Thursday, September 4, 2008

Painting for Posterity in Pisa

Since 1372, when the bell chamber was finally added at the topmost floor, the city of Pisa had gained worldwide fame for its leaning tower. After almost 700 years, the tower may be relegated to the background. A massive undertaking has begun that has roused the Pisans into a frenzy of activity and excitement that's so competitive, political pressure from local officials and the city's most prominent citizens have been exerted. A 1,700 square foot fresco, depicting the life of Pisa's beloved Saint Ranierus has generated an enormous rush of applicants for inclusion in the project that would immortalize their images for several centuries.

For several hundred years, the practice has always been to include rich and famous patrons into frescoes; and in the finest Italian tradition dating back to the Renaissance, Luca Battini - the 37 year old master painter - sought 100 prominent Pisans to model for the leading figures in the frescoes. He also held public castings for 150 extras who will appear lifesize in the work. However, his search for a midieval face created changes in the cast of characters, such that common people were given more prominent roles that dislodged some invited citizens. Battini had rejected many applicants 3 to 4 times, but they kept coming back begging for even a small part. Pressure is strong apparently because Pisans feel strongly about their Patron Saint, or perhaps, fell even more strongly about being included in the frescoes.

Saint Ranierus was born into Pisan nobility in 1117. He took a vow of poverty and journeyed to the Holy Land, returning to Pisa where he conducted his ministry. He was known to be performing miracles in Pisa during his lifetime. His remains can be seen in a crytal casket at the Cathedral of Saint Vito, which stands next to the leaning tower. Ironically, Saint Ranierus will be portrayed by a Pisan actor who appeared in many smoudering scenes for the advertising campaign of Barilla pasta. The acceptance by Pisans of this actor, Roberto Farnesi, is nothing short of a miracle.

But the task facing Luca Battini is formidable and he feels dwarfed in comparison to the great masters who portrayed the History of Italy and the story of the Renaissance. While he is used to mixing his colors the way it was done 700 years ago - painstakingly grinding powder on a large block of slate and making his own canvass from linen and glue - frescoes are a different story altogether. The paints will be mixed with water and applied to a wet, fresh, thin layer of lime mortar or plaster. The pigments are absorbed as the plaster dries. The images will appear while the plaster is wet, but it is work under pressure. The warm climate will allow Luca Battini to paint each small section of the wall in only an hour before the plaster begins to set. The painting must be accurate and exact, since the colors take on different shades as the plaster dries. If mistakes are made, the section must be axed from the wall. This type of painting work separates the masters from the pretenders.

The frescoes will be divided into 8 enormous themes across the entire wall of the Church of Saint Vito. Luca Battini will use all of the ancient skills he learned on this most ambitious project he has ever embarked on, perhaps the most ambitious work of art Italy has seen in 200 years. Those who will be included may gain some measure of immortality, if global warming does not demolish the frescoes in a decade or two.

But perhaps the best thing about this project is that it is not about King Solomon. Otherwise, Silvio Berlusconi would force his inclusion as the lead character. But the 700 wives and 300 concubines of Solomon may be outnumbered by the women that Berlusconi would have to include in the frescoes.



Kim said...

this is indeed a massive undertaking for the artist Durano..
I'm looking forward to seeing the end result....

Jena Isle said...

Hats off Durano, wala akong masabi,(I'm amazed beyond words)'re so knowledgeable. I have never known these facts. It's always a learning process to read your posts. Thanks for sharing.

I have pm you at your dashboard for your question.

All the best.

The Immortal said...

It was an interesting post on the methods used by the Renaissance masters together with the guts of this painter to attempt such a huge fresco project. But why was Berlusconi suddenly inserted in the post?

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hello Kim,

It is going to be a tough undertaking that Battini has estimated to take three years.

Aside from the problem of the actual fresco itself, he has to contend with the pressures from the populace who seem to have their own ideas of how the life of the saint should be portrayed; plus the funding for the project.

I hope it's completed by the time I revisit Italy. But it would be okay if it's not, as I might get a chance to be included. LOL!

Thanks for the visit. :-) --Durano, done!

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Jenaisle,

Thanks again for the visit and the kind words.

The whole internet is loaded with facts and information we can all learn from and it actually levels the playing field where learning is concerned.

I am just one of the eyewitnesses among billions perhaps, who scour several sources to research and then inject my own take on the story. The current facts are from the news sources and wire agencies, but the background must still be looked into to add flavor to the post.

My conclusions and/or analysis are based on these facts and background. But I'm glad to know that learning is being advanced. I just don't want to rant and rave based on shallow information or ignorance - that would be a dangerous method. LOL!

In the political scene, lots of blogs are of this type, who swallow propaganda and disinformation simply because it appeals to their narrow minded interests and esoteric pursuits; then mouth the same thing as if it were gospel truth. :-) --Durano, done!

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Immortal,

Thanks for the visit and the perceptive comment.LOL!

I just so happens that the location is in Italy and the current top official of the country is Berlusconi, who is known for his womanizing ways. I just needed something to spit about...he he he.

I would do a similar thing if a mural was being set up in France and include Sarkozy too if I had the chance - this time on his penchant for trophy women. :-) --Durano, done!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

You've been awarded the Brilliant Blog Award!

Zhu said...

I really hope Berlusconi won't be included!

What's next otherwise? Bush at Mt Rushmore??? :D

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi "r",

This is a pleasant surprise! Thank you very much for naming me one of the recipients for this award.

I will visit your site to take a look at the requirements that go with it. :-) --Durano, done!

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Zhu,

Bush at Mount Rushmore? I hope the whole thing falls off. LOL!

There's a report going around that Silvio Berlusconi has an insatiable appetite for women. He won't however, be able to match the Nigerian with 80 plus wives and 176 children.:-)--Durano, done!

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