Monthly Archives: July 2017

The Artists and Poets at Marmore

 

HackertMarmore

Jacob Hackert

For over two millennia the Cascata delle Marmore has been a source of inspiration and wonder to many. Artists, poets and engineers have all paid a visit to this man-made waterfall and marvelled at its spectacle.

Originally constructed in 271 BC to drain the stagnant waters in the Riete Valley which, were believed to harbour malaria and caused death and destruction in the local area. The waterfalls are comprised of three drops over which the Velino River plunges into the wooded basin below and joins the River Nera.

Roman beginings

From its earliest days the falls have held a fascination for creative spirits and in the 19 century BC, the famous Roman poet, Virgil mentions Marmore, in his epic poem The Aeneid. 
“A valley of dark woodland and in the trees,
a river that roars and falls over big rocks.”
 
Dante Alighieri, poet and proclaimed father of Modern Italian, talks about the Cascata delle Marmore in song XX of Paradise, where he says
“Udir seemed to me a river mormorar – that came down clear stone, stone down –
that showing the uberta of his cacume.”
 
F.-Towne-1799-La-cascata-di-Terni

F Towne

Romantic views

The waterfalls at Marmore were a great source to the Romantic poets and painters, with the likes of Lord Byron, Percy Shelley and Wordsworth all paying visits to them during their Grand Tours.
In his poem the “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage“, Bryon writes –
” The roar of the waters – from the headlong height 
Velino cleaves the wave torn precipice,
The fall of waters! where they howl and hiss and boil in endless torture,
while the sweat of their great agony wrung out from this
Their Phlegethon, curls round the rocket of jet
that gird the gulph around the pitiless horror set.”
 
Talking in a letter, of his time at the falls, Shelley says –
“I saw the Cascata del Marmore of Terni twice, at different periods. Once from the summit of the precipice and again from the valley below. The lower view is fat to be preferred.”
 
DavinciMarmore

Leonardo da Vinci 1473

Renaissance painters

Painters also came to the luscious countryside around Terni to capture the verdant beauty of Valle Nera.  One of the first being the great Leonardo da Vinci, who sketched the area in 1473.  In the mid-17th century, the Neapolitan artist, Salvator Rosa set up his easel at the base of the waterfall as did the early English Impressionist painter, JMW Turner, who traveled through Umbria in 1819 and took time out at Marmore.
Others who, with their pallet and brushes in hand, have explored and recorded the area include Camille Corot in 1826, Joseph Anton Koch, Giuseppe Vasi, Jacob Hackert, Abraham Teerlink, Thomas Patch in 1745 and Rosa da Tivoli.
Cascade of Terni 1819 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851

JMW Turner sketch 1819

Classic authors

The author, Charles Dickens recalled his time at the falls in 1846 in his book “Pictures of Italy”. Architect and theorist, Eugene Viollet le Duc commented that “the waterfall is wonderful“.
While children’s story book writer Hans Christian Anderson said that
“the huge mass of water rushed from the top of the mountain to the rock“.
This dark, roaring and rugged landscape has been the focus of many an artists hue and poets turn of phrase. Over the years it has brought out the creative spirit in many and should you find yourself in Umbria, I urge you to take advantage of the chance and visit this inspirational wonder.

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The Geometry of Gothic Stained Glass

Gothic ArchWhile preparing for the new series of stained glass courses I got to thinking about the design work that went into Gothic cathedral tracery. These stone pillars support and divide the leaded lights and so wonderfully illuminate, both physically and metaphorically, these old buildings.

Medieval stained glass

Looking over photographs of Chartres and York Minster cathedrals my mind wandered back to my mathematics and technical drawing classes at school. After all, much of the beauty in these old windows owes itself to the mathematical principles of the golden mean and the sacred geometry.

GothicWindowWhether you believe in Divine design or not, there is much satisfaction, to be gained in observing how the craftsmen of old put these windows together. Look at any Gothic stained glass window and you will see an array of equilateral triangles, circles and squares all delicately put together to form perfect symmetry.

 

Window geometry

 

neal-winfield-gothic arch

These simple shapes are flipped, rotated and reversed in a complicated format to produce the awe inspiring lights we see in churches across the globe. It is fascinating how with nothing more than a compass and straight edge you can copy these designs and create your own Gothic, Norman or Tudor arches.

GothicTracery

Strike an arc, join the intersecting points and you’ve got an arch Rotate a circle three or four times and you have perfect trefoils and cinquefoils. The repetition of of our most earliest geometric exercises at school allow us to accurately replicate the stained glass windows of the Medieval artisans.

Next time you find yourself beneath a perfectly constructed rose window, have a look at the way the shapes were constructed. A marvelous combination of straightforward geometrical shapes, creatively assembled.

If you would be interested in finding out more about stained glass courses in Italy please email me at:  travellingcontent@gmail.com

 

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Painting the Sign

neal-winfield-santa-caterina-sign-2

I’ve always loved calligraphy, lettering and sign writing, so this project gave me a chance to get back to some of the things I love drawing. Namely letters and the Italian countryside.DSCN7240

Sign design

The sign is for an agriturismo, B&B, just outside of Pierantonio, Umbria and was to be completed on an old, but well preserved, wooden, window shutter. I decided to use the inside face and make a feature out of the old barrel hinges that were still intact.
Once the wood had been prepared, I set about designing the image. The only other prevision was the inclusion of the establishment’s name, “Villa Santa Caterina”.

Google Earth exploration

Although I’d never visited the site before I know the location well and easily found it on Google Earth, a great tool for exploring areas. You can really have a good nose around places and get the feel of the landscape. Obviously it’s not as good as a visit but as I’d driven the approach road often enough I knew the layout.
SantaCatViewThe idea for this image was straightforward. As you drive down the SP169, there’s a wide valley, a gentle curve and a distinctive manor house. This is where you turn off and if you look up into the hills on your right you can make out the Cyprus trees that ring Villa Santa Caterina above you.

Acrylic painting

VillaHouse2The painting would hang outside so I opted to use acrylic paint and this, along with a dozen or so coats of varnish should protect it from the elements. As the lettering was to be the main event, and not the image behind, the other major decision I had to make was to paint a subtle landscape. This meant lashings of titanium white to give the hills and trees a pale look but leaving the buildings with enough emphasis so that they stand out. The whole effect is finished off with a bright red border.
Green trees, terracotta buildings and splashes of red in the roofs, that’s the Umbrian landscape.
Drop me a line if you think your tea room in Wales, antique shop in Portland or haberdashery in Coober Pedy would suit one. I’ll happily sort something out for you.