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Art, California, Cultural Attractions, Museums, San Francisco

Hats Off to Degas–Lucas Shakes Things Up at SF’s Legion of Honor

September 4, 2017

San Francisco’s venerable Palace of Legion of Honor, part of the city’s Fine Arts Museums, is currently hosting the very popular Degas, Impressionism and the Paris Millinery Trade.

The extensive exhibition focuses on the impact of the millinery trade in Paris during the Belle Epoch era on the work of Degas and his contemporaries.  Paintings and pastels by Degas, Renoir, Edouard Manet, Mary Cassatt, Toulouse- Lautrec and others, some never before shown in the U.S., are featured. In addition to the splendid impressionist paintings, included in the exhibition are 40 marvelous examples of millinery from that time period—in other words—hats!

Hats featuring flowers were popular in the 19th and 20th centuries. Silk, cotton, velvet and paper were all used to construct artificial flowers like those shown here.

Some patrons were definitely in the spirit of things.

These hats range in size and complexity from the sublime to over the top. One chapeau is topped with an entire owl, which had been preserved specifically for that purpose. There are plumes, beads, metallic wire, ribbons and flowers adorning these mostly enchanting toppers.

Plumage from domestic and exotic birds, including ostrich and owls, often were used to embellish luxury ladies’ hats.

These hats all sport fashionable feathers. The hat on the left features a complete owl while the one on the right has an African starling above its brim.

A visitor admires Manet’s “At the Milliner’s”–one of about 40 paintings and pastels in the exhibition.

Men’s hats are included in the exhibit too. There are fine examples including boater and bowler hats, along with a sketch of Degas himself in a top hat.

Bowlers and top hats, along with carrying cases, are part of the exhibit.

The 42 year-old Edgar Degas is shown here wearing a top hat.

The exhibition was quite crowded, mostly with ladies of a certain age, oohing and ahhing over the millinery creations. There were a few patrons sporting hats and we spotted several of the museum’s docents in the spirit of things– wearing lovely fascinators.

Feathered finery got a lot of attention from visitors.

We didn’t take a docent-guided tour but shared our table at lunch with a group of ladies from the San Jose area who had and raved about it. It is necessary to reserve a spot for a guided tour in connection with this exhibit.

This docent wears a fine fascinator for her presentation. Reservations for the free tours are essential for this exhibition.

Some of the Impressionist paintings in this exhibition have not been shown in the U.S. before.

Special exhibition tickets are required for the Degas exhibit, in addition to the general admission fee for the museum. This doesn’t seem to be keeping the crowds away at all downstairs. There were numerous tour groups vying to get close to the works during our midweek trip to the Legion of Honor.

Special exhibition tickets are required, in addition to general admission. The galleries became quite crowded at times.

Upstairs in the galleries featuring Rodin’s classic sculpture, visitors can enjoy near solitude—at least during our visit. Displayed with the August Rodin: The Centenary Installation, which honors the 100th anniversary of the artist’s death, you’ll find the provocative work of Sarah Lucas. Sarah Lucas:Good Muse is the first major exhibition of the UK artist’s work in the U.S.

The museum is best known for its ancient and classical European collections which includes paintings, sculpture, furnishings and porcelain.

Sarah Lucas’ work brings contemporary art and controversy to the Legion of Honor.

Sarah Lucas:Good Muse would probably be much more comfortable at the SFMOMA (SF Museum of Modern Art) than at the classically- focused Legion of Honor. The docent who provided a tour of the exhibition shared that many patrons and members of the museum were more than a little unhappy with Lucas’ work.

Giant plaster cast boots, soft sculptures and a series of Lucas’ yellow urinal sculptures are on display among the 50 bronze, plaster and marble works by Rodin.

Lucas’ sculptures, made from plaster, panty hose, florescent lights, a bedspring and mattress, cigarettes and other materials, allude to sexual interactions, availability, empowerment, and domestic responsibilities, according to the docent. She also pointed out examples where Rodin’s work related to the themes of Lucas’ pieces.

“Washing Machine Fried Eggs” invites discussion of women’s sexual and domestic roles.

Apparently the artist wanted to “bring color” to the galleries and chose to include a series of yellow urinal sculptures displayed atop small refrigerators, placed among Rodin’s classic sculpture. We found the juxtaposition interesting but could easily understand the contretemps. At the entrance to the galleries where Lucas’ work is displayed, there are signs warning that the art may not be appropriate for all viewers. We have chosen not to include photos of the most controversial work for that reason.

Electricity in this piece “keeps the energy up” according to the artist.

Degas, Impressionism and the Paris Millinery Trade closes September 24 and Sarah Lucas: Good Muse closes September 17. Go see these very different exhibitions for yourself and let us know what you think. A day at the Palace of Legion of Honor is always a day well spent.

Art, Churches, Cultural Attractions, Dining, History

Puppets in Palermo—A Stopover in Sicily’s Biggest City

July 2, 2017

 

Welcome to Palermo.

We took a drive right up the center of Sicily on SS624 to reach Palermo. The ride is scenic, beautiful and pretty straightforward. As you approach, you’ll be greeted with breathtaking views of the city sprawl and the bay—bellissimo!

Palermo is Sicily’s capital city and it’s most populous. Its Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque architecture, cultural attractions, and incredible cuisine draw visitors from around the world.

Palermo is the largest and busiest city in Sicily and has plenty to offer the visitor looking for a bustling urban experience. We had less than two full days in Palermo and there is far more to see and do than we had time for.

The simple facade of Monreale Cathedral gives no indication of the superb golden mosaics inside this “must see” church.

Let your first stop in Palermo be a visit to Monreale Cathedral. This stunning cathedral has golden mosaics that rival, and some say surpass, those at Venice’s Basilica San Marco (St. Mark’s). This is truly a spectacular church, considered to be the finest example of Norman architecture in Sicily, and should not be missed. The somewhat plain façade belies the beauty that awaits inside.

The breathtaking golden mosaics inside Monreale Cathedral rival those at St. Mark’s (San Marco) Basilica in Venice.

Narrow, busy streets and overcrowding make parking a challenge in Palermo and the area surrounding the cathedral is no exception. There is a well-marked, supervised pay parking garage just down the road from the cathedral. Walk carefully along the alley- like street back up to the church.

The clear message here is: Do not park in front of this garage. Parking is always tricky in Palermo. When in doubt, find a pay lot.

After enjoying the splendor of the cathedral, we had a terrific lunch at Bricco e Bacco Brasserie, just kitty corner from the cathedral. It was a lovely place with good, local specialties and friendly service. Since we arrived after the lunch crowd, it was also quiet. You’ll find the restaurant at Via B. D’Aquisto, 13, Monreale, Phone for a reservation +39 091 641 7773. It’s a popular spot.

Driving in Palermo can be a harrowing experience and is not for the faint hearted.

Wind your way down into the city proper, navigating traffic carefully. All bets are off in Palermo and traffic can be heavy. Stop signs seem to be a mere suggestion and traffic signals are also sometimes ignored.

Farm fresh fruits and vegetables are sold at stands throughout the city. Be aware that in Sicily, what we call broccoli is cauliflower here.

Street markets like this one, selling clothing, dry goods, kitchen wares and other necessities can be found throughout Palermo. Ask for a “piccolo sconto”– a discount. Bargaining is part of the fun.

We really enjoyed walking all around the city to get the flavor of it and to get our bearings on our first visit.  We covered a lot of ground, including the Corso Vittorio Emmanuel, which is Palermo’s “high street.” Here you’ll find upscale shops and stylish boutiques, cafes and bars. Palermo also has numerous street markets with household necessities, clothing and dry goods, fruit stands, and food stalls, including the well known Vucciria and Ballaro markets.

Hands down, our favorite cultural institution in Palermo was the Museo Internazionale delle Marrionette. Yes, it is a puppet museum and far more compelling than you might expect. Sicily has a strong tradition of puppetry used for both entertainment and political commentary dating back centuries.

In addition to providing entertainment, puppet shows were often used to express political and social view points, particularly when the literacy rate was low.

Plan to spend at least a few hours enjoying the expansive collection and exhibits at the International Museum of Puppetry.

The museum’s collection includes more than 3,000 puppets of all kinds from around the world.

Marionette soldiers in full armament along with their battle- ready horses are on display in this large gallery.

The attention to detail and historical accuracy of the costumes is impressive.

They have puppets and marionettes from around the world, from the simplest paper puppets to the most elaborate marionettes. You’ll see everything from fairy princesses and dragons to entire armies dressed in armament from throughout the ages, all with remarkable attention to detail.

Even Laurel and Hardy make an appearance here.

You’ll find examples of puppets from the primitive to the extraordinarily elaborate.

Puppets from around the world including Africa, Indonesia and Japan are represented.

There are also a variety of settings and backdrops on view. We found our visit to the marionette museum to be an absolutely enchanting experience. The museum hosts puppet shows, too, of course.

Enjoy these fine examples of Japanese Bunraku puppets.

The museum often hosts puppet shows and has videos of productions on view.

For more information and show times, please visit www.museomarionettepalermo.it The museum is at the end of Via Butera on the Piazzetta Antonio Pasqualina, 5.

Known for its medieval art collection, the Galleria Regionale della Sicilia at Palazza Abatellis is a former palatial residence dating back to the 1490s, which went on to become a convent and then a monastery. It is now a regional gallery and museum.

Built for the Kingdom of Sicily’s Port Master, this fine former residence now houses an impressive collection of Medieval art and other treasures.

Here you will find sculptures, frescoes and paintings by Italian artists, as well as Flemish and other European masters, sacred art, weaponry and more.

Sculpture, paintings, religious art and more await visitors at the Palazzo Abatellis.

Though the building suffered terrible damage during Allied bombing raids in WWII, frescoes such as these from the 1400s survived.

Unfortunately the website has not been updated for some time so it is best to call the museum at +39 091 623 0011. It is located at Via Allora, 4.

To see how the upper class lived centuries ago, visit the Palazzo Mirto www.casemuseoitalia.it/en.   The Palazzo Mirto is part of a network of “house museums” found throughout Italy. It was originally built for the Filangeri family in the mid 17th century and falls into the ancestry category of homes.

The Palazzo Mirto provides a glimpse at the opulence the upper classes enjoyed during the time of the Kingdom of Sicily.

The palazzo is filled with beautifully appointed rooms featuring elaborate furnishings, ceramics, antique musical instruments, and art. One of the most spectacular is the Chinese Room, likely decorated in 1876 when the house was renovated.

The Chinese Room was the height of fashion when it was designed in the mid 1800s.

There are also classic carriages on display along with other historic treasures that paint a picture of Sicilian life for the upper class in the days before the Risorgimento when Sicily was still a kingdom.

Splendid furnishings and elegant porcelain are among the items on display at Palazzo Mirto.

The museum is located at Via Merlo, 2 and telephone is +39 091 616 4751 for updated information.

Enjoy a performance or take a guided tour– these are the only ways to get inside the magnificent Teatro Massimo.

If there is a performance at the Teatro Massimo, get a ticket and go. Regularly scheduled dance, opera, and classical music are all performed here. If you’re feeling flush, you, too, can rent the royal box —you just have to purchase all 27 seats in it.

The Teatro Massimo is known for its excellent acoustics and grand stage.

If time does not permit you to attend a performance, take a guided tour, which is the only other way to see the inside of this magnificent and historic building.

This beautiful and historic theater is among the largest in Europe.

A model of the theater is displayed in the lobby.

The theater boasts one of the largest stages in Europe and is worth seeing. Built in 1897, it is known for its outstanding acoustics and is still the largest theater in Italy with 1,300 seats. It is appropriately located on the Piazza Verdi. +39 091 6053580 www.teatromassimo.it.

The Politeama Garabaldi Theater hosts regular performances in Palermo’s historic city center.

We wanted to visit the highly regarded National Archeological Museum but it was closed for renovations during our visit. Please go to www.regione.sicilia.it/beniculturali/salinas for current information.

A stroll through Sicily’s capital city yields surprises.

We did not visit the Catacombe dei Cappuccine, the home of about 8,000 dead bodies, amassed over the course of several hundred years, all dressed up and on display. We find the entire enterprise rather ghoulish and having seen the Capuccine Chapel in Rome, which features skeletons of dead monks, felt no obligation to see this seemingly far more ambitious enterprise. Apparently it is a popular place on many tourist itineraries and so we mention it here.

Flags fly outside the Porta Felice Hotel on the small but busy Via Butera.

There are lodgings at all price points and with all levels of service, as you would expect in a large city like Palermo. We stayed at Hotel Porta Felice www.hotelportafelice.it/en at Via Butera, 45. Tele. 091 6175678. This is in the old section of town near the port.

Pleasure craft and fishing boats crowd the marina at the end of Via Butera.

Even though the hotel is on what appears to be a small side street, it is pretty busy. We were upgraded to a nice suite, even though we’d booked through www.venere.com. The location was very convenient and we walked everywhere we wanted to go, after turning in our rental car.

Friendly service and excellent Sicilian specialties await diners at L’Ottava Nota.

We only had two nights in Palermo and wound up having dinner both evenings just down the street from our hotel at L’Ottava Nota Ristorante, via Butera 55 091 6168601 www.ristoranteottavanota.it.   The restaurant was small and lovely with fantastic food and great service. The fish dishes were all spectacular. Everything was fresh, artfully prepared and delicious.

Perfectly prepared pasta makes a delicious first course.

White fish in a light curry broth was a favorite.

 

Seafood dishes were the star attraction for us, but L’Ottova Nota has superb meat and vegetable dishes, too.

A fish in a light curry broth with vegetables was so good I still think about it, though it is no longer on the menu. We mentioned we were staying at the Porta Felice and were happily surprised to learn we’d get a 20 percent discount on our meal because we were guests there. We cannot confirm that the special pricing is still available but it never hurts to ask, should you dine here. The restaurant is just a few doors down from Porte Felice on Via Butera, 55. The telephone is +39 091 616 8601.

We had an excellent lunch at Trattoria Piccolo Napoli, www.trattoriapiccolonapoli.it. Piccolo Napoli had been recommended by an Italian friend in the wine business but apparently Anthony Bourdain had once dined here and the owner told us that lots of Americans had been showing up ever since. Our welcome was much more cordial when we told him (in Italian) that his friend Sasha had sent us! Try the panisse (chick pea fritters) to start and have any seafood you like—it is all super fresh and simply, but deliciously, prepared.

Snack on some panisse as you peruse the menu.

Simply but perfectly prepared pastas and seafood dishes shine at Piccolo Napoli.

Through a small window into the kitchen, we watched the chef toss a whole octopus into a pot, plate it and serve it to a young girl who devoured every bit. We had pasta with shellfish and then I had a beautiful swordfish dish. For dessert, they brought us the ubiquitous “winter melon.” The melon is sweet and refreshing and so called winter melon because it can be picked in the summer and stored throughout the winter.  We saw it on menus throughout Sicily. The restaurant is on the Piazzetta Mulino a Vento, 4. Telephone is +39 091 320431.

Palermo is a fascinating and vibrant city and certainly worth a visit. We’ll be back.

Our final meal in Palermo was an extremely casual, but excellent pizza lunch at the airport, which we enjoyed out on the observation deck with a view of planes coming and going, and of course, the beautiful sea!

 

 

Architecture, Art, Cultural Attractions, Family Fun, Outdoor Activities, Outdoor Art, Pacific Northwest, Portland

Seeking Serenity at Portland’s Spectacular Japanese Garden

May 9, 2017

Gorgeous grounds, stunning views and an authentic Japanese experience have been delighting visitors to Portland’s spectacular Japanese Garden since 1963. Now, the beautiful 12-acre oasis, which includes five separate gardens with plenty of peaceful seating areas for reflection, a Japanese Tea House, tranquil ponds, and meandering paths perfect for contemplation, has even more to offer. Last month the new $33.5 million Cultural Crossing opened to visitors.

Follow the footpaths, steps and bridges that lead to each of the separate and distinctive garden spaces within Portland’s Japanese Garden.

The new $33.5 million Cultural Crossings expansion project includes new exhibition space, library, tea house and additional garden areas, all designed to enhance the authentic Japanese experience for visitors.

Designed by respected architect Kengo Kuma, the Cultural Crossing’s new buildings provide the perfect showcase for traditional Japanese arts and culture and serve as a venue for family-friendly activities and interesting demonstrations. An already popular attraction is even more appealing with the new expansion project. No wonder the lines for tickets are long. Purchase tickets online and check-in at the membership desk, exchange your voucher for a ticket there, and avoid the serpentine lines that are sure to continue for some time.

Minutes away from Portland’s busy streets, the Portland Japanese Garden is an oasis of tranquility.

Many visitors take the complimentary shuttle up to the gardens and walk back down to the parking area along the paved pathways.

Visitors can either take a complimentary shuttle bus or walk up the pathway to the open and airy Japanese Arts Learning Center–the heart of the new project with performance space, library and classroom.

Young visitors take a break on the steps inside the new Jordan Schnitzer Japanese Arts Learning Center.

The ground level Tanabe Gallery currently hosts an exhibition of ceramics, calligraphy, and sculpture by former Japanese Prime Minister Hosokawa Morihiro.

A delightful display of ceramics, calligraphy, and sculpture by former Japanese Prime Minister Hosokawa Morihiro are currently on exhibit in the Tanabe Gallery and Pavilion Gallery.

The expansive display, Hosokawa Morihiro: The Art of Life, a Rebirth in Clay, continues in the Pavilion Gallery, which also includes a portable teahouse.   Two additional “Art in the Garden” showcases, one featuring Kabuki costumes and the other, Noh masks and costumes, are scheduled for later in the year. The Japanese Garden will host related events and activities associated with both.

A portable tea house with the implements needed to perform a classic Japanese tea ceremony are part of the current exhibition. Noh masks and costumes and Kabuki costumes will be featured in the galleries later this year.

Now, to explore these magnificent gardens! The Strolling Pond Garden was our first stop, after a visit to the Learning Center and Gallery. Visitors can walk across the “iconic Moon Bridge” over the Upper Pond and enjoy the views.

Stroll the “Zig-Zag Bridge” over the Lower Pond which is surrounded by iris. It had not quite bloomed at the time of our visit, but was close. The aptly named Heavenly Falls provide the perfect backdrop to the Lower Pond and were a popular “selfie stop.”

The Heavenly Falls provide the perfect backdrop for contemplation or photo opps.

Follow the rough stepping stones along a lantern- lined path through the beautiful Japanese Tea Garden to the authentic Kashintei Tea House. Typically, the tea garden is a place to appreciate nature’s beauty and “the art of living in harmony” while leaving the cares of the world behind. This is certainly the case at the Portland Japanese Garden—it is so serene it’s easy to forget you are mere minutes from busy city streets.

Visitors are invited to leave their worldly cares behind when they explore the authentic tea garden and Kashintei Tea House.

The Kashintei Tea House, which is where tea demonstrations and related events are held, was brought to Portland from Japan and reassembled here.

Contact the Japanese Garden to learn when tea demonstrations and other events are scheduled for the Kashintei Tea House.

The Portland Japanese Garden has a lovely Sand and Stone Garden, created by Professor Takuma Tono, the Garden’s chief designer in the 1960s. These “dry landscape” gardens are sometimes called “Zen Gardens” because they are often found at Zen monasteries and are meant to invite quiet contemplation. The Sand and Stone Garden here illustrates an important Japanese concept—“the beauty of blank space.”

Enjoy your moments of Zen at the Sand and Stone Garden.

Recent additions to Portland’s Japanese Garden include the Natural Garden, which features local plants not typically associated with Japanese gardens and depicts seasonal change.

The cherry blossoms were in full bloom during our recent visit to Portland’s Japanese Garden.

The small courtyard garden (Tsubo-Niwa) and the Ellie M. Hill Bonsai Terrace are both new and located near the Tateuchi Courtyard in the Cultural Village.

Visitors are treated to an exquisite display of bonsai at the new Ellie M.Hill Bonsai Terrace.

The Flat Garden, which highlights each of the four seasons with specific plantings and trees is popular with visitors. The weeping cherry tree on the left represents spring while a 100- year old maple depicts autumn.

The Flat Garden is meant to be viewed from a single angle either from inside a home, where the door or window serves as a frame, or from a verandah, as these visitors are doing.

The gravel stands in for water, signifying summer in the Flat Garden.

After you’ve finished strolling around the gorgeous gardens and interesting exhibitions, stop in and sample the fare at the new Umami Café. During our visit, just a week after the April 2 reopening, the café was not yet serving food but was offering complimentary samples of four delicious teas from Tokyo-based Jugetsudo Tea Company. We were told that light snacks and sweets would be offered in the near future.

Stop in the new Umami Cafe for a restorative cup of tea and authentic Japanese sweets and snacks.

During our visit, guests were offered four different and delicious teas as part of a complimentary tea tasting.

When His Excellency Nobuo Matsunaga, the former Ambassador of Japan to the United States, visited the Portland Japanese Garden, he proclaimed it “the most beautiful and authentic Japanese garden in the world outside of Japan,” according to the organization.

Tranquil settings such as this one near the Upper Pond, have been drawing visitors since 1963.

They currently report more than 350,000 visitors annually, a number that will surely grow with the addition of the new Cultural Crossroads expansion. Be sure to add this spectacularly beautiful and serene spot to your Portland itinerary.  Visit www.japanesegarden.org for the most up to date information on tickets, events and hours.

 

Architecture, Art, Churches, Family Fun, Firenze, Florence, History, Italy, Museums, Tuscany

Il Grande Museo del’Opera del Duomo: All About Florence’s Famous Duomo

October 3, 2016

Florence’s Il Grande Museo del’Opera del Duomo has nothing at all to do with opera. Instead, it is all about the work, or opera, involved in building, preserving and maintaining one of the most recognizable Renaissance buildings in the world—Florence’s Duomo, also known as the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.

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A spectacular view of Brunelleschi’s dome from Caffe La Terrazza.

If you’ve ever wanted to see how Brunelleschi’s magnificent dome was constructed, learn what the other options were for the Duomo’s facade, or see the remarkable art treasures once housed in the cathedral, this is the place to come.

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Welcome to the recently reopened and reimagined Museo del’Opera del Duomo.

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Soaring galleries give visitors a new perspective on the superb sculpture on display at the museum.

Re-opened in October 2015 after years of restoration and reconstruction, the Museo dell’ Opera del Duomo has an exquisite collection of sculpture, paintings and other masterworks displayed on three floors in 6,000 square meters of exhibit space, all designed to showcase the art to its best visual and historical advantage.

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A visitor gets an up close look at a statue in the museum.

Most of the works were at one time in, or outside the Duomo.

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These sculptures once graced niches in Giotto’s bell tower.

Some of the treasures to be found include the original North Doors created by Lorenzo Ghiberti for the Baptistry of San Giovanni along with the Doors of Paradise by Lorenzo and Vittorio Ghiberti. Replicas now hang on the Baptistry.

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Ghiberti’s stunning Doors of Paradise and North Door once graced the Baptistry of San Giovanni but can now be found inside the museum.

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Detail of door.

In all, the museum boasts 750 works of art covering 720 years of history.

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Arnolfo di Cambio’s stunning Christ with the Soul of Mary

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This exquisite silver alter features scenes from the life of John the Baptist and was created by Lorenzo Ghiberti, Betto di Geri, Bernardo Cennini, Antonio di Salvi, Francesco and Leonardo di Giovanni, Antonio del Pollaiolo and Andrea del Verrocchio.

Michelangelo’s poignant pieta, sculpture by Donatello including his magnificent Mary Magdalene as Penitent, and works by Andrea Pisano, Antonio Pollaiolo, Arnolfo di Cambio and other highly regarded Medieval and Renaissance artists are on display.

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Michelangelo sculpted this pieta for his own tomb. He later destroyed it. It was reconstructed and acquired by Cosimo de Medici In 1671 and placed in the Duomo in 1722. It was the next to last sculpture Michelangelo ever created.

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Donatello’s Mary Magdalene as Penitent draws many visitors.

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Sacred items and iconography are part of the museum’s extensive collection.

img_2108In the Cappella Musicale, or music gallery, you will hear enchanting sacred music, and find works by Luca della Robbia and others, as well as rare illuminated music books.

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Beautiful music fills this gallery where rare illustrated books, sacred objects and art treasures are displayed.

img_2164Brunelleschi’s dome, still considered a marvel of engineering, remains one of Florence’s most iconic monuments.

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Models of Brunelleschi’s dome show how it was built and why it remains an engineering marvel.

In addition to the art treasures, the museum contains original building materials, equipment and tools, dating back to the Duomo’s 15th century construction.

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Wooden pulleys, ropes and other original construction equipment used to build the Duomo can be seen at the museum.

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Original 15th century tools and equipment used to build the Duomo are displayed near a continuously running film that explores the design and construction.

Also featured are drawings and models of the dome and Giotto’s bell tower, which was begun in 1334, after Giotto’s death. An outdoor terrace offers splendid views of the dome.

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Brunelleschi’s wooden model of the dome fascinates visitors.

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A detailed model of the bell tower designed by Giotto is on display near beautiful stained glass windows created by notables including Ghiberti, Donatello, Paolo Uccelli and Andrea del Castagno.

Visitors to the museum will learn about the history of this spectacular cathedral, designed by Arnolfo di Cambio and dedicated in 1412. The name Santa Maria del Fiore means St. Mary of the Flowers or Virgin of the Flowers. Once the largest church in all of Europe, today it is third in size, after St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral.

img_2134A film called Courage to Dare about Florence during the Renaissance and the creation and construction of the Duomo runs continuously in the museum.

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A number of possibilities considered for the Duomo’s facade are on display, including this one.

Combination tickets can be purchased for the Duomo Museum, the Baptistery, the bell tower and the Crypt of Santa Reparta, named for the 7th century church that once stood on the site of the Duomo. There is no charge to enter the Duomo, but paid tickets are required for visitors who wish to climb the more than 400 steps to the top of the bell tower.

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The Baptistry of San Giovanni always draws crowds. Tickets are required to enter.

Appropriate clothing is essential for entry. In other words, no shorts, short skirts or skimpy, shoulder baring tops on women or men. Bulky bags and backpacks must be checked. Visit www.ilgrandemuseodelduomo.it for information on ticket prices, hours and tours.

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Admission to the Duomo is free but take care to dress appropriately or you will be denied entry.

On our visit, we also had free access to a photographic exhibition called Opera di Viva by Michele Pecchioli, which paid tribute to the hundreds of men and women who have worked to preserve the artistic integrity and cultural heritage of the building and the art works within for more than 700 years.

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Michele Pecchioli’s photographs pay tribute to the men and women who restore and preserve the art and cultural heritage of Florence’s iconic Duomo.

img_2560The photos feature the restorers, artists, employees and security guards who play a role in safeguarding these treasurers and ensuring public access to the works for years to come. Note: This was a temporary exhibition and may now longer be available for viewing.

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A close up of a security guard charged with safeguarding the priceless treasures at the Duomo and its museum.

When the sun begins to set in Florence, head over to Piazzale Michelangelo for another perspective on the Duomo —and enjoy the gorgeous vista across the Arno over the city.

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Some of the most spectacular views of Florence can be had from the Piazzale Michelangelo. Don’t miss a visit to the beautiful San Miniato al Monte across the street. It’s the oldest church in Florence, after the Baptistry.

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Florence’s Duomo viewed from Piazzale Michelangelo.

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The department store La Rinescente has a terrace restaurant with fine views of the Duomo, as well as drinks and light fare.

If you crave an aperitivo with your sunset and Duomo views, go to La Rinascente, the department store on Piazza Repubblica. Go directly up to La Terrazza on the top floor and you’ll find a little rooftop café/bar with great views of the city and the iconic dome. It gets crowded so get there early or be prepared to wait.

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Sensational sunset view over the Piazza della Repubblica from Caffe La Terrazza.

Cin Cin!

 

 

Art, Family Fun, Florence, History, Italy, Museums

Scarpe Diem: Florence’s Salvatore Ferragamo Museum

June 24, 2016

IMG_2791Descend the staircase in the stunning Palazzo Spini Feroni, which houses the flagship Ferragamo store and serves as company headquarters, and you’ll be greeted by walls of Salvatore Ferragamo’s strikingly beautiful shoes, artfully displayed, of course. Though they play a major role in the Museo Salvatore Ferragamo, a marvelous small museum on Florence’s posh Via Tornabuono, there’s much more to see than fabulous footwear.

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Ferragamo’s shoes may themselves be considered works of art.

The Museum tells the story of the man, who grew up outside of Naples, the eleventh of 14 children and became “shoemaker to the stars”; the company, which became synonymous with beautiful and comfortable shoes that were widely imitated; and the city of Florence itself.

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Visitors can learn about Florence’s fascinating history at the museum.

Stunning masterworks of 17th and 18th century Florentine art, a look at the palazzo’s chapel with frescoes by Bernardino Poccetti, artful fashion, and company’s history are all part of the museum experience www.ferragamo.com/museo.

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There is much more to see than shoes at the Museo Salvatore Ferragamo.

IMG_2800In addition to the innovatively designed shoes for which the company is known, the signed lasts created for Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth, Sophia Loren and so many other movie stars and well-known names, past and present, are on view along with Ferragamo’s leather working tools.

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Wooden lasts created for movie stars, royalty and other recognizable names hang on the museum’s walls.

The company’s history is cleverly presented in photographs displayed on racks like tourist post cards.

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These “picture postcards” give visitors a glimpse of the company’s past.

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Video and still photos tell the story of Salvatore Ferragamo and the company he created.

Beautiful sculpture, noteworthy paintings, historic books, documents, and more from the family’s extensive collection compete for visitors’ attention. Classical music such as Corelli’s Le Sonata per Violino, Violone e Cimbalo plays in various gallery spaces, adding to the ambiance.IMG_2824

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IMG_2807Along with the permanent collection, the museum hosts rotating exhibitions. The current show, Across Art and Fashion poses the question, “Is fashion art?” and examines the relationship between the two.

IMG_7570The famous building, constructed in 1289, is itself part of the museum. Among other things, the Palazzo Spini Feroni was once home to the City Council when Florence was the capital of Italy. Salvatore Ferragamo purchased the Palazzo in 1938, after returning from America, and it has served as Ferragamo’s headquarters since that time.

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During it’s long and colorful history, the Palazzo Spini Feroni was home to Florence’s City Council, a hotel and art galleries before becoming Ferragamo’s headquarters.

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Salvatore Ferragamo’s widow, Wanda, was instrumental in creating the museum.

Through the efforts of Ferragamo’s widow and family members, Museo Salvatore Ferragamo was founded in 1995 after an exhibition at Florence’s Palazzo Strozzi went on tour, hosted by New York’s Guggenheim Museum, the County Museum of Los Angeles, London’s Victoria & Albert Museum, and Sogetsu Kai Foundation in Tokyo among others. The traveling exhibition became the basis of the permanent collection at the museum.

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Phone or email for private guided tours.

Private guided tours can be arranged on the first Saturday of each moth at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. by emailing museoferragamo@ferragamo.com or by calling +39 055 3562466. The museum also hosts special events. Check the website www.ferragamo.com/museo for details.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Architecture, Art, Churches, Family Fun, Italy, Tuscany

Pitstop in Pisa

June 22, 2016

If you’ve never been and you’re in the area, it’s worth a stop to see Pisa’s famous Leaning Tower and the Campo dei Miracoli or Square of Miracles.  The Tower, or Torre, which was begun in 1173 and not completed until 1399 almost 200 years later, is one of the most recognizable and visited sites in Italy.

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Go ahead– it’s why you’re here!

It’s easy to reach Pisa from Florence by car or train. We stopped on our way back to Panzano from Lucca. Park in one of the signed lots close to the piazza. There is a bit of an “element” looking to take advantage of tourists near the Campo dei Miracoli so it’s worth putting your car in an attended, paid lot. If you’ve arrived by train, take the LAM Rossa bus from the station in the direction of San Jacapo and get off at Torre.

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Site map of the Campo dei Miracoli shows where everything is located.

If you’re feeling energetic, you can climb the 251 steps to the top of the Tower, for a fee. Children under the age of 8 are not allowed up into the Tower for safety reasons and children between the ages of 8 and 18 must have an adult accompany them. Opening hours and ticket prices are available at www.pisaunicaterra.it, the official tourism website for Pisa.

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Part of the fun is watching everyone else take their photos.

Take the requisite photos, enjoy watching others take theirs, and then visit Il Duomo, Pisa’s cathedral. It is really beautiful and has the holy doors or porta santa open for the Catholic Church’s Jubilee Year of Mercy. Inside, in addition to the spectacular architecture, you’ll find art treasures like 700-year-old depictions from the bible, works by Ghirlandaio, the tomb of the Holy Roman Emperor Henry VII, a beautiful mosaic by Cimabue, and a carved pulpit by Giovanni Pisano. Photos are not allowed inside.

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Take the time to come inside. There is no charge to enter Pisa’s magnificent Il Duomo.

The Baptistery, though not as spectacular inside as the duomo, is also worth seeing if time allows. The Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, which contains many of the artworks formerly housed in Il Duomo, the Baptistery and the Camposanto (cemetery) is also located on the Square of Miracles.

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Construction on the Baptistry began in 1152 and is the best known work of Pisan architect Diotisalvi.

Entrance to the Cathedral is free but you must collect an entry coupon at the ticket office on the square. For tickets and admission information for the Baptistry, Museum and Camposanto or to purchase tickets online go to www.pisaunicaterra.it.

 

 

Art, Churches, Dining, Family Fun, History, Italy, Tuscany

Day Tripping– Lovely Lucca

June 22, 2016

The lively and lovely small city of Lucca is the birthplace of Giacomo Puccini and a wonderful place to spend one day or several. We’ve had a few day trips from our home base in Panzano in Chianti (www.stayitalia.com more on that in another post) and keep promising ourselves to spend more time here.

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Lucca is a popular destination for visitors to Tuscany and easy to reach by car or train from Florence.

You cannot drive inside the walled city. You must park in one of the lots outside. Be sure to look for the pay station if you park in any area with blue lines. White lines mean free parking, but blue lines require payment. We were so excited to get a spot near the Porta Santa Maria that we didn’t even notice we were in a pay zone and came back to find a parking ticket on our windshield. Note—if you get a parking ticket, pay it while you are still in Italy at any Post Office. You can do so with cash or credit card and you’ll avoid paying your car rental company the fee they charge to provide the Italian government with your information plus you’ll avoid the hassle of paying via wire transfer/foreign currency once you return home.

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Bicycling is a popular means of getting around in Lucca– inside the city walls and on top of them.

Once you get inside the walls, Porte San Pietro is the main gate–find an Info Point—Porta Santa Maria or Porta San Donato both have them. Pick up a tourism map which has several itineraries for exploring the town. Itineraries are in Italian, English and German and include opening times, closing days, and other important information for the major sites such as museums and churches.

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Visitors and locals alike stroll or bicycle around Lucca’s famous medieval walls. Bicycle rentals are readily available.

Lots of people go to Lucca to “walk the wall” or ride bicycles around the city on the top of its ancient fortifications—Passaggiata delle Mura. The medieval walls built in 1544 replaced earlier Roman ones and extend 4,195 meters around the perimeter of Lucca. There are plenty of bicycle rental places just inside the walls, particularly near the Porta Santa Maria. It was a blustery, rainy day when we were there a few weeks ago, so we put this on our list for next time.

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Now a place for picnics and soccer practice, the grassy area around the walls was once a moat.

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If you have time for a delicious and leisurely lunch (or dinner), go to la Buca di Sant’Antonio, Via della Cervia 3, 55100 Lucca +39058355881 www.bucadisantantonio.com. The restaurant specializes in traditional cuisine of the area and the food is delicious.We’ve had several memorable meals here.You must reserve a table because the restaurant is quite popular.

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Put Buca di Sant’ Antonio on your list of delightful restaurants in Lucca.

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Maccheroni lucchesi al sugo di coniglio– housemade pasta with rabbit sauce– as delicious as it looks.

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Puntarella alla Romana– a crisp, bitter salad topped with anchovies widely regarded as a Roman specialty.

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Petto di faraona all’ uva moscato– guinea fowl in a wonderful moscato wine sauce with crispy pancetta. Yum!

The Church of St. Michele in Foro is one of Lucca’s “must visit” sites. It was built on the site of the Roman forum in the 11th and 12th centuries and is still the center of city life. The church has works by Luca della Robbia and Fillipino Lippi, among others.

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This beautiful church is worth seeing both for its architecture and the wonderful art inside.

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San Michele in Forno.

Piazza San Martino is home to Lucca’s duomo of the same name. Built in the Gothic Romanesque style, this beautiful church contains some important artworks by Ghirlandaio, Tintoretto and Fra Bartolomeo as well as the Holy Face of Lucca, a wooden Christ on a crucifix attributed to Nicodemus, as legend has it.

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The anfiteatro is another of Lucca’s attractions. Built in the second century AD, the amphitheater’s former arena is now home to many shops and restaurants built into the ancient Roman walls, which are interesting to see from both inside and outside.

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This Roman amphitheater once hosted games and gladiators. Now it’s a popular dining and shopping destination.

The Torre delle Ore, or clock tower, dates back to 1390. It is the tallest tower in town and has 207 wooden steps that ambitious visitors are welcome to climb.  In its early days, the time was announced by bells alone but a clock face was added in 1752.

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Hardy souls who climb the tower can see the hand-wound clock mechanism from the 18th century. It’s still working!

Lucca has a Puccini Museum, of course, which is at Corte San Lorenzo 9 (near the Piazza Citadella)– the composer’s birthplace. The museum features furnishings, artworks, pianos, musical scores and other personal belongings including letters and notes from and to Puccini.

Shopping seems to be a popular past time in Lucca and there is no shortage of brand names from which to choose.

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Lucca has plenty of stores to keep shoppers happy.

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This giant sewing machine is a clever advertisement for the Milanese menswear maker.

Lucca is perfectly suited to those who like to wander, and we do, but after awhile we needed a break and stopped in for a gelato at De’Coltelli, 10 Via San Paolina, www.decoltelli.it . Definitely seek this one out for their terrific artisanal gelato offered with complimentary panna (thick, sweetened whipped cream), which just adds to the deliciousness!

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Panna is offered free as a thank you to gelato lovers here.

If it’s a drink or coffee you crave, pop in to The Dark Side—a cool little bar at 24 Via San Frediano at the corner of Via Angillara near the Church of San Frediano.

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Come over to the Dark Side. You’ll be glad you did.

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Step inside San Frediano for the beautiful baptismal font and works by Sienese sculptor Jacapo della Quercia, Matteo Civitali, and Amico Aspertini. The stunning facade features a golden mosiac depicting the Ascension.

Although we had come in for a quick coffee, we stayed for more than a half hour. The bartender was really friendly and he gave us tastes of some popular aperitivos along with descriptions of everything we sampled.

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Our knowledgable and friendly bartender at the Dark Side.

The Dark Side’s complementary snacks, served with drinks, looked abundant and delicious, but we were off to Pisa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Art, Berlin, Dining, Family Fun, Germany, History, Museums

Treasures of Berlin’s Museum Island

February 26, 2016

Take a stroll through the Brandenburg Gate, down Unter den Linden, to the banks of the River Spree. There you’ll find some of the world’s most intriguing and important cultural treasures—the Ishtar Gate, the bust of Nefertiti and so many extraordinary antiquities, classical sculpture and masterworks, it is impossible to imagine they could all be in one place—but they are—Berlin’s Museum Island.

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Museumsinsel http://www.smb.museum is home to five separate historical museum buildings, each designed by a well-regarded architect of the time and now part of a UNESCO world heritage site. Here you will find the Pergamonmuseum, Altes (Old) Museum, Alte Nationalgalerie, the Bode-Museum, and the Neues (New) Museum.

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The museums on Berlin’s Museumsinsel are a treasure trove of important paintings, sculpture, and antiquities from around the globe.

According to Visit Berlin, more than 3 million people come each year to view the collections that range from prehistory to 20th century art. Savvy travelers will want to purchase a Museum Pass, which provides entry to 50 major and lesser-known museums, including the five on Museum Island, over three consecutive days for one low fee. The price was 24 Euro when we visited in November. Passes are available at Berlin Tourist Info points, in the museums, and online at Shop.visitberlin.com.

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The magnificent Ishtar Gate, believed to date from 170 AD, was dedicated to Zeus and Athena. It was brought to Berlin from Western Turkey in 1903.

The long lines and crowded galleries attest to the fact that the Pergamon Museum is on nearly every visitor’s short list of places to visit in Germany’s capitol city.   It should be. The magnificent Pergamon Altar, Ishtar Gate, and marvelous sculpture and other works from ancient Sumeria, Babylon, Assyria, and modern day Iraq, Turkey and Syria are all on display here.  Restoration is underway on the Ishtar Gate, but it remains open for viewing. The Pergamon Altar was closed for restoration during our recent visit and will reopen in 2019. We were fortunate to see it several years ago.

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Detail from the Processional Way, which leads to the Ishtar Gate, at the Pergamon.

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Stunning Roman mosaics cover the floor in the gallery that contains the Market Gate of Miletus, built in the 2nd century AD in Turkey and excavated and brought to Berlin in the early 1900s.

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The stunning Aleppo Room at the Pergamon, seen through protective glass walls.

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Facade of the Caliph Palace Mshatta from Amman/Jordan from the 8th century. The 33 meter long, 5 meter high facade was brought to Berlin in 1903 to the Bode Museum. In 1932 it was reconstructed in the Pergamon.

We practically had the galleries to ourselves when we visited the Bode-Museum in November. This beautiful museum boasts art from the Byzantine and Roman Empires, a spectacular sculpture collection spanning from the early Middle Ages to the late 18th century, and one of the most extensive numismatic collections in the world. We could not understand why the Bode wasn’t full of people enjoying these art treasures.

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Pedro Roldan’s Our Lady of Sorrows (Mater Delorosa) at the Bode-Museum.

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The Bode-Museum is known for it’s sculpture collection. Friezes, sacred art and other cultural treasures are also on display.

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Don’t miss the extensive numismatic collection at the Bode. It’s one of the most comprehensive in the world.

The Bode also has a lovely café where we enjoyed a delicious and very reasonably priced lunch along with views over the Spree. The cafe balcony overlooks the museum’s grand entrance below.

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The comfortable cafe at the Bode was perfect for a light lunch.

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Save room for dessert!

If Impressionist works are more to your liking, visit the Alte Nationalgalerie, home to 19th century works by Renoir, Manet, Monet, and Cezanne, Adolph von Menzel and other well regarded artists of that time period. The Alte Nationalgalerie was the third museum to open on Museum Island.

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The Alte Nationalgalerie is home to a fine collection of 19th century paintings– part of Berlin’s State Art Collection.

Housed in one of Berlin’s most impressive neoclassical buildings, the Altes Museum was dedicated in 1828 by Friedrich Wilhelm III for “the study all antiquities and the free arts”. The museum’s permanent collection centers on classic antiquities covering Etruscan, Roman and Greek art and includes urns, vases, sarcophagi, friezes, pottery and sculpture.

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The Altes Museum is a popular destination for student and tour groups.

The 3300 year-old bust of Nefertiti is among the highlights at the Neues Museum, or New Museum. After sustaining significant damage during World War II, the building, which was designed by Friedrich August Stuler and constructed between 1843 and 1855, was abandoned. In 2003, extensive restoration began and the museum opened in 2009 with three main collections—Egyptian art from the Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection, prehistoric objects from the Museum for Prehistory and Early History, and classical antiquities. Visitors will find works from around the globe including the Middle East, North Africa, and Northern Europe at the Neues Museum.

For updated information on each of the museums on Berlin’s Museum Island and details on permanent collections, temporary exhibitions, admission, hours and directions, please visit http://www.smb.museum.

Note: The banner image is the Cathedral of Berlin known also as Berlin Dom, located on Museum Island.  In addition to church services, the Berlin Dom is open for tours. Numerous concerts and other events are also held there throughout the year. To the right is the Berlin TV Tower, constructed by the Soviets during the Cold War and now a popular tourist destination.

 

Art, Family Fun, Museums, New York

MoMA’s Must See Picasso Sculpture Closes Soon

January 3, 2016

In just over a month’s time, one of the most extensive and engaging exhibitions of Pablo Picasso’s sculpture ever presented in the United States will close. If you haven’t already visited the Museum of Modern Art’s marvelous retrospective of the painter’s rarely seen works, get your tickets and go see it before it closes on Feb. 7, 2016. http://www.moma.org

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A visitor examines Picasso’s Man With A Lamb (1943).

For the first time since 1967, New York’s MoMA presents one of the largest exhibitions of the painter’s three-dimensional work. The exhibit includes more than 100 sculptures plus photographs and works on paper, many never before displayed in North America. I was fortunate to see the exhibition during the Member Preview before it opened to the public in September.

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Left foreground, Woman with Child (1961), center rear, Head of a Woman (1957), right, Chair (1961). All three of these sculptures are painted sheet metal.

While Picasso was a formally trained painter, he was a self-taught sculptor and his work reflects the exuberance and personal relationship he had with the art form. He kept most of his sculptures in his personal possession rarely allowing these works to be displayed. One of the first and only times some of these pieces were presented publicly was in 1966 at a major retrospective at the Petit Palais in Paris when the artist was 85 years old. The following year, the MoMA staged Sculpture of Picasso in New York featuring many of the same works. Picasso’s sculptures have not been on public view on such a grand scale since.

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Insect (1951) was created from fired white clay and painted.

Picasso was fond of unconventional techniques and materials and frequently used found objects and materials including scrap wood, wire, metal and cardboard in his sculpture. Wicker baskets, pie tins, palm fronds, toy cars and many other scavenged items found their way into Picasso’s work. He used a bicycle seat and handlebars to create Bull’s Head, which was on loan from a private collection, for example.

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Bull’s Head, (Spring 1942) is a repurposed bicycle seat and handlebars.

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Left, bronze Pregnant Woman (1949). Right, Flowery Watering Can (1951-52) incorporates a watering can, plaster, nails and wood.

Museumgoers will learn that Picasso’s forays into sculpture were influenced by many sources including ceramics and woodcarvings by Paul Gaugin and Edgar Degas as well as by Oceanic and African sculpture. His themes run the gamut from political expression to family life. Just as in his paintings, women are frequent subjects in Picasso’s sculpture.

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Left, Bather (1931) bronze. Right, Head of a Woman (1932) plaster.

 

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Left, Woman with Vase (1933) bronze. Center, Head of a Warrior (1933) plaster, metal and wood.

He enjoyed reinventing and reimagining many of the same themes as the exhibition demonstrates. His Glass of Absinthe – six different polychromed bronze pieces each including an actual absinthe spoon, is a good example of this.

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Seated Woman (1947), Standing Woman (1945), Seated Musician (1950), and Seated Faun (1950) are among the small earthenware, terracotta and clay pieces in this display case.

Visitors to Museum of Modern Art http://www.moma.org will need timed tickets to see the Picasso Sculpture exhibition. Only members, corporate members and guests accompanied by members are exempt from this. Each day a limited number of tickets will be available for same day viewing but we strongly suggest that you get your tickets in advance to ensure you don’t miss this wonderful exhibition.

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Woman with Outstretched Arms (1961) painted iron and sheet metal.

Published in conjunction with the exhibition and available in the MoMA’s book and gift shops, the Picasso Sculpture catalog makes a beautiful souvenir that will allow you to revisit your favorite works again and again.

 

 

Art, California, Museums, Napa Valley, Outdoor Art, Restaurants, Wineries

Carneros: Art, Bubbles and Fine Dining

September 14, 2015
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This lovely path leads to the di Rosa Collection– one of the most extensive contemporary art collections in Northern California.

If you’re ready for a break from wine tasting and need to get off the well-trodden and always busy wine road that is Route 29, head over to the tranquil Carneros District and stop in at the di Rosa Collection www.dirosaart.org. This lovely property has been open to the public since 2000, when it was incorporated as a nonprofit public trust.

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The Gatehouse Gallery features rotating exhibitions of contemporary art.

Rene and Veronica di Rosa’s extensive contemporary art collection includes some 2,000 works by 800 artists including Richard Shaw, Bruce Nauman, Larry Sultan, John Buck, Allan Rath, Paul Kos, Viola Frey and many others and is considered to be one of the most important collections in Northern California.

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Book a tour to see the entire collection both inside the buildings and around the gorgeous grounds.

The works are displayed in three buildings and throughout the property. The modern Gatehouse Gallery is home to rotating exhibitions of modern paintings, sculpture, multi-media and interactive pieces.

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A recent exhibition in the Gatehouse Gallery.

 

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An interactive piece lets visitors…

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…blow giant smoke rings!

 

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Tongue-In-Cheek, a recent exhibition at Gatehouse.

Gallery admission allows access only to the current exhibition on view in the Gatehouse and is a self-guided proposition. To experience the entire collection, set aside 1-1/2 to two hours for the superb guided tour of the outbuildings, including the chapel, and the exquisite grounds. It is best to book the guided tour in advance to avoid disappointment.

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Take a tour and experience the art outdoors.

You’ll likely see peacocks racing through the tall grass around many of the sculptures including one of my favorites, “Field Hands.” You really need to experience this for yourself.  The catalog of the permanent collection, Local Color, makes a great souvenir or a gift for an art-loving friend. Be sure to check the website for hours of operation and the tour schedule.

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Outside art.

 

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Domaine Carneros is right across the road from di Rosa.

After your tour of the di Rosa Collection, go across the street to the elegant Domaine Carneros—it’s home to Tattinger’s California sparkling wines http://www.domainecarneros.com. Reservations are not required but there is a fee to taste.

Domaine Carneros-- Taittinger's California Sparkling Wine.

Domaine Carneros– Taittinger’s California Sparkling Wine.

Tours are also available by reservation via website or phone. There are numerous options for tasting from flights to single glasses. Take your glass out onto the beautiful terrace and enjoy the spectacular view across the vineyards of the Carneros District.

 

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Enjoy a drink in this pleasant lounge area at Farm.

One of my favorite dining destinations is in the Carneros, just a short distance away—Farm at the Carneros Inn http://www.thecarnerosinn. We have celebrated many memorable meals here and the last, which happened to be an anniversary, was no exception. Start with your libation of choice and relax outside on the comfy couches that surround the open fire. Depending on the hour, you’re likely to see children running happily around the lawn—much better here than in the dining room!

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The dining room is casual but elegant.

The menu at Farm changes often to reflect the restaurant’s commitment to local, seasonal and sustainable produce, fish and meat. The cuisine is contemporary Californian and the wine list draws almost entirely from California producers.

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The wine list focuses on Californian bottlings. Our somm gave us terrific recommendations like this Philip Staley 2012 Viognier.

Service is impeccable and the room is spare yet elegant. The restaurant is open daily for dinner only and reservations are a must.

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A complimentary amuse bouche began our dining adventure.

 

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Even a chicken breast is elevated to new culinary heights at Farm.

 

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The halibut was sublime.

 

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A chocolate lover’s dream dessert.

 

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A lovely finish to a beautiful meal.

The hotel also has a casual option called Boon Fly, which is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Reservations are only available at dinner. This is great place to stop if you want a quick and tasty lunch and are in the mood for a burger, salad or sandwich.

Mix it up a bit and add Carneros to your itinerary. You’ll be glad you did!