Final Project

Throughout this semester, I was assigned an artist and was able to learn about them. The artist I was given was Fra Angelico and this was a great opportunity to learn a great deal about him. Fra Angelico was an early Renaissance painter who was considered to be extremely spiritual. He was known for his religious paintings and often painted very soft and sweetly, such as in his Annunciation. This was pointed out by Giorgio Vasari in The Lives of the Artists when he states “In a chapel of the same church there is well executed that it truly seems to have been created in Paradise rather than by a human hand.” Michael Kimmelman from the New York Times also stated something similar about Fra Angelico, which was “He came to be perceived as a sweet, saintly innocent, behind his times.”

Fra Angelico. Annunciation.
The Annunciation by Fra Angelico. Source: Olga’s Gallery

Another fact which I learned about Fra Angelico that stuck with me throughout the entire trip was when Vasari wrote “He never painted a crucifix without the tears streaming down his cheeks.” This stuck with me because the first painting in the MET which I was able to view was the Crucifixion, and once arriving at The Museum of San Marco I saw many more. Fra Angelico was known in particular for all of the Crucifixions he painted, and to also know that he was a deeply spiritual friar allowed me as a viewer to get into his mind and understand his thought process. He not only cried while painting The Crucifixion, but he was extremely skilled at showing different expressions on people such as agony and pain within the Crucifixion. 

Crucifixion by Fra Angelico

Since he was an early Renaissance artist, his paintings often lack detail, which is why I was excited when we were given the opportunity to choose another artist and compare their works. The other artist I chose was Giovanni Bellini. This allowed me to see the progression of artwork throughout time.  Bellini was a Venetian artist who painted The two artists styles are very different, but they often depict many of the same religious scenes. For example, they both had painted The Annunciation. I have spoken about both of these works previously, but it was interesting to see the same scene painted by two different people while also not having it be as repetitive as the Madonna and Child. The Annunciations differ vastly in terms of their level of detail in the clothes and background.

The Annunciation by Giovanni Bellini

Bellini’s Annunciation has much more detail. His level of detail was put very well by New York Time’s writer Roderick Conway Morris when he stated that Bellini’s work was “…realistic yet embodying intimations of the divine, utterly individual yet universal images of the pathos of the human condition.” The viewer is able to see this through the expressions on Mary and Gabriel’s faced. This differs from Fra Angelico’s work because you can tell by the movement of the robe that Gabriel is wearing and even the background and architecture is more detailed. This painting is much darker than Fra Angelico’s, but while Fra Angelico’s had a plain background, Bellini’s had marble and tile floors. Bellini’s work shows perspective more and uses the squares on the walls, floor, and ceiling to do so. The light in Bellini’s painting is also focused in certain points while in Fra Angelico’s it is not. The viewer would be able to see that throughout the Renaissance, style changed drastically and as time went on, paintings and works of art became increasingly more realistic and detail oriented.

These paintings are all still studied today not only because  they were relevant during the time of the Renaissance, but because they relate to today’s world as well. The paintings during the Renaissance were based off of religion and artist’s various interpretations of stories that came from the bible. They continue to hold value within today’s society because many people are still engrossed in religion and all of these stories hold weight within people’s lives. It is a topic which has not yet gone out of style and is taught and learned by each generation to the next.

Something which I found to be fascinating about our trip to Italy was that we were travelers and not tourists. There are many difference between tourists and travelers, and what made us travelers and not tourists were the experiences we were able to have while on the trip. For example, tourists often do not have the ability to blow glass at a glass school. We were given the opportunity to have experiences that others would not have.

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Me blowing glass. Taken by Professor Rehmann

One of the biggest differences between a tourist and a traveler to me is their willingness to immerse themselves within the culture of the place which they are visiting. For example, tourists will stick to what they are comfortable with, such as food. Throughout the trip I was able to try a variety of foods such as cuttlefish, rabbit, and boar, all of which were completely foreign to me. While I may not have enjoyed all of these foods, it was important for me to try it because that is the regions specialty.

Another thing I enjoyed which I thought made me more of a traveler instead of a tourist was spending time with locals. We were able to go out and hang out during night time, so we often got together as a group and would head down to the local bar. In Venice this was particularly fun because of how different the scene is. No one stays in the bars, they sit on the bridge outside and talk to one another. We were able to meet and speak with locals of the area. One night we had a local tell us he was a photographer and set us into the position he wanted us in to take a picture. This made me feel as if I was within the culture and getting everything I could out of this experience.

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The picture we took at the local bar. Taken by a Venetian local.

My most important take away from this trip was by far to never shy away from new experiences and cultures. The more open you are to taking in your surroundings, the more fun you will have. I am extremely lucky to have been able to have such a great experience and I would have been upset if I came home and had not tried new foods, new activities, and if I had not embraced what was around me. Exploring the cities and nightlife and even just discussing different topics with locals opened my eyes to how others live and how different life is in various places. This trip allowed me to grow and become more cultured and I would not have traded this experience for the world.

Citations

Kimmelman, Michael. “Fra Angelico, the Master of the Golden Halo.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 11 Sept. 2005. Web. 10 June 2017.

Morris, Roderick Conway. “Bellini, the Venetian Master and a Father of the Renaissance.”The New York Times. The New York Times, 11 Dec. 2008. Web. 10 June 2017.

Vasari, Giorgio, and B. Burroughs. Lives of the Artists: Biographies of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects in Italy. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1946. Print.

 

A Closer Look at The Annunciation by Giovanni Bellini

 

The Annunciation by Giovanni Bellini

The painting that I focused on for my close looking experience in Venice was The Annunciation by Giovanni Bellini, found in the Accademia.  I chose this painting because I was able to see the transition in time from when Fra Angelico painted his to Bellini’s version of the story. Bellini is much more realistic and geometrical and intricate. The eye starts by going to the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary. This painting tells the same story, in which Gabriel is bringing the news that Mary is pregnant. The colors are varying, yet they are all dark. There are blues and reds – the primary colors – surrounding Mary, but Gabriel is covered in neutral earthy tones. This may be because Mary is supposed to be the most important figure and she is the one receiving the news and she is who the news is about. The colors are also lighter around the Angel Gabriel and darker around Mary, this could be because the Angel is bringing good news to Mary. He is also holding flowers which is indicative of life, and he is presenting that life to Mary. The artist wants you to look at each part of the painting by creating detail and realism within each portion of the painting. There are wrinkles in the clothing, cracks and designs within the marble, and detail within the landscape in the background. There are many lines within the painting to create perspective. The walls, floors, and ceilings are sectioned into different pieces through geometrical shapes and lines. This contrasts with the two figures in front which are more natural and curved compared to everything in the back which is geometrical and this causes the figures to stand out in comparison. There are no eye lines, however there may be a neutral color line from Mary to the outside and even to Gabriel. The artist wants the viewer to be within the moment, watching the light enter the room just as Gabriel is. The light is the message he is delivering to Mary. Bellini wants the viewer to be immersed in the painting, he creates perspective using geometrical designs. He creates realism through the details in the landscape, marble, and even the body positions that the figures are in. He wants the viewer to take a close look at the painting and realize that each brushstroke and idea comes full circle, because that is just how important this scene is. Everything is methodically thought out and full of symbolism. The painting stimulates me visually, it allowed my eyes to pick up many details which I would not have noticed at first glance. There is a lot happening within this painting and all of it is important to take notice of. I enjoy the sense of realism and motion within the painting greatly. I am also in sympathy with the artist, he views the story as important and makes it clear throughout the painting that he sees it this way. The details, realism, and symbolism show that it is very complicated yet is placed in very high regard and significance.

Murano, Burano, and Torcello

On our second to last day in Italy, we had the opportunity to travel to three different islands outside of mainland Venice. We went to Murano, Burano, and Torcello. To get there it was necessary to travel by boat through the Venice Lagoon, and the view was spectacular.

View of Burano from the Venice Lagoon. Taken by me.
The most interesting part of the day for me was when we went to Murano. We were able to go to a glass school called Abate Zanelli and learn from glass masters. We first watched demonstrations which showed us how the masters are able to make a vase, which was about a 15 minute process. They also demonstrated how to create a horse in about a minute. It really stood out to me because the masters are dealing with extremely hot conditions and are working with liquid glass which is not only dangerous, but also takes a great deal of skill to work with since the masters are unable to touch the work with their hands. If they do not turn the glass at the correct speed, then it will not stay on the metal pole, and if they blow into the pole incorrectly then the glass will not be molded to the shape they want it to be. I learned this the hard way when I was given the opportunity to blow glass and it did not turn into a nice shape.

Me blowing glass. Taken by Professor Rehmann.
After watching how they make bigger pieces of glasswork, we were able to go see lampmaking, which is where the masters make smaller pieces of work such as jewelry. The masters use rods of different colored glass and melt them on a Bunsen burner, and then combine different colors of glass to create intricate designs for jewelry. Something I found to be interesting was that masters who work blowing glass cannot do lampworking, and vice versa. They are seen as two different specialties even though they are both working with glass.

The master making a glass ring using the lamp working technique. Taken by me.

After watching how Murano glass was made, we moved to the island of Burano, where we were able to purchase different items that were made on Murano for even cheaper. Something that makes Burano a unique island is that the homes are all different bright colors, and we were told two stories as to why by our tour guide. The first one is the more accurate one, which was that fisherman would go out at night, but because there was so much fog they were unable to see where they needed to go to get home, so in turn they made there homes brightly colored so they would be able to locate their home. The not so realistic story was very similar, except the sailors were drunk and they would often come home to the wrong house and the wrong wife. This would cause trouble between the husband and wife so the way they fixed it to know what house they were supposed to come home to without starting a fight at home.

Some of the colorful homes of Burano, taken by me.

These two islands were the ones that I found to be most interesting, but we also made a stop at Torcello. This is where we were able to see Atilla the Hun’s throne, even though it was not his real throne, it was an interesting sight to see and even to sit in.

Me sitting on Atilla’s throne. Taken by Professor Rehmann.

All in all, this trip to Italy was a great learning experience. I was able to see the culture of Italy and eat new and exciting foods and learn all about the art and history. I am beyond lucky enough to have gone on such an amazing trip and I hope to go on another one similar to this soon.

First Day In Venice 

Yesterday we started our day off by waking up particularly early and speeding to the train station in Assisi. We took a two and a half hour trip to Florence, and then transferred again to another train that took us to Venice. All of this travel was really helpful for me because I was able to clarify what I needed to do for my assignments and fix them. I was also really excited to go to Venice because I was consistently told that I would love it by everyone who I knew who had previously visited. 
When we finally arrived I was shocked. It was very different than what I was used to, instead of having cars on streets, there were boats in canals, and that’s how every gets around the town. The streets are not only based around the water, but they are not what we are used to in general. New York is a grid system, so streets are easy to locate and figure out. Venice is the complete opposite, there seems to be no system to the streets and if I did not have a map I am sure that I would get lost easily. 
This is the view of Venice that shocked me. Taken by me. 
Something I found to be really great about Venice is that they have a significant Jewish  population. They have a ghetto in which they live, with restaurants that are kosher and celebrate Shabbat and even have Israeli snacks that I ate while I was in Israel. I love seeing that my culture has people all over the world, since we aren’t the biggest religion in the world. Not only this, but I am able to use it as an opportunity to teach my peers about my religion since they are not Jewish. 
A little after we got in, we went on a gondola tour. There were only six people allowed in each gondola, so we had to split up. My group chose to go with Chaira, who is one of only two women gondoliers. I was very excited to hear this, as I am all for women being able to do the same things that men can do, and to know that she continues to compete in gondola competitions is really inspiring. Another thing that she did that I found to be special was that she sang for us. She had a beautiful voice, and it made me feel as if I had finally gotten the most important experience out of Venice. 

Us on the Gondola. Taken by me. 

She was able to teach us a few things which I found interesting. For instance, I was unaware that gondolas were only rowed with one paddle and that weight was such a big issue. She made sure to seat the heavier people in the back of the gondola to make sure that there was a balance regarding weight so that rowing wouldn’t be difficult for her. While riding in the gondola we saw that all around the city there were red flags with a winged lion on them, which Chaira explained to be the flag of Venice. It depicts the lion of St. Mark the Evangelist, and the reason why he is the symbol of Venice is because his body was stolen by Venetians from Alexandria, which is a story that I found to be peculiar because they are depicting a Saint that was not originally in Venice as their symbol. 

The winged lion. Taken by Danielle. 
After the gondola ride Danielle, Rono, and I went to get dinner together. This was just a continuation of us trying adventurous foods, and I believe this was the first time it did not fully work out. Danielle and I got spaghetti with cuttlefish ink, and it was a strange experience. While the food was not bad, it had a strange taste and neither of us thought the food was particularly exceptional, but I think both of us were glad that we tried it. It was another experience that we were not used to having and we were able to eat authentic Venetian food, which is not something everyone is able to say.

The cuttlefish spaghetti that we ate. Taken by me 

Tomorrow I will continue to update everyone on my travels in Venice, including going to the different islands of Murano, Burano, and Torcello, and I can’t wait!

Our Full Day In Assisi

We started off in Assisi by visiting their oldest church, the Santa Maria Maggiore. We were lucky enough to be toured around by Elizabeth and Manuela. Manuela was an honor to have around because she was actually the one who excavated and restored many of the frescos in the church. The reason the frescos had to be excavated was because when the plague was happening, people would come to the church and kiss and touch the walls in prayer to get rid of the illness. This actually caused the illness to spread, so they covered the walls in layers of plaster. The plaster covered the original frescos on the wall, and there was an earthquake and the plaster cracked and there was a fresco underneath, which Manuela ended up excavating. Many of the frescos still have not been excavated.

IMG_2834The Madonna of the Milk fresco, taken by me.
My favorite piece was the Madonna and Child, which of course is generally seen everywhere and is considered to be repetitive. This was my favorite piece not because of the content, but because of the story behind it. It was supposed to be a Madonna of the Milk, and the fresco had been painted over many times. This is because specifically the section around Mary’s breasts was eaten by nursing mothers. This may sound strange in today’s day and age, but back then it was the mothers way of attempting to have more milk to give to their babies. They did not have formula in their day to supplement if the mother did not have enough milk, so many babies would die of hunger. By chipping off a piece of the fresco and consuming it, the believed God would help them make more milk for their child. Another thing that I found to be fascinating is that they would never chip paint off of the faces.

One thing that we were told was that Manuela was angry because they continue to not keep the church at the right temperature so that the frescos would stay intact. This made me angry as well, because the church is so full of masterpieces and it is the oldest church in Assisi, so it should want to preserve its history and what makes it unique rather than letting it all go to waste.

After the Santa Maria Maggiore Chruch, we moved onto the Basilica Di Santa Chaira, in which we were able to see the woman who began the first women’s order called the “Poor Claires.” She spent her entire life dedicated to starting this order, and finally got it done two years before her death. St. Francis helped her begin this order and In the basement of the church you can see his tunic. This is because he was to give up his worldly possessions and would have one garment to wear which was made of hemp. This hemp came from sacks. It was his only piece of clothing, and if it got damaged or ruined they would patch it up with more material, but not change the tunic.

img_2851The tunics of St. Francis, taken by me.
In the church what I found to be a highlight for me was that there was a representation of my religion there as well. I was able to see an arch full of Stars of David, which is the symbol of Judaism. This was not the only symbol that was not Christian, there were muslims symbols as well. I found it fascinating because it is extremely rare in which my religion is depicted within a church.

The arch of stars of David, taken by me.

While all these churches were very beautiful, my favorite part of our day in Assisi was our lunch. We were able to have it like a family and with an absolutely stunning view. We were cooked authentic Italian food right in front of our faces on a grill, and it was absolutely delicious. I really enjoyed it for the view and for continuing our bonding time and getting closer together as a group. I feel as if we only keep learning more about one another and are having great experiences together. 

Our family portrait. Taken by our Professor Jill Rehmann
Our view at lunch. Taken by me

The bonding experience was amazing, and I am getting increasingly sadder that this trip is coming to its end soon. We have seen and learned so much that I wish I would be able to stay forever. Our next and last stop is Venice, and I cannot wait to continue to update everyone about what I’ve been told is a beautiful city. Stay tuned!

A Close Looking At “The Annunciation” by Fra Angelico

In Florence I was able to have the wonderful opportunity to go to the Museum of San Marco and look at many of the frescos by Fra Angelico. The museum is full of frescos by him that were commissioned by Cosimo from the Medici family (Vasari, 2008), however the one that stuck out to me the most because it was so different was The Annunciation.

Fra Angelico. Annunciation.
The Annunciation by Fra Angelico. Source: Olga’s Gallery
The Annunciation by Fra Angelico. Taken by me

The first impact of the painting is that there is an aura of importance. It is the depiction where the angel Gabriel visits Mary and you can tell that it is Mary by her signature blue robe. The viewers eye starts off at the angel, due to the colors that Fra Angelico used on the wings. They are full of color, which contrasts from the beige natural background. They range in color from beige to green to red and then to a very dark green, almost black color. The viewer’s eyes then move to the Virgin Mary because she is the only other figure within the painting. Fra Angelico is trying to show that Gabriel is delivering Mary a message, so the viewers eyes should start on him initially and then move to her. The message being delivered is that Mary is pregnant with Jesus, and a way in which the viewer would be able to realize this is that both Mary and Gabriel have their arms wrapped around their stomachs. They are the focal point of the painting because they are the only two figures in the painting. After looking at them, the eyes are allowed to wander to look at the architecture and the foliage. Another interesting part of the painting is the lines used. There is both a real directional line and an eye line, however is less about a color line. Fra Angelico places a black line on top to show the method in which he was able to create perspective and a vanishing point. This also shows the mathematics he used and learned from Brunelleschi. The two figures are also separated by one line, the column in between the two figures. The eye line is between the Angel and Mary because they are looking straight at one another, this creates a a sense of importance because they are locking eyes and not paying attention to anything else. The only time in which I would see a color line is with Gabriel’s wings. This is because they begin light like the wall and then move your eye downwards towards the background and grass by becoming gradually darker until they reach the background. Other than the foliage background there is the beige background which takes up most of the painting, which shows the separation of the angel and Mary through contrasting colors. There are both neutral colors and primary/secondary colors. The background is all neutral beige, while the angel Gabriel is in pink and the Virgin Mary is in blue. The bright blue and pink contrasts with the beige background. The landscape is in green and the Angel’s wings are multicolored, going from light to dark. There do not tend to be many shades unless it is found in the clothing to create demension, which is called cairoscuro and is what Fra Angelico is known for. The impact of the colors is not harsh, and have almost an elegant quality to them, which Presents the feeling that the artist would like the viewer to have. He shows that something important is occurring and it is a good thing. The light colors symbolize that there is an occurrence to be happy about. There is also no harshness with the shapes being used. They tend to be all natural and organic, such as clothes, people, and trees. The only part of the painting that is harsh is the black line going through the top, and Fra Angelico used that to create perspective and natural shapes and vanishing points using the arches and architecture in a natural way.

The artist tried to make the viewer have a spiritual connection with the work, due to his history and connection to the Catholic Church. He was a friar and was therefore extremely spiritual and enjoyed painting stories from his religion and wanted this to influence the viewer. The painting stimulates me visually, however not emotionally because I don’t identify very much with the Catholic religion and these stories do not stimulate my spirituality. On the other hand, I think that the three dimensionality of the painting and use of different colors is very visually stimulating, especially the use of cairoscuro on the clothing. The artist is trying to show the viewer that this is an important scene and that it has a good connotation. It is a good moment and Fra Angelico is skilled at showing this by making sure that the Virgin and Gabriel both have sweet looks on their faces.

Vasari, Giorgio, Julia Conaway. Bondanella, and Peter E. Bondanella. Lives of the Artists. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2008. Print.

From Florence to Assisi

Yesterday we began our day by going to Il Duomo di Firenze. Starting just from outside our guide Patricia was able to provide us with a multitude of information. There are holes in the building that are square in shape, and she explained to us that they were used to help with scaffolding and were never removed or filled in just in case they would need them later for restoration. All of the marble on the outside of the building is a different color. The different colors that you could see are pink, green, and white. These were not because the marble was artificially colored, but because the different colored marble originated from different places, which is something I found to be interesting.
What calls people to the cathedral is its dome, which was created by Brunelleschi from 1420-36. The church was unfinished and open until this because the first architect passed away and when he passed away, nobody else knew how to build the dome because they did not have the technology for it. Brunelleschi was revolutionary because he was able to create the dome without making a wooden frame. He instead based the scaffolding in the dome and created a double dome. One dome was inside the other and between them was a stretch of 2 meters that link the dome.

Il Duomo di Firenze, photo taken by me.

The bell tower of the church was used for bells and to transmit different kinds of news. Specific sounds can mean different things, such as there being a different sound for a pope dying, a new pope being chosen, if a war had begun, or even just to tell time. Giotto was the one who made the design for the bell tower and even  say that a pope died or there was a new pope or a war started or to tell time. The bell tower is detached so they had time for more decorations. Giotto made the design and started the structure for the bell tower. He made the original plan, but did not complete it.

In the church, there is a clock which I would consider to be a piece of artwork. Our tour guide Patricia explained that it was created by Paulo Uccello and is very unusual for a clock. The numbers go counterclockwise and uses the wrong Roman numerals. For example, instead of IV being 4, it is IIII. For 9, instead of it being IX, it is VIIII. The clock also does not calculate time the way  we do, it calculates the time since the sun has last sunset.

The clock made by Paulo Uccello. Photo taken by me.

After Il Duomo, we went to the Ufizzi Museum. Where I was able to see works by artists that are considered to be extremely famous. My favorite of the works of art that we saw was the Allegory of Spring by Botticelli. It was made at the same time as the Venus. I think the Allegory of Spring is more dynamic and has more that draws the eye. It has many figures in it and I found many things about it to be interesting. For instance, the Cupid has his eyes covered as a means of showing that love is blind and no one knows where Cupid’s arrow will land. Another thing I found to be fascinating was the amount of various flowers he chose to paint. Our tour guide explained that Botticelli painted over 150 species of flowers in this painting.

After the Uffizi, we had time to eat before going on a trip to Assisi. Cayla and I went to get specific sandwiches that seemed to be delicious and there was a very long line, so the Rest of the group abandoned us. Little did they know that we would be able to get a huge sandwich with prosciutto, mozzarella, and basil on focaccia bread for 5 euro in 15 minutes. This was a huge highlight for me because I was able to have food that was eaten by people like Lenny Kravitz and Joe Bastianich and have it be delicious and cheap. After that we went on a train to get to our next destination.  A blog about Assisi coming soon!

The sandwich that I had before the train. Taken by me