Tag Archives: Niccone

Return to the Niccone Valley

The lovely people of Lisciano Niccone have approached me about painting their gorgeous valley again. This one will be for their publicity material.  Both a good advertisment for me and a chance to take another look at the stunning Niccone Valley landscape.

Publicity for Lisciano Niccone

Lisciano Niccone Castle

Lisciano Niccone Castle

As it’s a promotional image I’ve decided to keep it bright and cheerful, just like summer. There should be a bold sun, a few clouds and lots of green hills with the ubiquitous castles that makes the valley is famous.

Drawing the Valley

Niccone Valley Sketch

Niccone Valley Sketch

I’ll keep the dimensions roughly the same as the first version, which was in the region of 70 cm by 32 cm. This should give me a large enough canvas to paint in detail and also plenty of room to cover the 16 miles that make up the valley.

How to Paint the Sky Purple

The Niccone, so far

The Niccone, so far

Finishing off the painting of the Niccone Valley was proving difficult  but then mother nature intervened with an art show of her own. I had an idea to continue the dark blue, purple sky from the previous painting. To echo the composition of Lorenzetti and the previous picture of the Morra Valley.

The approaching storm

Gathering Clouds

Gathering Clouds

Tonight the sky lit up. Orange, green, yellow, white, pale blue, sky blue, ultramarine and purple. The distant lighting and rumbles of thunder added to the occasion and painting in such a setting was magical. Painting though with a limited palette and poor paper leaves you searching for better techniques to record the moment. Enter the digital camera.


Storm Clouds

Storm Clouds

These are beautiful photos of the stormy sky at dusk. They are not meant to be classical photographic  studies of the sky at the day’s end but a recording of the event for further use. Close up a sky like this has a definite watercolour quality to it, with swirling patterns, bold shapes and bright exclamations of colour. Luckily the neighbours are used to my moments of artistic investigation and put it down to me being a foreigner, rather than insanity.

Using the colours

Storm Approaching

Storm Approaching

How to use them is the question as even a display like tonight still doesn’t resolve in my mind the best way to complete the sky. Probably purple and blue will do the trick, too much fussing may over complicate the background.  They are lovely studies though.

One Valley, Twelve Miles, Six Castles, Two Borders

Valle Niccone

The Niccone Valley

My latest painting is going to be a large 75 cm x 30 cm picture of the picturesque Niccone Valley in Italy. This luscious landscape is criss-crosses by the Umbria and Tuscany border. For centuries rival lords from Perugia and Cortona built castles to protect their territory.

Some of these are ruins and others have been refurbished into stately homes. A trip along its length and drives up into the wooded hillsides gives you a wonderful chance to explore this scenic part of Italy.

Castles of Niccone 

Castle Montalto

Niccone, Castello di Montalto

High above the village of Niccone stands the now worn remains of Mont Alto. Guarding the entrance to the valley and providing Umbertide with advanced warning of trouble from Citta di Castello. Now abandoned and set in a thick forest, it is only accessible by foot.

Next you have the splendid Borgo di Migianella. In the centre of this restored hamlet you’ll find the remains of the ancient castle and gateway. It’s loft position offers great views along the Niccone and the steep climb made it easy to defend.

On the hills behind Niccone you can spot the tower of Castello di Polgetto, which is now a luxurious hotel. Again its high position looking down on Umbertide provided the town with notice of any comings and goings in the valley.

Sorbello and Reschio

Reschio Castle Umbria

Castello di Reschio

Halfway down the Niccone there is the stand off between Tuscany’s Sorbello Castel and the lavish Reschio on the Umbrian side. These two fortresses have faced each other for 1,000 years and are embroiled in many of the dark tales of the mirky politics of the area.

At the head of the valley you reach the villages of Liscione Niccone in Umbria, with its run down but still lived in castel. And the monumental, ruined keep of Castello di Pierle, which stands on Tuscan soil, above Mercatale.

Megolithic Pierle

Pierle Castle Tuscany

Castello di Pierle

Pierle must have been quite spectacular in it’s day. You can understand why, in the sixteenth century, the Medici lord, Francesco, slighted the building. Destroying the walls he said would prevent it from becoming a haven to bandits.

Composition of the painting

Researching the painting, I took a drive along the length of the valley and explored the surrounding hillsides, taking photos and making sketches enroute. Getting into the countryside is a great way to get the feel for a painting and how the eventual elements will fit together.

The composition follows the previous, Morra Valley painting and references the style of Lorenzetti in his “Good and Bad Government” fresco in Siena. This continues with the study of High Gothic, Early Renaissance landscapes and how they were viewed by artists 700 years ago.