Friday, July 30, 2010


My evaluation was with Merit at 9:20. We both did fantastic. Merit got A plus all the way. She is an amazing girl. I did fine too. I got three A pluses and two A grades. My two little assignments were A grades, but I am so pleased to have A plus for my presentation as well as my participation and attendance. I also did the bonus assignment so will score 5% back as well. Yeah ME!!!

Merit helped me get to this pro bike shop that Cuylar would just love. How ever the fellow there did not sell me the medium Rabo Bank Team Kit as he felt it was too big for him and he is big and modeled the top for me so I would understand. He wanted a small for Cuylar and they did not have one. I will have to order on line. The sales man was a past national team member here at a young age so I assume when he was a junior or Espoir (spelling). I told him about Cuylar's accident and he goes; is his scar like this....and pulled his shirt off his shoulder. Crazy, on the right shoulder his collar bone was repaired with plates and pins as a result from a bike crash, just like Cuylar so he gave me some advise to pass along to you son. Sit still and keep your elbow bent so your hand rests on your left shoulder, you should sling it in this position as it will lesson the scaring. He truly believes his scar is larger due to his not listening to rest it like that for at least three weeks, even six and no lifting or athletic stuff. He has quite a scare and felt you would be thankful if you do this treatment to avoid loosening and stretching anything around that plate for the next while.

I did get a few things from that shop and then we went back by bus to our certificate ceremony. This was fun and sad. We all cried when we were saying good bye. It was something. Lots of emotion. Europeans kiss three times on the cheeks as well so you can imagine the hugs, kissing and tears. Finally our instructor got us out of the room and we continued in the front lobby. It was hard. You really make some special bonds in a months time. I want to travel to see the girls in their home countries and meet their moms. It was funny when Emily from New York said yeah come bring your daughter and we will bring our mom for you.....guess I know who will hang out with who. That would be super, I hope it can happen.

I found my way to my hotel with my load of luggage. I need to make better habits in this department and then I went and bought more. I know I am missing my family and I just want to buy them so much! So I shopped around the older part of Utrecht til my feet ached. Stores close at five and that is when I came to my hotel. It is not the same out there. I am like a lost puppy. I may just stay put tonight. I will eat here at the hotel dinning room and relax in my room. I bought my train ticket already and will leave for the airport in Amsterdam just before 11:00 a.m., it only takes a half hour so I will be there three hours before my flight leaves at 2:40p.m. In many ways I can not believe the class and travel time has ended, but at the same time I am glad to go home, it is too long to be away and I have much to do at home, including two short essays for our instructor at U of S. I think truly that if Kieth could have seen the work, dedication, participation and quality of scholarship this group has exhibited he would understand that there is no need to ask for further assignments. He can be super proud of the young people (old students too) that represented the U of S here in Florence and Utrecht. They are top notch and deserve to be graded as such.

Well that is enough for now. I hope to talk to Malcolm and Cuylar tonight so I will be hanging out in the lobby for a while. But, it is dinner time so I may go and order my evening meal.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


This morning was my presentation, I was concerned about the time limit. I hardly remember it. I hope I emphasized my points, but it is a blur. Then nine of us traveled to Delft to the Porseleynen Fles, to see the Delft Blue porcelain that began here in 1615. It was fun to get out with out an assignment to do. We enjoyed the museum and observed a lady hand painting a plate and saw the workshops. Only two men were working. It was easy to understand the process, it is interesting that everything is made by hand just as it was in the 17th Century, well granted, the Kilns are more impressive and the power helps. Then we went about town. There is a great shopping area and town square. There was a huge market going on. I looked for wooden shoes for Lukas but his size was not there. I have only tomorrow after evaluations to shop. That is how I will spend my last day in Utrecht.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


I am tired of museums. It was a good feeling stepping into our last one today. We had a lecture in the morning and then went to the Catherijneconvent and the Centraal Museum after lunch. The first one had more religious content in the images, but of course with added Dutchism. In the second museum we focused on the artist here that painted like Caravaggio. It was nice to stay in Utrecht. I did a bit of shopping after the museums.

I finished up my presentation and started packing for the trip home. Cuylar did have his operation today, but I had to go to bed not knowing how things went. This morning (Thurs. July 29) I am glad to report that he said on twitter that it was a success and that he is sore and nausiated which is to be expected. Pray no infections set in and that he is indeed on the way to a quick recovery.

Today is presentation day, I will blog about it later.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Tuesday, July 27. Happy Birthday Cuylar. I am writing this Wed. morning before class. Cuylar was to have his operation Tues. but I now know that he was bumped til today, Wed. So another day of waiting and not knowing how things are progressing with his injuries. He is eating well and Sara, the race director's wife, has been dressing and cleaning the wound on his back. All seems to be good so far. No infection or left over bits of glass. They had to clean the wound of shards from the windshield so it needs to be checked. I am very thankful for Sara.

We had a lively debate in class in regards to the three ways to approach Dutch Art: Symbolic meanings in the images, visual culture, or with a blank canvas for your own experience. I was on the third team and participated a lot, so I hope I sounded intelligent. It was the first debate I had participated in with peers. I do get nervous in those situations. In the end it was fun and a better way to understand the approaches than a lecture.

We went to Haarlem for the afternoon to the Frans Hals Museum. Most of the collection was behind locked doors as they are renovating. This seems to be the theme, like in Saskatoon, they all wake up in July and begin construction jobs that interrupt everyone's plans. There is actually a lot of large construction jobs going on in Holland, which is surprising as the economy is tanking and there are no jobs. Back to the museum. Haarlem itself is an interesting town. But as most Dutch towns closes their shops by 5 or 6 o'clock, thus we did not spend longer there to explore because our museum lectures were not done till 5:30. The Frans Hals are definitely worth a trip to Haarlem. I think he was 200 years before his time with those broad brush strokes and fantastic gestures. I will return to this town hopefully one day to see the rest of the collection and visit the shops and sit in the town square for a Koffie. After we returned to Utrecht, Nicole and I bought cheese cake slices as it is her Dad's birthday and Cuylar's as well, it turned out that it is Danielle's birth mom's birthday too, so we sang Happy Birthday to them and ate the cake for dessert.

Today is Wed. our lecture and two museum tours are here in Utrecht. Tonight will be refinement on my presentation and I best practice, as I will get cut off at the seven minute time limit. That will be a challenge for me.

Monday, July 26, 2010

SKYPE AT 6:00 A.M.

Monday morning, July 26 at 6:00 my s
Skype rings. It is Cuylar. It was late Sunday evening at home, July 25. He called Malcolm at the same time to let us know he was in a terrible accident. He was hit by a car in an intersection while turning through it on his bike. The light was green for both of them. He was back in his flat after a long haul at the hospital. He received a cat scan and they found his clavical to be broken. It is nasty. He also has a laceration on his back which they closed with 27 stitches. He said a fire truck and ambulance came and there were lots of bystanders. Most thought he was dead. He thinks he was conscious the entire time. He knows he could have died the way he was hit. The vehicle's windshield was completely smashed out. His bike is in a 'million' pieces, keep in mind it retails for $10,000. I literally broke out in a sweat as I listened to him tell me the details. I thought of him all day. Who will help him manage, dress, wash his hair, etc? Thanks to everyone who sent notes to lesson my worries. He will need an operation to get the collar bone plated and pinned. This is scheduled for his birthday, Tuesday, July 27.

I had a good scream on the way to class. After the morning lecture we went on to the Hague. There we went to the Mauritshuis Museum which houses the Vermeer masterpieces - 'The Pearl Earring." Our teacher was late and confused as she bought us tickets to Haarlem. I understand this happens, but it set us a half hour later and effected our museum experience. I was disappointed as I did not see the 'Young Vermeer' collection nor Rembrandt's, 'The Anatomy Lesson.' I should have been a naughty student and during the group discussions over our assigned paintings and sneaked off into those salons. OOOOOOh, I will keep it on my list for my return trip or maybe trips. I do like this place.

Most of us selected our paintings today and I will do 'the wedding couple' by Frans Hals, I did not speak early enough for 'The Merry Drinker'. It is alright as it is Frans' technique I wish to talk about, not necessarily a certain painting.

After supper with the other dorm-mates from Sask. I went to my room and did home work research about my painting. I managed to go to bed by 11:30.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


"The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature, and God! Feb. 17, 1944, Anne Frnak

I traveled alone today to Kinderdijk. As always I am never really alone. I really loved my trip. Merit and I decided last night that I should take the bus number 135 from the train station. I went to get my ticket and the person thought I should take the train to Rotterdam, before you know it I had a ticket and no idea of my next step. She was helpful as she game me a print out of the second train to take but did not know my bus connection. It was funny because I was sitting on the train for Rotterdam when Merit comes on and says hi to me. It was good to see her for I had second thoughts as to the new route I was now on. Merit was going to church in Rotterdam. She is an angel and she helped me find my way to the platform in Rotterdam. I then went to Rotterdam Lombardijen and there was NO ONE there. The information desk was closed on Sundays and I looked around but it seemed that Bonnie Conly was the only one on earth. There were no coffee shops or businesses. I saw the bus stop but was really unsure. I went back to the info desk to check posters for schedules, I later knew I wasted time as I ended up missing my bus and waited an hour for the next one. Eventually I ventured out to see what I could make of this place and soon a gal came along. She could speak enough English to help me get to the Kinderdijk bus stop. Bus 90. That was another choice I had from Utrecht to ride the bus about 2 hours to Kinderdijk. It is the normal local bus that stops at every neighborhood. I stood and stood, finally after 45 minutes a young man from Italy came up to me and wanted to know if I knew how to get to Kinderdijk. Sure I did. I showed him the bus schedule and route on the post. It was nice to know I had a companion for the trip. On the bus were a couple from Hong Kong and the wife had taught in Toronto for three years so we chatted on route. It felt like our own little tour group as the Italian, the couple from Hong Kong and I arrived at the Kinderdijk and boarded the half hour boat ride on the canal to see the 19 windmills. It was incredible. It is a World UNESCO Heritage Site and hands down I say. It was just before the rain as we started out on the canal. The rain gently fell as we floated like a whisper along the dijk. So many amazing vistas and photo ops. I then walked along the canal. I should have rented a bicycle, it would have truly made me dutch, but I wanted to sketch and take photos. The rain stopped after I viewed the one mill that is open to tourist. All the other mills are still in operation and most of them are also residences. I enjoyed my lunch and walked along the dijk taking photos. Then I started a small painting and was stopped by a down pour. Some curious visitors stopped to talk to me to see my drawings. It was so relaxing. Even in the rain, it is quite a place. I walked about with my umbrella and tried to photograph the flowers and the grebes. I have some nice shots, however many are too dark due to the over cast day and my inexperience as a photographer. I just missed the 2:00 bus by minutes so I went back for coffee and tried to photograph the grebes again but they did not want to come to my side of the canal. I did see some kids swimming in the canal and a couple of men fishing. While I was there the one fellow caught two fish. The canal water here didn't look so bad, but on the way back to Rotterdam the smaller canals are covered in algae. I managed to be on time for the 3:oo bus. I chatted it up as always with a couple from Australia who have been in Europe since early June. They are seeing it all. I had no problems finding my way back by bus then the smaller train then the larger train into Utrecht. Well to tell the truth I did ask a Dutch gal if I was on the right track and she was going to Rotterdam Centraal Station as well so she helped me to my platform. The Rotterdam Lombardijen station is so small that there is no attendants on Sunday. She was so pleasant and gave me a nice smile when I got up for my connection to Utrecht. Every one is always helpful to me. I find too that many people ask me to take a picture of them for me with the sites in the background. I must look trustworthy. I recommend this trip to everyone. You really feel you are in Holland and you are in the country and see the plodders, the cattle, goats and sheep. I was home by 5:oo. I went and got a few groceries and made a supper. I burnt my hamburger and set off the smoke detector. Had a little excitement over that. Then I went across the hall to where most of Saskatoon students are because Sonja and Nicole planned a wonderful Dutch Cheese Party. I think this is what Malcolm will get for his birthday.

It is late and bedtime. I had a very nice day to myself and with friends, I found the peace and quiet I needed. Class tomorrow.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


I checked my face book this a.m. while getting ready for our trip into Amsterdam to read that Nathan Miller died last evening, July 23rd. Nathan had leukemia and was really struggling this summer. He needed a bone marrow transplant and was fighting a huge infection. I was to teach him this fall. I taught his brother and know his family well. I lit many candles in Florence for him however, God needed him in Heaven.

We were in Amsterdam for 12 hours. Allison, Nicole, Danielle and I got the train and went to the Van gogh museum. I loved it. All I wanted to do was set up an easel and start painting. I can't wait to get my paints out again. Wow. Then we went to Anne Frank's House. That was another emotional part of the day. We all felt like a weight was on us when we left the house. We were sad. So we fixed that with a stop at a great chocolate store and bought desert for the next four nights. We also tested cheese across the street at a cheese shop. We shopped here and there. I bought three dresses. We also went to the Amsterdam Diamond Center (not its official name). I saw a lovely diamond bracelet for 12,000 euros. I did not find any thing for my family - sorry. I will have to check out the shops in Utrecht for you. We had a fantastic meal for supper at a place called Luden. I had sea bass and it was amazing. We shopped till closing around 7:30 then found our way to the Red Light District. Along the way we saw the ambulance helping a girl on a back board. She was on her bike and had been hit by a car. The red light district was also sad and depressing. It is an eye opener and gives you a very uneasy feeling about society and our modern ideas in regards to prostitution. At first it seems like a tourist attraction and that it is staged, but reality sets in as you observe men making a call to a lady in the window with her red light on. It is very sad and one leaves not really wanting to discuss it for awhile. When we did, as good art historians we talked about it in terms of the sailors and hardships of life in the 16 and 17th Centuries and then in contemporary terms.

So now you understand my title. It was a good day, but full of tears. We were home by 10:00 p.m. and Merit helped me plan my solo trip to Kinderdijk tomorrow. That means an early morning, so good night, I love you all.

Friday, July 23, 2010


Just got back from a very relaxing day on the beach at Den Hague. It is a large beach called Scheveningen. It has an enormous pier with a casino out on it over the water. The top tower is used for bungy jumping, which was impressive to watch. The weather network predicted clouds and high of 21. Well, I got sun burnt and it was a wonderful beach day. Allison and I swam in the waves and surprising it was not cold. Now I can say I have swam in the North Sea. We could not convince Danielle and Nicole to swim. I felt they missed out, but they had a nice, relaxing time on the sand. After we went for a bite to eat and of course a beer. I as always, by the seaside had fish and chips. Unfortunate for someone we did have a rescue on the beach today, farther down from us so we do not know what happen but the three rescue trucks and a helicopter were called on to the scene. I think we saw a defibulator and they had the victim hooked up to an IV when they whisked him/her away. Makes you think. However our time on the beach was fantastic.

We went to the beach as we all wanted to do the extra bonus assignment in Delft. We went to the Prinsenhof Museum which was an excellent history lesson on the 16 and 17th Century here in Holland. It covered the 80 years war and the Reformation from Italian Catholic religion to Protestant, as well as, the prosperity of the Golden Age. It was interesting to learn the historical facts through the paintings and artifacts in the museum.

It was fun venturing out on the trains and buses. We managed well. Now I have to do homework. Hope to go to Amsterdam tomorrow.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


Today is Thursday, July 22 and we spent 6 hours in Rembrandt's house. I was in the first painting group. We learned how to build a painting up in the Dutch Art Style of none other than Rembrandt. Then we switched groups and had a tour of his house and the museum. We also had an assignment to do while looking at the Rembrandt Studio Student's work. We managed a bagged lunch in there and a walk about the area and a stop for coffee, as each group had three hours before they switched. After we did not stay in Amsterdam as we had paintings to carry home. Some of the group did stay. After supper I went shopping. I am trying to find a Rabo Bank team kit but have not succeeded. You can guess who that is for. I have found the jersey but not the bib shorts.
I also bought myself a little sweater. My feet are tired and I needed some groceries so I called it quits and came home after the groceries. Now I want to focus on homework. I am hoping to go to the sea side tomorrow and Delft for an extra assignment. Bonus marks are always handy.

I also need to tell Cuylar that there is a Cuyler in my class. He is Dutch and explained to me that his origin of his name is Dutch and the old spelling is Cuijler.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


We had a long day and only discussed 12 paintings!!! Class started at 9:30 but went til noon and then we had to be at the train station for 1:00 as the train left at 1:10. Thus, I used lunch to get a hard copy of my assignment at a print shop and then had a picnic along a canal with some fellow students. There is never too much time to spare. We went into Amsterdam to the Rijksmuseum which is like a castle, but the museum is only on two floors and we saw most of it. We looked at paintings that I remember seeing on the playing cards in the game 'Masterpiece'. I could preselect the painting she wanted us to view when we entered the room, before she would say. We were in two groups. One did their own analysis as the other discussed their paintings with the instructor then we switched. Dutch Art has secrets in the images so it was fun to see if we could read anything significant. Debbie, you will recall 'The Merry Drinker' from 'Masterpiece', that was my first painting to analyse. He looks quite 'pickled' in the painting. I loved Frans Hals' brush strokes, much like Toulouse Lautrec. Then portraits of Rembrandt from age 22 to his older years. We looked at Jacob Van Ruisdael's contrived landscapes, which I do not enjoy as much. They look like hotel paintings or the ones that were fashionable in the 60 - 70's to be on feature walls in our parent's homes. festoon of Fruits by Jan Davidg de Heem is beautifully creepy as it is actually decaying before us with bugs all over it. This piece has a lot of historians 'buzzing' about its meaning. The Johanas Vermeers were gorgeous in every aspect...colour, technique, symbolism, artistry. 'The Milkmaid' would look fantastic in my home. It sparkles. Beside that one hangs 'The Little Town' which is so pleasant in colour and depiction of an every day street scene that it is restful to look at. He was good in terms of drawing and colour. 'The Night Watch' did not steal the show for me, but I still felt privilaged to view it. It is huge, but was cut to be much smaller than the original. There was much controversy over the painting in its time. I think mainly it would have been over its size rather than the portraits. The movement in the composition is impressive. The lighting is of interest and Rembrandt's trade-mark. I viewed it twice. The winter landscape by Hendrick Avercamp was alright but not my favorite. Rembrandt's portrait of his wife 'Saskia' motivated much discussion over her expression and the perspective of her face. I guess you could discuss her for about five years. I think she would have liked her husband's portrayal of herself. Franz Hals - portrait of Massa and BEtrix again is very loose and enjoyable. It had many symbolism in regards to marriage and contentment. Jacob Van Ruisdael's famed windmill at Wijk Duurstede (sp) is again not as interesting to me. He manipulated the atmosphere and perspective of the image to make a collaged landscape. Again, I saw copies in homes in the 70's. The 1970's was actually the time when art critics began to discover Dutch Art symbolism and it came to the forefront as the vogue art to buy. These pieces were worth very little before the 70's and then skyrocketed into priceless masterpieces. Rembrandt again delights our eye with 'The Jewish Bride'. The thick paint and technique of applying paint creates amazing effects with light and richness of colour. This is also an interesting painting to discuss in terms of the couple's relationship and expressions. Gerard ter Borch, I was not familiar with and we looked at "The Paternal Admonition" which is about settling terms with a 'lady of the evening'. 'The Merry Family' by Jan Steen was fun but creepy as well. It is full of figures of a 'lude' family carrying on is inappropriate manners. The women especially fall short in their decorum, as they have not even ironed the table cloth and they are drinking and singing. The Bible has been set aside. The children as well are having a good time drinking and smoking. The little ones look like older relatives that over stay their welcome at times as they carry on at festive occasions. Very improper indeed!

It was now 6:00, a group of us took photos of the 'I AM STERDAM' monument and then ran to catch up for the tram. It was funny for when we got on there was the rest of our group. My travel group had a fun time riding home to Utrecht on the train, as we were hungry, tired and giddy. We even sang French children's songs like 'Petite Poison'. We got back after 7:00 and some of us had pancakes at the greatest pancake restaurant ever. I had Brazilian which was basicly tasted like a pecan pie. It tasted like Christmas. Then we came home and before you turned around it was 11:00.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Today we went into Amsterdam. I really enjoyed the day. It was not an academic day. We were to imagine what life was like in the 17thCentury. We started out touring a 17th Century ship, but it was a replica of 'The Amsterdam", A trade ship. It would of had 320 persons on board and all the cargo in the hold that they imported and exported. The boat's officer's deck and the deck for the crew reminded me of 'Master and Commander', but it was a trade ship not a war ship. We were beginning to understand the commerce center that Amsterdam became after the 80 years war. They controlled the largest port at Antwerp and the city of Amsterdam. 60% of the population was urbanized. The stock exchange for shares began here in Amsterdam. They quickly became an economic powerhouse which meant people had a high standard of living. Even farmers could buy art work for their homes. The marinar's museum was closed due to renevations so we did not see the ship and ship yard paintings. She rearanged the day. We went to Madame Tussaud's wax museum that had displays of life from the 17th C. There were also models of Rembrandt and a torture chamber. The torture chambers of the men condemed to death was hilarious. The girls were screaming and afraid. I think at one time I had three of them clinging to me and then I screamed when a man in white jumped out of the darkness at me and well, that set them off screaming again. I laughed and laughed. I sure am with a great group of people. Unfortunately one of the girls from Albania I believe, named Ame did not meet the group on time after the museum and the instructor is very strict about this, so she decided to leave her behind. I am not sure I would like that! The girl did have her return train ticket on her and should be alright. Next we went to the Amsterdam Historical Museum and gained perspectives about before, during, and after the Golden Age. Here we looked at some paintings that are not very famous. One grouping was about 'painting anatomy'. Here we saw some interesting images. The one by Rembrant was about a surgeon exploring the brain in an autopsy of a prisoner who was executed. Another was about a still born infant and the men all studying the corpse. You saw the trade and morality influences of the Prodestent and Calvin Churches. I began to understand why the Dutch are considered one of the most tolerant people on the globe, then and now. I also understand their relationship with Germany and Spain. More to learn. However we had a treat, as next she put us on a Holand International, cruise boat. We had a wonderful one hour cruise of the harbour and canals. I took like a 100 photos. I love the tall, slim architecture with its decorative facades. I was intregued by the floating communities along the canal walls and the bycicles rule. Our instructor said that when a Dutch person gets on a bike they become cycotic (pun on psychotic and cycle)! How true. You had to be aware all the time of trams and bikes. I tried to capture with my camera the transportation. I was most surprised by the parkades like our stadium on campus for vehicles, but here it is full of layers and layers of bikes. Being on the canal made my day. It was also amusing to see the Dutch out enjoying the heat. They were sitting along the canal walls, having a cool one. Many were in their bathing suits cruising the canals in their motor boats and some were even jumping off the dock in the harbour. I am not sure if they should be in the water, but they enjoyed getting wet. When we were back in Utrech we saw a group in front of a cafe with their feet all in a kid's swimming pool. On the train back we made a mistake and went into first class. We had to then find a seat in second class but were not successfull. Sveva, Marie, Corrina and I are a travel buddy group. I stood for a third of the trip then got a seat by a young man from Amsterdam. We visited about the soccer world cup and the Tour d' France. After super it was 'drink night' for students at the local Irish pub. I went for a couple of hours. I knew people at five tables - go figure. It was fun, but I am too tired to carry on all night, plus I need to do my journal!! I am going to bed and will post this tomorrow. It is almost midnight here Tuesday, July 20th.

Monday, July 19, 2010


We had an introduction to the course from 10:00-12:00. Then a hour for lunch and instead of a walking tour of the city she showed us the movie "The Girl With The Pearl Earring". I had not seen it yet, so I enjoyed it. However, I did not get coffee yet. I was very drowsy in class. After Sonya who goes to this university helped us out to see the library and printers. She showed us the best pancake house in town and a great spot for ice Koffee. Then I came back to work on a 300 word assignment worth 5%. There are four of these little 5% assignments plus the presentation of a painting for 25% and marks for attendance and participation. This was more than I wanted. There is also a bonus assignment for another 5%. Our nightly social activities are down the drain. I still hope to make good use of the weekend. Had my supper with the others in the dorm. We have people from everywhere, Germany, Alberta, Moose Jaw, Spain, Russia, and Mexico and us two Canadians in this dorm.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


I slept til 9:40. I showered and got the computer running. Allison soon woke up and then there was a knock. Everyone is hungry. Marie wanted groceries so we followed her. She is European remember so she is a fast walker. She did take us around the canal and found the store. We learned on Sunday's the stores do not open til after 4:00 as they leave time for church masses to finish, then they open later. We were hungry and I needed a koffie - see I am learning Dutch already. All 15 of us from the dorm were together, but some wanted pancakes and others like me just wanted to eat and get a drink. So we split. Seven of us ate where I did. We had a sandwich and salad meal with Koffie and juice. It was not expensive. We scouted out the summer school office and our class room. We got our bearings to the dorm and a grocer that is closer to us and even checked a bike shop out. Yes the stores are closed but not the bike shops. We could rent a bike for five euros a day. Maybe. We can walk to everything. It would be fun to have a bike. That is the Dutch way.

I am in my dorm now. I am not sure where everyone is. Some needed to work on their Chapel essays and others wanted to rest. I wanted to catch up on my blog. At four I am going to the grocer with my own bags to buy toilet paper and other things but the most important now is the T.P!!! as our area is out.

There is a gal from Spain here studying business, her name is Laura. And another Canadian, Chris from Lethbridge, Alberta. I should see if he knows Carmen's family. We will meet knew people in class tomorrow as well. That is the best part meeting all these people from the all over the globe. Bye for now I will add more later.


On Sat. July 17 I woke up at 7:00 with the church bells. I thought I would try to get to Santa Croce before I need to go to the train station. I headed out but it did not open til 9:30 and the train leaves at 11:27. So I shall leave Michelangelo, Dante (I believe) and Galileo's tombs for another time. I walked back to the hotel along the Arno to say bye to Florence.

Corrina loved it here and was having a tough time leaving. It was very emotional for her. So her and I walked back to the river and she had her time to take some photos and let go of Florence. We visited a bit with our hotelier and then got to the station too early, about an hour to wait and no seats. Little by little some of the other group members showed up. We became more concerned as it was near 11 and many were not there. Some took the bus and some used the taxi. The final group had our group tickets and they arrived about 11:22. We decided to board about 11:15 without them, taking a ticket inspector risk. However it was good that we did as then we got our seats and had places for most of our luggage. Some of the group did have to sit between the cars with their luggage to watch it and some missed out on the air conditioned cars. I was alright. I followed the lead of Marie, an independent European 18 year old. She has traveled a lot in Europe and knew her way around the train stations. So there we all were at 11:26 on board with our tickets. But no Yong, from our group. Where is he? The train left. Marie and I went through the cars again in search of everyone and checked the roll call. We sat down and many were upset. We tried to let them know that it will be alright, although stressful, Yong can still catch a train to Pisa in order to make the 4:00 flight to Amsterdam. We sat about three minuets and he comes rushing into our car, he had made it somehow! RELIEF. He thought the train left at 11:37 and thus he had to run along the platform when it was about to leave and hop on the first car and then run all the way through the entire train to our section at the back. Marie and I continued for the rest of the trip to be in charge of everyone's bags and head count. We have a couple of wondering souls in the group and one smoker so we made sure no one was left behind at all the check points. We arrived in Pisa three hours before the flight. You have to make a train change from the Florence train to the airport train and then find your departure terminal which we did not know. I had the group ticket this time and it was in Dutch but Merit, and Marie could translate it so I knew the airline and flight number. I spoke to a fellow from Birtish Airways as there was no way of knowing which check in counter was for which airline, until they showed up on the monitors above. We all wanted to check our luggage but had to wait till 2:00. So I and Marie took turns watching the pile of luggage as others went for a smoke or drink etc. There were no seats in this area of the airport. How tempting to go out and try to see the leaning tower. However with only an hour to check in I voiced the fact that it would not be enough time to comfortably be back on time. We all weighed our bags and many were over, including me by .4Kg. Some were 5Kg. over so to avoid fees I suggested that those who had lighter bags take on something from the heavy bags. Then we reweighed the bags and we were fine. Only a few were over a very little and they did not bother about it on check in. The carry on also was a concern for the signs clearly stated only one carry on and we assumed we could have two and a purse. We were lucky too, as the airline did not charge us even though their sign clearly stated that you had to pay for more than one carry on or leave the bag behind.

We managed to get everyone checked in and through security. Then Tatiana was called back as she had left her boarding pass at the check in gate. So I was becoming the mom, everyone check for your passports, have your boarding passes and picture id ready. Do you have your carry on? My own kids know the routine. The group was tired and grateful that I was helping them out. Then of course Tatiana left her carry on behind by my seat, so I took it to her and she was very thankful as we boarded the plane. On the plane Marie and I did another head count. Yes. We are on our way. The plane was 45 minutes late on departure. It is a two hour flight. In Amsterdam it went smooth as Marie has been in this airport several times and it is very well marked. Our luggage took a very long time to come. Students began checking other luggage belts and I assured them that our flight number was above the one we were at and that the bags would come. Finally they did and everyone cheered when they saw their bag. We were tired. I bought a sandwich on the plane as it was getting so late and I was suspicious that we would be moved about and not able to get a bit to eat until very late. This did turn out to be the case. We breezed through customs. And Pim (sp) was there to meet us. He was very welcoming and helpful. Yong was carrying luggage up and down steps and escalators twice, as he would do his own and then his cousin Yuki's as she is pregnant. Pim helped us take the train to Utrech and provided our tickets and keys. He got our tickets for bus 11 at the Utrecht Central Station and gave us maps to get to the dorm. Then he left us when the bus arrived. We managed with some help from a person on the bus to know to get off at the City Theater stop. We found our street as it is well marked and began to settle into our home. It was now 10:00. We had to eat supper. Allison is my room-mate and we had the bedding. Actually my name was on Pim's list to hand out the bedding so Marie announces to everyone that I am the mom now. So I am the dorm mom. Back to supper. Allison and I went out to look for a spot to eat. It was late and there are many bars along the street but not too many restaurants. We both loved the town. Allison's grandparents are from Holland and gave her a Dutch dictionary which she was proud to have along. We walked a lot and settled on a spot that was expensive but had a hamburger. It was good but late so we asked for the standard Canadian doggie bag and had it explained to us that this was not allowed. We did wrap the left overs in our napkin, however this is seen as bad manners. At the dorm I went to put the half burger into the fridge. I turned on the light and an oversized mouse, not rat, a mouse ran across the counter behind the microwave. I screamed loud as I was surprised to see a mouse, not because I am afraid of them. Allison heard me and came running. She too had a chance to see the mouse. Well, this is interesting. No food allowed out. I hope it does not have a path to our bed rooms. The dorm is like an apartment with three bedrooms for two persons each, a kitchen and two water closets and two showers. We have to provide everything even toilet paper. I wish that was in our notes.

You learn fast here to respect the cyclists as they have the right of way to cars and pedestrians. They have their own lanes on both sides of the street and their own set of traffic lights with a bike as the green symbol for go. The cars must yield when a green go bike light is on. The streets seemed empty compared to Utrecht. There were people enjoying a drink in the bars and on the decks. There is a bike shop on every block. Cuylar would think he was in Paradise here. Allison and I unpacked, made up our beds and went to sleep after midnight. I could not get the computer to work for some reason, but as you see it is fine today (Sun. 18).
I have a good feeling about Holland.

Friday, July 16, 2010


Presentations went til about one. The presentations here were top notch. Unbelievable the talent and intellect of my fellow students. How honored I am to be with them all. Then Lorri from Holland made us all Holland style pancakes. Yum. We gave Michael a card to 'Michael the Magnificent' on a Venus post card with a bottle of olive oil. He loved that. He is off to Holland today for a holiday with his family. We will not see him there. I finished my essay and left it on his desk by 3:00. I went shopping and tried to see a few sights like the Baptistery and the Boboli gardens at the Pitti Palace. The palace was closing, so that is for next time, but the ticket man felt sorry for this tired sweating women who arrived on foot too late and gave her a free pass into the Boboli gardens of Eleanora Medici. They are traditional Italian gardens. Some parts are not well kept and the green was suffering from the heat. No flowers aside from a side rose garden. The garden ascends high up behind the palace, sweeping the hill like a fan. There are terraced pathways that lead you up and funnel you back down again to the beginning. It is a maze but you can not get lost as it is designed to head you to the start which is also the end of the garden. fountains and gazebos and grandeur. The views of the city were wonderful. An excellent hill work out for all my athletic friends.

Then I went to the group dinner and got home after 11 and have been packing. I waited a long while for the bus at the stop but it seemed to never show. At that hour it only comes on the hour apparently. How ever there is also this thing called 'Italian' time. A girl came and was checking the schedule, and then moved further down the street to watch for the bus. Finally after a while I asked her if the bus was coming - otherwise I had a walk ahead of me alone. She spoke enough English to guide me. From her vantage point she was watching two different bus stops. When one was sighted she motioned me to follow her. I did. We went across the meridian and ran over the road ways and side walk and another little area and there it was, the bus we needed. It was not the one I usually take, not 37 or 13 or 12. Anyhow I trusted her and hopped on. It took me right where I needed to go to walk to my hotel. I was home by 11:30 and I started to pack. Yikes,I do not know how I got here as nothing was going into the suitcase as easily as it had came out. There is no room for my purchases. I had to abandon a few items and pounce on my suitcase. I made it but my bag is very heavy. We are only allowed 20Kg and one 10kg carry on bag. I technically have three carry on bags, but could combine two so that makes two. Oh well I will pay if need be. Good night - 12:30 a.m.

I am posting this on the 18th.


Class started at 8:30a.m. at the Chiostro Dello Scalzo built in 1536. The frescoes here are painted by Sarto. They are the story of the life of St. John the Baptist and are done in grisaille style. They are beautiful drawings. I could look at these all day. The 'brothers' here looked after those condemned to death. Thus, you may understand the choice of the iconography of St. John the Baptist for the fresco cycle.

Then we went up to the institute for our presentations. I was on the slate. It went well. I was a little nervous and rambled a little, but got the point across and it seemed that the students understood the emotion of my chapel.

I worked a bit in the late afternoon on my essay, but was quite excited since my presentation was over and the fact that Michael commented on my draft essay that it was EXCELLENT and that I only needed to footnote and it was fantastic. We talked a little about it and the personal story and connection I was making to the Strozzi chapel. I was relieved and very happy about his comments.

We went to a very nice place to eat as a group near the institute after a social that Michael put on for us. He paid for supper as well. The evening was so beautiful. You could have your wedding at the place we went to. We had a lot of fun laughing over dinner about how olive oil is the answer for everything and then the students started to show off creepy things they can do with their arms, or hands or throats. One girl can blow her throat out like a frog and another can put her fist in her mouth. We had a lot of fun with all of this.


Wed. July 13 - This was a long but fantastic day. We met Micheal at the Uffizi. we toured the 'Offices' - Grand Duke Cosimo's of course. Imagine having that much art in your house that you decide to have a huge building, the Uffizi built for your offices and then you have walls and hallways for your collection. The first art gallery in the world is created. We saw Giotto's and Fabriano's work first. This was cool because I am referencing these artist with artist for my paper. I will spare you the art lessons, but you are welcome to have me go in depth with this topic later as I can refer to my notes. On to comparing Gabriano to Massaccio and Filippo Lippi. Now we are out of the late International Gothic style and into the Renaissance. Piero del Pollaiolo and Bottichelli's were to follow. The Bottichelli's were major as it is now that artist went back to mythical work and left the religious works behind. Prima Vera and the Birth of Venus were amazing. The stories that go with these masterpieces is also very interesting. Many of them are bedroom or wedding gift pictures that warned the mate about lust at the same time as being exotic and sensual. The Verrocchio room was splended as here you also see two and a half Leonardo's. Leonardo was Verrocchio's student. They say when he let Leonardo paint the angel on "The Baptsim of Christ" that Verrocchio cried and put his brushes away forever, for why would he paint when one so young as surpassed him. Another piece we saw was Leonardo's unfinished "Adoration of the Magi". The next rooms were the Mannerist painters, like Rosso Florentino and Tiziano Vecellio. Mannerist painters exagerate everything such as elongating limbs. The work sometimes became too confusing for the viewer. The stories were religious and so after a while the church put a stop to the strange and exotic views. Mary with the Long Neck was the final straw. Note to my daughter Anastasia, the high forehead trait is a sign of great beauty for a Renaissance woman. In fact women would shave back their hair to make the forehead appear higher. Then they would adorn their forehead with a jeweled headpiece. Mary with the long neck is depicted this way. She is blond with a high forehead, shear clothing that shows off her breasts and a huge pearl on her forehead. I believe this work was done by Parmigianno and is called Madonna and Child, just in case you want to look it up.

Finally, off to the Accademia, to see David. Worth the trip to just walk around and gaze at David. He looks like Russell Crow in Gladiator, watching his target the moment before he kills Goliath. But where is the stone? Micheal, the professor, has studied 30 years on this very question. Maybe you know? We also looked at his unfinished slaves before leaving for the New Sacristy at San Lorenzo. Here you see the Medici burial chapel. The tombs were carved by Michelangelo, Day and Night and Dusk and Dawn. Wow, I could go with making him a saint. After all his body did not show signs of decomposing even three weeks after his death. There was lots to discuss here in his work and the decisions he made in the sculptures. Then the Pope called him to Rome, so these tombs are not finished. The Sacristy has become an art academy from the very day he left the work for Rome. Artist have come from all corners of the earth to study and draw from the figures. How I wanted to linger behind and do just that. But we had to move on. I will just have to add that to my life's list for my return visit.

I went and bought some groceries at a great store. Almost the end of my time here and I finally found a great market right near my hotel. Ate in the room and finished my power point as I was up to present on Thursday. I was glad and my power point was easy for me. I knew what I wanted to say and emphasize.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tuesday, we went to Santa Maria Novella with instructor Gert Jan van der Sman who is 6 foot seven and hard to understand. Yesterday's instructors name was Waldemar de Boer, I think I forgot to note that. Back to today. The master today was Domenico Ghirlandaio the teacher of Michelangel in his early years. In S.Maria N. we concentrated on the Capella Mageiore, the family chapel of the Giovanni Tornabuoni family. This chapel is a good example of how church, family and artist had a special relationship. Although the chapel is about the religious events around the Life of Mary, they are blended in with the events and places of the Tornabuoni family. Thus it has been studied a lot as it is a place that has so many portraits of the citizens of Florence at that time and researchers have been able to identify most of them. Interestingly a lot of identifications are made from taxation and contract paper trails. Ghirlandaio developed new techniques for creating space and mixing colours. His rival was Botichelli. Michelangelo would have worked on some of these frescoes. The chapel also has frescoes of the life of St. John the Baptist. The window is interesting as it depicts the scene of Madonna in the Snow. The scenes are all placed in Florence. Remember this family was probably one of the richest and a friend of the Medici. They were trying to show that Florence is the new Rome.

Masters and markers in art history - Giotto, Masaccio, Ghirlandio, Michaelangelo, Leonardo.

Giotto's cross - Probably Giotto's earliest work made at the end of the 13th century. It is painted on wood. Its significance is that it is done with such naturalism as opposed to the Byzantine flat symbolic images. The face is very dramatic and full of true emotion at the time of Christ's death on the cross. There is much written on this cross and the evolution of the crucifix from the time Saint Francis first saw a crucifix speak to him telling him to rebuild God's house. Saint Francis' experience explains how spiritual images can be devotional objects as through them Christ speaks to us, thus when we pray on these objects God hears us.

Masaccio's Holy Trinity - dated 1425 - 26 is the first example of a the use and understanding of the laws of two point perspective. God is depicted outside of the laws of perspective. There is much discussion as to the purpose of having God in the picture plane in two places at one time.
The fresco also is significant for it depicts God, Christ and the Holy Spirit in the same scene.

Then we went walking. No one knew where as we could not hear the instructor and he really did not say. We stopped for coffee. I think some gals were about to faint. He led us to a convent square and it turned out to be a museum for Ghirlandio, Cennaiolo di Ghirlandio. We looked at the last supper he painted in their dinning hall. It was great as here we also saw fresco done in Sinopia. The transfer of the drawing from the carton on to the fresco. We then ended up at the church of Ognissanti. Here you see Ghirlandio's and Botticelli's portrait of St. Gerome and St. Agustine. Bottichelli is buried in the church in the right transept, it dates 1510.

Then back to the hotel for me. I was exhausted. I worked more on my essay and began my power point. I took two breaks to see a couple of interesting shops at my door step. One has the cameos, the other is one of the oldest or is the oldest perfumery in Florence. It is in the Blue Guide. It was an amazing building with all the bottles and scents. It really is unexplainable how it was set up. I also went in the stationary and it had a lot of artist supplies and I bought field brushes and more paints for my field paint box. I thought it was a steal of a deal at 2,10 a colour. They are not artist quality but hard to find at home and even these are expensive. So I have replacement colours for the box.

Had a good supper over by the Duomo at the Duomo Cafe, the second time we ate there. Then I worked again. Internet is in and out.
published July 18 - photos later

Monday, July 12, 2010


It is Monday, July 12. Our instructor today was Valdemar de Boer. He spoke to us about the life of the artist and commissioners of the Renaissance. We revisited the St. Francis fresco cycle in the Sassetti chapel, in Santa Trinita and then the Capella dei Magi in Palazzo Medici Riccardi. He pointed out the personal and propaganda references painted in the St. Francis frescoes. Francesco Sassetti patron of the chapel wanted to show that St. Francis had blessed his family with a miracle of redeeming their dead son with the birth of their second son, just as St. Francis had redeemed the child that fell from the window to his death after his bow had fallen out the same window.
The other scenes done in frescoes are Saint Francis giving away his worldly possessions, The Pope blessing his order,

You are only allowed ten minutes in the Capella dei Magi. Here again the Medici family translated the story of the Magi going to adorn the new born Christ with portraits of themselves. The little king, middle king and older king are in each of the side wall frescoes. It is believed that it is Lorenzo Midici in each painting. The altarpiece is a very famous masterpiece. The altar was concencrated by the Pope. It is a very small chapel but every centimeter is decorated. One needs to revisit the chapel more than once to really begin to see things.

Then it was time to go for lunch and I have been slaving on my essay all day. It is very hot out but I am in the air conditioning of the hotel room. Today was laundry day. Simple, I took it to the institute this a.m. and went and picked it up about 5:00. While waiting for the bus an Italian pigeon pooped on me from the sky. Splat on my arm. Yuk, I started jumping up and down and screeching getting laughs from the crowd. Luckily I had a napkin and bottled water with me. Yes you never travel here without bottled water.

Had pizza and beer for super but it was not that good - too soggy. Everything is clammy and soggy in this heat, even the pizza. It may be an all 'nighter' for my essay is too long and full of crap and I need to revise. Hope to do pictures and my power point tomorrow. I am really starting to feel the time slip by.

Internet troubles - I am not done all of this post as you can tell. I may have publish it and fix it later.
I am posting this on July 18

Sunday, July 11, 2010


I went with six of the U of S gals on the 'Vespa' tour. I had a full day of experiencing life as a relaxed Italian. I passed my short drivers course. Two gals on the tour did not and so were not allowed to drive. They were so disappointed. They had to ride passenger with the instructor. The one gal's mother passed and it was the daughter who wanted to do the tour. In the end that girl got to double with her mom, but not drive.

We were on the narrow, hilly, curvy, uneven Italian roads you see in the movies. The Tuscan country side is gorgeous but extremely hot. It felt like the hottest harvest day you can think of on the farm. I must say I did flash back to the seventies when I rode the Sazuki scooter around the farm in my bikini. The feel on the bike was fantastic. My wrists though tonight are stiff. I also could not park the bike on its stand, but everyone was so helpful. We went to a shop for sheep cheese and bread snack. Also Aqua. Then we got to the Chianti winery. Pope Clement XII used his power to make this family a royal family and so they are all prince and princesses and heirs to the winery. Go Figure that one out. At the winery we had an informative tour, our lunch which was a huge meal with two wines and three courses. Then off to sight see and hear histories of the region. Then we went for Gelato and more sight seeing. I so want a scooter! I am so Italian now!!

I came home and decided to do homework so I missed the soccer game. I got some french fries and fruit and worked on my miserable essay. Don't laugh, but I have 16 pages of notes for a six page essay. I also have the power point to do. It is in my head but is not flowing out. Good night. P.S. Cuylar and Malcolm skyped with me for an hour as well. I loved it and must say I do miss home. Too bad you can't be in two places at one time. Malcolm has made strawberry jam and I hear it is raining everyday. Cuylar's crit did not go well yesterday so he is out of a big race he wanted to do this weekend. Good night again it is midnight.


On Friday morning we had a short lecture about the Renaissance origins. Then I worked on my essay all day in the hot, hot, hot library at the institute. The students organized a party, so I had a small lunch for dinner and supper and stayed up there all day confusing myself with my reference material. Well my research is done but it is not very well organized.

I so wanted to get to Rome but Friday in Florence was a full transportation strike and I felt I could not chance not getting back to here from Rome. Just as well I have work to do and would really like to see Rome with my own family.

We did have fun at the get party and Giuseppe brought me safely home in his car. He invited Corinna and I to go on a car trip with him on Sat. We accepted. We got up early and had breakfast on Sat. morning by the Duomo. It was open and so we went into the church and climbed the tower. Our legs were quaking after the four hundred steps. We decided to leave the dome for another day and the Baptistery as well. We got ready and went to meet Giuseppe. He said he can 'profit' a lot from coming to a place like Florence for he learns to relax and relaxed was his approach for the day. We left in the afternoon and went to San Gimignano, the philosopher Giovanni Baccaccio's house, and then Siena. I wish we had gotten to Siena sooner. We were short changed here and definitely have to return. Joseph took his time doing some shopping for his house, always stopping for wine and coffee and then wine and coffee. Did I say and then more wine and coffee? The towers were fantastic and you should Google them to really understand their significance in history. When the families wanted to move to the city apparently they took their towers with them for the new place in the city. Let me know when you have figured out how they moved the towers. Renaissance mobile homes! Siena is very significant. St. Catherine of Siena's chapel is there which houses the relic of St. Catherine - her head. I must admit this, although a Catholic Pilgrimage was not top of my list and I was not disappointed that the chapel doors were closed. I however could have cried that we just missed entering the Duomo. It is so amazing. We walked around the cathedral and were in awe at every inch. It is the horse, or animal church, as it has many animal sculptures on it as this is the town of the horse race - Palio - which is on July 2 and Aug. 18. We saw the chapel where they bless the town horse and the one where all the horses go in to be blesses. There are 25 communities in Siena so there are 25 horses that go into the chapel to be blessed. The town hall is beside it and it is converted into a stable for this event. The square is a shell shape and is huge. There is a fountain, I believe where the horses also drink from. We were there in time for the parade. It is a week after the first race so the parade was done to make fun of all the loosing horses. It was quite a carnival feeling. A very ancient tradition. One day it would be neat to see this race. We got home late because we enjoyed a great meal there. I had the 'beer chicken' - Pallo alla birra. Delicious new menu for home. That is the end of Sat. July 10

Friday, July 9, 2010


Well it is Friday, July 9th. I just got dropped off at my hotel after a evening get together with the students up at the institute. It was a fun relaxing time after a tough week of study. I worked all day in the hot, hot, heat at the library with NO air conditioning. I am done my research on my chapel, so I decided to hang out with the under 25 gang. However, one of the students is older and he is from Italy and all week he has demonstrated excellent gentleman manners. He would have never seen me unescorted back to my hotel so he gave me a lift as he has his car here. The other night he walked Corinna back and would hear nothing of her walking by herself. He pulls out our chairs, offers to take our load from our arms, stands when we leave the table - it seems odd to us Canadian gals. I truly appreciated the lift as I had my computer with me and it is quite heavy. It is also 12:30 a.m. but surprisingly quiet downtown. He could not get all the way down my street as there is a 'camera' and you need a permit. It is a 250 Euro fine. In two years time they are also going to levy an emissions tax on all goods to help the environment and to raise public funds. Giuseppe (Joseph, the Italian gentleman) said even the 'camera' fines have helped to keep taxation down in the cities. It also reduces the use of vehicles in the city. They call downtown - the city - as it is the old walled in city. So I hope my boys and others now have learned a lesson or two about treating an old lady like me!

Yesterday we had a fantastic tour. It was with our other instructor, Stefano Corazzini who was very knowledgeable about the Medici family. He toured us through the Palazzo Vecchio. This is the old palace built by my friend Cosimo Medici. I am so interested in their story. Remember Eleanor did not like her castle and went out and bought the Pitti Palace on her own. So in we went to the palace she rejected. One thinks she had a lavish life, but really she was a prisoner in her own palace. She had 11 children. The first born thankfully was a boy but not a warrior like his father. In fact he loved alchemistry and was obsessed with collections of coral and pearls and plants and seeds for his potions. This was blasphemy against the teachings of the church. When you go into the palace you enter the court yard. Vasari did all the decorations, paintings and design schemes. Inside it is extensively decorated. The next room is the great hall. On one side is the scenes from the victory over Pisa by the Republic and the other side is the victory over Sienna when Cosimo was in charge. It took four years to conquer Pisa and only 14 months I believe for the Medici to take Sienna. The ceiling is covered with paintings. We were able to go above the ceiling to see the truss system, original beams and the way they have supported the paintings and frames in place. Then we were taken to the 'secret' tunnels and rooms. The oldest son has a room built that resembles a treasure box. Vasari's paintings are on all the secret cabinets and they make a map with clues in the painting as to what is stole away in the cupboards. Of course the door is camouflaged and part of the 'secret'. Francesco I de' Medici was different than his father and had this private secret studiolo made for him. However the tunnels lead us on - his father too had a secret room for his treasures, and of course Eleanora had her special room as well. Her room though had a spy screen, so she could amuse herself and peer down at the great hall to the many goings on that women were not allowed to partake. Then we entered Eleanora's private chapel. It is something to consider her living in this manner at such a young age. But, she never left the palace, it was unsafe out there, that is why everyone lived in towers. If I recall correctly she never did live over in the new palace. It was not ready until after her death.

After class I went back to my chapel to study and then into the Spanish Chapel which was made for Eleanor's relatives when they came a callin' from Spain. It is amazing as well. Many of them are buried there. Then I went up to the institute till late and wondered down to the golden bridge for supper. I ate a modest meal at a fancy restaurant that looked over the Arno.

Today our tours were canceled due to the 'strike' with transportation. They respected the workers and ran the buses in the a.m. I went to the institute for a lecture with Michele and then stayed there to work all day on my research. I am done my research. Now to formulate all that I learned into an essay and power point. That is why I stayed out late to celebrate with the other students. In many ways the hotel is nice, but in others we miss out on the interactions with the other students, which is part of the experience.

It is very late here and I am too tired. I do promise photos. I may have to insert them when I get home. I am so pleased that all my technology is working well.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


Class notes: The last couple of days dealt with sculpture, which is the art form that began the Renaissance movements. Painting then followed. We began at the institute for a presentation on Gentile da Fabriano, Masaccio (the hero of the day), Masolino, Fra Angelico, and Fra Filippo Lippi. Masaccio is the one who perfected single point perspective, which ended the flattened Gothic and Byzantine method of painting figures as symbols. Now paintings gave us the illusion of space, form, emotion and action. Masaccio only lived to the age of 27, however in those few years he changed painting forever. We looked at Fabriano's 'Adoration of the Magi' to give reference to the perfered art to the shocking new techniques of Masaccio. The bankers like the Medicci were the patrons and they liked the style of Fabriano. One can only imagine how the gold in the painting would of glowed in candle light in those dark chapels. It would have been magnificent. The Medicci family every year would act out the 'Adoration of the Magi' with the family members playing the Magi. They would parade from Santa Maria Novella to the Church of the Annunciation. The Stozzi family, also very rich, loved the gold in the art work and illuminated manuscripts. The pearls and gold were added on to the painted surface like a relief. This was the height of the Gothic style. Then in 1426 Masaccio painted the Madonna on the Throne in a natural form.The angels instruments are angled along with their halos to give them space.

The objects appear real - a visual illusion. You really believe Mary is there and thus she is looking at you and she sees you. That means that Christ sees you.

"Crucifixion" - Massaccio - he shows us great grief with tricks like covering the subjects face with their hands or showing the back of Mary Magddlene. Great stress and emotion is conveyed now in paintings.

"Trinity" - with Mary, St. John the Evangelist and the two donors is an excellent demonstration of single point perscpective by Masaccio. I viewed this painting today in the Santa Maria Novella. There is possibly a flaw or was it intentional. God seems to defy the laws of perspective as to the placement of his feet on a shelf on the back wall. He is inconsistent with the space.

All this lead us to the Fresco cycles of St. Peter in the Brancacci Chapel in Santa Maria del Carmine. We were a half hour looking at the Frescoes. The limit is 15 mins. and no photos anywhere today! This church had a fire and we are very lucky that this chapel had little damage. Masaccio's most celebrated paintings are in this chapel. 'Tribute Money' 1420's is the story of Peter getting a coin out of the fish's mouth to pay the tax collector for the taxes Jesus also owes. This is a comment on Florentine taxation at the time as it was now levied on the citizens. Even today this Bible story is used for reference when questioning if priests should pay taxes too. Well, Jesus did. The perspective and communication between the figures in this painting is brilliant. The fresco also covers three separate time frames; the tax collector's demands to Peter, Peter getting the money, Peter paying the tax collector. Thus Peter appears three times in the fresco. The scene plays out in front of a Florentine landscape. There are many Biblical stories here that the patrons commissioned which illustrate the stories taking place here in Florence.

As a side note the Frescoes were very important as many could not read the word. Thus in the 8th century Pope Gregory the Great allowed visual art work to be devoted on as a substitute to the word of God. Everyone would no the stories and events even if they could not read. with in the Fresco cycle of the life of Saint Peter Masaccio conveys human drama and grief, as seen in the one of the expulsion of Adam and Eve. The images could now move people to tears. Move them to Faith, not simply used as decoration.

Many of the portraits are inspired by the classical sculptures, especially in 'Baptism of the Nyophytes. The cold figures are shown quite 'buffed'. One of the most emotionally moving figures is the lame man that Peter walks by and heals with his shadow. People have never seen this naturalistic drama before. Christ was working through the painter and the image.

It is referenced that Michelangelo was inspired by Masaccio and there are many similarities between the Adam and Eve in this chapel, to Michelangelo's in the Sistine Chapel. Only the emotions and gestures of the figures are important, the background is nonexistent.

The other side of the chapel has been painted by Masolino. They were both hired by Medicci and worked side by side in the chapel. Masolino fails to execute the perspective as his partner does. His frescoes are not as successful and more confusing to view, as our eyes are drawn away from the main figures to the center of the plane, thus separating the miracles of Peter into two different paintings unrelated, yet they are in the same fresco. Fra Giovanni Angelico would have finished the frescoes. He worked on the faces and one can see the style revert more towards flattening. On the left side there are five heads but only four pairs of feet. The heads also seem to be all finished unnaturally at the same height, unlike 'Tribute Money' done entirely by Masaccio.

The lecture and viewings today also demonstrated the first use of perspective in alter pieces. They now always include one figure looking out at the viewer. It is an invitation into the story. Alter pieces now by Angelico are less Gothic in style. They still have Gothic arches but they do not separate the scene. We saw this alter piece in the San Marco Museum. It created a stir in its day as Angelico used ionic columns with corinthian columns, which would be blasphemy! Why would he do this? I think he was showing that the annunciation of Mary leveled everyone from their status. The mother of Christ need not be of the highest court.

The artist also began to place 'ads' for themselves in the paintings. Angelico created beautiful tapestries and glass vases to show off his skill of painting glass that looked so convincing that we knew the painting was real. The story is real.

After the Chapel as mentioned above we toured the Musio di San Marco. Here is where we saw the alter pieces. The more intriguing part of the tour was the second floor. This museum was a Dominican Monastary. The monks cells were on the second floor. Each one had only a painting done by Fra Filippo Lippi. Most monks had the crucifixion or the suffering Christ on the wall. Some had his baptism or the ascending Christ from the tomb. The paintings emphasized Christ's wounds and many had blood pouring or gushing out of him. Imagine this life of prayer. To be in these 8x8 foot rooms with out comforts. I need to check if they even had a bed, desk and chair.

Of course Cosimo Medicci paid for all of this so he had the 'penthouse' cell to come and go as he pleased to pray. It was a two story with windows and 12x14 on each floor or so. Quite the guy. I understand why he needed to pray so much!

After the tours Corinna and I had lunch with Giuseppe from Italy, who is in our class. He is an Agricultural Engineer with a passion for history and is taking the class for his holiday this year. I guess that is what I am doing as well. Then we went to the Santa Maria Novella. We found chapels we both felt we could study. I should be working on mine, as Corinna decided to do so this evening. However, I skyped my husband then went to the bank bought some gifts and now am doing my journal and photos. I hope to add in photos here about the art work. I decided I am writing accounts down in too many places. So this blog will serve as my class journal as well. Hence the lecture notes and information on the art.

News today of a strike. This changes our schedule for the Uffizi. This is David's home and they are on strike. Usually in Italy when one service goes on strike they all follow in solidarity and it actually shortens the strike time. However, this is my time in Florence!!! I also am concern about train travel for if I venture out of town to Rome, I could be stranded.