Wednesday, May 31, 2017

London pastoral, and some extraordinary, not-to-be-missed Victoriana

My father, reading in the garden before dinner, pint and pipe in hand (reading Dorothy Sayers's Five Red Herrings, for the record).  Before that - to the Tate for the somewhat incoherent (but not uninteresting) Queer British Art show, and then for a walk that ended up coming down Fleet Street and the Strand - and there, and why I have never taken this building on board before I have no idea, is the Law Courts branch of Lloyds Bank.  Built in 1883 on the site of an old tavern, this building, at 222 The Strand, was a short-lived restaurant, and then, after standing vacant, was bought by Lloyds in 1895.  And now - like so many branches of Lloyds, it's going to close.  It's a listed building, so surely will be preserved in many respects - but who knows what the access will be.  So - it's closing in mid-August - GO AND SEE IT NOW.  It's a fantasy of tile work and marble, and I only wish that I hadn't left it till late this afternoon to discover it, and could feasibly head back to take a very large number of careful photos.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

one last Italian morning

... an early morning view from our balcony (the haze in the background, romantic though it might seem, is really pollution emanating from Naples, and decidedly reminiscent of LA) - and then finishing my drawing of Positano, which has a drawing's miraculous property to make one feel part of a place, because one's spent time actively, immersively looking.  I'm going to miss Italy hugely - back in London for two nights, I can see with stabbing clarity why, when I was a teenager, I thought I'd never been anywhere so seductively beautiful.

Monday, May 29, 2017

a merwolf, and some carefully curated things ...

Our last full day in Italy: a morning bus ride from Praiano to Positano - very pretty from afar (if impossible to draw, as I found after spending an hour or so at the task from our room's balcony), and then pretty enough close up, on the road into town - with beach umbrellas spread out waiting for the HORDES OF TOURISTS who packed the streets.

So we took refuge in the Cathedral - white and tranquil, with a Black Madonna over the altar, and on the bell tower, the most wonderful Merwolf (with a little wolf cub, and seven fishes - who knew that there was a wolf-mermaid creature out there?).

The city's benches are most stylish, 

and the view is wonderful - but ultimately, we were very grateful to be back in peaceful Praiano, with the carefully curated lily arrangements (etc) in our outrageously stylish hotel.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

corners of praiano and amalfi, and a scavenging cat

It's extraordinarily beautiful here, in every direction. I'd post shots of the coast as seen from the bus that we took to Amalfi, were I'd been able to extricate my camera, find a window, or have more than one leg to stand on (it was a very, very full bus ...).  But waiting for it, here's the church roof in Praiano;

and at the other end - only 9 km away from where we're staying, but a lifetime when you're standing on that one leg, and also much, much more full of tourists ... here's Amalfi cathedral;

one of the many C18th presepios, or nativity scenes, to be found on the streets of Amalfi (this one incorporates a fountain, pool, and goldfish as well);

the interior of a paper museum, which acted as a brief history of the different phases of paper making in Amalfi, from medieval times through to 1969 (at this mill - there's still a more modern mill up the road) - they made sugar paper, or paper for wrapping food in, not fancy stuff;

the local stream, that drove the paper mill;

back in Praiano, another corner of the steep path down to the sea;

and on the steep steps up to the village, a scavenging cat, very, very serious in its intentions.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

two hotel room views

From inside and outside our hotel room, in Praiano, on the Amalfi coast (where I've never been before - always rather wary of huge numbers of tourists - who, wherever they are, aren't on our balcony).  What can I say?  We are very, very lucky.

Friday, May 26, 2017

an amphora, a ship of tolerance and a few other Roman things

An amphora in the wall of the Capo di Bove - a Roman villa on the Appian Way - an excursion decidedly complicated and truncated by a non-functioning 118 bus service, but at least (long-time longing fulfilled - I've previously only gone and sketched in the Baths of Caracalla (like a good C19th traveler) - I got to see the Appian Way.  

Back near our hotel, the art school has developed a huge Ship of Tolerance (much needed).

Down the road is a strange installation in a dead tree;

and understandably, I couldn't resist a few more of the spooky dolls.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

corners of Rome

Some very, very strange dismembered dolls in a dismembered and misfit toys shop;

two pieces of wall art;

my very favorite mosaic sheep in the world (in Santa Maria in Trastevere);

a standard tourist view, but none the less spectacular for that;

and a very strange fountain.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

the road to Rome

went - in reverse order - through Siena and San Gimignano - reverse order, because this top picture is of Siena Duomo - one of my very favorite, and very stripey, cathedrals ever.

Here are some Tuscan hilltowns in one of its many extraordinary marble pavements - the whole of the drive to Rome was full of little towns, with towers, perched on hill tops.

San Gimignano has, of course, more towers than anywhere else, and they were shining beautifully in the morning sun as we drove up - a tiny city, straight out of the background of a Renaissance fresco. Sadly, none of these three pictures are actually of towers... I'd heard that the town is impossibly touristy these days, and indeed, they were beginning to pack in just as we were leaving - it's probably forty years since I was last there (I've spent time much more recently in Siena - though, indeed, not for twenty years).  A good deal of this trip has involved me quietly comparing my past self with my current one, in places that have been indelibly formative for me - and one of the many things I've learned, through this, is that I've become a much better observer, looker, spectator - it helps, indeed, to know more - not about history, or material culture, or whatever, per se, but just about the practice of looking.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

last day in Florence ... miscellaneous Art

Here are some souvenirs (none purchased, you'll be glad to hear) outside the Duomo - I was rather taken by turning Brunelleschi's dome into an umbrella, though.

Here is the most utterly adorable unicorn, in a side chapel in Santa Croce;

here an excerpt from a quite wonderful performed video introducing one into the life and performed campness of Herbert Horne - complete with animated designs on the wall behind him (the museum is great, too - a small but perfectly formed intro to Renaissance art genres and materials, and also to late C19th text and print - I was so glad to see copies of the Century Guild Hobby Horse, which featured in my PhD - and of course I didn't know enough at the time to understand what I could have been doing with it.

A lion - a positively Venetian lion, but actually guarding Dante outside Santa Croce;

Dante, reflected and reflecting, in a window by Santa Croce;

and, inside Santa Croce, some fish.

Monday, May 22, 2017

more florentine bits and pieces

A solitary poppy in the Boboli Gardens, where I don't think I've spent much time since I was a graduate student, reading Keith Thomas' Religion and the Decline of Magic, day after day, under a tree (I think entrance to the gardens must have been free then - or nearly so - alas, no more);

some more wall art, on the Lung'arno;

a pillar and arch at the entrance to Santa Maria Novella - the chapel in the Green Cloister still has some of my favorite frescoes in the world (admittedly illustrating the dangerous lures of everyday life - dancing, and music-making, and climbing trees to eat forbidden fruit);

a shrine on a street corner;

and the roundabout/carousel on the Piazza della Repubblica.