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Monday, September 14, 2015

L’Occhio di Lucca

Or, Light in the City

On September 14 every year the city of Lucca celebrates its renowned relic, the Volto Santo, for the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross; the big event is in fact the night before, when the city is candlelit and a vast procession moves from San Frediano to the Cathedral of S. Martino. The day before the procession this year the city reenacted its ancient signaling system, an extension really of its circuit of walls to include a warning system broadcast back and forth from towers in the city and the surrounding countryside and mountains. Smoke from the Torre del Bargiglio in the Garfagnana was the “Eye of Lucca” warning of threats from the north; for the reenactment what was spectacular in town was the vermillion smoke emanating from the verdant crown of the Torre Guinigi. The purple clouds of the twilight sky and the brilliant red, despite its implications of danger, was a visual feast. For a city defined by its walls, built for defense but now enjoyed for a whole town’s passeggiata, the aesthetic delight the walls afford is rich and diverse enough—in different light, at different times of day and orientations—to reward returning again and again to paint en plein air.

The painting here of the Baluardo (bastion) di S. Maria in the late afternoon of late August was an exercise in capturing diverse greens and projected shadows. My notion of plein air—short window of time, accuracy of hues and values—can’t be divorced from the painterly technique needed for such quick work. This painting, aiming to be an hour’s effort, wound up at about 90 minutes, with the moon rising telling me it was getting to be time to go.

The Baluardo di S. Maria

just for fun, from Murabilia

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