Saturday, January 31, 2015

Baroque Splendor in Rome : Chiesa Sant' Ignazio




CHURCH HUNTING (for art) IN ROME

When I think of the Renaissance, I think of Florence. Rome brings to mind the ancient world and the Baroque. The Chiesa Sant' Ignazio Loyola is a triumph of Baroque architecture and art and to it say pulls out all the stops does not even begin to explain its grandeur. I question whether there is a square  inch of space in the interior that is not carved, gilded, painted or decorated in some fashion. The scale of the interior is monumental, yet it is not heavy in feel, rather it is uplifting. At times these large churches and cathedrals are designed to dominate us with their imposing size and power, but I never feel that here, rather, I am mesmerized by the frescoed ceiling.



The soaring  frescoed ceiling of the nave and apse of Sant'Ignazio  are a masterpiece of perspective
by the artist Andrea Pozzo.  Standing directly beneath it you see it from one point of view, walk to the center of he church aisle, turn and walk slowly back to the point beneath it, you will see that it changes.  Note the painted corner columns and the figures, as you draw closer , the artist is manipulating what we see with his use of perspective and cast shadows. It is stunning....and hurts the brain a little!




 Clouds and sky appear as you stand below. The figures seemingly continue to ascend beyond the confines of the physical building. Just look at everyone flying around, there is nothing static here, it's wild and without restraint.



The Jesuit church was designed by a jesuit mathematician Orazio Grassi  ( with Carlo Maderno) in 1626 to celebrate the canonization of Sant'Ignatius Loyola. Artist Andrea Pozzo was commissioned to paint The Triumph of St. Ignatius on the ceiling of the church, as well as paint a trompe l'oeil  cupola and dome, for funds had run out to construct a dome. Again, like Pozzo's fresco, the dome is a remarkable example of trompe l'oeil, or fool the eye. The dome is painted on flat canvas that is 17m across. From given points of view, a three dimensional interior of a dome comes into being, walk away and peer back and it collapses.
How did he do this???
No need for 3-D glasses here, it's all for the naked eye to see.




At times it is difficult to separate reality from painting. This is Baroque theatre at some of its finest, although Rome does offer many opportunities to witness Baroque splendor and drama, this remains on our list of must see Baroque churches, although there are a few others that tromp this one, but I will save those for another post. A hint though....Bernini and Borromini are the architects.

Back to the story... In comparison to Sant' Ignazio is The Gesu, also a Jesuit church which provides similar theatre, and is not too far from Sant' Ignazio. The Baroque is always pushing outside of the confines of a frame or here the confines or walls and ceiling, it knows no bounds.



The angel ( in red) appears to be suspended in air, and I suppose with wings that is possible, yet one foot rests on a wall.... or appears to anyway. This is a 3-D mind teaser. It is hard to remember this is all paint and we are at the mercy of this playful artists hand - where does the real stop  and the art begin. It can be quite perplexing and all the while astonishing.

Then, when you just cannot look up any longer, step out the front doors and into the Piazza di Sant' Ignazio for a continuation of Baroque theatre.



James and I both agree that this is one of our favorite piazzas in Rome, The Baroque-Rocco buildings were also commissioned by the Jesuits about one hundred years after the church. They are elegant with their convex and concave facades creating visual movement. Again, the Baroque is always a lively dance.




All this is a terrific experience, but our necks ache from all the looking up and our brains are full from thinking about Pozzo's mind-boggling use of perspective games. Is it time to sit down for coffee,James say yes!
Caffe Sant' Eustachio is close by. Ready to eat? Armando al Pantheon is probably out since we didn't reserve. A coffee first, then a walk over to Orso 80 for antipasti. or better yet, some quick shopping at Campo dei Fiori market and head home for lunch. Perfect!










Sunday, January 18, 2015

A Postcard From New Hampshire




Mid January can be really dreary. There are days when the cloud cover creates a gray landscape without a hint of color to delight our eyes.
But, there are days, usually cold, that the clarity of the azure blue skies allows the sun to shine brightly down to the earth adding color to the landscape. These are the days, that despite the cold, are beautiful with the sun low in the sky, the trees cast long blue violet shadows across the light snow cover.
Soon the apple trees will be pruned in preparation for the spring blossoms and late summer apples.

Best wishes everyone as we look to spring.


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year 2015 ... from New Hampshire


May the New Year bring joy, good health, peace, and prosperity to all.
Thank you for following along with us here at home in New Hampshire and our adopted "home" of Panicale, Italy, in our search for art, food, wine and gardens on both sides of the ocean.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

FELICE ANNO NUOVO!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

ITALY NOTEBOOKS




Italy Notebooks
Elizabeth Johansson Aponovich
oil on canvas, 16" x 13"


James and I had to wait to travel, due to many things  that include time, money, family, work and other obstacles that life threw in our path. I suppose when it comes to those things we are not unlike most people. When we finally had the opportunity to travel, it was to Italy in the mid 1990's, James was asked to do a painting with an Italian landscape. It was with good fortune that I , along with our daughter were able to join  him. It didn't take long before we fell in love with Italy.

We had  no expectations and very little time to plan and prepare for the  first trip, so, when a decade later we once again were able to travel to Italy, we planned the trip carefully, and learned some Italian which on the first trip we were completely ignorant about.

I began to keep notebooks. The pages of these blank notebooks start to fill long before we step onto a transatlantic flight. James and I plan out the places we hope to visit and from there the journey begins.....on paper.




Knowing the opening and closing times of places in Italy is important if you do not want to find a locked door at a church that holds a masterpiece that you have traveled an hour to see. We sadly learned this after finding a few locked doors ourselves. Although, just because you arrive at a place at a posted open time, don't be surprised if there is no entry allowed due to the fact that the church or museum  floor  is being waxed, or there is a film crew inside! That has happened to us on more than one occasion.

There is much about food in these notebooks, along with art, food is at the top of our list when we are in Italy ( I could say it is always at the top of our list). If I read about a good restaurant or osteria from a reliable source, or someone recommends a place where they had a delicious meal I always make note of it.




I always carry a notebook and a sketchbook, as does James, and sometimes they are one and the same.
Ideas of things seen are sketched in. I  made this quick sketch while at the garden of Villa Aurelia, a grand garden that is on the grounds of The American Academy in Rome. A large grid pattern with alternating lemon trees was in a large open courtyard just outside the villa.
This idea came back with us to our New Hampshire garden where we used a similar grid with boxwood....heartier for a New England climate. James began  constructing this  new garden, known as the "Aurelian Garden", at our house in New Hampshire. Keep in mind it was was exactly one month prior to our garden being part of the Garden Conservancy Open Days, I said, " Don't start something you can't finish." Well, he did complete it, with the help of his brother , about 24 hours before the tour visitors arrived!
So much for ideas sketched in a notebook!



Winters are for reading, often about places we plan to visit. We select an artist to follow, this notebook prepared us for the Benozzo Gozzoli trail, which took us to
 places like Montefalco (Umbria), San Gimignano and Florence. Italy provides us with the unique opportunity to see a fresco or painting that is in situ, or in the place where the artist painted it, such as a chapel. Gozzoli frescoed the walls of the Medici chapel ( in the Medici Riccardi Palazzo), Florence. The story of The Procession of the Magi  (1459) is breathtaking and to stand there studying it, under the same ceiling where it was painted is a remarkable experience. The chapel, tiny yet made so exquisite by the masterful eye and hand of this gifted Renaissance artist.
Without my notebook, we may have missed it, walked right past the Palazzo, or worse yet, gone on its closing day!




Olive Trees, Panicale
Elizabeth Johansson Aponovich
watercolor on paper

We often spend our days in Panicale, drawing and painting, marketing, cooking and eating.
See, as I told you, food always gets into the picture!
This watercolor sketch Olive Trees, Panicale, a hillside orchard, often filled with sheep, that is visible from where we stay.
The pages of my notebook also contain short essays about this enchanting place and it's people.
It's a love story.



Piazza Margherita, Panicale
Elizabeth Johansson Aponovich
pencil on paper

I am captivated by these buildings and this view, I think I have drawn it three or four times, and James has as well. I drew this a few years ago and I still have distinct memory of drawing the place....the buildings, the wires, the cast shadows from the roof, the landscape in the distance.....the things I drew and the things left out.


 The Italian Lesson....
As I said, our first visit to Italy left us literally speechless. We did not know or understand a word of Italian, so we missed out on a lot of things. We spend hours trying to get a bus from Florence to Lucca because of the language barrier......shame on us.
So now, during the winter months we study Italian and when we are in Umbria we have also taken classes and last year dear Katia gave us lessons. in Panicale, people often kindly correct us or teach us new words and phrases.....very helpful.
All this goes into notebooks and hopefully our brains!



 Vendita Diretta
We kept seeing a sign with these words, Vendita Diretta. I wrote it down and asked what it meant......'To Buy Direct', as in wine, olive oil, pecorino,  directly from the farm or vineyard. Now, we know and we stop at places with this sign to purchase wine and cheese. Fun!



 OK., so here it is the  2015 Italy Notebook...................
what will I fill it with? I already have a few restaurants and a agriturismo to enter on to its pages.




Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Simple Pleasures of a Farm Stand.....


It's harvest time here in New Hampshire. I can't help but think that it is nature's way of not only providing a feast of food for our plates, but also a great burst of color that is a feast for the eyes. As we slide into the monochromatic gray of winter the autumn colors fade in to all but our memories.




One of our favorite farm stands is Lull Farm in Hollis, New Hampshire. James and I have been going there for decades, I dare say. When our daughter was in kindergarten I went on an apple picking field trip with  her class to Lull Farm. Her bag of apples had as many apple leaves as it did apples and before we could eat them, those leaves with apples attached became the subject for one of James' paintings.
In June, I would take Ana strawberry picking, she loves strawberries, so James would joke that they should weigh her before and after and charge us for the amount she ate while in the field. All the many strawberries that made it to her mouth instead of the box. " They look so good!" she would say to excuse herself.
Like the tomatoes grown here in the summer, the variety of apples grown here is amazing, from the classics to wonderful heirlooms. Thanks, Farmer Dave!


These rows of sunflowers remind us of  similar scenes in Umbria and Tuscany.....but we learned that sunflowers are indigenous to the USA.




It was a surprise to see Romanesco broccoli filling  baskets here as I had never seen this crop outside of Italy. When in Rome, we shop at the Campo dei Fiori open air market for our vegetables, and often find things we don't find here in New England.


Today, at the farm stand a head of Romanesco goes into my shopping basket.  James has an idea for a pasta dish that will feature this crazy looking  head of broccoli, or is it cauliflower....supported by garlic, anchovies, swiss chard, red pepper flakes all tossed in our superb Umbrian olive oil.
Perfect.....we like big flavor! We add garlic and swiss chard to the basket, and suddenly we have dinner for tonight. This is our kind of fun!



In Rome, zucchini flowers are a common sight at the Campo dei  Fiori market (above) in the late spring, fried and stuffed they are heavenly. This is one of those recipes we have not yet  fully conquered, but if they are on a restaurant menu we always order them. Maybe next summer I will find zucchini flowers here at the farm.




  Meanwhile, back here in New Hampshire...... Bushel baskets filled with white sweet potatoes, Japanese yams, classic yams, garnet yams....who knew?
So many farm grown varieties to choose from, all the vegetables and fruits with so many named varieties, it really is hard to choose, and for us easy to fill our basket so full that my arm is aching and I must hand it over to James. Why didn't we take a cart?  Anyways, on our last shopping trip we bought two types of yams and used them along with other root vegetables with a roasted chicken, our Sunday dinner. Since we cook each day it is easy for James and I to sample all these wonderful gifts of the harvest.......a simple pleasure.


But beyond food, the harvest also supplies these classic pumpkins.


Pumpkins that soon will be transformed into Jack-O-Lanterns for
All- Hallows-Eve.
 Before we get to Halloween, let's look at the amazing variety of pumpkins that  call out to us, the reds, orange, tan, and green pumpkins, mind boggling! Pumpkins with stripes and pumpkins with warts. Pumpkins big and pumpkins small, even sugar pumpkins for pies.
Really, how does one choose?








.....and then there is this way-too-big- monster of a pumpkin!



When you think you have found the perfect pumpkin, "Wait! don't pick it up by it's stem!".....didn't anyone ever tell you that!!!!

Back to Halloween for a moment and a few facts before we start eating the candy. Halloween proceeds the Christian holy day named All Saints Day, a day to remember dead Saints ( I didn't know there were any living saints). Some speculate that this day originated as a Celtic pagan feast to honor the dead and perhaps a harvest celebration as well.

The Christian All Saints Day was a time of abstinence from meat. People dined on apples, squash, potato pancakes, fruits and vegetables in general as well as soul cakes.

"A soul, a soul, a soul cake
Please good Missis a soul cake
An apple, a pear, a plum, a cherry
Any good thing to make us all merry"

A traditional song  for the day following All- Hallows -Eve.
( remember Peter, Paul and Mary's version?)


 The eve of All Saints Day, Halloween is the delightful and spooky, every child's dream holiday given
the chance to dress up as a ghost or princess, a pirate or a cat perhaps. It is a magical day filled with imagination, wonder, candy and carved pumpkins.
A simple pleasure is choosing the perfect pumpkin to take home for that all important Jack-O-Lantern that will sit on the porch  lit up to greet all  of those costumed trick-or-treaters that will come a knocking on the door on Halloween.




ENJOY and SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL FARMER and FARM STAND

Oh! and yes,
HAPPY HALLOWEEN!


live free and farm 


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Garden In October Sun


I often get asked if I would like to have a greenhouse, so that I would be able to garden throughout the year.  When I see greenhouses kept by other gardeners I must admit in the cold of February it is nice to enter and see things growing.




I like the notion of a greenhouse, but I have to say no, I really do not want a greenhouse.
James and I both agree that we enjoy gardening in spring, summer and into the fall, but then it is over for a year.
Benches and pots get put away or covered. Hoses are coiled and stored away with tools in the shed. The gardens get cleaned up and cut back once the plants have spent all their energy for the season.



This year October has been beautiful and there has not been a frost yet, so I am still able to cut small bouquets for the house. Extending the garden season this late into October is a treat, but soon a frost will bring an end to the nasturtiums, and the other tender plants.
The lemon trees have returned to their sunny place in the house and the figs will find a dark place in the basement to spend the winter. 



Most of the geraniums and begonias are inside, and will be repotted and put back in the garden next season.


There are still a variety of herbs, parsley, sage, chives, thyme and tarragon, in the garden, and one or another get used on a daily basis in our kitchen.  An omelette  we made for lunch today made good use of the chives and tarragon. The rosemary came back into the atrium yesterday. Pots of herbs are kept in our kitchen window to use over the winter and I will plant paper whites and amaryllis......thats about the extend of our winter gardening.
But, if we did have a greenhouse, think of the guilt factor, we would spend far too much time in there and our studios would be vacant!



With winter coming closer and the days growing shorter and darker here in New Hampshire it is time to close up the garden and spend more time in our studios
This is the view from my studio window.....not a bad place to spend the winter.


 Our days will now be spent in our studios and when early darkness falls we will be in the kitchen cooking and yes we will think about next seasons garden.













Monday, October 13, 2014

A POSTCARD FROM NEW HAMPSHIRE






Last evening, as the sun was setting the top of the Shagbark Hickory was highlighted by the sun.
It is quite a grand tree, it reminds me of a tree in a George Inness painting.
Well, anyways, just a look at some of the autumn color here in New Hampshire on this Columbus Day.