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Monday, June 9, 2014

Under & Through the Walls


Lucca’s walls make great subjects, whether in summer or winter. Simple, prismatic forms, they provide poignant ruddy contrasts to the green that crowns and surrounds them. Less attended to are the spaces below/within. The walls were designed to resist artillery attack, but like all defenses they also provided for counterattacks (sorties). Troops could slip out in the space between the polygonal bastions and the walls themselves; to get to those spaces one passes through the vaulted passages (the rest of the walls are, contrary to popular belief, solid earth) that link intra- and extramural worlds. Not designed for aesthetics, nonetheless they offer dramatic architectural experiences that Piranesi would have loved.

I drew this scene last summer under the Bastion of S. Martino, where the vaulted passage opens briefly to the sky and a portal for crossfire offers a glimpse of distant grass in front of the walls, before the sortie path disappears again through the arch on the left. I returned to paint it last weekend, and will probably do so again. It’s an interesting, challenging subject; part of the challenge was looking from the brilliantly lit subject to the canvas in the shadows where I stood, which involved constantly adjusting my eyes to the light/dark.


To really understand what you’re painting, you need to know your subject; right now there’s a show on the walls, with original drawings and models, at Lucca’s State Archive:

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