Teaching with Domenico Ghirlandaio

Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1449-1494
An Old Man and his Grandson (detail), c. 1490, Tempera on wood, 62 x 46  cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris https://paintersonpaintings.com/clarity-haynes-on-domenico-ghirlandaio/

Domenico di Tommaso del Ghirlandajo, who, from his talent and from the greatness and the vast number of his works, may be called one of the most important and most excellent masters of his age, was made by nature to be a painter; and for this reason, in spite of the opposition of those who had charge of him (which often nips the finest fruits of our intellects in the bud by occupying them with work for which they are not suited, and by diverting them from that to which nature inclines them), he followed his natural instinct, secured very great honour for himself and profit for his art and for his kindred, and became the great delight of his age… This is how Giorgio Vasari describes Domenico Gh irlandaio, the artist who was …endowed by nature with a perfect spirit and with an admirable and judicious taste in painting! Teaching with Domenico Ghirlandaio is a set of student activities and worksheets inspired by the great Italian artist I admire. Domenico’ Portrait of An Old Man and his Grandson in the Louvre is one of my all-time favourite Renaissance paintings. It touches me in a very personal way. It reminds me of my father’s love and unconditional devotion to my son, his Grandson… Του παιδιού μου το παιδί, δυο φορές παιδί (My child’s child, is twice my child), he used to say and looked at him with unbelievable tenderness…     http://www.travelingintuscany.com/art/giorgiovasari/lives/domenicoghirlandaio.htm

Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1449-1494
Madonna and Child (detail), 1470-75, Tempera on panel, 71 x 49 cm, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC https://www.nga.gov/features/exhibitions/verrocchio-discoveries.html

When the time comes for me to introduce my students to Domenico’s oeuvre I start with Giorgio Vasari description of how …He is said to have been so accurate in draughtsmanship, that, when making drawings of the antiquities of Rome, such as arches, baths, columns, colossea, obelisks, amphitheatres, and aqueducts, he would work with the eye alone, without rule, compasses, or measurements; and after he had made them, on being measured, they were found absolutely correct, as if he had used measurements. He drew the Colosseum by the eye, placing at the foot of it a figure standing upright, from the proportions of which the whole edifice could be measured; this was tried by some masters after his death, and found quite correct. I usually finish my presentation of Ghirlandaio with Vasari’s final sentence… Wherefore he has deserved to be held in honour and esteem for such rich and undying benefits to art, and to be celebrated with extraordinary praises after his death.     http://www.travelingintuscany.com/art/giorgiovasari/lives/domenicoghirlandaio.htm

Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1449-1494
Last Supper (detail), 1480, Fresco, 400 x 880 cm, Ognissanti, Florence https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Domenico_ghirlandaio,_cenacolo_di_ognissanti,_1480,_03_giardino_con_uccelli.jpg

Teaching with Domenico Ghirlandaio Lesson Plan, PowerPoint and Activities…

For a List of ONLINE References on Domenico Ghirlandaio TeacherCurator put together, please… Click HERE!

For my PowerPoint on Domenico Ghirlandaio, please… Click HERE!

I always feel confident discussing an artist with my students when I prepare my Steps to Success Lesson Plan Outline

7 Steps to Success Lesson Plan

For Student Activities (four Activities), please… Click HERE!

I hope that Teaching with Domenico Ghirlandaio will prove easy and helpful. Do you think it justifies my BLOG name Teacher Curator?

Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1449-1494
Birth of St John the Baptist (detail), 1486-90, Frescoes on the right wall: Stories of St John the Baptist, W. 450 cm, Cappella Tornabuoni, Santa Maria Novella, Florence https://www.wga.hu/support/viewer_m/z.html

The Labours of the Months: January

By an unknown Venetian artist…
The Labours of the Months: January, about 1580, oil on canvas, 13.6 x 10.6 cm, National Gallery, London
https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/italian-venetian-the-labours-of-the-months-january#painting-group-info

Twelve months in a row,  /  Use them well and let them go;  /  Welcome them without a fear,  /  Let them go without a tear—  /  Twelve months in a year;  /  Greet the passing miracle,  /  Spring and summer beautiful,  /  Autumn, winter, gliding on,  /  Glorious seasons quickly gone—  /  God’s treasures in a row,  /  Take them, love them, let them go! I like the simplicity of Annette Wynne verse in Twelve Months in a Row, it reminds me of the simple way the anonymous Venetian Artist of the 16th century depicted the twelve months of the year, in twelve small paintings, now… in the National Gallery, in London. The Labours of the Months: January will start a new journey, exploring and learning… month by month…     https://discoverpoetry.com/poems/month-poems/     and     https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/italian-venetian-the-labours-of-the-months-january

Depicting the Labours of the Months was a popular artistic theme that was frequently used in the decoration of Cathedrals and Churches, Castles and  Palaces, Psalters, Breviaries and Books of Hours across Europe during the Medieval and Early Renaissance period. Each month, depicting popular activities of peasants and/or the gentry throughout the year, were sometimes paired with the Signs of the Zodiac circle. They would be either simple and small in size or large and elaborate, crafted in stone, wood, stained glass, painted in murals or often enough, painted in parchment. Many great Monuments and Libraries in Europe display fine examples of such artefacts for art lovers to enjoy.     http://www.livingfield.co.uk/ages/labours-of-the-months/

The Labours of the Months had a role in highlighting authority and privilege, hard work and, occasionally, small, everyday pleasures. They are often perceived as a link between the work of man, the seasons of the year and God’s ordering of the Universe. The Trentino Fresco Panels at Torre Aquila, for example, present trained and obedient peasants busy with their seasonal activities, but dominated by the local aristocracy who seem to only care for their idler activities. (I presented the eleven surviving Torre Aquila frescoes in 2020. Please check https://www.teachercurator.com/?s=torre%20aquila&cat=plus-5-results)

For 2021, I want to present something different, unpretentious but rare. In London, at the National Gallery, there are 12 small pictures, “painted on canvas and then each glued to a wooden panel. It is possible that they were made to decorate the recessed panels of a pair of doors. The paintings seem to have been planned in pairs with the figures facing each other and are currently displayed in two frames in groups of six. They show the ‘labours of the months’ – the rural activities that take place each month throughout the year.” This set of painted Doors combines simplicity in execution and extravagance in visual effect! The paintings, very small in size, about 13.6 x 10.6 cm, were achieved in vivid, bright, luxurious colours, like “ultramarine blue for the sky, strong vermilion and red lake for the clothing, with rich greens and yellows in the landscape. The restricted and repeated use of colour gives the group of little pictures a charming, decorative simplicity. All but one of the scenes show a man working outdoors on what appears to be the estate of a large villa, seen in several of the paintings, at the foot of the distant blue mountains.”     https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/italian-venetian-the-labours-of-the-months-january#painting-group-info

By an unknown Venetian artist…
The Labours of the Months: January (detail), about 1580, oil on canvas, 13.6 x 10.6 cm, National Gallery, London
https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/italian-venetian-the-labours-of-the-months-january#painting-group-info

For the Month of January, we have a cosy indoor scene. “An old man sits indoors by the fire with his elbow propped on the fireplace or stove, and his forehead leaning on his hand. He pulls his jacket closer around himself and wears a yellow wrap or blanket against the cold. The interior of his room is bare and simple, and not in good repair – the plaster has fallen from the brick wall beneath the window.” The festivities of the holidays are over and now… young and old, privileged or not, need to recuperate, relax and rest…

Happy New Year… may 2021 be a BETTER, HEALTHIER and HAPPIER YEAR for ALL!!!

For a PowerPoint on The Labours of the Months at the National Gallery in London, please… Check HERE!

Teaching with Domenico Veneziano

Domenico Veneziano,  c. 1410-1461
 Madonna and Child enthroned with St. Francis, John the Baptist, St. Zenobius and St. Lucy,
c. 1445, tempera on panel, 209 x 216 cm, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

 (Domenico was) …a good and affectionate fellow, fond of singing and devoted to playing on the lute,  he would come together (with his friend Andrea del Castagno) every night to make merry and to serenade their mistresses” This is how Giorgio Vasari describes Domenico Veneziano, the artist from Venice who took Florence by storm! Teaching with Domenico Veneziano is a set of student activities and worksheets inspired by the great Italian artist I much admire. Domenico’  Madonna and Child enthroned with St. Francis, John the Baptist, St. Zenobius and St. Lucy Altarpiece in the Gallerie degli Uffizi is one of my favourite paintings in Florence. I am intrigued by its ethereal beauty, the balance of composition and harmony of pictorial planes. I can’t wait to be back to Florence… stand in front of it and have, once more, an aesthetically rewarding experience.     http://www.travelingintuscany.com/art/giorgiovasari/lives/andreadelcastagno.htm

When the time comes for me to introduce my students to Domenico’s oeuvre I start with Giorgio Vasari and his fictional story of how Domenico Veneziano was murdered by his friend Andrea del Castagno… a story masterfully said but totally untrue.

I start with Vasari’s condemnation of envy, wicket artistic rivalry and betrayal resulting from envy… “How reprehensible is the vice of envy, which should never exist in anyone, when found in a man of excellence, and how wicked and horrible a thing it is to seek under the guise of a feigned friendship to extinguish not only the fame and glory of another but his very life, I truly believe it to be impossible to express with words, …that in such men there dwells a spirit not merely inhuman and savage but wholly cruel and devilish, and so far removed from any sort of virtue that they are no longer men or even animals, and do not deserve to live.…” and explain the difference between a healthy competition among artists, which according to Vasari is “ …worthy to be praised and to be held in esteem as necessary and useful to the world” and pure, malicious envy capable in the case of Andrea del Castagno to “ …conceal and obscure the splendour of his talents.” http://www.travelingintuscany.com/art/giorgiovasari/lives/andreadelcastagno.htm

I finish my introductory presentation discussing Domenico’s famous anecdotal story of his assassination by Andrea del Castagno, absolutely fictitious as modern scholarship proved. “ …Andrea, …being blinded by envy of the praises that he heard given to the talent of Domenico, determined to remove him from his path; and after having thought of many expedients, he put one of them into execution in the following manner. One summer evening, according to his custom, Domenico took his lute and went forth from S. Maria Nuova, leaving Andrea in his room drawing, for he had refused to accept the invitation to take his recreation with Domenico, under the pretext of having to do certain drawings of importance. Domenico, therefore, went to take his pleasure by himself, and Andrea set himself to wait for him in hiding behind a street corner; and when Domenico, on his way home, came up to him, he crushed his lute and his stomach at one and the same time with certain pieces of lead, and then, thinking that he had not yet finished him off, beat him grievously on the head with the same weapons; and finally, leaving him on the ground, he returned to his room in S. Maria Nuova, where he put the door ajar and sat down to his drawing in the manner that he had been left by Domenico. Meanwhile, an uproar had arisen, and the servants, hearing of the matter, ran to call Andrea and to give the bad news to the murderer and traitor himself, who, running to where the others were standing around Domenico, was not to be consoled, and kept crying out: “Alas, my brother! Alas, my brother!” Finally, Domenico expired in his arms; nor could it be discovered, for all the diligence that was used, who had murdered him; and if Andrea had not revealed the truth in confession on his death-bed, it would not be known now.”     http://www.travelingintuscany.com/art/giorgiovasari/lives/andreadelcastagno.htm

Domenico Veneziano,  c. 1410-1461
The Adoration of the Magi, 1435, tempera on panel, 90 cm diameter, Gemäldegalerie, Berlin

Teaching with Domenico Veneziano Activities…

For the List of ONLINE References on Domenico Veneziano TeacherCurator put together, please… Click HERE!

For my PowerPoint on Domenico Veneziano, please… Click HERE!

I always feel confident discussing an artist with my students when I prepare my Steps to Success Lesson Plan Outline

7 Steps to Success…

For Student Activities (four Activities), please… Click HERE!

I hope that Teaching with Domenico Veneziano, will prove easy and helpful. Do you think it justifies my BLOG name TeacherCurator?

Domenico Veneziano,  c. 1410-1461
The Annunciation, c. 1445/1448, tempera on panel, 27.3 x 54 cm, The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

The Month of December

The Month of December, latest 1407, possibly by Maestro Venceslao, Fresco, Torre Aquila, Castello del Buonconsiglio in Trento, Italy

Last, for December, houses on the plain,  /  Ground-floors to live in, logs heaped mountain-high,  /  And carpets stretched, and newest games to try,  /  And torches lit, and gifts from man to man  /  (Your host, a drunkard and a Catalan);  /  And whole dead pigs, and cunning cooks to ply  /  Each throat with tit-bits that shall satisfy;  /  And wine-butts of Saint Galganus’ brave span.  /  And be your coats well-lined and tightly bound,  /  And wrap yourselves in cloaks of strength and weight,  /  With gallant hoods to put your faces through.  /  And make your game of abject vagabond  /  Abandoned miserable reprobate  /  Misers; don’t let them have a chance with you. My new BLOG POST: The Month of December starts with a sonnet by Folgore Da San Geminiano (c. 1250-1317), translated by Dante Gabriel Rossetti in his book “Dante and His Circle,” (Roberts Brothers, Boston, 1893).     http://www.sonnets.org/folgore.htm

Torre Aquila and Garden in Castello del Buonconsiglio, in Trento, Italy

The Month of December is a fresco, and it comes from the Torre Aquila in the Castello del Buonconsiglio, in Trento, Italy. It is part of an amazing fresco Cycle of the Twelve Months painted on the walls of the tower’s 2nd-floor main room. Today, only eleven of the original 12 panels survive as a 16th-century wooden spiral staircase, connecting the tower floors, destroyed the painted panel of March. The famous painted Cycle of the Months is divided into twelve panels, one for each month. Each one of the twelve panels is separated by a slender column, distinctive yet subtle, so as not to disturb the natural continuity between months and the seasons.

Months of September, October, November and December – Torre Aquila North Wall

This exceptional room, 6 x 5,8 x 3 m in size, was commissioned by Prince-Bishop George of Liechtenstein, as a quiet, atmospheric retreat, away from the rest of the Castello’s busy and noisy state quarters. It has been suggested and widely accepted that the painter of this extraordinary fresco Cycle of the Months was Maestro Venceslao, a Czech painter, popular in the Tyrol area of the time.     https://www.cultura.trentino.it/eng/Cultural-venues/All-cultural-venues/Documentation-centres2/Torre-Aquila-Eagle-Tower  

Fresco panels in Torre Aquila are rare and special. They document life in the Trentino area, with references to the aristocratic pastimes throughout the year, or the peasant activities and duties to their masters. They also depict a vivid landscape, romanticized…bare and covered with snow for the January panel, rich and fertile, autumnal, covered with fallen leaves, harsh and inhospitable for the scene depicting December.  

My attention turns to the upper right corner where on the frozen ground of a forest, the Trentino peasants are busy once more. Numb by the cold, wearing short white tunicles, one of them even bear-footed, with axes and hatchets in their hands, they are depicted wood harvesting. They chop forest trees down, pile wood logs up, carry heavy loads to the wagons, stack wagons up with neatly cut logs and finally carry precious firewood to the city, to heat the houses during the long winter days. What an accomplishment in such uninviting circumstances…

Trentino Torre Aquila frescoes love presenting anecdotal details. The depicted city, cold and bleak, is setting the tone … Icicles hang from the attics, neatly built in stone and wood, of the Buonconsiglio Castle and the top of its circular tower. The city boasts double defensive walls and plenty of gabled houses with red roof tiles that deftly form a neat residential area, with a decorated church on its left side. It is a stark and unembellished scene, yet… a caravan of mules, loaded with goods, heads towards the castle at the top of the city, while, on the lower part of the composition, two knights on horseback, escort a riding noble lady for a winter outing. Harry up… they seem to tell her, and water your horse before setting off! Let’s follow the stream and visit the Water Mill for an al fresco lunch. What a sight…

Maestro Venceslao painted a dream world for Prince-Bishop George of Liechtenstein… a world that collapsed in 1407 with a successful rebellion. The Prince was not particularly liked by the locals. He was a conservative, authoritative and harsh leader of anachronistic demands. The painted room of Torre Aquila was sealed up, almost forgotten… Walking back in time in a world of endlessly working peasants and privileged aristocrats was no more…          https://www.buonconsiglio.it/index.php/en/Buonconsiglio-Castle/collections/Introduction     and     https://books.google.gr/books?id=L3e0BgAAQBAJ&pg=PA11&lpg=PA11&dq=cycle+of+the+months+paintings&source=bl&ots=PDmmhZPn37&sig=ACfU3U0ZvpPwd-ZSa8dnhL4AUn2uBLt26g&hl=el&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjVxcGIzNzmAhWRGewKHQiuD5g4ChDoATAGegQIBxAB#v=onepage&q=cycle%20of%20the%20months%20paintings&f=false

For a student Activity, please … Check HERE!

Teaching with Donatello

Donatello, 1386-1466
David, c. 1430, Bronze, Height: 158 cm, Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence

“Speak, damn you, speak!” Donatello allegedly cried to his sculptures whenever he desired depth in their expression! Teaching with Donatello is a set of student activities and worksheets inspired by the great Italian artist I much admire. I visited sites in Florence where Donatello left his mark, several times so far, and my hope is that I will be fortunate to visit them again. Every time I come face to face with his work, I think of Henry Moore, who “every day he strove to surpass Donatello, failed, but woke the next morning elated for another try…”     http://www.donatellosculptures.com/quotes/     and     https://www.theartstory.org/artist/giotto/life-and-legacy/

When the time comes for me to introduce my students to Donatello’s oeuvre I start with Giorgio Vasari and his exciting stories.

I start with… “He may be said to have been the first to illustrate the art of sculpture among the moderns…” discussing how ancient Greek or Roman sculpture was a great source of inspiration for Donatello and continue with… “Donatello made his figures in such a way that in the room where he worked they did not look half as well as when they were put in their place.”

Donatello, 1386-1466
Santa Croce Crucifix, c.1406-1408, Polychrome Wood, Height: 165 cm, Capella Bardi di Vernio, Santa Croce, Florence

The famous anecdotal story of Donatello’s Crucifixion and his “contest” with Brunaleschi is important to review and stress… “… for the church of S. Croce in Florence…he (Donatello) made a crucifix of wood, which he carved with extraordinary patience; and when it was done, thinking it a very fine piece of work, he showed it to Filippo that he might have his opinion upon it. Filippo, who expected from what Donatello had said to see something better, when he looked at it could not help smiling a little. Donatello, seeing it, prayed him by their friendship to speak his mind truly, upon which Filippo, who was frank enough, replied that he seemed to him to have put on the cross a peasant and not Jesus Christ, who was the man most perfect in everything that ever was born. Donatello, feeling the reproach more bitterly because he had expected praise, replied, “If it were as easy to do a thing as to judge it, my Christ would not look like a peasant; but take some wood yourself and make one.” Filippo without another word returned home, and, saying nothing to any one, set to work upon a crucifix, and aiming to surpass Donatello that he might not condemn himself, he brought it to great perfection after many months. Then one morning he invited Donatello to dine with him. Donatello accepted his invitation, and they went together to Filippo’s house. Coming to the old market, Filippo bought some things and gave them to Donatello, saying, “Go on to the house and wait for me, I am just coming.” So Donatello, going into the house, found Filippo’s crucifix arranged in a good light; and stopping to consider it, he found it so perfect that, overcome with surprise and admiration, he let his apron drop, and the eggs and cheese and all the other things that he was carrying in it fell to the ground and were broken. Filippo, coming in and finding him standing thus lost in astonishment, said, laughingly, “What are you about, Donatello? How are we to dine when you have dropped all the things?” “I,” said Donatello, “have had enough. If you want anything, take it. To you it is given to do Christs, and to me peasants.” https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/basis/vasari/vasari6.asp

Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius,  c. 173-76, Gilded Bronze, Height: 4.2 m, Capitoline Museum, Rome
Donatello, 1386-1466,
Statue of Gattamelata, 1447-50, Bronze, 340×390 cm, Piazza del Santo, Padua

I finish my introductory presentation discussing Donatello’s character, the story of Gattamelata, and Padua’s admiration for the artist… “… the Signory of Venice, hearing the fame of him, sent for him to make the monument to Gattamelata in the city of Padua. He undertook it very gladly, and made the statue that stands in the Piazza of S. Antonio, with the horse chafing and neighing, and its proud, spirited rider. Donatello showed himself in this so admirable, both for proportion and execution, that truly it may be compared to any ancient work. The Paduans sought by every means to prevail upon him to become a citizen and to stay there, giving him much work to do; but finding himself considered a marvel, and praised on all sides, he determined to return to Florence, saying if he stayed there longer he should forget all he knew, being praised so much, and that he must return to his own city to be continually found fault with, for this faultfinding would be the cause of his studying more, and thereby winning greater glory.”     https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/basis/vasari/vasari6.asp

Teaching with Donatello Activities…

For a List of “Internet” Lesson Plans, References and Student Activities TeacherCurator put together, please… Click HERE!

For my PowerPoint on Donatello, please… Click HERE!

I always feel confident discussing an artist with my students when I prepare my Steps to Success Lesson Plan Outline

For Donatello’s Gattamelata Student Activity, please… Click HERE! (Student Activity) HERE! (Picture) and HERE! (Worksheet A)

For a WAC (Write Across the Ciciculum) Activity, titled “A Poem for Donatello’s Saint George”, please… Click HERE!

Donatello, 1386-1466
Cantoria, 1431-39, Marble, 348 x 570 cm, Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Florence

I hope that Teaching with Donatello will prove easy and helpful. Do you think it justifies my BLOG name TeacherCurator?

The Month of November

The Month of November, latest 1407, possibly by Maestro Venceslao, Fresco, Torre Aquila, Castello del Buonconsiglio in Trento, Italy

Yet one smile more, departing, distant sun! / One mellow smile through the soft vapoury air, / Ere, o’er the frozen earth, the loud winds ran, / Or snows are sifted o’er the meadows bare. / One smile on the brown hills and naked trees, / And the dark rocks whose summer wreaths are cast, / And the blue Gentian flower, that, in the breeze, / Nods lonely, of her beauteous race the last. / Yet a few sunny days, in which the bee / Shall murmur by the hedge that skim the way, / The cricket chirp upon the russet lea, / And man delight to linger in thy ray. / Yet one rich smile, and we will try to bear / The piercing winter frost, and winds, and darkened air. Wrote for The Month of November the American poet William Cullen Bryant… Hundreds of years earlier, another artist, Maestro Venceslao, decorated the walls of Torre Aquila in Trento, Italy, with paintings depicting the twelve months of the year. The Month of November is a striking example of his perception.     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJOCrB7zH4g

Panoramic View of Trento in Italy

There is no way for the visitor of the beautiful Italian town of Trento to miss Castello del Buonconsiglio, this imposing, impressive and unique example of secular architecture! It is equally impossible for the Trento visitor not to explore the Castello, where, since the 13th century, the prince bishops of Trento resided and embellished with two Palazzos, an Italianate Park, a Gothic-Venetian Loggia and massive Towers.

Castello del Buonconsiglio

In 1973 the Castello became an Italian regional Museum of Art, known as Castello del Buonconsiglio Museum. This is where the Trento visitor can admire numerous art collections, ranging from paintings and manuscripts to period furniture and local archaeological finds. La piece-de-resistance among the Museum’s treasures is the so-called “Ciclo dei Mesi” in Torre Aquila.     https://www.trentino.com/en/highlights/castles/castello-del-buonconsiglio/

“Ciclo dei Mesi” is a favourite theme in the arts of the Middle Ages and the Early Renaissance. Often linked to the signs of the Zodiac, the Cycle of the Months is often perceived as a link between the work of man, the seasons of the year and God’s ordering of the Universe. As a theme, it is recurred in sculptural decorations of cathedrals and churches across Europe, in illuminated manuscripts like the popular Books of Hours, palace frescoes and, rarely, panel paintings.

The fresco panels of September, October, November and December at Torre Aquila

Trento’s November fresco panel at Torre Aquila is characteristic of Maestro Venceslao’s, the artist who painted the “Ciclo dei Mesi”, creative abilities. It is rich, colourful and informative. It tells us of how hard the Trentino farmers worked and how idle and pleasure-seeking its aristocrats were.

For Maestro Venceslao, November is a month dedicated to the leisures of the nobles and their favourite activity… hunting! The upper and middle parts of the November composition show groups of aristocrats accompanied by their servants chasing a bear with her young. The scene is colourful, full of energy and thunderous! The sound of the Hunting Horn, barking dogs, a crowd of tree-beater servants and galloping hunters move effortlessly among rocky mountains, fields and trees clad in autumnal colours.

The fresco panels (detail) of November and December at Torre Aquila

The fields however are deserted and the peasants, with winter approaching, have little outdoors activities to perform. They have suspended their jobs but remain vigilant guards of the countryside and support the aristocrats in any way possible. The activity is now concentrated at the gates of the cities, where, in view of the approaching bad season, peasants provide food supplies and the products of the countryside.

The lower part of the composition depicts the city of Trento… fairytale like, white walled, well-built, comfortable and warm with lots of chimneys and graced with the pointed bell tower of a church. Trento is a major city and the composition, interrupted by the slender column that divides the fresco scenes of November and December, continues with activities of peasants and professionals that are attention-grabbing to say the least…

For a Student Activity, please… Check HERE!

Teaching with Giotto di Bondone

Giotto di Bondone, 1266/7 – 1337
Joachim meets Anna at the Golden Gate, 1303-06, Cappella degli Scrovegni (Arena Chapel), Padua

Giotto once said… “Take pleasure in your dreams; relish your principles and drape your purest feelings on the heart of a precious lover.” Teaching with Giotto di Bondone is a set of student activities and worksheets inspired by the great Italian artist I so much admire. I visited the Arena Chapel, the Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi and sites in Florence where Giotto left his mark, several times so far, and my hope is that I will be fortunate to visit them again. Every time I came face to face with his work I felt I saw, like Matisse said, “the summit of my desires…”     http://www.giotto-di-bondone.com/quotes/     and     https://www.theartstory.org/artist/giotto/life-and-legacy/

Giotto di Bondone, 1266/7 – 1337
Lamentation Scene Angels (detail), 1303-06, Cappella degli Scrovegni (Arena Chapel), Padua

When the time comes for me to introduce my students to Giotto’s oeuvre I start with Quotes on Giotto di Bondone by famous artists and writers.

Dante Alighieri, in his Divine Comedy (Canto XI, lines 91–95), compares teacher to student, Cimabue to Giotto and writes… “O empty glorying in human power!  /  How short a day the crown remains in leaf,  /  If it’s not followed by a duller age!  /  In painting it was Cimabue’s belief  /  He held the field; now Giotto’s got the cry  /  And Cimabue’s fame is dim…”     https://blogs.getty.edu/iris/everyones-talking-about-giotto/

Boccaccio, for example, placed Giotto on the same level as Apelles, the most famous of the Greek painters and described him as “one of the lights of Florentine glory.” Most important of all, Boccaccio wrote that Giotto “[…] had a genius of such excellence, that nothing gives nature, mother of all things and operator with the continuous turning of the skies, that he, with style and with pen or brush, did not paint so similar to that, which is not similar, indeed more quickly it seemed, so much so that many times in the things he did it is found that the visual sense of men took error in it, believing it to be true that it was painted. […] ”     http://www.rose.uzh.ch/static/decameron/seminario/VI_05/intratestgiotto.htm

Cennino d’Andrea Cennini (c. 1360-1427) author of Il libro dell’arte, a treatise on artistic production of the late Medieval and early Renaissance period, writes that Giotto “translated the art of painting from Greek to Latin.”     https://blogs.getty.edu/iris/everyones-talking-about-giotto/

Finally, I present my students with a 1952 quote by no other than Pablo Picasso  “But when I am alone, I do not have the effrontery to consider myself an artist at all, not in the grand old meaning of the word: Giotto, Titian, Rembrandt, Goya were great painters. I am only a public clown-a mountebank. I have understood my time and have exploited the imbecility, the vanity, the greed of my contemporaries. It is a bitter confession, this confession of mine, more painful than it may seem. But at least and at last it does have the merit of being honest.”     http://babailov.homestead.com/PicassoConf.html

Teaching with Giotto di Bondone Activities…

For a list of “Internet” Lesson Plans, References and Student Activities “teachercurator” put together, please… Click HERE!

For my PowerPoint on Giotto di Bondone, please… Click HERE!

For the 3 Madonnas RWAP (Research-Writing-Art-Project) and PowerPoint, please… Click HERE! and HERE!

Student (Alexandra Diamantopoulou, Grade 9, 2020) RWAP on the 3 Madonnas
Student (Marios Mylonas, Grade 9, 2020) RWAP on the 3 Madonnas

For Giotto’s Angels RWAP (Research-Writing-Art-Project) and a PowerPoint with student work, please… Click HERE! and HERE!

For a Word Search Activity, please… Click HERE!

For a WAC (Write Across the Ciciculum) Activity, titled “Giotto’s Musicians through Cinquain Poetry”, please… Click HERE!

I hope, Teaching with Giotto di Bondone will prove easy and helpful. Do you think it justifies my BLOG name as teachercurator?

Giotto di Bondone, 1266/7 – 1337
Baroncelli Polyptych Musicians (detail), c. 1334, tempera on wood, 185 x 323 cm, Baroncelli Chapel, Santa Croce, Florence

The Month of October

The Month of October, latest 1407, possibly by Maestro Venceslao, Fresco, Torre Aquila, Castello del Buonconsiglio in Trento, Italy

I’m not sure everyone has understood, October,  /  your great beauty:  /  in those fat vats, as large as a full stomach,  /  you brew must and inebriation, you brew must and inebriation.  /  On my mountains, like mournful birds,  /  mad clouds flee,  /  on my copper-tinged mountains  /  low clouds raise like smoke, low clouds raise like smoke.          –         Oh days, oh months that run away endlessly, /  my life is always similar to you,  /  different every year, yet the same every year,  /  a hand of tarot cards one never learns to play,  /  one never learns to play… writes for The Month of October Francesco Guccini in his Canzone dei dodici mesi.   https://lyricstranslate.com/el/canzone-dei-dodici-mesi-song-twelve-months.html

The Month of October fresco comes from Torre Aquila in the Castello del Buonconsiglio in Trento, Italy. It is part of an amazing fresco Cycle of the Twelve Months painted on the walls of the tower’s 2nd-floor main room and presents autumn at its best. This exceptional room, 6 x 5,8 x 3 m in size, was commissioned by Prince-Bishop George of Liechtenstein, as a quiet, atmospheric retreat, away from the rest of the Castello’s busy and noisy state quarters. Master Wenceslas, a Bohemian painter active in Trento since 1397, creates a rich October scene, full of natural beauty and pastoral activities. There is no doubt that Prince-Bishop George of Liechtenstein, looking at the October scene, was tasting his top-quality Trentino wine as well!

Torre Aquila in Castello del Buonconsiglio in Trento, Italy and the Month of October fresco to the right of the picture…

October is a busy month for farmers in Trento and Master Wenceslas is documenting it in the best possible way. The scene is rich, dense and joyful… inspired by real-life but immensely beautified. The commissioner of this fresco, Prince-Bishop George of Liechtenstein wants to present the idea that his territories flourish under his good governance and prudent guidance. The painter, Master Wenceslas, understood this very well, and created an autumn scene of dazzling green colours, verve and dynamism!

The Month of October Torre Aquila scene is dedicated to wine making, from the very beginning of the process, picking up the grapes, to pressing, grape must preparation and tasting…

The sun is bright and shining over the Trentino valleys, and well-tended rows of vines cover the painted scene, touching the colourful mountains at the very top. Trentino was at the time a famous wine-producing territory, and Master Wenceslas presents extensive vineyards, their branches heavy with grapes, ready to be harvested. Everyone must work hard… everywhere you look, there is a zeal for activity.

The first thing you notice are the Trentino peasants, men and women, all dressed in white robes assigned to different harvesting tasks. Some of them pick up clusters of white or red grapes while others carry them on their shoulders in large baskets. On the left side of the composition, a screw-press is in action. What a luxury! Only gentlemen of great wealth could afford such an item, let alone a screw-press large enough to require at least two people to operate it. Master Wenceslas was apparently quite familiar with pastoral activities like that because he renders the process with fine precision! We can only assume that as a European travelling artist, Master Wenceslas had acquired first-hand experiences and visions of such joyful harvest events… where… aristocrats and farmers can, for once, forget the worries of everyday life, and “work” together enjoying the small pleasures of life. 

For a Student Activity, please… Check HERE!

The Month of September

The Month of September, latest 1407, possibly by Maestro Venceslao, Fresco, Torre Aquila, Castello del Buonconsiglio in Trento, Italy

And in September, O what keen delight!  /  Falcons and astors astors, merlins, sparrow-hawks;  /  Decoy-birds that shall lure your game in flocks;  /  And hounds with bells: and gauntlets stout and tight;  /  Wide pouches; crossbows shooting out of sight;  /  Arblasts and javelins; balls and ball-cases;  /  All birds the best to fly at; moulting these,  /  Those reared by hand ; with finches mean and slight;  /  And for their chase, all birds the best to fly; /  And each to each of you be lavish still  /  In gifts; and robbery find no gainsaying;  /  And if you meet with travellers going by,  /  Their purses from your purse’s flow shall fill;  /  And Avarice be the only outcast thing. The Month of September is a Sonnet by Folgore Da San Geminiano (c. 1250-1317), is translated by Dante Gabriel Rossetti in his book “Dante and His Circle,” (Roberts Brothers, Boston, 1893).    http://www.sonnets.org/folgore.htm

There is no way for the visitor of the beautiful Italian town of Trento to miss Castello del Buonconsiglio, this imposing, impressive and unique example of secular architecture! It is equally impossible for the Trento visitor not to explore the Castello, where, since the 13th century, the prince bishops of Trento resided and embellished with two Palazzos, an Italianate Park, a Gothic-Venetian Loggia and massive Towers.

Castello del Buonconsiglio

In 1973 the Castello became an Italian regional Museum of Art, known as Castello del Buonconsiglio Museum. This is where the Trento visitor can admire numerous art collections, ranging from paintings and manuscripts to period furniture and local archaeological finds. La piece-de-resistance among the Museum’s treasures is the so-called “Ciclo dei Mesi” in Torre Aquila.     https://www.trentino.com/en/highlights/castles/castello-del-buonconsiglio/

“Ciclo dei Mesi” is a favourite theme in the arts of the Middle Ages and the Early Renaissance. Often linked to the signs of the Zodiac, the Cycle of the Months is often perceived as a link between the work of man, the seasons of the year and God’s ordering of the Universe. As a theme, it recurred in the sculptural decorations of cathedrals and churches across Europe, in illuminated manuscripts like the popular Book of Hours, palace frescoes and, rarely, panel paintings.

Trento’s September fresco panel in Torre Aquila is characteristic of Maestro Venceslao’s, the artist who painted the “Ciclo dei Mesi”, creative abilities. It is rich, colourful and informative. It tells us of how hard the Trentino farmers worked and how idle and pleasure-seeking its aristocrats were.

The upper half of September’s composition depicts the typical agricultural activities of the month: the preparation of the land and the harvest of seasonal products.  At the very top, a shepherd watches over his sheltered flock, while three farmers across a bridged river plough a well-tended piece of land. The two men are dressed in short light tunics and lead the plough, pulled by a pair of oxen and a horse. The woman, on the other hand, dressed in a white robe but with bare feet works with the hoe along the perfectly traced lines of the furrows. The middle composition presents another peasant woman busy in collecting turnips. The white turnip was very popular at the time. Peasants cultivated turnips in vegetable gardens or in open fields in abundance as, along with cabbages, turnips were the indispensable food for the long winters of northern European territories.

The Trentino aristocrats, however, in the lower half of the composition, are depicted still interested in their favourite entertainment: hunting with a hawk. The same red castle Maestro Venceslao painted in the August scene seems to be the residence of a group of three young aristocrats, galloping and ready to go hunting. A lady and two knights, surrounded by their dogs, are about to practice falconry with their well-trained hawks. They seem eager to join two more gentlemen, depicted higher up in the composition, who are already energetically hunting among the rocks and low bushes of the Trentino landscape. Who knows… they might of Folgore, the poet from San Gimignano, and his September poem on the pleasures of September hunting with birds of prey… 

A PowerPoint on Torre Aquila’s frescoes for the Months of August and September is… HERE!

The Month of August

The Month of August, latest 1407, possibly by Maestro Venceslao, Fresco, Torre Aquila, Castello del Buonconsiglio in Trento, Italy

“I am a reaper whose muscles set at sun-down. All my oats are cradled.  /  But I am too chilled, and too fatigued to bind them. And I hunger.  /  I crack a grain between my teeth. I do not taste it.  /  I have been in the fields all day. My throat is dry. I hunger  /  My eyes are caked with dust of oat-fields at harvest-time.  /  I am a blind man who stares across the hills, seeking stack’d fields of other harvesters. …” writes the African-American poet, Jean Toomer (1894—1967) and I think of The Month of August by Maestro Venceslao, in Torre Aquila, Castello del Buonconsiglio in Trento, Italy.     https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/53989/harvest-song

The Cycle of the Twelve Months is a favourite theme in the arts of the Middle Ages and the Early Renaissance. Often linked to the signs of the Zodiac, the Cycle of the Months is often perceived as a link between the work of man, the seasons of the year and God’s ordering of the Universe. As a theme, it recurred in the sculptural decorations of cathedrals and churches across Europe, in illuminated manuscripts like the popular Books of Hours, palace frescoes and, rarely, panel paintings.

The fresco panels in Torre Aquila are rare and special. They document life in the Trentino area, with references to aristocratic pastimes throughout the year, or the peasant activities and duties to their masters. They also depict a vivid landscape, romanticized even then, from bare and covered with snow, to rich and fertile, to autumnal, covered with fallen leaves.

August is a special month for Trentino residents and Maestro Venceslao painted it to remind us. We can easily imagine Prince Giorgio di Liechtenstein relaxing in this special room, away from his noisy Court… and among his books and curios enjoy the perfect world that Maestro Venceslao created for him! What a treat!

The Month of August fresco is horizontally divided into three zones, the lower of which is dedicated, once more, to falconry, the European sport par excellence, for the aristocracy. The fresco depicts two elegant ladies, one dressed in light blue, the other in blue-black and a gentleman holding a long stick, ready to start hunting! They just came out of the crenellated door of a castle and they walk towards a wooded area, their hawks in hand, trained for hunting. August is a summer month of leisure and moments of falconry show privilege, power and social status.

Defining Falconry, we would say that it is the “hunting of wild animals in their natural state and habitat by means of a trained bird of prey.” Falconry most probably began in Mesopotamia, or in western Mongolia. In Europe, and towards the latter part of his life, King Frederick II, a man of extraordinary culture, energy, and ability, wrote a decisive treatise on falconry titled De arte venandi cum avibus (“The Art of Hunting with Birds”) for the sport that “was probably introduced around AD 400, when the Huns and Alans invaded Europe from the east.” Apparently Falconry was an aristocratic sport enjoyed equally by men and women.     https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falconry

Maestro Venceslao dedicates the biggest part of the August composition to the hard-working peasants of Trento. In the upper zone, the farmers have a lot to work on. It is harvest time, the landscape is turned to golden yellow and both men and women work hard, bending under the blazing sun, to scythe the crops, collect the ears, tie them in sheaves and arrange them in stacks. And this is not enough! Farmers still have to load their wagons with heavy grain, as depicted in the middle zone, and to transport their day’s hard work on the dirt road, to the neighbouring village, where they will store it in the local barn. The village is undoubtedly picturesque, with ocher-coloured houses, thatched roofs, and a small church, brightly coloured pink. My favourite vignette, the depiction of the village priest, standing on the rectory’s threshold intent on reading, oblivious to the commodity around him.     https://www.buonconsiglio.it/index.php/Castello-del-Buonconsiglio/monumento/Percorso-di-visita/Torri/Torre-Aquila

A PowerPoint on Torre Aquila’s frescoes for the Months of August and September is… HERE!