Lacrime di Lucifero

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Lacrime di Lucifero – Morro d’Alba – watercolour and ink 44cm x 28cm (For Sale)

Lacrime di Lucifero. Lacrime refers to the delicious wine of Morro d’Alba, Lacrime (meaning tears) and Lucifero being the nickname given to the heatwave of the summer of 2017.  One of the things you need to ease the midday temperatures is a good wine and believe me, this is a great wine.

Morro d’Alba painting

DSCN7688Morro d’Alba is 12 km from the coastal town of Senigalia in Le Marche, Italy and is perched high above the Adriatic Coast. From its covered walls, you can look down on the endless fields of sunflowers, vineyards and olive groves.
The main piazza, on the left, sits on top of a small hill, with the rest of the town sloping away from it. All around the town walls there are pine trees and oaks along the road side. During the summer months these provide much needed shade and were especially welcome in 2017.

Gothic style

Again the style is an apocalyptic, Gothic stylised painting, with a red faced demon, blasting hot air down on the town and the typical trees and buildings that can be found in Medieval manuscripts. The idea is to give the painting a doomsday feel to it. Soaring temperatures, parched landscape and bleached, dry towns. All very “The end is nigh”.
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Devilishly Hot

DSCN7629The beautiful town of Morro d’Alba is our next destination on Lucifero’s journey around Le Marche in Italy. This place is famous for its Lacrime (tears) wine. A delicious drink that, given the opportunity, everyone should try.

Lacrime d’Alba walk

The now famous “Lucifer” heatwave has been enough to make even the most heat loving person cry. So visiting the town was a relief from the blazing sun and cool comfort was found within its covered walkway. The medieval town wall has a vaulted corridor, with regular archways, that afford visitors the chance to take in the breathtaking scenery of the surrounding countryside, all the way down to the Adriatic Sea.

DemonLunchtime break

It’s by no way a massive place to explore but makes a fabulous destination for lunch or dinner. Especially if you order a bottle or two of the Lacrime to go with your meal. The walls have been cleaned up, giving them a subtle orange glow, there is the Museum of Tools and apart from that, it’s a charming pit stop.
The painting, like the previous one, will feature a Medieval portrait of Lucifer in one corner. Spewing his hot breath over the landscape. This time however, the bulk of the picture will show the town wall with some stylised trees in the foreground. Hot tongues of flame will lick the sky, reminding you (if you happened to find yourself in southern Europe) of the sheer heat of 2017.

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Lucifer’s Summer

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Lucifer’s Summer – watercolour and ink, 26cm x 40cm (For Sale)

After the heatwave, that drifted over southern Europe for three weeks, the summer of 2017 earned nickname “Lucifer’s Summer”. The average temperature was in the mid-forties and the heat was stifling.

Withering landscape

The painting features the village of Belvedere Ostrense in Le Marche, with the silhouettes of Barbara and Ostra Vetere in the background. The hills had either been ploughed, which left hardened clods of earth or black, dried sunflowers, making the usual verdant landscape turn various shades of black and brown.

tumblr_m9fs9j2VIR1refr94o1_500Hot summer

The never-ending heatwave had the feel of a biblical prophecy to it so I decided to paint it in a Medieval manuscript style, complete with a demonic head in the corner. From its foul mouth swirl the stinking, reeking heat of hell. Well that’s how it felt for quite a few days that summer

The Devil in the Landscape

DSCN7633Whilst relaxing in Le Marche this summer I decided to do a landscape of the surrounding area that resounded to the uncharacteristically high temperatures we’ve been experiencing in Italy.

Devilish weather

The 2017 heatwave has been nicknamed “Lucifer” and I felt a title of such biblical proportions deserved a similar rendering. The name itself conjures up images of plague, death and destruction. A scene of a time of old school torment and scorched lands, laid waste.

DevilEatingBishopsThis isn’t that far from the truth as everywhere is dry and brown. There are massive water shortages in 11 regions of Italy and with a month of unseasonably high temperatures, averaging around the mid-forties, a Medieval painting of the Devil’s wrath seemed apt.

DSCN7599Demons in Manuscripts

Looking at a number of Medieval manuscripts I decided that it would be fun to have a stylised demon in one corner and paint the sky in all hellish shades of red, orange and purple.  This is very much the way the sky naturally looks at sunset each night.

Although the grain has been harvested, and all that remains are the dried stalks, there are thousands of blackened, shrivelled sunflowers scattered across the landscape.

DSCN7586Deserted countryside

These and the baked fields all serve to create the impression of a barren countryside, abandoned and forgotten. Well naturally the countryside is deserted, everyone has decided it’s time to visit the seaside, where it’s cooler, wetter and fresher.

12 Medieval Manuscript Cats

Cat10The idea of the cat meme or cute kitten video on YouTube is nothing new. People have always adored and recorded their cats lives. In ancient Egypt they even went as far as creating a cat cult, worshiping and mummifying their remains.

While cat owners know their pet’s daily activities and ability for unconditional love, it might be surprising for people to discover Cat9that cats are one of the most depicted animals on Medieval manuscripts.  Maybe, it’s  their sly attitude, persistent nature or their calming influence that makes them popular figures.

Feline features

Cat11It is perhaps  some of these very traits that encouraged scribes to use them as a comment on individual characters in the courtly and religious life of the times.

Cats could equally be used as a metaphor for a particular aspect of religious doctrine or belief that

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the patron either supported of ridiculed. This way comment could be made without directly pointing a finger.

Social commentary

A portrait of the bishop as a sly tomcat, the local lord depicted as the cruel moggy or a cat simply on the page as a symbol of stealth.

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The commissioning of a manuscript was not a cheap affair but it afforded the buyer the chance to record their own thoughts, feelings and political aspirations, sometimes in a concealed manner.

 

Cat7Musical cats

There are a number of bagpipe playing felines, which would seemingly allure to their caterwauling and even more showing them as great hunters catching birds andCat8 mice. While it could be the owners wish to include a humours  image of a much loved family pet, it is equally probable that they illustrate some allegiance or grievance.

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Marginal cats

The decorative borders, marginalia and gold leafed Cat12initials were filled with fanciful animals, mythical beasts and hybrid human-animals.

Entwined, the way cats do around a persons legs, you’ll see them amongst the foliage and flourishes of the page, ready to pounce are the many cute, crazy and scary images of the humble pussy cat.

 

 

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

 

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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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