Monthly Archives: March 2010

A couple of Barnaby’s photos from Italy

Traveling with Barnaby is always fun — he’s easy-going, cheerful, interested in history, art, architecture and music, and he has a little bit of a mischievous side that does things like take clandestine photographs in museums and galleries that specifically forbid using your camera. Barnaby would never dream of damaging a work of art — he doesn’t use a flash, and he probably wouldn’t “appropriate” any of the art he photographs (something a lot of popular artists do all the time). I don’t encourage Barnaby, but then, I enjoy looking at the photos afterward and thought I’d share a couple. This first one is of an art installation of Nate Lowman’s (the son of Carolyn and Bill Lowman of Idyllwild). These paintings are currently at the Palazzo Grassi in Venice as part of a survey of contemporary art. I don’t know if Nate is wildly popular in the art world, or if we were just really lucky, but we were able to see his paintings in shows in Venice and at the Guggenheim Museum in New York on this trip. He has several pieces in both shows — hung alongside modern giants like Richard Prince and Cindy Sherman.  We think it’s pretty cool that a kid from Idyllwild can make it in the art world.

The painting below, next to the Mona Lisa, is perhaps the most recognized work of art in the world. We’ve all seen the Last Supper so many times that we probably have some opinions of it’s size, color, etc. Mine were all wrong. Leonardo Da Vinci was commissioned to decorate the dining hall of a Dominican Friary in Milan. He used an experimental technique for his fresco and the resulting painting started deteriorating almost immediately. There’s been a lot of work done through the years to try to save it, but it probably won’t last. I was shocked by its size — about 29 feet wide by 15 feet high. I’ve always pictured it like those little 3X8 inch reproductions shellacked on cedar planks, like the one in my mom’s kitchen. The other shocker is that it’s really beautiful — the colors absolutely glow. After booking ahead several months, (or joining a guided tour like we did — also booked months in advance), you wait until your specified time in an outer room, then you’re shuffled into another room and wait 5 more minutes behind sealed doors while the air is dried and changed, only then are you allowed in your group of 20 into the old dining hall for a total of 15 minutes, not enough time really to admire the great painting. Imagine what it was like to be a guy who gets to eat his supper every night with that perfection. Even though it’s really big in real life, Da Vinci designed it so that it looks life size for the viewers — he wanted you to feel like Jesus and the guys were there having dinner with you. The 15 minutes flew by for me. I didn’t want to leave. I wished I wasn’t so ignorant about Bible stories so that it would make more sense. In the meantime, some people broke the rules and pulled out their cell phone to sneak a photo. It was a pretty cool experience and I’m kinda glad to be married to that wild guy and have this small memento. As you can see, it’s not of sufficient quality to make prints for ashtrays or plaques — we’ll leave that up to all those talented Italians who have knocked off the painting a thousand times.

I know you all are probably wondering what my favorite “work of art” from our trip to Italy could be — after all, we visited some of the most incredible museums in the world: the Uffizi in Florence, the Accademia in Venice, and the Guggenheim and Metropolitan in New York City. I guess I’m just a country girl because I still get the most excited when I see a horse — in a painting, a sculpture, or a living horse. It doesn’t matter if the horse is bronze and was stolen by the Venetians from Constantinople and displayed on top of the Basilica in San Marco Square for 500 years like the quartet on the right, or the lovely pair that were pulling a carriage through the streets of Lucca. I guess I was just missing my big boys at home.

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Venezia — March 23, 2010

It’s Tuesday and the sun has made its first appearance in several days. I’ve never thought of Italy as a wintry place, but it can be cold, damp and gray. Not today. By the time we pulled ourselves away from our cozy bed (after Barn made a heroic run to the bar around the corner and came back with two cappucinos and a chocolate brioche — did I say we were really roughing it here, and dieting too….) —

the sun was breaking through the clouds and the puddles were almost all dry. We wandered over to the neighborhoods San Polo and San Croce, to the Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, or just plain Frari, one of the most magnificent churches in Venice. It was built in 1250 but replaced by a larger building in the 15th century. There are several Titian masterpieces inside and a Bellini or two as well. It was still cool inside — we could see our breath — but so worth the walk over.

After stopping for sandwiches, more coffee, beers, more sandwiches, ice cream, another chocolate croissant, and some mineral waters, we wandered (waddled) over to a beautiful palazzo that has been turned into a modern art museum. Kind of like the Peggy Guggenheim museum we visited yesterday, but this one had a lot more money but not Peggy’s taste. The building was glorious but the collection a little lacking. They have one nice Pierre Bonnard, a very good Gustav Klimt, a Klee, Miro and one or two Kandinskys. The same family that built the palazzo had a magnificent alter at the Frari — and Titian painted their altar piece. It’s such a small world.

We found the gallery where Nate Lowman’s painting is hanging but they were closed today. (This is a photo of it.) We’ll go back tomorrow. It’s fun to see modern art in this ancient place. Barnaby is so good with the map — I couldn’t resist taking this picture. We try but we can’t manage to get lost. Our map is so detailed that 14 inches on the map equals about a mile. Barn keeps reminding of that when I whine about my feet hurting. Not that there’s any other way to get around this place other than on foot!

The bells are ringing again — it’s 10 o’clock and I’m about to turn into a pumpkin so I better sign off for now. My expensive internet is about to end…

Arrivederci!

xoxo, Anne & Barn


Venice — March 22, 2010

Venice is a stone fairy tale (Rilke), a living work of art, a magical place. At the moment is it also cold, rainy and overcast, so not as photogenic as normal. But I’ll include a few photos anyway. I wish I could include some smells and sounds too. The lapping water, the bells that seem to ring for an hour every evening around 6, the perfume and pizza. Ah — the pizza. Barnaby and I have abandoned all hope of trying to stick to our diet.

I thought I should add some photos of some of the amazing art we’ve seen on this trip. Our visit to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence will probably be the winner of the “most masterpieces in one building” award of the trip. Not only did we see some of my favorite Michelangelos and Raphaels, but this Titian — Venus of Urbino, is so completely erotic and perfectly painted that I can’t get it out of my mind. (Kind of like that Puccini aria “o mio bambino…” that Amy sang the other night, but it’s okay to have that kind of beauty looping in your head.) I always realize how little I know (or remember) about history when we visit places like this. So many details are lost on us. Like the cute little dog asleep at Venus’ feet. I finally looked it up tonight on Wikipedia because it was driving me crazy not knowing what was going on in that painting. Well — generally a dog stands for loyalty and faithfulness, but because that one is sleeping it probably means the opposite. Apparently Titian was commissioned to paint it for a Duke that gave it to his new (very young) bride for their wedding. It’s thought to be a sort of instructional piece. The Italians often have no English descriptions, and when they do — they describe the provenance of the work rather than describing the content. That’s especially sad for those of us that are weak on our Bible stories. I also fell in love with Leonardo Da Vinci’s Annunciation. This is a terrible photograph of it — the colors are glorious in person, but you can get the idea.

This morning we went to a gallery in Venice and saw several hundred more “Madonna and Child”, “Annunciations”, “Last Suppers”, and flayings (those Bible stories are really maudlin). Afterwards we went to Peggy Guggenheim’s gallery — what a breath of fresh air. Not only is the space (her villa) gorgeous, but the modern collection is so much more to our taste. She has several Magrittes, De Chiricos, a very pink and scary Francis Bacon and several delightful Calders (my favorites).

I especially enjoyed all of the sculpture — Brancusi! There are lovely gardens surrounding the villa full of great pieces. This one was particularly hard not to touch.

Venice seems to be quite a bit more corporate than it was when we were here in 1994. The streets are crowded with designer shops like Gucci, Prada, La Perla and Fendi. Barnaby gets nervous when we’re walking during the day and the stores are open. It’s kind of like being in a beautiful mall, that goes on and on. I’m trying to stay out of trouble.

This is a photo I took last week at the little grocery where we shopped during our Tuscany stay. Just in case you thought Italians are all sophisticated and don’t eat junky cereal like Americans… well, they do eat a little. At least they call it like it is — Chocolate Crack! We all think that in general though, the Italian diet, though heavy in pasta, is probably a lot healthier than the typical American diet. The food at the markets has less packaging and the produce is gorgeous. The cheese counter is great, but the meat case is a little skimpy. I think they eat less meat. And sadly — there’s still a lot of cigarette smoking. At least they’re not smoking inside, or we would be miserable.

Here’s one more little bas-relief from the exterior of the Duomo in Milan. I’m not really sure what’s going on, probably some king and his servants. If anyone has any ideas please tell me.

We miss you Abby & Theo!


Siena — March 20, 2010

March 20, 2010

Greetings from Siena. We’ve been in Italy for a week and this is the first time I’ve been able to get on the internet. It’s not that Tuscany is uncivilized but, well, there isn’t wi-fi everywhere. Thought you’d probably rather look at pictures so here are a few. I’m still trying to get used to this blog — bear with me. The first photo is in Milan. We were standing in the main square in front of the Duomo, which is the forth largest cathedral in the world. We were able to hike up to the roof for an incredible view.

In Milan, we saw Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper, the opera house La Scala, some interesting art, and a lot of the old city. We were all surprised at how beautiful Milan is — we expected a charmless industrial place. We were happily surprised.

On our third day we drove down to Tuscany and met up with Karl, Sarah, Amy and Kent at the villa.

We spent the next five nights there, making day trips to Florence, Lucca, Volterra and Pontedero. The house was lovely. Originally a granary and apparently part of the Medici estate, an American couple recently rebuilt it. We were very comfortable except that the heat wasn’t working so it never got much above 50 degrees inside! Yes — Tuscany can be cold in the spring. We saw a lot of snow on the drive down from Milan. Fortunately it wasn’t that cold in our area — but cold enough. All the locals were wearing down parkas during the day. We were sorry we left ours at home.

This is the walkway along the wall that surrounds the old city of Lucca. We had lovely weather that day.

Karl and Sarah having lunch in the Roman square in Lucca.

Jan and Dick — always in good spirits!

We climbed up to the top of a tower for a wonderful view of Lucca.

This morning we drove to Siena — another beautiful Tuscan city. Sadly our weather wasn’t as nice for photos so I won’t post any tonight. We did spend some time in the Siena Duomo — this photo is from it’s library.

In the morning, we’ll drive to Venice and spend the next five nights there. I should have internet at our hotel so I’ll post more soon. We miss y’all — especially Theo and Abby.


Announcing my new blog

I’ve just linked my new blog (ontheroadwithab.wordpress.com) with Facebook. Thought it might be easier than sending emails from the road — and I hope faster.

Miss the dogs already….


In NYC — boldly going

Welcome to my new blog. I know — who needs another boring blog to follow??? I thought I would do this rather than send all those pesky emails with photos attached. You all can keep track of our comings and goings when you want to — at your leisure.

We’re in NYC, doing a little last minute packing. Our flight to Italy is tonight. Apparently you have to take a redeye to Italy from JFK. We’re too old for overnight flights but we’ll make the most of it. The Goldbergs will be on board — they flew out from LA this morning, they’re going to be really exhausted. The Reisses  are flying out tonight too, but they’re going to Florence. We’ll meet them at the villa in Tuscany in a few days.

We had a perfect New York day yesterday: lunch at one of our favorite upper east side Italian restaurants — Centrolire, then drawings, photography and collage at the Metropolitan Museum. We ended the day with seeing Bill Charlap’s Trio at Dizzy’s Jazz Club. Dizzy’s wins the prize for the best location of a jazz club — overlooking Columbus Circle and Central Park. I’ll write again from Italy. Chow!