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 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!

Pollaiuolo’s Apollo and Daphne

Piero del Pollaiuolo, about 1441 – before 1496Apollo and Daphne, 1470-1480, oil on wood, 29.5 x 20 cm, The National Gallery, London

Daphne, daughter of Peneus, was Apollo’s first love, which not blind chance, but Cupid’s savage anger, gave… One suddenly loves, the other flees the name of lover, rejoicing in the hiding-places of the woods and with the spoils of captured beasts (and) as an imitator of unmarried Diana: a ribbon was restraining hair placed without rule… Having barely finished the prayer, a heavy numbness seizes her limbs, her soft breasts are girded by thin bark, her hair grows into foliage, her arms into branches, her foot, just now so swift, clings by sluggish roots, her face has the top of a tree: a single splendor remains in her… since you can’t be my bride, at least you will certainly be my tree! Metamorphoses by Ovid, translated by Wikisource, Daphne and Apollo help us better understand the dynamics in Pollaiuolo’s Apollo and Daphne painting.     https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Translation:Metamorphoses/Daphne_and_Apollo

A tiny picture in the National Gallery, inspired by Ovid’s Metamorphoses, tells us so many stories… “the rivalry of the gods, the power and danger of desire and the tragedy of unrequited love.”     https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/piero-del-pollaiuolo-apollo-and-daphne

The literary source for this amazing panel painting comes from the Metamorphoses, a narrative poem, built upon the Hellenistic erudite tradition, written during the period of Augustus, c. 8 AD, by the Roman poet Ovid. The poem includes 11,995 lines and is divided between 15 books and presents 250 myths. It is a record of world history starting with the creation of the world and finishing with the deification of Julius Caesar. Ovid’s Metamorphoses is considered the poet’s magnum opus. It was popular among the Romans and later highly regarded among Renaissance artists, as, rich in myths… transformations, personifications, loves, rivalries, jealousies, happy ends and tragic ends, communicated the greatest of stories!

Piero del Pollaiuolo’s painting of Apollo and Daphne depicts the most crucial of moments… the rivalry between Apollo and Cupid is a fait accompli, as one (Apollo) suddenly loves, and the other (Daphne) flees the name of lover. Apollo’s desire frightens Daphne who cries for help Father bring help! Rivers, if you have divinity, destroy my shape by which I’ve pleased too much, by changing it. Apollo’s love is not returned, and Daphne is slowly turned into the beautiful Laurel Tree. The god is, however, still enamoured and he loves this one too (the Laurel Tree) and with a right hand placed on the trunk feels that her heart still trembles under the new bark… As Daphne is slowly metamorphosing, he softly talks to her since you can’t be my bride, at least you will certainly be my tree! My hair will always have you, my lyres (will have you), my quivers (will have you), O Laurel…

For Polaiuolo, the Greek Myth of Apollo and Daphne becomes a Florentine affair. Daphne like Petrarch’s Laura becomes the ideal, unattainable love of the Renaissance courtly circles, “fair-skinned, blonde and seemingly modest.” She “allows young men to nobly strive for an ideal beauty beyond their reach.” Apollo, fair, blonde and aristocratic as well, seems persistent but genteel. Is he symbolically representing an idealized “portrait” of Lorenzo de’ Medici? Let’s not forget that the leader of the Florentine privileged society saw himself as the forceful god Apollo and had adopted the laurel as part of his personal emblem. The background landscape scene is definitely presenting the Tuscan countryside with the Arno river valley and the distant vista of the city of Florence itself. The painting may be small in size, but Piero del Pollaiuolo realized a small treasure, to “be admired close up by an educated patron.”     https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/piero-del-pollaiuolo-apollo-and-daphne

If you please… access a PowerPoint with artwork depicting the Myth of Apollo and Daphne HERE!

For a Student Activity on the Myth of Apollo and Daphne, please… check HERE!

A Bulletin Board with Elementary School level Activities on Plants and Myths, very popular among my students.

The Month of July

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

The Month of July 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 summer 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 July scene, full of natural beauty and pastoral activities.

Valle dei Laghi is one of the sixteen districts of Trentino in the Italian region of Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol. https://www.discovertrento.it/valle-dei-laghi/territorio#.XvucvSgzZPY

July is a busy month for labourers at Trento and Master Wenceslas is documenting it in the best possible way. The farmers catch up with their activities and the Court aristocrats enjoy summer bliss. 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 a summer scene of dazzling colours, greens and yellows dominating the open expanse of the countryside!

Castello Toblino is located in the valley of the lakes between Padergnone and Sarche in the municipal area of Madruzzo, in the province of Trento. https://www.trentino.com/en/highlights/castles/castel-toblino/

Multi-coloured mountains, lush shrubbery, a lake, a Castello by its shore and a red country Villa are just a few of the landscape props Master Wenceslas uses to identify the area as the beautiful Trentino Valle dei Laghi. Castello in particular, defensive walls, crenellations, drawing bridges, large glass windows, balconies full of flowers and stork nests on the rooftop make up for a beautiful vignette on a lakeshore.

Right in the middle of the composition the depiction of the lake, the boat and three fishermen set the tone. The lower part is a vivid illustration of the activities of the nobles and their servants as summer settles in. It is falconing season, and Master Wenceslas beautifully presents it. Hunting with a hawk was the favorite activity of the Trento nobility, an expensive one to keep up with, as specialized servants, destined exclusively for the care and breeding of precious birds, were required and handsomely payed for. In the July fresco, one such falconer, carrying two hunting hawks returns from hunting. A little further down an elegant gentleman, dressed in a red and black doublet, with a gesture of polite refinement, seems to offer the hunting catch, two beautiful birds, gallantly to a lady dressed in white. A truly generous gift for a beautiful Lady!

Horizons are kept high in Master Wenceslas’s July fresco to make room for the depiction of busy Trento farmers and their agricultural activities. Surrounded by a crown of colourful mountains, purple, white or ochre, up in the highest Trento meadows, the typical activity of the season takes place: haymaking. Farmers are depicted mowing and raking, one of them even scythe sharpening. It is a vivid illustration of the month’s required work for both men and women. They wear perfectly white cloths and hats, cloth or even made of straw, and against a bright green background, they effortlessly move, carrying their instruments of work, as if they are part of an elaborate ballet chorus. The reality is that haymaking is a hard and tiring job, not a summer holiday for sure! Entire families were involved in mowing grass, letting it dry in the sun, and turning it over very often with the hay pitchfork, in order to make it dry faster. 

Prince-Bishop George of Liechtenstein was probably very happy looking from a distance the work accomplished on the meadows of his territories by his “loyal” farmers. His guests probably marveled at how busy and well-ordered life was under his rule. At Torre Aquila the aristocracy was allowed to dream… Reality was, however, different and peasants, exhausted and exasperated were on the verge of revolt…

For Student Activity please… check HERE!

The Months of July and August

Bernardo Bembo and La Bencina

Hans Memling, 1433 –1494
Man with a Roman Coin (Bernardo Bembo), ca. 1471-1474, oil on panel, 31 x 23,3 cm, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten Antwerpen
Leonardo da Vinci, 1452-1519
Ginevra de’ Benci, 1474-78, oil on wood, 38,8 x 36,7 cm, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC – On the reverse side of the portrait of Ginevra: juniper, laurel, palm branches: VIRTUTEM FORMA DECORAT (Beauty adorns Virtue)     https://www.nga.gov/collection/art-object-page.50724.html     and     https://www.nga.gov/collection/highlights/da-vinci-ginevra-de-benci.html and https://www.facebook.com/mauritshuis/posts/allow-us-to-introduce-bernardo-bembovarious-details-reveal-that-this-man-is-the-/1438404546228025/

“Therefore we will sing of the chaste love of Bembo, so that Bencia may rise up, made known by my verses. O lovely Bencia, Bembo marvels at your beauty, with which you could surpass the goddesses of heaven. Great Mars would wish to prefer this to his love for Venus, and Jupiter himself would abandon Europa and desire it. But Bembo in astonishment marvels more at you ancient virtue, you chaste heart and hands with the skill of Pallas…” writes Cristoforo Landino for the LOVE of Bernardo Bembo and La Bencina.    http://www.italianrenaissanceresources.com/units/unit-2/sub-page-03/poems-about-ginevra-and-bembo/?fbclid=IwAR34DOVq8MMQgt7ZBJ651Bd2l-HGxjM6gTJFNNx0CHHsp2hZVi26XyAkHkM

The Venetian Ambassador to Florence, the intellectual Bernardo Bembo, first saw Ginevra on the 28th of January 1475, during the splendid Giostra Giuliano de Medici staged in Piazza Santa Croce in Florence. Ginevra de’ Benci, the daughter of Amerigo de’ Benci, director of the Medici Bank in Geneva and the second wealthiest man in Florence, seventeen years old, witty, enchanting and rich, married to Luigi di Bernardo Niccolini, a Florentine cloth-trader of importance, was present, dazzling with her charm, the elite of Florence. “In all the city you will not find a more beautiful girl, nor any more modest” wrote the poet Alessandro Braccesi. Suave Bernardo Bembo, a man in his early forties, married with children, with a mistress and a love-child, took little time in becoming La Bencina’s cavaliere servente. Among them, Leonardo da Vinci, young and amazingly talented, ready to immortalize an interesting story that still “haunts” us with its beauty and secrets, created one of his earliest masterpieces.    https://books.google.gr/books?id=KWCNItrBe6oC&pg=PT163&lpg=PT163&dq=Florence+1475+Giostra&source=bl&ots=jY6VGoEF7e&sig=ACfU3U3t2D0MaOTr2VF5cHfdBamVl8s_Zg&hl=el&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwio79a81YHqAhXBw8QBHb37B5AQ6AEwEHoECAUQAQ#v=onepage&q=Florence%201475%20Giostra&f=false

Leonardo’s painting of La Bencina, characterized as “the earliest of all psychological portraits” and depicting “a new sense of mystery and uniqueness of the human personality” is for me an alluring mystery behind rich foilage and an “alabaster” façade. The surviving poems, however, of her beauty and character is another story…

The reverse side of Leonardo’s painting of Ginevra de’ Benci

“I beg for mercy; I am a wild tiger” LaBencina wrote in one of her poems, the only verse that survives of her entire oeuvre. We can only wonder about her response to Bembo’s “Courtly Love.”

“…Therefore, lovely Bencia, imitating such arts as these, you come as an example to Tuscan ladies. Well known, I confess, is the love of Paris and the frenzy of the Spartan woman, but it is known for its base adultery. You, Bencia, are more beautiful than Leda’s child and are known to all peoples for your rare chastity…” by Cristoforo Landino

“Ginevra shed tears as you go, Bembo./ May she desire long delays and / Beseech the Gods above that / Every difficulty may hinder your journey. / And may she wish that the kindly stars / With adverse winds and heavy storms / Prevent your departure” by Alessandro Bracessi

Lorenzo de’ Medici, on the other hand, addressed two poems to her praising her decision to “leave the passion and evil of the city and to devote herself to prayer in the country… never looking back!” https://books.google.gr/books?id=fMDoImNWqHQC&pg=PA302&lpg=PA302&dq=Lorenzo+de+Medici+sonnets+Ginevra&source=bl&ots=DFGL8O9riU&sig=ACfU3U1FKJK0wSGfLjtePymRgLwoRWYOPg&hl=el&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwi7jdXxvIPqAhUFNOwKHTZ3BIgQ6AEwAnoECAYQAQ#v=onepage&q=Lorenzo%20de%20Medici%20sonnets%20Ginevra&f=false    and    http://www.italianrenaissanceresources.com/units/unit-2/sub-page-03/poems-about-ginevra-and-bembo/?fbclid=IwAR34DOVq8MMQgt7ZBJ651Bd2l-HGxjM6gTJFNNx0CHHsp2hZVi26XyAkHkM

For a RWAP dedicated to Ginevra de’ Benci (RWAP stands for Research-Writing-Art-Project) please… Check HERE!

For student work on a RWAP dedicated to Ginevra de’ Benci, please… Check HERE!

Student work

The Month of June

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

The Month of June is an amazing fresco that comes from the Torre Aquila in the Castello del Buonconsiglio, in Trento, Italy. It is part of a 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.

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.

June is the 6th month of the Year and the beginning of summer. A glorious, busy month for both the aristocrats and the peasants of Trento. With snow disappearing even at the highest peaks, the shepherds and the servants of the Prince-Bishop George of Liechtenstein, need to move to the mountainous pastures, where most of the Prince’s possessions are. They need to take care of his cows, while their women do the milking, and the processing of milk to butter and cheese. Are they making a 15th century version of the famous Trentino cheese Bela Badia? In May, all citizens of Trento had a moment to rest, but in June, they all go back to their daily chores!    https://www.tasteatlas.com/most-popular-cheeses-in-trentino-alto-adige-sudtirol

One might wonder how the young Trento noblemen and ladies spend their June days… think no further, the answers are in the Trento fresco. Enjoying the best time of the year, young men and ladies of noble birth spend their days in the countryside! They walk out of their walled cities, as depicted in the upper left side of the painting, wearing their finest clothes, and join in the festivities of the month. Long summer days are on their thresholds and they embrace them! The lower part of the painting shows 5 couples dancing in a circle accompanied by their dogs and a group of musicians who set the tone. Are they celebrating the first day of Summer? The scene is inviting to say the least… a garden surrounded by green hedges, beautiful lilies, playful dogs and a quintet of merry musicians! https://www.worldwidewriter.co.uk/frescoes-of-trento-the-painted-city.html

The Best Art You’ve Never Seen: 101 Hidden Treasures From Around the World by Julian Spalding, Rough Guides Reference, 2010 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

Until Next Month… check HERE! for a PowerPoint!

The Mauritshuis

Hans Holbein the Younger (formerly attributed to)
Portrait of a Woman from Southern Germany, c. 1520 – 1525, oil on panel, 45×34 cm, The Mauritshuis in The Hague

“A visit to a museum is a search for beauty, truth, and meaning in our lives. Go to museums as often as you can” wrote Maira Kalman and she couldn’t be more right. Go to the  Mauritshuis in the Hague, stand in front of the Portrait of a Woman from Southern Germany and quietly wait for the experience to envelop you!

Back in 2006, I visited the Mauritshuis in the Hague for the first time, and I will never forget the Experience. It is the kind of Museum I particularly enjoy and love… small, intimate and colourful!    https://www.mauritshuis.nl/en/

Designed as a private house for Johan Maurits of Nassau, Count (from 1664), Prince of Nassau-Siegen, Grand Master of the Order of Saint John (Bailiwick of Brandenburg) and governor of Dutch Brazil, the   Mauritshuis is palatial in both, inspiration and essence. The Prince of Nassau-Siegen hired the finest architects of the time in The Netherlands, Jacob van Campen and his assistant Pieter Post, to design and materialize his dream residence. Johan Maurits, however, was not in a harry! As governor of the Dutch Brazil and one of Holland’s preeminent military leaders, he travelled extensively, while his architects were busy building important architectural works to establish their name. So, the Mauritshuis started in 1636 and finished in 1641. The Prince lived in the house for only three years, from 1644 to 1647, after which he moved to Germany for yet another important post, to become stadtholder of Kleef.

Mauritshuis is often referred to as Sugar Palace, but this is not a reference to the light-coloured natural stones used for building its façade. Johan Maurits earned a lot of money in Brazil trading in sugar cane, and Mauritshuis was made possible thanks to cane sugar and to the efforts of enslaved men and women from Africa. Sugar Palace is just one reminder of European colonialism and exploitation! https://www.mauritshuis.nl/en/discover/mauritshuis/history-of-the-building/

Today, the building Johan Maurits of Nassau commissioned is one of the finest examples of Classicist Dutch Architecture in The Netherlands and the Home of a Great Collection of Dutch Masterpieces. Mauritshuis is the home of Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring or the astounding View of Delft,  Rembrandt’s Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp or his 1669 Self-Portrait, Carel Fabritius’ Goldfinch of 1654, Paulus Potter’s Bull of 1647, and The Garden of Eden with the Fall of Man of 1615 by two famous Flemish masters: Rubens and Brueghel.

Hans Holbein the Younger (formerly attributed to)
Portrait of a Woman from Southern Germany, c. 1520 – 1525, oil on panel, 45×34 cm, The Mauritshuis in The Hague

Today, I would like to stand in front of a Renaissance Painting I find alluring… the Portrait of a Woman from Southern Germany of 1520-25, formerly attributed to Hans Holbein the Younger. Her face is so striking, standing out well against a rather cool, blue background… beautiful but stark, pale, yet bright, clear and strong. She wears a finely pleated collared blouse, a fur-lined jacket fastened with a red cord and a rather old-fashioned cap and veil, like those worn by townswomen in Southern Germany. Whoever painted this magnificent Portrait, the Woman from Southern Germany, young and demure, greets us with her hands clasped, her eyes modestly cast down, and a faint smile to brighten her whole face! She is grand! https://www.mauritshuis.nl/en/explore/the-collection/artworks/portrait-of-a-woman-from-southern-germany-275/detailgegevens/

For a PowerPoint on more Renaissance Paintings in the Mauritshuis Museum, please… click HERE!

The Month of May

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

“Fresh new rose Delighting Spring,    By field and stream,    Singing gaily,    I declare your rarity    – to the flowers.” by Guido Cavalcanti (between 1250 and 1259 – August 1300), the Italian poet, troubadour, and best friend of Dante Alighieri. https://www.poetryintranslation.com/PITBR/Italian/Italianpoetry.php

The Month of May fresco 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. It was commissioned by Prince-Bishop George of Liechtenstein, who wanted to show life and prosperity in his “well-governed” territories. The painter of these remarkable frescoes, Master Wenceslas, understanding well what he was commissioned to do, created the best 15th-century advertising brochure for the Alpine city of Trento. The Month of May presents a bright spring scene, crowded with well-dressed aristocrats who, in the lush local countryside, serenely enjoy the splendours of their privileged life. 

Master Wenceslas, a Bohemian painter active in Trento since 1397, creates an amazing May scene, full of natural beauty… the sun triumphs, nature is in full bloom, and roses are present wherever you see! This is the time for Trento peasants to rest after a busy April, preparing and sowing the fields, repairing or rebuilding the fences of the vegetable gardens.  Their duties accomplished by April 23, the feast of San Giorgio, as the custom dictates, they are out of the “picture.” The Month of May scene is dedicated to the local ladies and gentlemen and their idle aristocratic activities.

Master Wenceslas paints a striking May scene introducing themes and focusing on details. A city on the upper left side of the panel, surrounded by bright red walls sets the tone… bright, elaborate, almost otherworldly. The white Gothic church within its Walls balances the effect and stands out, introducing one of the four main colours present in the composition, white, red, green and blue. Next to the walled city but connected with it through a bridge, two aristocratic couples are about to eat al fresco, as a circular white-clothed table displays an abundance of delicacies. What an amazing and luxurious “picnic” setting this is… rugged mountains, a deep dark green forest, and a well-constructed fountain of spring water! They sit comfortably and talk amicably around the table, dressed in their brightest and finest, while one of the ladies is about to fetch water from the spring. Is this vignette a reference to the Fountain of Youth, which, according to legend, could renew beauty and youth for eternity?

The lower part of the composition is entirely devoted to the pleasures and amusements of courtly society. In a lush meadow filled with roses and wildflowers, gracious gentlemen and beautiful ladies gather, mostly in pairs, to celebrate spring and the month of love! A young man kneels, in an act of homage, in front of his lady, another bends his forehead to be crowned with a wreath of flowers, and couples talk intimately or hold hands, lovingly. They wear their finest multicoloured garments, jewelled crowns or wreaths of flowers. Men wear tight-fitting jackets with coloured socks, or large cloaks with frayed edges, women are dressed in tight-fitting overcoats. The most fashion-conscious wear the long-toed shoes that are furious in France. The Trento scene of May is cheerful, sunny, elegant and optimistic! http://italianocontesti.ru/il-calendario-medievale-torre-aquila-a-trento-maggio/ and https://www.discovertrento.it/en/citta-di-trento/eventi/dettaglio/-/dettaglio/Torre+Aquila-Buonconsiglio+Castle/569149#.Xqui86gzZPZ

For a PowerPoint, please… check HERE!