Monday, March 7, 2016

fountain of Neptune

This is my sketch of the mighty statue of Neptune as seen in the Piazza della Signoria.
The entire fountain is covered with a baroque tangle of bronze figures with a marble Neptune in the center. The sculptor was Bartolomeo Ammannati (1565). It is said that the face of the Neptune figure is meant to resemble Cosimo I de Medici. If so then the body is quite a flattering monument to the de Medici physique
A few weeks after I returned from Italy I was at the Art Institute of Chicago (back in my own backyard). I was in the American art wing, looking at late 19th century painting and came upon this work by John Singer Sargent (a great hero of mine).  Of course a celebrated artist like Sargent would have been in Florence and of course he would have set up his easel and painted in the Piazza della Signoria in the shadow of the Fountain of Neptune. A moment of surprise came when realizing that I had sat in the same spot where Sargent sat over a hundred years ago.

I sketched the Sargent painting for myself while marveling at his brushwork and use of light. A wonderful and enchanting part of traveling in Italy is finding something like this that has not changed for centuries.

"Best known for his society portraits, John Singer Sargent was likewise adept at landscapes and architectural studies, practices that he increasingly pursued after 1900 in both oil and watercolor. Fountain of Neptune depicts a portion of the famous 16th-century fountain in the Piazza della Signoria in Florence. Painting his composition on site, en plein air, Sargent chose an up-close, truncated view of the sculpture, focusing not on the god of Neptune, but on the twisting, muscular bodies of other bronze figures adorning the fountain. The play of light on intricate surfaces of architecture and decoration is the composition’s principal subject."
Art Institute of Chicago American collection