Monday, November 19, 2007

Sculpture of the Vatican Museums

On Sunday I had the opportunity to go into the Vatican Museums for the first time. Our good friends the DeBartolos (from the States), spent a wonderful 10 days visiting us and I went in with them. I've seen the Prado in Madrid and several other museums here in Rome but the Vatican Museum trumps them all. The massive amount of art inside really requires more than one day to visit, even for the casual observer. I've broken up the entries into various categories, so for this one I'll just show a sampling of some of the sculpture available.

This is a picture from the Egyptian section showing Egyptian statues. They are in a reconstructed model of Hadrian's villa, who had them displayed as part of his private collection.

Here's a state representing the Nile, from the 1st century AD.

The gallery of busts, one of the extensive galleries containing sculpture.

Ganymede, a Trojan Prince. Hellenistic era.

Nursing woman. Hellenistic Period.

I don't remember who this was, but I'm pretty sure it's Athena.

A bust of the god Janus.

The famous state of Laocoon and his sons, the statue that founded the Vatican Museums over 500 years ago.

Persius with the head of Medusa.

A statue of Mithras slaying the bull. This was probably my favorite one.


A lion killing a horse, although I'm not sure of any other particulars.

And lastly, the famous statue The Thinker.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Wonderful day in Siena

Yesterday we took a wonderful trip to Siena about 3 hrs North of Rome. Our friends the DeBartolo family are in town visiting us and this was the first time for all of us in Siena.

It looks like this fellow really wanted a parking spot.....

Unfortunately it was chilly and rainy, so we stopped into a bar to get a coffee.

Here's the town of Siena. Siena was originally an Etruscan settlement and has a long and rich history. It's name comes from a legend that it was founded by Senius, son of Remus. Its university is famous as a law and medical school, and the medieval nature of the town is still well preserved.

This is the Piazza del Campo, the main square. It is divided into 9 sections, one each for the 9 divisions that ruled Siena during the Middle Ages. It is also the site of the famous Palio, the horse race that has made Siena known worldwide.

Mom stopped in a ceramic shop to do some shopping.

Our first stop was the Cathedral. Completed in 1263, it is one of the few examples of Gothic architecture in Italy. It is made of black and white stone, Siena's symbolic colors.

A view of the left part of the facade, showing the mosaic the Coronation of the Virgin by Luigi Mussini.

A detail of the main arch, with a symbol of Christ, the rising sun.

The floor of the Cathedral is famous for its inlaid marble designs, and mosaics. Here is an enormous mosaic showing the symbols of various cities throughout Italy.

A view of the rose window. Dating from 1549, it is one of the earliest known examples of Italian stained glass.

The interior of the Cathedral. You can see the striking black and white columns.

The pulpit, the earliest sculpture in the Cathedral depicts scenes with the theme of Salvation and the Last Judgment. It is made of Carrara Marble and is octagonal in shape. It rests on 4 statues of lions, and a central pillar depicting Seven Liberal Arts and Philosophy.

Another view of the inlaid marble floor showing the slaughter of the Holy Innocents.

The chapel of St. John the Baptist, with a statue of St. John the Baptist in bronze, by Donatello.

The funerary monument of Fra Marco Zondadero, a Grand Master of the Knights of Malta.

The magnificent high altar.

A shot showing one of the black and white columns with the dome in the distance. The dome begins as a hexagon but morphs into a sphere near the top.

This is the ceiling of the Piccolomini Library off to the side of the Cathedral. It houses illuminated choir books by Pinturrichio. The frescoes tell the life of Pius II, a son of Siena.

One of the illuminated manuscripts.

The entire library walls had rows of these books, all extremely large, all beautiful.

Next was a lunch break, at a local pizzeria where we got two of these massive pizzas. Pictured are our friends the DeBartolos

Next stop was the church of St. Dominic, which was finished in the 14th century.

The main things to see in this church which was pretty austere are the head of St. Catherine of Siena...........

...and her finger.

The next church we visited, just as the sun came out was the church of San Francesco. This church is famous for hosting the Eucharistic Miracle of Siena.

This is the miracle I mentioned earlier. These are consecrated hosts that have remained intact for over 250 years. The full text can be read by going to this site, which is a must read, to understand this amazing story.

Our last stop of the day was the house where St. Catherine of Siena lived. Here is the church that has been built around it.

Inside the church is the original crucifix in front of which she received the stigmata.

This is one of the rooms of her home which has been totally remodeled and adorned with frescoes showing scenes of her life.

Mosaic Update

Another update on my mosaic course.....

First, here's a picture of me with my teacher Fabrizio.

I've finished up all the flesh of the mosaic I'm working on. Now I just need to do the veils of Baby Jesus and Our Lady, and the halos.

I also finished mounting the first design I worked on.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Olive Pressing

Today we went to a little mountain town outside of Rome to see the olives get pressed into olive oil. The little pressing operation we went to wasn't a mega operation, but rather a community press that the local farmers brought their olives to be pressed at. As such it used an older method for pressing, slightly more labor-intensive but less wasteful. When we entered the town, we could smell the olive oil several hundred yards away where we parked the car. It was amazing how powerful it was.

The first step in the process is dumping the collected olives in the main hopper.

From the hopper they travel up this chute which functions like an escalator.

Into this trough which tumbles them with water to remove the dirt and debris. The water drains away at the bottom.

While the clean olives get dumped into another hopper at the other end.

The olives are then ground, and transported using a screw up into the final hopper where they are pulverized by two large marble mill stones. This is the olive paste you see.

The olive paste is then transferred by another screw to a spreader machine that resembles a sausage stuffer. The spreader applies a layer of olive paste to these mats you see below. The mats are made out of plastic fibers so that the oil can be squeezed through but not the pits, skin, etc.

A man operates the spreader and layers mats on after each layer of paste has been applied, much like stacking pancakes .

This is a shot of a stack of mats and olive paste, ready to be pressed.

The stack is then wheeled over to one of the giant presses, which exerts up to 9 tons of pressure.

The stack of mats is in the press, getting pressed. The oil and water flow down into the tanks under the floor and are transferred to another portion of the room where a centrifuge spins the water out of the oil, separating the two. The water is then drained off, and the oil is passed through a filter to remove any remaining impurities.

The brilliant green oil is then piped into stainless steel or plastic jugs, ready for use.