced buildings: the Cathedral of Pisa, its baptistery, the Campo Santo and of course, the Leaning Tower.  In the baptistery, Studio Arts professor Jane Pack described the innovative work of Nicola Pisano’s pulpit and we were able to hear the incredible acoustics of the baptistery interior as one of the guards made a call in to its dome which echoed with his own response.

The Aegean Center visited Bologna for the first time as well.  The home of the oldest university in the world, Bologna welcomed us in its rich array of historical and religious centers, including the Basilicas of San Petronio and San Domenico.  Although we were unable to see Giambologna’s Fountain of Neptune (under restoration) and Raphael’s Ectasy of St. Cecilia (currently on loan for the Pushkin Museum’s “Raphael. The Poetry of the Image” exhibition) we were taken by the austere beauty of the medieval and premedieval church complex of Santo Stefano and the energy of the city itself.

The Aegean Center students enjoyed our last meal at the Villa Rospigiliosi and thanked the Villa chefs with a thank you card and applause.  Saying farewell to the Villa is always bittersweet, a mixture of sadness and excited anticipation with what lays ahead: Rome and finally Greece!

In Rome, director John Pack led the students through a winding tour of Rome’s downtown.  John took the students through its famous piazzas, complete with stops for Granita di Cafe in front of the Pantheon and a trip up the Capitoline hill to view over the ancient Roman forum.  The next day Jane led the group through the magical Palazzo Massimo to see its treasures including the bronze Pugilist, the dying Niobid and the lovely garden frescoes from the Villa Livia.  Finally on our last day in Rome the Aegean Center woke up at the crack of dawn to visit the Vatican museum and where we had the Sistine Chapel all to ourselves, entering before any other group.  We all gasped at Michelangelo’s achievements, awestruck and moved.

Rome marked the final leg of the Aegean Center’s Italian tour and the students then departed for Athens.  There, under the characteristically bright Greek sunlight, art history Jeffrey Carson led the students up to the Acropolis to see the monument to the magnificence of the Ancient Athenians: The Parthenon.  That night, one of the students, Aria Higgins, invited the entire Aegean Center to dine at her family restaurant, Mama Roux.  The last day of touring before the students’ arrival in Paros was at the greatest museum of ancient Greek antiquities in the world, the National Archaeological Museum of Athens.

Now the students have all arrived in Paros, to settle in and prepare for the classes ahead.  We are all excited to see what else will be accomplished with this close knit, energetic and talented group of students.

Sunrise over the Aegean Sea from the ferry en route to Paros

Sunrise over the Aegean Sea from the ferry en route to Paros

Thank you very much to Bruno-Ken Shiozawa for the use of his photographs for this post

Catching Up: First, Italy

30, January 2016 § 1 Comment

After too long a silence we are posting some past events bringing us up to the present, 2016. Like always we will try our best to stay more current…

Last September our students had the privilege to meet with Maurizio Seracini in Firenze while we were in residence at the Villa Rospigliosi in Pistoia, Italy.  A passionate man whose interests range over physics, engineering and art history, he has been investigating the possibility that Leonardo da Vinci’s fresco of The Battle of Anghiari may still exist behind another later fresco on a wall in the Palazzo Vecchio in Firenze. We met him near the equestrian statue in the Piazza della Signoria and had the great honour of accompanying him to view the hall named the Salone dei Cinquecento and hear him talk on the subject.  His warm and personal approach brought us all closer to the mystery of the disappearance of this masterpiece which was hailed as the greatest depiction of a battle scene at the time it was created and was copied many times before its eventual disappearance behind another fresco by Vasari. Mr. Seracini has made this search his personal quest.

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Peter Paul Ruben’s copy of the lost Da Vinci masterpiece

For a more complete article on his process and work you can read this:  http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/06/science/06tier.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&no_interstitial

Maurizio Seracini is a 1973 graduate in bioengineering from the University of California, San Diego, he founded the first company in Italy for diagnostic and non-destructive analyses on art and architecture, the Diagnostic Center for Cultural Heritage in Firenze. Adapting technologies from the medical and military fields and other technical measuring instruments he has made possible diagnostics of art and search for art without destroying the artwork itself.

In 2013, Seracini established Great Masters Art Authentication in San Diego California, the first US company dedicated to true scientific authentication of Old Masters art from the 14th to 19th Century.

The Painted Illusion: Villa Facade Restored

21, October 2014 § 4 Comments

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Restored Back of Villa (click on images to enlarge)

by Jane Morris Pack

The 25th anniversary of the Italian Session now underway at The Aegean Center has been a delightful and rich experience for all of the faculty and students.  In September, we arrived in Italy to find that our villa above the town of Pistoia  had recently been restored to its original appearance and the 16th century  painted trompe l’oeil facade on the garden side has been redone. The painted elements enhanced the plain walls with illusionistic stone work and invented windows. The paint echoes the front of the building but does not coincide with all the actual windows on the back.  This use of illusion to provoke symmetry even when it does not exist was questioned by some of the students who could not understand why the paint and the architecture do not coincide. But the tradition of illusionistic painting to achieve  perfection is a long standing practice  in Italy. There are many false windows and arches painted on buildings to balance design.

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The Maestro, sig. Bellini, Teaching Aegean Students His Craft

We had the additional treat of watching the restoration painters demonstrate for us the painting technique. The Bellini family of artists, father and sons, follow a long tradition of painters using techniques which date back hundreds of years. The straight lines were drawn using a simple stick held against the wall and a sure hand in the artisan. The paint was mixed in clear divisions for the highlight, basic tone and three shadow values. As we watched, a three dimensional frame appeared before us, simply and carefully constructed by the master painter.  It was fascinating to observe and humbling to understand his command of his craft. As he put on the final paint to represent the cast shadow, the frame seemingly lifted off the wall into the third dimension. We were delighted to have this firsthand insight into the time honored craft of illusionistic perspective painting.

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