Why the classical world was attractive to Europe in the fifteenth century

 

Prometheus
Traditionally attributed to Anthony van Dyck (Antwerp 1599-London 1641) Prometheus and the Eagle early 17th century (detail). Oil on canvas, 1100 x 1610mm. Galleria Corsini, Florence.

 

The oldest paintings from the Corsini Collection currently on display are by Giovanni Santi and date from the late 1400s. They feature the Olympian god Apollo and three of the Muses. Other paintings on display also feature subjects drawn from Greek mythology, such as del Mazziere’s panel based on the Roman poet Ovid’s account in his Metamorphoses, and Rombouts’ confronting image of Prometheus and the Eagle.  At the time that they were painted, these images were being made by artists for patrons who were also commissioning paintings of more traditional Christian subject matter, portraits, and genre scenes.

So why was the classical world attractive to Europe in the fifteenth century? Perhaps some answers can be found in a closer examination of these paintings.

Santi’s paintings of Apollo and the Muses were once part of a larger decorative cycle commissioned by the Duke of Urbino for one of two small ‘temples’ within the ducal palace. The other ‘temple’ was the Duke’s private chapel, and this proximity of Christian and pagan imagery is revealing. Together the two spaces make manifest the Duke’s spirituality, his learning, and the importance of the balance between the active and contemplative life for a ruler.

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Exhibition: A Window on Italy – The Corsini Collection: Masterpieces from Florence featuring works by Giovanni Santi The Muses circa 1480-90. Florence, Galleria Corsini.

 

Ovid’s Metamorphoses was a popular source of subject matter for Renaissance artists in Italy. Here, del Mazziere has depicted the tales of Apollo and Daphne and Narcissus in the one panel. We see Daphne changing into a laurel tree in order to escape Apollo’s attention, and Narcissus lying dead by the pool – the victim of his own vanity. The artist is clearly captivated by the idea of profane, rather than sacred, love and uses the tales of Ovid to warn of the dangers of unrequited love.

VASARI ATTRIBUITO A DONNINO ANDREA - Scena mitologica
Antonio di Donnino del Mazziere (Florence late 15th century-1547) Mythological Scene (Fables of Apollo, Daphne and Narcissus) early 1520s. Oil and gold on board, 300 x 430mm. Florence. Galleria Corsini.

The warnings of Greek myth was also used as a subject by Rombouts in his depiction of Prometheus, the Titan who stole fire from the gods on Mount Olympus and gave it to humans. For this transgression he was punished by Zeus and his fate was to have his liver torn out by an eagle (the emblem of Zeus). But his wounds healed overnight, and so this torture was repeated daily until he was rescued by Heracles, the son of Zeus.

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A Landmark Vehicle for Alfa Romeo

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As drivers and fans of Alfa Romeo, the second vehicle in the new line-up is pivotal to the renaissance of the Alfa Romeo brand. A brand that is synonymous with Italian motoring Heritage ……. Design ……. Style and…….Performance.

Every model built, is built to deliver beautiful, inspirational and a human-centric driving experience. Each model is more than just a machine, it is the symbol of an underlying technological quest and engineering evolution, the uncompromising excellence, the symbol that is Made In Italy. Alfa Romeo is not just a brand for the Car Enthusiast, it is the archetypal drivers’ vehicle.

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The 1900 Berlina was the first car in Alfa’s history to be built without a separate chassis.

Over 100 years of Italian Racing heritage is hard to ignore. So it wasn’t!

Stelvio is a landmark vehicle as the first ever Alfa Romeo SUV. It follows on closely from the award-winning Giulia as the second vehicle in the Alfa Romeo line up to be built using the groundbreaking Giorgio platform.

Anyone who has had the opportunity to drive the Giulia can attest that the vehicle is truly something special with its dynamic handling and performance that goes hand in hand with styling and design that Alfa Romeo is renowned for.

The Stelvio does not stray from this. Power with balance makes a car feel alive and the driver feel the same way. These principles have made the Stelvio the first SUV worthy of an Alfa Romeo badge. But it is how it feels behind the wheel that makes it truly an Alfa Romeo.

The Giulia Quadrifoglio led Alfa Romeo’s resurgence as it confirmed it’s performance credentials by setting the current lap record for a production sedan around the Nur-burg-ring.

The Stelvio Quadrifoglio, with its 2.9-litre twin turbo V6, has followed suit by also setting the current Nur-burg-ring lap record for the SUV category.

 

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Alfa Romeo’s new Stelvio

 

Stelvio truly is a functional SUV for the active lifestyle that still has the balance and poise to make it truly an Alfa Romeo.

Stelvio marks a pivotal moment in the history of Alfa Romeo as it re-establishes itself as a benchmark automotive brand for design and performance.

As aptly put by Ralph Gilles, head of design at Alfa Romeo. “If you own one of these cars, you’re automatically different from everybody and you’re also a little more passionate, you have a little more zest for life.”

Alfa Romeo and Barbagallo are partners of A Window on Italy – The Corsini Collection: Masterpieces from Florence and have kindly provided the AGWA Alfa to help us celebrate the international exhibition.

Keep an eye out for the AGWA Alfa and if you see it, snap a pic and share it with us by #CorsiniCollection.  You’ll automatically go in the draw to win some great prizes.

Visit our partner’s page at barbagallo.com.au

Tom Moore and that Pyrotechnic puffer fish

studio portrait

It was Tom Moore’s meticulous attention to detail and execution of a unique concept that captured the attention and votes of the Tom Malone Prize judges this year. We talk to Tom Moore about his award-winning piece the Pyrotechnic puffer fish and the challenges facing glass artistry.

Tell us how you came to the idea of the Pyrotechnic puffer fish?

puffer cup

I have been researching how the wider cultural context of Renaissance Italy influenced the kinds of glass objects that were produced and the social functions and meanings of these objects.

During the 16th-century, objects displaying the fine network of white glass lines such as in these goblet-bowls were thought to be imbued with miraculous properties and were collected in cabinets of curiosity alongside specimens of unicorn horn and pufferfish. I saw one of these pufferfish in a Museum in Florence and could not get it out of my head. It seemed weirdly aware of its placement in the collection. This species has an extremely satisfying form to translate and inflate as hot glass.

Renaissance glassmakers were closely aligned with alchemists. The transformation of sand and plant-ash into glass through the intense heat of the furnace was regarded as a marvellous demonstration of human ingenuity and virtuous artifice. The burning match is intended as a reminder of the pyrotechnic nature of this material.  The absurd drinking vessel in the form of a bent funnel refers to laboratory apparatus and to a rich tradition of trick-glasses that were surprising to look at and intentionally difficult to use. The position of the pufferfish as oversized stems adds to the joke.

It’s a very detailed and beautiful piece of work. How long from conception to completion did this project take and were there any challenges along the way?

It is difficult to calculate the amount of time taken to complete complex objects such as these because there are several processes involved over several weeks. Designing the work and preparing all the parts takes many hours. I complete a full-scale drawing that is meticulously planned.  Coloured and clear glass is combined and stretched to make patterned rods. These are used to create the fine patterned lines within the blown forms, and all the small parts: eyes, fins, teeth, match and flame. The final forming of the parts requires an assistant. All in all these works took approximately 30 hours including the assistant.

There is a certain amount of risk involved in working on forms for such prolonged periods. The glass must be re-heated every couple of minutes or it will crack, but it must not be over-heated or it will melt. It is attached to metal rods while it is being worked and these must be kept turning.

Bending the funnel is a risky moment. After focussing heat on the long skinny neck it becomes difficult to control and after bending it is off-centred which makes the constant turning awkward. Putting the dentures into the fishes mouths is a fussy step and I only get one shot to stick them in the right place.

You’ve taken on the challenge of achieving a carbon neutral art practise. Tell us a bit more about this and is it something that glass artists should be using?

As a contemporary artist who has the privilege of continuing to practice a traditional pyrotechnic craft, I feel compelled to address the issues of climate change and environmental degradation.

 

Tom Moore blowing glassI know that there is an inherent contradiction in making objects that overtly display their complicity in continuing to create these problems. I also believe that this contradiction adds to the communicative potential of glass artworks.  I decided that I could not justify continuing to make objects that seek to navigate my concerns without offsetting 150% of the own carbon impact of making. This is a tricky issue to speak about, I don’t feel I can say my colleagues should be minimising and offsetting their carbon impact, however, my own experience has shown that calculating and offsetting an art practice is surprisingly achievable.

This is not the first time you’ve been awarded the Tom Malone Prize. What do you enjoy about the exhibition and will we see another project from you in the next one!

It is very gratifying to have work shortlisted for this prize so that it can sit amongst its peers. It is a great honour to have my work selected twice for inclusion in the permanent collection at AGWA, this helps the audience to appreciate the breadth of an individual art practice and how it evolves over time. I am pleased that some traditional Venetian decorative techniques and references to the historical forms of the goblet and scientific labware are now part of the growing collection.

The wider collection of winners is a unique record of the Australian glassmaking community. I am very grateful to the sponsors of the Tom Malone Prize for giving this group of specialised makers the impetus to strive toward ambitious works.  I am certain that I will continue to participate in this important national survey exhibition.

View the Tom Malone Prize exhibition before it closes 28 May.

To view more of Tom Moore’s work visit his official page.

Images courtesy of the artist Tom Moore.