Bowie ’04 Summarizes Monday in Florence

Jerry Bowie ’04, June 4 – One of our main focuses for this trip to has been the evolution of Italian, primarily Florentine and Sienese art, culminating in the Florentine Renaissance.  So far we have examined how religious, political and social factors helped shape and mold artistic techniques and mediums such as altar paintings, frescoes, and sculptures comprised of both metal and non-metal materials. These primarily, but not always religious pieces, have meaning and uses that reach their aesthetic values. We’ve discovered that there is an intricate web of aesthetics, technique, meaning and use with each piece that we have seen.  Some pieces, although religious in nature, have more of political appeal while others have may have more of a personal appeal.  As we’ve moved through the centuries we have been able to see how the artists, who may often be the only neutral parties in the process, have slowly refined their techniques to resemble pieces that are more and more pleasing and realistic to the eye.

Today’s first top was the Oganissanti Monastery which was founded by the order of the Umiliati in 1249. We examined a fantastic fresco of the last supper. Fortunately, in this case we were able to see the sinopia of this particular fresco to look at the artists work before the finished product. For those of you who are unfamiliar with that term, the sinopia is an artist’s underlying sketch that is later covered with plaster in parts as the artists also paint to seal the bond of the image and paint. Every opportunity we’ve had to see this we see how the artists’ intentions for the final drawing change in the process. In this case, there were elements that were changed because the frescoes’ commissioners made changes to the original plan for the fresco after the sketch was made and the artists had to accommodate those change. Some changes are so subtle, like hand positioning or facial expression, while others can be dramatic like complete figure removal. One additional piece that we also saw at this location, was the fresco of a one Amerigo Vespucci, whom America was named after. This fresco was done by the famous fresco painter Domenico Ghirlandaio who also painted a very famous fresco of St. Augustine.

Our second stop of the morning was to the Uffizi Museum. One of the great things about this museum is that we are able to see all different types and phases of Florentine Art all in one place. There you get to really see up close the processes of art development. Realism was by far one of major themes of the Florentine Renaissance accompanied by the underling themes of depth perception, angles, color pallet, and content.

Our final stop of the day was the Bargello Museum. Here, we were able to the technique of sculpting that really developed and flourished during the Renaissance. For instance, the roman sculpture of St. George really put Rome on the map of sculpting. The naturalism, tension, and technique that Donatello was able to capture, really helped set the standard for sculpting and bronze work. We completed our day be visiting the local Florentine show room of Antonio Frilli. His family business, established in 1860, still maintains the technique of the lost wax method in bronze castings and his show room was filled with primarily bronze replicas of famous pieces.  We were able to understand all that is involved in creating these works of art and effective understanding the difference between replicas and copies. His gallery specializes in using original molds of famous pieces, combines with the skill and craftsmanship of artists to create replicas of each piece.

We topped off the day by not only reflecting on the magnificent art we had seen through out the day but also spending time remembering a very special and awesome woman, Mrs. Pru Philips.  Pru is the late wife of Professor David Phillips, and we honored her on the third anniversary of her death.  She was a woman of elegance, intelligence, and courage.  Whether it was teaching high school chemistry at Crawfordsville High or creating wonderful memories through her photography or living with cancer in a way that taught everyone about dignity, Pru touched the lives of all who knew her.  So we joined David in toasting the life of a woman we are happy to recall as Some Little Giant!

Ezell ’11 Compares Trip to Immersion

Jake Ezell ’11 – Saturday morning we arrived in Florence following a 2-hour bus ride from Assisi through the beautiful Italian countryside. It’s truly amazing, as it seems every turn heads way to a picture perfect Kodak moment. Following the distribution of rooms and dispersal of luggage, we made our way to San Marco, home of some beautiful frescoes. Unique to this monastery are individual frescoes painted specifically for each monk’s cell.

The Arno Riiver and the famed Ponte Vecchio bridge

Around 2:00, the group traveled to Palazzo Antinori for a delicious and large, no monstrous feast of Italian food. The 4-course meal was delicious and perfectly prepared. The steaks we were served were, as a guess, around 1 pound each and grilled to perfection.

As we pulled ourselves away from our gigantic meal and slowly walked through the streets of Florence, we found ourselves face to face with a monster: the David. No picture, remake, mold, virtual program, or other type of media can do true justice to the brilliance of the David. It literally is the type of artwork that stops you where you stand when you first see it and leaves you deep in thought long after you’ve left. It was the second time I had seen Michelangelo’s masterpiece, and regardless of what the Florentines say, I could not get tired of it even if I had to see it everyday.

This trip has been a good reflection on my time abroad with Dr. Cook 3 years ago (I was a sophomore) on his immersion course on Saint Francis of Assisi. For me, it was my first time on an airplane and my first time leaving the United States. Since then, I have studied abroad and visited several other European and Central American countries. Traveling is always adventurous, but there is something special about traveling with Dr. Bill Cook. He is one of those people who found what he was supposed to do in life and has never looked back. The passion that follows truly lights up a room and brings all the details that would otherwise be overlooked to the forefront. It’s been a real pleasure traveling with him.

Vogel ’72 Talks About Alumni Travel

Howard Hewitt – The alumni travel group is in the middle of its stay in Florence,Italy, after an extended stay last week in Siena and then Assisi.

The Group was scheduled to visit the fabulous Uffizi Museum and Santa Croce church yesterday. Tuesday’s agenda called for trips to San Marco, Sant’ Apollonia, Santa maria Novella and dinner tonight. Wednesday’s highlight will be a trip out to Machiavelli’s villa and a fabulous lunch.

So why alumni travel? There are many reasons to consider a Wabash Alumni Travel trip. Last Tuesday we visited the hilltop town of Montalcino. I took out a video cam and asked several of the alums why visit Europe on a Wabash trip instead of just going on your own.

Gordon Vogel ’72, from Mount Vernon, In., talks about Wabash travel.

Only Student on Trip Shares Experience

Rudy Altergott ’13 – When I talked to Dr. Cook about the possibility of coming on this alumni trip to Italy, I wasn’t sure what he’d say. Firstly, I’m the only current Wabash student in the group. Secondly, while I look up to Dr. Cook a great deal, having taken his freshmen tutorial on Alexis de Tocqueville, I never ended up taking any of his mainstream Christianity classes during his time as a visiting professor at Wabash, and I’ve never felt like one of his star pupils. But, not surprisingly, Dr. Cook responded to my query with open arms, and I am very thankful for that. I have met some wonderful alums, faculty or friends of the college. These people especially have made this an unforgettable trip.

On the way to the Church of San Damiano

In many ways, I’ve come along for this ride because I’ve never been to Italy previously. But in many other ways, I’m here because of the irresistible opportunity to see Dr. Cook in his element. And that is so true when being with him in Assisi, the birthplace of St. Francis. For those who may not know, Dr. Cook is arguably one of the world’s foremost Franciscan authorities. While I loved being in Siena, being in Assisi helped me become reacquainted with things I learned in Catholic grammar school. I could never imagine then that I would end up in Assisi where St. Francis lived and preached . The same is true when thinking about St. Clare, a contemporary of Francis’.

We have visited churches upon churches on this trip, and have analyzed the iconography of medieval frescos therein. On our last day in Assisi, we visited some very special churches connected to Franciscan history. When a young St. Francis received a vision from God telling him to help “rebuild the Church”, he took it to quite literally mean the physical repairing of churches. One of the many he rehabilitated was San Damiano, which later included the very cloister in which St. Clare lived out most of her religious life. We then made our way to the church and museum of Santa Maria degli Angeli. What I enjoyed to discover was that, in actuality, this church is the namesake of the city of Los Angeles, California (where my sister is enrolled at USC). And the stories related to these places are nothing short of fascinating.

If you ask me, though, the best part of Assisi stay was our last night there. We started in a usually deserted (but that night crowded) museum in the mountain town of Montefalco. I somewhat enjoyed the museum’s rare frescos, but was more interested the exotic sports cars being auctioned off in the town square. Classic models of some of my favorite cars were well-represented, including a few Porsche 911s, Ferraris and Rolls Royces, among others.

We then made our way to Le Casaline a family-owned restaurant in the nearby countryside. I have to confess that I am picky eater, but I made a conscious effort to eat everything that was offered there, and I absolutely did not regret it. We had delicious hors d’ouveres while watching a beautiful sunset, and then made our way inside for more delicious food. When we left for the bus outside, we saw an incredible moon, and got back to the hotel in time for a good night’s sleep to end a wonderful section of the trip.

It has been great to be able to be here and to get to know the members of our group. I have discovered a lot, both about history, Christianity, and myself, among other things. But the trip is not yet over, and there is still much to be said and done. God (and Dr. Cook) only knows what will happen next. Ciao!