Feature: ArtScene

ArtScene: Botticelli, Fra Angelico and Renaissance in Florence

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Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith Slaying Holofernes

Florence. Jenny found a kitten with a topaz stud in her Prada handbag. Jenny is a fabulous stylist. Coolest linen and floppy hat broad-brimmed enough to shelter a platoon of Praetorian Guard. Smart swanky with style and the slightest contempt for the rest of the world. Very Florence.

That’s me for ten days. I’m teaching an art course. But then I think about it. Prada? Kitten with a topaz? Botox to go?

What happened to smudged smocks? Big paint brush stuck in the quickly frizzing hair? Grubby models with leaking smelly belly aches. The starving half doped cur on a string sucking and scratching a cankerous hind quarter? Is there no romance left?

And it’s hot. The water colors dry on the palette. I say why not a cold beer?  Jenny only does plastic and can’t open the Prada in case she disturbs the sleeping kitten. OK. Let the kitten purr. I pay. Oh for the cool of a big workshop or studio. The timing’s good. Enter, Susan Madocks

Susan’s at the British Institute in Florence. She’s full of BIF’s don’t-miss course this week Experiencing the Renaissance Workshop with Alan Pascuzzi.  Lots of hands-on in the studio finding out what it was like to be an apprentice in an artist’s studio - including forgery!

Any good? Should be. It was here that Kate Middleton, as then she was, did the BIF’s art history course. Handy when the family-in-law has one of the finest private art collections in the world. Maybe our newest Duchess should be here at the end of the month.

Botticelli Money and Beauty.jpg
The Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi is putting on Money and Beauty - Bankers, Botticelli, and the Bonfire of the Vanities. Great title in a country that’s going, going, gone. Sold to the gentleman with a Sicilian zipcode.
It’ll be dripping with true masterpieces: we always think Botticelli but, but for me I’m waiting for Fra. Angelico, Beato Angelico the wonderfully wise priest who in the first half of the 1400s emerged as a rare and perfect talent of the early Renaissance. So much of Fra. Angelico here in Florence; The Adoration of the Magi, Transfiguration, Noli Me Tangeri. And this is only toe in the water stuff. You must get to Florence starting 29 September.

We all know Italy is back-to-back Renaissance. But this is the compelling connection between the orgins of Italian banking and cultural heritage as seen by the two curators, Ludovica Sebregondi, the expert on the radical Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola (from whom we get the phrase "Bonfire of the Vanities"), and Tim Parks (read his Medici Money). A success. Go see it Silvio. 
Which brings me back to the kitten with the topaz, Prada and the beautiful Jenny . Maybe I’ve got it wrong.  Maybe I should bin the paint-stiff smock and dig out the slinky silk D&G number I found in the Second Time Around shop. Who says artists have to sweat?
From today I’m with kittens who do Prada and, a wonderful seventeenth-century painter, Artemisia Gentileschi. Artemisia says it for me. A lady with attitude. I’m off to the Uffizi in the morning to see if they’ve still got her Judith Slaying Holofernes. Scary stuff. May even take the kitten.

ArtScene Quote of the Week.

My illustrious lordship, I'll show you what a woman can do. Artemisia Gentileschi

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Fiona Graham-Mackay, is London's newest royal portrait painter. She is also recently back from painting in the Pakistan-Afghan border. She studied at London's Royal College of Art, had a studio in Paris before returning to the UK to paint and teach in London, Spain and Italy. Her next assignments areā€¦

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