Monthly Archives: March 2015

Lessons with Old Maps

My name is Neal Winfield, I’m 51 and I’m addicted to old maps. Yes! I confess, I have an obsessive passion for maps. People laugh when I get excited at the sight of an old street or provincial map but I just find them so interesting.

Old map history lesson

They show you how things have changed, where old buildings once were and the old town’s layout. There is lots you can learn from them and as a landscape painter I get great inspiration from these old documents.

So imagine my ecstatic rapture last week when teaching at one of Citta di Castello’s banks, I find a 6 x 7 foot, reproduction of a 500 year old street map of the city. Well I just had to whip out my iPad and take a few pictures.

What impressed me most wasn’t the expected monuments that are still visible such as the cylindrical bell tower and the duomo but the everyday buildings that are clearly still recognisable. So here are some facinating views of old Citta di Castello with the modern day photos. A “Then and Now” stretching back over 500 years. Enjoy!

The Palazzo Vitelli

Vitelli Palazzo with the arched tunnel (1) and the gateway (2) leading into the garden at the rear.

Vitelli Palazzo with the arched tunnel (1) and the gateway (2) leading into the garden at the rear.

The palazzo has long been a feature of Citta di Castello so it is no surprise that it is clearly shown on the map.

Citta di Castello

1) Palazzo Vitelli Archway

The distinctive archway with its sgraffito designs on the walls and the gardens are clearly visible. As is the large elaborate entrance gate at the back of the villa.


2) Rear gateway to the garden


Santa Maria Maggiore

The Church of Santa Maria Maggiore is a building that has stood for many centuries but what is interesting is that the street patterns have altered little in this time. You can still see the little alleyways that link onto the high street and while many buildings have probably changed, the street pattern remains pretty much the same.

Citta di Castello church

1)Church of Santa Maria Maggiore

3) Alley way on Via Madonna

2) Alley way on Via Madonna

3) Crossroads between Via Madonna and Via Mattonata

3) Crossroads between Via Madonna and Via Mattonata

4) Via Borgo Farinario

4) Via Borgo Farinario

Via San Florido

Via San Florido

Via San Florido

I adore the simplistic way in which the buildings are drawn and even with just a few lines you can still discover the old facades. On Via S. Florida, you can still see the big door and balcony, with the tall building two doors down.

What also fascinates me is how they draw the street plan and fill in the buildings around the city blocks. The same technique can be  seen in the Cagli map I used as reference in an earlier painting.

Via San Florido

Via San Florido

I’m sure with a little closer inspection and the chance to get some better quality photos I will be able to find more interesting blasts from the past. This is one time I don’t mind talking to the bank manager.

Painting the Walls of Citta di Castello

I’ve tackled Citta di Castello’s walls on a couple of occasions but this time I fancied painting a long section of the ancient defences. Previously, the works concentrated on the area around the Duomo but with the encouragement of Pamella, I decided to depict the whole of the west wall.

15th Century German Woodcut

15th Century German Woodcut

German woodcuts of the 15th century have always appealed to me, I love the way they big up the height and importance of their fortresses as if to deter invasion through art. So I thought Castello’s walI should be formidable and prominent in the picture.

Buildings everywhere

This poses a couple of problems, firstly there are a number of buildings opposite the wall, secondly there are lots of trees obscuring the view. So the way around it is to use the Medieval process of painting unimportant things to a smaller scale, therefore the buildings are tiny in comparison.

City Wall

City Wall

The trees likewise needed trimming, as there are great clusters of cropped firs, a stand of palm trees, some shaped garden trees and a lot of empty deciduous trunks.  The best way to take on the trees was to paint one of each group and make them fit around the wall, either painting them taller and thinner or drawing them small and squat. Problem solved.

Google Earth – Useless

Citta di Castello

Town Wall sketch

Next comes the structures behind the wall. With all this foliage, stones and concrete it’s impossible to see what it looks like over the edge. Even driving up into the hills a mile away proved ineffectual. Google Earth was no use as the Google car stupidly decided to drive out on a foggy day when nothing was visible.

The solution to this one was a stroll around the streets drawing the buildings from ground level and imagining them from another view point. I was also lucky to be teaching at the Unicredit Bank, where I discovered they have a marvellous reproduction of a sixteenth century map of Castello. This gave me additional ideas for the buildings around the wall.

Umbrian background

Castello Duomo

Duomo Drawing

The background always sets the theme with the sky providing the drama. Citta di Castello should never be without the beautiful Belvedere Monastery nestled in its wooded slopes. I plan on having the Apennine Mountains on the horizon and some farms, villas and maybe the Cyprus filled cemetery on the edge of town.

As spring is in the air I think a nice blue sky with a blazing sun and the odd fluffy white cloud scattered about. This should set the tone for future paintings as we leave the leaden skies of winter behind. It will mean that there is less distraction from the busy streets of Castello below. Hey, let’s see how it turns out.

Castello wall

Panorama of CdiC Wall