Monday, January 26, 2015



ANANAS ( A Pattern Pineapple)
Ana Aponovich
watercolor, 20" x 28"

"Don't play with your food!"
                                                   -Eve ( as told to Cain and Able)

Italians love fruit, strawberries, cherries, figs, blood name it. But, I would say that they harbor a particular  fondness for two: watermelon (cocomero) in summer and pineapple ( ananas) the rest of the year. Dessert is often a perfectly ripe piece of fruit to balance the complexity of a meal. Other desserts tend to be simple and not overly sweet. What complicated desserts there are usually have trickled down from France. However, there is one indigenous dish that stands alone.....

" The best tiramisu in the world."
                                  -Aldous Huxley

Think Tiramisu ( trans. 'pick me up') and it may elicit a yawn from you and in general for good reason.
Without a doubt, it has been overused and butchered here in the states......
....tiramisu cupcakes.....tiramisu coffee?

However, there is one restaurant in Italy whose Tiramisu reigns supreme, at Befico family
 owned ( since 1959)  Ristorante Masolino in Panicale. While Bruna and Sonia cook, and Andrea pours wine, Stefania rules the dessert menu. Torta di Nonna, Crema Caramella, Biscotti and her tour  de force Tiramisu compliment one of the best Italian meals you can get.

Bruna, Stefania & Sonia in the kitchen

Masolino's Restaurant, Panicale

But, we are here for for fruit, so lets leave Panicle and return to Tuscany and the 
walled city of Borgo Sansepolcro.

Journal Page: Sansepolcro
James Aponovich

Yeah, we were on the Piero Trail ( blog post 21) and spent the night at what I think is the only hotel within the walls, Albergo Fiorentino. For dining, there is the attractive Ristorante Fiorentino in the hotel presided over by the gregarious owner. To start, I ordered the usual affitasi ( mixed local cured meats and cheeses) , but then I saw the most amazing antipasto pass by me for the next table.


"I'll have what they're having."

They serve the swan two ways, for antipasto, various salamis are placed between the pineapple slices, and for the dolci course it is served without meat but instead with whipped cream ( panna). Anyway they showed me how to make one and when we returned home and hosted a dinner party, I made one with salami and was curious to see how it would be received.

It was like kids at a birthday party....within minutes...gone!

(week 22)

Copyright 2015 James Aponovich

Monday, January 19, 2015


The Sevigalla Madonna
Piero della Francesca
Urbino, Italy

For awhile it was quite fashionable while touring Tuscany to engage in cultural pursuits,judging from the lines to see Michelangelo's David ( a.k.a. Naked White Guy), I guess it's still sort of true. If you belong to a certain 'set' and are more adventurous, you embark o the"Piero Trail", seeking out frescos by Piero della Francesca, in situ. They cannot come to a museum near you, so you must go to where they were painted. After all you must do something between that last caffe doppio in the morning and your first sip of Chianti Riserva in the evening. It becomes somewhat of a life list game.......How many Piero's have you seen?

Federico da Montefeltro 
Battista Sforza
Piero della Francesca
Uffizi, Florence

As an introduction, the trail begins in Florence at the Uffizi. Federico and Battista from Urbino sit in the middle of the room, husband and wife in profile in front of an imaginary landscape. They are paintings on panel and critically many feel these are lesser works, charming, as they say. But, to me they are splendid, there is an instant clarity of form and a real sense that these figures sit in air ( sfumato). Piero manages to paint atmosphere in front, around and in back of the figures. He paints the invisible. This was a big deal at the time when the Renaissance was abandoning gothic flatness. Take a quick look around and then onto the first stop.....


Legend of the True Cross ( detail)
Piero della Francesco
Church of San Francesco, Arezzo

Leave Florence and head east on the Autostrata ( S1) and you will soon arrive at Arezzo, a gritty thug town. The city was heavily bombed by the Allies during World War II, so much of its presumed charm has been lost. Make your way to the Church of San Franceso, walk past it and try to find the          
ticket office ( Bigletteria) and hope that its open. Return to the church and you'll see the fresco cycle of The Legend of the True Cross. Don't forget your binoculars, you'll need them. O.K. Next stop.....


The Resurrection
Piero della Francesca
Museo Civico, San Sepolcro

As you drive east from Arezzo, the landscape changes, more resembling northern New England. You emerge to a large plain, Anghiari is to the north and further east is Borgo San Sepolcro, the birthplace of Piero himself. Here you will see The Resurrection, a painting that Aldous Huxley
 referred to as, " The greatest picture in the World." ( I wonder what Trevor F. would think of that!).....


Madonna del Prato
Piero della Francesca

Quick! grab a bite at a Tavola Calda, no time to sit, we still must 'do' Urbino, but first we have a pregnant Madonna to visit.
I don't know ..... you know how far Urbino is? Anyway, it's almost 'Happy Hour' back at the villa and we do have reservations for dinner at Cibreo.... well...maybe next time.
Siamo Stanchi!  ( we're tired!)

The spirit is willing
the flesh is weak

Madonna and Child with Four Saints
Piero della Francesca
Clark Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts

Don't fret! Back here in the U.S.A. you can find a handful of Piero's, Washington, D.C., New York City, Boston, and right here at nearby Williamstown, MA.  This is why we came here, to the Clark.  It is what is called an easel painting and it probably hung on a wall to the right of a window.
 How do we know?........ The angel is casting a shadow.


Il Duomo and Campanile,  Florence (in progress)
James Aponovich

"This is insane, this is insane."
                                                -Tom B., appliance repairman

He might be correct. More on this later.

{week 21}
Copyright 2015 James Aponovich

Monday, January 12, 2015

Casting A Long Shadow (part II)

(part II)

Il Duomo ( in progress)
James Aponovich
pencil on panel, 12" x 17"

To: Aponovich 43
Re: Piano Criticism
Ref # : Blog #19

Q.  I am troubled by your last posting concerning Renzo Piano's stunning completion of the Fogg Museum at Harvard. Renzo has managed ( brilliantly) to unite the Crimson Trinity of The Busch-Reisinger and The Sackler Collections into the original (faded) Fogg to create an ethereal, unified masterpiece. I have admired his achievements at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston as well as The Pierpont Morgan here in New York. He is truly a genius of our age and he has my imprimatur.
    To my surprise, I have discovered that your work is in the collections of quite a few museums, or as you so glibly refer to them as"zoos." You are not a critic and have not had any such training. Should't you just stick to your dabbling and leave the critical analysis to professionals?           
                                                                               -Trevor F., Manhattan

A.   I seem to recall that once upon a time, many, many years ago, Apollodorus of Damascus and Hadrian had a similar conversation, it led to unpleasantries. So, all right, lets leave Renzo The Magnificent behind, but allow me one more shot. This time with a guy from The Land of the Rising Sun in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts at...


If you drive west from Peterborough along The Mohawk Trail ( Route 2) you will eventually come to Williamstown, Massachusetts, the home of the Clark Institute ( Museum). Again, we with with our friends, Bob and Sylvia. Williamstown seems to be a serene New England college town and was endowed with a considerable personal art collection that was amassed during the early part of the Twentieth Century by the Clark's ( Singer sewing machine fortune). 
The original building is some fifty years old and starting to show it's age ( who's not?). So the Trustees raised a whole bunch of money and commissioned the Japanese Architect Tadao Ando to transform it and thusly us. The problem is............

After you park your car, it is not evident where in the world the entrance is... maybe it's a Japanese thing. What you do see are 'art mark' walls of granite extending in various directions, although, by following one I did manage to find a bathroom. After some exploring, we finally entered the admissions building, a large airy space with glass walls that contained one desk, the admission desk and the architects gift shop. Stairs led down to 'the special exhibitions space', ubiquitous cafe and bookshop. To me I felt like I was in the basement, which I was.


The Weight of Water

But, step outside to the utter tranquility. Two enormous but shallow pools reflect one another and are harmoniously set into the landscape ( Landscape Architect, Reed Hilderbrand), rounded stones cover the bottom, the sky is reflected on the surface, talk about 'in situ'! Sylvia mentioned that the people on the far side looked like figures in an architectural drawing......I replied,"Believe me, they are."

It all makes you almost forget why you are here........the art!

Coming up next week:

The Outside May Be Pretty
It's Whats Inside That Counts.

{week 20}

Copyright 2015 James Aponovich

Monday, January 5, 2015


{Part I of II}

Q.   Why do you go to so many churches when you are in Italy?
A.   Because thats where the art is. (maybe)

Duomo and Campanile*
James Aponovich
12" x 15"  ( in progress)


I must confess that my endurance level in most museums is (by professional standards) rather low. That does not make me a bad person or even a bad museum goer, I've been to quite a few. I find that there is a certain disjunct that occurs when a work of art is taken out of its original context and brought to an institution 'in perpetuity', think zoo. I know that it's necessary, but the whole museum-go-round experience often makes my head spin. My brain has a difficult time transitioning the radical shift that occurs when you move from one room ( or culture) to the next (era). It's cultural whiplash.


Beth and I traveled down to 'The People's Republic' of Cambridge last week with our friends Bob and Sylvia, and also Tom and Shannon, who we had not seen since Florence, to check out the newly renovated Fogg Museum at Harvard University. Talk about spinning heads! 
The Italian Architect, Renzo Piano was hired to retrofit the original gem to accommodate two other museums under one glass ceiling ( architecture seems to be a man's world).  As soon as you enter the hermetically sealed chamber of what was the inner courtyard, the air becomes leaden with pedagogical antiquity. You stand in a clinically sterile environment, more in tune with a medical research facility. I say stand because there is no place to sit, unless you sit at the ubiquitous "museum cafe." Vacuous rooms, sharp angles, lots of glass, massive confusion of cultures, no logical flow, and oh, that stuff on the walls, the art? We are talking purity of architecture here folks, not clutter...whew.. my comment on leaving...........
"I need a Martini."


Panicale, from Piazza San Michele Arcangelo
James Aponovich
pencil on paper/ from the sketchbook

Panicale has three piazze, the lower one being the commercial (shops, cafes, etc.), the upper houses the old civic center, and in between is the religious piazza with the church of San Michele Arcangelo dominating. As a Christian church it has occupied this sacred spot for a thousand years and has accordingly undergone many transformations architecturally. By Cathedral  standards, it is 
quite small but put a coin in the box as you enter and the interior lights up to it's current Baroque splendor.

The Adoration of the Shepherds (detail)
Giovanni Battista Caporali ( 1476-1560)

The church also houses works of art, in particular three paintings of note: The Annunciation, by alleged home boy Masolino di Panicale,  The Adoration of the Shepherds, by Caporali, a pupil of  Pietro Perugino, and a small painting , possibly by another of Perugino's students, a boy from Urbino named Raphael. They are all set in their originally intended places (in situ) and it is a delight to be there, without guards, and absorb it all. After about ten minutes the lights go out....time to leave.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Coming up in Part II
"The Angel Issue"
Finding A Bit Of Tuscany In The Berkshires

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

*I have always wanted to do a painting of the Duomo in Florence. This is a fairly detailed drawing on panel that will serve as an underpainting. I will post the progress.

{week 19}

2015 copyright James Aponovich, text and original artwork