12 October 2015

The Dream of the Apothecary

Antique apothecary staged in the shop window of Luca,  Florence.

One of the many inspiring artisan shops in the Oltrarno district of Florence is the unique and fascinating design atelier of  Luca  (via de Serragli 16r.)   I snapped these shots last May when the front of the shop was filled with the above fantastic scene from an apothecary's dream.  Any time you get to Florence, please go visit Luca and see what wonderful moody stories are being played out among the furniture creations, art, and vintage treasures.

matching containers filled with magic
Yes, I stared at this vitrine every time I passed; during those weeks we were staying just across the street; yes, 12 times a day I would estimate, silently calculating the cost of shipping this entire thing home,  visualizing my ebonized  wunderkammer kitchen - or is it my workshop?-  with carrara counters, brass pulls, matching canisters.  Oh, yes.  

Florence, as you might know, is full of wonderous speziale, historic shops specializing in remedies, spices, herbs and teas, and other ingredients like catechu or borax, medicinal elixirs, fragrances, pigments, or other esoteric powders and potions, often displayed in ancient glass-fronted cabinets. 
The oldest of these, Officina Profumo Farmaceutica Santa Maria Novella which has medieval roots, and  Farmacia SS Annunziata  founded in 1561, now create gorgeous herbal and fragrant products.  AquaFlor is a lovely fragrance shop built on this legacy and of course the amazing D'Alessandro Bizzarri truly carries on the speziale tradition with everything from tea and dried fruits to raw pigments and photography chemicals, to poisons and explosives (see my previous post about this shop.)

How would you set up your apothecary?  Would you fill it with reagent bottles, tins, or perhaps colorful maiolica jars?


10 September 2015

Studio Visit: Jennifer Carrasco

Ship of Fools:   Chinosierie mural detail by Jennifer Carrasco*

So a couple of years ago, I get this email from my friend Jennifer Carrasco asking about canvas for a big job... I love talking shop with my fellow muralists and I was happy to dump all sorts of advice on her whether needed or not.  For the next year or so there was a lot of back and forth about the technical and physical challenges of this huge commission of Chinoiserie, which Jennifer designed in a highly personal style including many details that resonated with her client's personality and philosophy.  The 20 foot high mural panels were painted for a fabulous home on Vashon Island, creating a truly over-the-top fantasy rivaling anything you can find in Brighton or Drottningholm. 

Jennifer Carrasco in the fantastic Chinoiserie mural she created for her client on Vashon Island*

As I am a huge fan of Jennifer and her work I was very excited to get a chance to visit her Seattle garden studio after Salon 2014 was held in Seattle last May,  just after this enormous mural had been installed.

Jennifer in her studio, scale drawing of her Chinosierie mural
Surrounded by her garden,  Jennifer's studio is a charming and compact creative space cleverly outfitted to her needs thanks in large part to the carpentry genius of her partner, Phil.

Large projects require enormous amounts of organization and planning, especially when being produced in smaller spaces.  The entire chinoiserie project was designed and laid out in a scale drawing overlaid with a carefully numbered grid, the staggered panels were measured and cut in a large sail loft, and then sent to a commercial paint shop to be spray painted with the gradated colors of the background, then the grid transferred to the canvas.

Phil designed an ingenious system to allow Jennifer to paint these 20+ foot high mural panels in this studio, by devising  two stations with "drafting table" style painting areas and  pairs of rollers to dispense and roll up the canvas.  This way Jennifer can paint seated at a large, angled table rather than standing on ladders, or sitting on the floor or any of the other difficult postures we  have to assume when doing large pieces   Jennifer bragged to me early on that this set up "has added years to my mural painting life."

Inside and outside, Jennifer Carrasco's garden studio in Seattle
This clever mural painting set-up allows for comfortable ergonomic painting while seated.*
behind the mural painting wall is beautifully organized storage 

I really loved the storage opportunity that was built into the back of the painting wall.  I'm afraid I am the type to get rather too excited about such things.

In addition to this charming style of Jenoiserie, as she calls it, Jennifer is well known for illustration work and for painting  fearlessly colorful murals and environments such as the famous ballroom of the Seattle restaurant The Ruins.   Her work is infused with humor, nature and pure joy.    You can see more of her paintings at her website as well as her fun blog.

Jennifer is also widely regarded as a skilled and generous teacher of painting techniques.
Next month she will be making an appearance in Indianapolis at the Paint Decor Annex, to teach her unique style of Chinoiserie.

Selected Jenoiserie is also available now via Spoonflower in fabric, wallpaper and other printed items!!

Chinoiserie peonies by Jennifer Carrasco*

color samples and sketches at Jennifer Carrasco's studio

Photos in this post by Lynne Rutter
and *courtesy Jennifer Carrasco

03 June 2015

Grotesque Obsession: Uffizi East Corridor

detail of grottesca ornament, East Corridor, Uffizi

I have had this recurring dream in the past few years, that I would encounter Rick Steves and his team in the East Corridor of the Uffizi Galleries, and that I would run over to to them, shove Rick and his fanny pack well out of the way with great conviction, then the grab the camera and point it at the ceiling.  Yes the Uffizi is crammed with fantastic Italian art, but if you don't look up once in a while, you are missing something truly special.

East Corridor, Uffizi Galleries

Last year, I spent three months in Florence, and as a card-carrying member of the Association of Amici degli Uffizi, which has helped fund the restoration of this and other areas of the museum, I made numerous trips to study my favorite quirky ceilings, and it is still one of the first places I go whenever I return there. Photography is allowed in this famous museum (as of May 31, 2014) and so I am thrilled to be able to share a sampling of these images from my most recent visit.

The East Corridor ceilings were frescoed in 1580-81 by Alessandro Allori and his team  of decorative painters, in a high Mannerist spin on the popular grottesche style of ornamentation.  Each ceiling section features a different theme and unique color scheme, as well as a wealth of ornament and figural elements ranging from the charming to the bizarre. Too easily dismissed as silly decoration, a careful look at any of the details reveals a spirit of discovery, and an almost frantic catalogue of the knowledge and concerns of the times.

typical layout of each of these Uffizi ceilings: grottesche arranged symmetrically around a center element.

The ceilings are painted with intense and beautiful colors on white plaster, and remain light and airy despite the busy compositions, all of which follow a similar arrangement:  an X that connects each corner to a central element, while other designs are arranged in pairs symmetrically on either side. (These ceiling sections are shallow coves, the designs would work just as well on a flat ceiling.) Mythological creatures, allegorical and humorous figures and animals populate a framework of garlands, borders, fans, piers, and cartouches with landscapes or narrative scenes.  Some themes are serious or religious, but the overall effect is that there is a huge party going on overhead. Like a giant thought bubble, brimming with ideas.

detail of a one of the grottesca ceilings in the Uffizi, with Manneristic figures and colors
Grottesca ornament remained popular in Tuscany long after the Baroque took hold in other areas of Italy.  This group of ceilings represents the very height of the Florentine grotteche style, incorporating the colors and techniques of Mannerism and all the references and interests of the Medici era.

symmetry balances with cacophony on the Uffizi ceiling

I am desperately in love with the gamboge yellow pigment used in this painting.
Lynne's Uffizi tips:
Florence can be exceedingly crowded especially with busloads of tourists who come in just for the day. Yes, you may make a reservation to get in but  then you have to share the museum with a million others all shoving each other to get a glimpse of the Birth of Venus.Let it be known those people  follow their tour guides out and get back on the bus by 5 PM.  If you hate people are agoraphobic like me, this is the BEST time to go visit the Uffizi. No line to get in, no people in the galleries. Enjoy a blissfully empty museum for two hours.  Stroll through and experience what you like, and don't worry about seeing it all in one go.

Take note of special hours and free admissions times. Fridays the Uffizi is open until 9 PM.     27  June until 19  December 2015, the Uffizi Gallery, the Accademia Gallery and the National Museum of the Bargello will remain open every Saturday until 11pm. 
Check the Uffizi website for hours and special events.

Take this awesome virtual tour of the Uffizi Galleries via Google

Check out the fantastic virtual tour of the Uffizi via Google Earth

Amici degli Uffizi
If you plan to be in the area more than just a few days, consider joining the Friends of the Uffizi. This membership gives you for an entire year, unlimited front of the line admission to the Uffizi as well as all the other State museums in Florence including the Pitti Palace and the Bargello, while supporting restoration efforts.  With a pass like this you can go by for a stroll through the Uffizi every day (except Monday) on your way to your favorite enoteca.

Grotesque is French, and the spelling most often used in English
In Italian it is called  la Grottesca, or le Grottesche (plural)

all photos in this post by Lynne Rutter, May, 2015

31 May 2015

Pascal Amblard: preparing for the Grand Venetian Mural intensive

digital sketch by Pascal Amblard, with references from Tieoplo

Posted here, a series of sketches, which Pascal Amblard has been making to get students thinking about designs for the Grand Venetian Mural painting class coming up in August.  This unique intensive class will allow the participating artists to research, design and paint a full size mural from start to finish, with assistance and guidance from Pascal.

digital sketch by Pascal Amblard, with scenes from Italy

Pascal says: "After more than 25 years in this business I am finally organizing a "start from scratch" class.  It is certainly the most valuable learning situation for students, and the most difficult for a teacher. I will of course prepare this class very carefully, I have already  spent quite a few hours on it~ but on day one, hour one, instead of starting to play a well mapped out part,  I will start improvising with you!   I know in which key we will play and what note to use or to avoid but I will be open to your ideas and suggestions. I will show you how I myself compose, mixing computer and centuries-old techniques.

Digital sketch by Pascal Amblard

We will share and experience together in what is so rarely taught: how do we get from a blank piece of wall to a spectacular, harmonious and desirable mural composition.

"Once the composition is set we will use projectors, possibly some free-hand drawing as well.  Then we will paint, and I will teach you the techniques I have used and refined through hundreds of murals.
As we have a lot of working space, we will do this on a grand scale.  Each person will have room to work comfortably.
"A good mural painter has to know about a few  topics : skies, landscapes / trees, architecture / perspective , figures / draperies , objects / still lives.  Besides composing a large and complex mural, the point of this class is also to cover  all these fields."
Tiepolo-inspired digital sketch  by Pascal Amblard
'The inspiration for this course is Giovanni Battista  and Domenico Tiepolo.  These painters were in exactly the same business as we are: dealing with commissions, clients, deadlines, a need for efficiency and precise schedule. The way they paint is beautiful and technically very sound, so, instead of one teacher you will have all of us.'
Tiepolo-inspired  mural design, painted by Pascal Amblard
Come prepared with elements you'd like to include in your mural:  figures, gardens, landscape, architectural details, animals, fancy hats....   You will learn how to compose the design of the mural prior in advance of painting.  Then you will practice efficient techniques for painting at a large scale, along with architectural perspective,  atmospheric perspective, color work,  and techniques for painting trees, landscape, water, sky, stone, and marble.

Venetian style mural, digital sketch by Pascal Amblard

Here is an extremely rare opportunity to learn and practice in a large, light-filled, working mural studio, with one of the true masters of this art.

Reservation information here:  Grand Venetian Mural Intensive
This class is limited to 8 participants   

Please feel free to contact the studio with questions.

14 April 2015

The Private Bathchamber of the Grand Duchess

a clever detail in the Grottesche ornamentation of the bath at "La Ferdinanda"

Corner of the bathchamber

Last March we ventured outside of Florence to visit the   splendid Medici Villa of Artimino known as "La Ferdinanda."   The villa was built for the Medici Duke Ferdinand I (1549-1609) as a hunting lodge and summer residence.  A World Heritage site, the estate currently hosts private events and features a winery and a hotel.

Having called ahead to explain our project and ask permission to photograph, we were warmly greeted and allowed to explore the villa and its decoration, much of which was done by the artist Domenico Passignano.

Hidden away in a corner of the first floor,  is the “Stanzino del Poggiale” a small bathroom created for the wife of Ferdinand I, Grand Duchess Christina of Lorraine, and it is completely encrusted with painted grottesca, oval landscape insets, and wild, colorful faux marble.  Closed up for hundreds of years, the room is preserved in spectacular condition.

Alison and I could hardly contain our excitement. I fumbled about with my camera.  Erling, who has long maintained that I should have my own TV show,  took a spontaneous 2 minute video with his iPhone. Which I have posted here for you.  Because you understand, don't you?

It was very difficult to photograph this tiny space (especially while hyperventilating.) Once I got a hold of myself,  I removed the giant halogen torchère from the room and inspected the charming details of the decor using only natural light, so that the true colors could best be seen. I marveled at the color palette, which alternated warm earth colors with  a cool purple and sea green.  This led to a discussion of the color of that purple, and the pigment that may have been used to make it. Is is caput mortuum?  Well not that actual "mummy brown" pigment but the hematite that makes that cardinal-robe purple.  What about that green? Malachite, of course. Sigh.

Window bay in the bath chamber- the purple borders have completely faded away

Not your usual Tuscan color scheme-- purple and seafoam green make for a cool and serene effect

Cupid and other putti on the ceiling, painted by Domenico Passignano

Passignano designed the ceiling areas with trompe l'oeil balusters and bits of sky peeking through.  Though faded, the effect is still quite convincing.   
More details:

a trompe l'oeil gold medallion with a bathing scene

lovely perspective detail with hints of gold
tiny grottesca panel over the doorway

I'll be posting more from this beautiful villa soon.

Visit:  Villa Medicea di Artimino
photos by Lynne Rutter
video by Erling Wold
thanks always to Alison Woolley


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...