Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas in Viterbo with Sebastiano del Piombo

Another reason to visit the city of Viterbo during the Christmas -New Year's period is the  special exhibit of two enormous  Sebastiano del Piombo  paintings. 
The exhibit is open daily until  7 p.m.  free of charge and is a good chance  to  see the  interior of the   magnificent Palazzo dei Priori with its frescoed rooms.  The paintings  are usually kept in the city's Civic Museum  which has been closed  for over a year now due to structural problems. 
La Pietà 

The nocturnal Pietà  was painted  between 1513 and 1516 following designs  by Michelangelo who also did the   carboncino sketches, a face and a full figure, visible on the painting's retro. 
In the background  are the hot baths  that Viterbo was (and still is)  known for . 
The masculine  Madonna  is probably  one of the  most unusual  portraits of Mary  ever done. The painting  is full of esoteric, mysterious   symbols  which have been well explained  by Andrea Alessi in his  book Dante, Sebastiano e Michelangelo  -L'Inferno nella Pietà di Viterbo  (Electa, 2007).

The Flagellation 
The Flagellation  of Christ, completed by Sebastiano del Piombo  in 1525, was also comissioned by Giovanni Botonti for  a church of Viterbo and also  based on sketches of Michelangelo who did a similar one for the chapel of San Pietro in Montorio in Rome.  

Palazzo dei Priori, Viterbo's city hall
entrance  to the City Hall's Sala Regia 
The entrance to the  exhibit is  through this doorway. Note the coat of arms of Pope Julius II  della Rovere, the reigning pope  under whom Michelangelo and Sebastiano del Piombo  both worked.   

As you go up to the main floor, piano nobile,  you will be able to visit the palazzo's  former chapel,  which until now has been  closed to the public. 

 It  has beautiful stucco work, gilded ceilings and frescoes.  The model of Santa Rosa,  set up in the center of the room, is the pinnacle of the Macchina di Santa Rosa.
There are several blog posts  to help you  find out more about  Santa Rosa and Viterbo,  just use the search  bar at the top of the blog page. 

frescoed  chapel 

Santa Rosa  statue 

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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Night time visit to Villa Lante, Bagnaia

Villa Lante by night , F. Pignatale 
Here is a sneak preview of  my newest book Etruria Storie e Segreti, with photos from two of the contributors:  Francesco Pignatale and John Ferro Sims.   Thanks to Francesco's night time photos we get a rare peek inside  one of the palazzine of the Villa  which is furnished with  antiques and  has frescoed rooms and ceilings. 

elegant interiors of Palazzina Gambara , Villa Lante 
 They were shot  during an evening visit  to  the gardens of  Villa Lante in Bagnaia, a suburb of Viterbo where the Renaissance cardinals Montalto, Gambara and Della Rovere  passed  their summer holidays. 

 Villa Lante  boasts  twin palaces,  magnificent fountains,  extensive  gardens and woodlands where once worldly  young  cardinals enjoyed gelato, doused visitors with trick fountains and  used trained dogs to hunt wild fowl  in the park. 
fountain of the 4 Moors, Villa Lante 

mossy  fountain figure at Villa Lante by English photographer John Ferro Sims  

Izumi  Otsuki Steingraber, who also contributed  to Etruria Storie e Segreti  tells  how the young  Japanese princes who  visited  here in 1575 were shocked by  this style of hunting. 

The manicured gardens of Villa Lante are  a  perfect  place for  a Sunday walk, especially in summer, even more so during one of the rare evening openings. And if you choose to visit on  a cold January day you might find  the   boxwood borders   covered with frost, like frosting on a cake.

One of the artists who worked on the villa's  frescoes was   Agostino Tassi,  the lover and husband of Artemesia Gentileschi.  Their fiery  relationship  has been preserved by judicial reports dating from 1612  and make  interesting reading even now, 400 years later. 

To find out more about Villa Lante and  Artemesia Gentileschi    check out Alexandra Lapierre’s biography Artemisa , the story of a battle for greatness.   Signed copies of Etruria Storie e Segreti can be ordered directly from my website  here.  
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Saturday, December 7, 2013

Art and Artisans in Viterbo and Vignanello

Photo by F. Pignatale 

This weekend   everyone in the province of Viterbo  is celebrating  the  entrance of the Macchina di Santa Rosa   in to the   UNESCO heritage   list, which I wrote about  last week. 

 It is  a sunny weekend with   the olive harvest finished and people are looking ahead to the holidays: thus  there are Christmas fairs and  fairs celebrating  the local olive oil in just about  every town. 
This morning  we drove over  to Vignanello  to check out the  art and artisans fair being hosted by Donna Giada Ruspoli in the family castle.  

 I have a video clip of our visit,  you can see it on youtube   Ruspoli Castle, Vignanello.  Also  on Facebook...but for some unknown reason, today  it won't load  on  the blog page. 
  • A visit to Ruspoli Castle to see the hidden corners, the pre-Christmas fair
    Ruspoli castle Vignanello
    Caricato da Mary Jane
    Christmas fair Dec.7 & 8
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Also  happening in Viterbo during this weekend:  the Chamber of Commerce  fair  in  the historic center .