In the centre of Umbria stands the whale shaped mountain of Mount Subasio. This is the famous haunt for the wandering Saint Francis and home to the pious Saint Clare.
Dominating the mountainous western slopes are the massive bulwarks of Assisi. Gleaming pink and orange in the early morning light they support the twin churches of St Francis’ Basilica. While towering above the town the ruined remains of Cardinal Abornoz’s Rocca, ragged and crubbling now and a shadow of its imposing former self.
At the other end of the mountains gentle curve lies the ancient Roman town of Spello. Perhaps not as well known as its neighbour but equally as interesting and captivating.
The tortourous curves of both town’s walls are punctuated at regular intervals by numerous gateways, each having a distincitve look of their own. The skylines are also litter with a collection of church towers and steeples that go into giving Assisi and Spello unique profiles.
The idea behind this painting is to capture the beauty and individuality of these two towns and the six churches that you pass as you drive along Superstrada 75. This winds its way merrily along the olive grove and vineyarded foothills of Mount Subasio.
Once you look past the commercial and industrialised landscape that litters the valley, you are left with the image of a gorgeous monolith with its ancient towns either end and the collection of religious buildings along the roadside. These are surrounded by tall, cyprus trees, ragged olive trees and spiny palms.
The Artists of Subasio
When considering the artists of the area then you cannot ignore Giotto and Martini who are both credited with frescoes in San Francescos’ basilicas. Pinturicchio too spent time painting in Spello and used the town as a backdrop for at least two of his works. Perugino completed the fresco in the little Porzuincola church inside Santa Maria degli Angeli and Gozzoli worked in nearby Montefalco.
All in all there is a lot to consider in terms of composition, design and colour in this painting. Although, early signs are that it’s working out.