Duomo di San Cristoforo

At the highest point in the medieval hilltop town of Barga, the Duomo di San Cristoforo is well worth the climb.

1.Duomo di San Cristoforo

Built in the year 998, the white marble edifice was enlarged during the 12th and 13th centuries and has been modified further over the years.

2.Duomo di San Cristoforo

The arch above the main entrance is carved with acanthus leaf motifs, the bas relief above the door depicts scenes of a grape harvest. The two lions at the top of the columns symbolise the strength of faith.

3.Duomo di San Cristoforo

The castle-like belltower houses three bells that are still played manually.

4.Belltower

The first thing I noticed about the interior was the absence of seating. The second thing was the ancient faded fresco of Santa Lucia above an elegant marble font.

The stunning wooden ceiling replaced the old one, in the same style, in 1862.

7.interior

The nave is divided into two parts by a large barrier made from red marble slabs framed with decorated white marble.

8.marble pluteus

The 13th century marble pulpit is a spectacular work of art. The front section has an intricately carved depiction of the Annunciation and the Birth of Christ, a Latin inscription explains the symbolism.

12.pulpit,The Annunciation and the Birth of Christ

The other side represents the Adoration of the Magi, the three kings bearing their gifts for baby Jesus. Partially blocking them is a group of figures portraying the four Evangelists; Mathew as the human, Mark as the lion, Luke as the ox and John as the eagle. The human figure on the left is thought to be Joseph.

13.pulpit, The Four Evangelists

Four columns support the pulpit, each with a unique carved capital at the top.

There are two lions at the base of the front columns symbolising the triumph of Christianity over evil and heresy. The left one has a serpent (evil) between its legs and the one on the right is standing over a man (heresy) who is stroking the lion with one hand while stabbing it with the other.

One of the rear columns rests on the back of a midget (the pagan world) and the fourth rests on the floor (the Christian world).

20.midget, pulpit

The long, narrow stained glass windows have many more stories to tell.

A 9th century wooden statue of Saint Christopher, the patron saint of Barga, stands within a niche behind the main altar.

23.St. Christopher

Leaving the church

24.view from door

we lingered a while to appreciate the breathtaking vista across the rooftops to the mountains beyond.

26.view from cathedral25.view from cathedral

The Krystyna Campbell-Pretty Fashion Gift

This exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria was top of our ‘must see’ list when we visited Melbourne in June. Philanthropist and NGV Foundation Board Member, Krystyna Campbell-Pretty has purchased more than 250 garments since 2015 and gifted them to the NGV in memory of her late husband, Harold Campbell-Pretty. We took our time absorbing the wondrous collection of haute couture garments on display. This was more than just a presentation of beautiful attire, it was a reflection of a changing society and the evolution of women’s roles. The gowns of the Belle Époque, French for ‘beautiful era’ (spanning 1871– 1914), portrayed a diverse range of styles. Around the turn of the century, the exaggerated S-shape was attributed to the diabolical corsetry endured by women of this time.

1.(L-R)Félix,dinner dress 1889; France, day suit 1900

Callot Soeurs was established in 1895 by four sisters who had previously owned a small shop that specialised in quality lingerie, ribbon and laces.

2.(L-R) Callot Souers, afternoon dress 1900; Callot Soeurs, afternoon dress 1905; Callot Soeurs, evening dress 1910

Charles Frederick Worth, considered to be the father of haute couture, founded the House of Worth in the 19th century.

6.House of Worth, evening dreses 1912

Around 1906, dresses became more linear and women were freed from their constricting undergarments.

The Jazz Age of the 1920s brought loose fitting, unstructured garments adorned with sequins, beads, lace and fringing.

The Parisian couture house of Boué Soeurs opened in 1899 and was known for its feminine, romantic style. Their 18th century inspired robe de style featured lace, embroidery and ribbon-work flowers. The contours of the wide skirt were achieved with the use of hoops underneath the fabric.

15.(L-R)Boué Soeurs, evening dress 1923; Boué Soeurs, Romance, robe de style 1925

Elsa Schiaparelli began designing her own collections in 1927. This beautiful green evening coat, part of her Speakeasy collection in 1932-33 during Prohibition, had a small back bustle where a flask of contraband alcohol could be concealed. The black silk velvet evening coat was created by Lucien Lelong in 1935, around the time he was elected chairman of the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture (the governing body of the French haute couture industry).

16.(L-R)Schiaparelli, evening coat 1932; Lucien Lelong, coat 1935

In 1854, the U.S. forced Japan to open up its borders to international trade and the French term, Japonisme, encompassed the resulting fascination with Japanese goods. Capes, cloaks and coats of the early 20th century reflected the form of the kimono, often embroidered with Japanese motifs.

19.(L-R)France,evening coat 1920; France, evening cape 1925; Madeleine Vionnet, evening cape 1928

Madeleine Vionnet was known as the ‘Queen of the bias cut’, her designs were feminine, streamlined and close fitting.

21.Madeleine Vionnet, (L-R) evening dress 1933, 1931, 1938, afternoon dress 1923

Formally trained as a sculptor, Madame Grés began producing high fashion in the early 1930s. The art of pleating and draping was perfected in her designs, the bodices were exceptionally elegant.

Jeanne Lanvin’s garden party dress and Jean Patou’s afternoon dress of the 1930s were floral and feminine.

A marvellous display featuring many incarnations of the ‘little black dress’ took centre stage in a gallery among mid 20th century paintings. The inception of the LBD has long been associated with Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel.

Evening dresses of the 1930s exuded glamour and luxuriant fabrics enhanced the female form.

The 1940s brought a spectrum of silhouettes, from evening dresses to dinner jackets and day suits.

40.1940s

Schiaparelli’s afternoon dress seemed remarkably demure next to Molyneux cocktail dresses.

Moving into the 1950s, the evening gowns were nothing short of spectacular.

50.evening dresses 1949-1952

Christian Dior created thousands of pieces in the ten years he presided over his couture house, continually manipulating hem, bust and waistlines. His stunning, shorter style dresses were in company with those from Rochas, Lanvin and Carven.

55.(L-R)Christian Dior, dress & jacket 1956; Christian Dior, Cuba evening dress 1954; Rochas, dress 1950

57.(L-R)Christian Dior, Mexico cocktail dress 1954; Lanvin, cocktail dress 1955

The creations of Cristóbel Balenciaga reflect the changing trends through the 1950s and 60s.

Paco Rabanne liked to make garments from unconventional materials rather than cloth. I don’t think I’d like to sit down wearing this metal mini dress.

62.Paco Rabanne, mini dress 1967

Through the 1960s and 70s, Yves Saint Laurent presented more contemporary designs with masculine lines and bohemian elements.

His garments from the 1990s returned to more feminine contours, the tribute to his couture house ensemble (on the left) took 700 hours to complete. The rock-crystal and gilt embellishments were all hand embroidered.

70.(L-R)Yves Saint Laurent, Look 46 coat and dress 1996; Yves Saint Laurent, Look 89 evening dress and robe 200171.(L-R)Yves Saint Laurent, Look 96 evening dress 1990; Look 67 evening dress 2000; evening dress 1990

The square shouldered, tailored suits of Claude Montana and Thierry Mugler were a sharp contrast to the flowing form of Azzedine Alaìa and golden ensemble of Zandra Rhodes.

72.(L-R)Claude Montana, jacket & bodysuit 1992; Thierry Mugler, suit 1998; Alaïa, dress 1985; Zandra Rhodes, evening ensemble 198173.Alaïa, dress 1985; Zandra Rhodes, evening ensemble 1981

Christian Lacroix is known for his opulent, colourful garments and his varied designs reflect fashion history.

The exhibition also included original sketches and drawings, photography and fashion magazines as well as handbags and shoes. Far too many to photograph.

Barga

On a perfect sunny spring day, we drove to the medieval walled town of Barga, an easy 45 minute drive from Lucca. We had learned it was easier to park outside these ancient towns and walk in rather than risk inadvertently driving into a pedestrian zone or the wrong way down a one way street. Crossing the bridge, we passed Parco Fratelli Kennedy, named in honour of American President John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert, both of whom were assassinated.

1.Parco Kennedy

The old stone aqueduct was built in the 15th century to supply clean water for the fountains and crosses the original moat of the old village.

1a.aqueduct Parco Kennedy

Narrow streets and steep steps hinted at what was to come once we were inside the walls.

Beautiful buildings lined the main thoroughfare

4.beautiful building

as we made our way to Porta Reale, one of the three gates in the medieval city walls. Below the observation tower, the gate still displays the ancient coat of arms of the city.

5.Porta Reale

The layout of the town has remained virtually unchanged since the 8th century, buildings at impossible angles hug narrow lanes, mysterious alleyways and stone steps.

We set off through the web of streets with no real destination in mind, happy to amble randomly in the sunshine. An interesting sculpture caught our eye

10.sculpture

outside the Teatro dei Differenti, Barga’s main theatre. Constructed in 1668 it was deemed too small at the end of the 18th century, a new structure was built on top of the old one.

11.Teatro dei Differenti

Along with the theatre, the adjacent buildings have been beautifully restored.

We decided to head to the highest point in the town once we spotted the bell tower of the Duomo di San Cristoforo.

14.Duomo di San Cristoforo

Our quest took us past the immaculate garden of the Palazzo Salvi,

15.Palazzo Salvi16.Giardino di Palazzo Salvi

less opulent but equally interesting plots

17.garden

and the myriad doorways we had come to expect.

We finally reached the cathedral, a spectacular edifice that I will need to cover in a separate post.

30.Duomo di San Cristoforo

The views across the rooftops to the Apuan Alps and the shrouded peak of Pania della Croce were stunning.

31.view

33a.view

Tearing ourselves away, we meandered back to town in search of sustenance, discovering a memorial garden in Piazza Garibaldi, adjacent to the Museum of Memory. A large sculpture entitled La Vedette (in military terms meaning the forward observer) was unveiled in 2009 on the 4th November, a day celebrated in Italy as the anniversary of the end of  World War I.

We reached Piazza Angelio at lunch time, a popular place in summer for exhibitions and entertainment. The particular shape and almost perfect acoustics of the piazza make an ideal setting for international festivals such as “Opera Barga” and “Barga Jazz”.

16th century poet Pietro Angeli, nicknamed Bargeo, watches over the piazza from the corner of Palazzo Angeli.

The offerings on the blackboard at L’Osteria enticed us in, we weren’t disappointed.

41.L'Osteria

With much of the town still to see, we continued our wanderings in a different direction.

45.narrow street

Colourful homes lined the street

48.colourful houses

and some clung precariously to the edge of the cliff.

49.fabulous homes

All had magnificent views of neighbouring hilltop towns and verdant countryside.

50.hilltop town51.views

The aqueduct and Kennedy Park were behind us

52.aqueduct

as the outskirts of town stretched in front.

53.Villa Buenos Aires

The 17th century Chiesa di San Felice, was quite small and understated when compared to others we had seen on our travels.

54.Chiesa di San Felice55.Chiesa di San Felice

Outside the church was this memorial plaque, apparently dedicated to a Scotsman with an Italian name. It seems Barga has a strong connection to Scotland, with many residents emigrating there in the 19th century in search of work when industry in Tuscany suffered a decline. They won the Scots over with their gelato making skills and, coupled with a knack for cooking fish and chips, made great success out of their cafés and restaurants. Over the generations, some returned to Barga and now sixty percent of the town’s 10,000 residents have Scottish relations. The annual Festival of Fish and Chips, Sagra del Pesce e Patate, celebrates this connection for three weeks each July/August. I can’t find any clues as to the life of Mario Moscardini but I assume he made a considerable contribution to Barga.

61.memorial

Working our way along Via di Mezzo, we found an interesting little face peering out from the wall of a restaurant. It is known as a scacciaguai, a folk magic figure that protects from trouble and harm. Hopefully, the charm has worked for the restaurant of the same name.

62.scacciaguai

Three doors along, we paid a visit to Casa Cordati, a 17th century palazzo that was once the studio of local artist Bruno Cordati.

63.Casa Cordati

It is now owned by his grandson, Giordano, and offers rather sumptuous accommodation as well as an extensive gallery on the first floor. The rooms on this floor have been preserved as they were during Bruno Cordati’s creative years, the views were nothing short of inspirational.

Our exploration of this magical town had come to an end as we reached the Piazza della Santissima Annunziata and the 16th century church of the same name. The 19th century façade was badly damaged by artillery shells in World War II and was later restored.

72.Piazza della Santissima Annunziata

There was only one thing left to do to make the day complete.

73.gelati

TarraWarra

I recently spent a wonderful week in Victoria with my very special friend who I met many years ago in high school (she now lives too far away in Darwin). We arrived on flights within an hour of each other (quite a feat from opposite ends of the continent), collected a hire car and drove a circuitous route to our destination, Healesville. After a short visit to a couple of wineries (a little too early in the day for tasting, even for me), we stopped by for a look at TarraWarra Museum of Art. Philanthropists Eva and Marc Besen began collecting works of art in the 1950s and realised their vision of establishing their privately funded museum with the opening of TarraWarra in 2003. The elegant building is the result of a competition between five of Melbourne’s outstanding architects. Allan Powell’s winning design hugs the contours, complementing rather than imposing on the landscape.

1.Tarrawarra Museum of Art2.TarraWarra Museum of Art3.TarraWarra Museum of Art

The scenery is sublime, adjacent to the TarraWarra Estate vineyards

4.TarraWarra Museum of Art5.TarraWarra Museum of Art6.estate

and further afield to the ranges.

7.view

We wandered into the current exhibition, The Tangible Trace, immediately awestruck by the light and magnitude of the gallery. There were numerous glass display cabinets (I now know they are called vitrines) containing stones, tiles, bits of brick and cubes of termite clay.

8.Domino Theory, Simryn Gill

The materials have been collected by artist Simryn Gill from around her studio in Port Dickson, Malaysia, near one of the world’s busiest trade routes, the Strait of Malacca. The pieces are traces of the movement of capital and power and the title, Domino Theory, refers to the Cold War concept that if one country fell to communism, others in the region would follow like dominoes, a policy used by the U.S. to justify its involvement in the Vietnam War.

An abandoned seaside motel in Port Dickson was Simryn Gills inspiration for Passing Through. The series of monotypes were created by placing coloured inks on the small white tiles of the former dance floor and imprinting onto paper.

14.Passing Through, Simryn Gill

The distorted, partially collapsed outline of Australia, Shilpa Guptas Map Tracing #7 – AU, was somewhat disturbing. The copper pipe has been manipulated to change the shape of the border, inviting us to consider the, “porous relationship between inside and out”.

16.Map Tracing #7 - AU, Shilpa Gupta

The large concrete slab covering the floor nearby, another of Shilpa Guptas creations, is engraved with the phrase, “The markings we have made on this land have increased the distance so much” in English, Hindi, Arabic and Chinese. The slab was smashed into fragments on site with the intention that the audience will each take away a piece and at the end of the exhibition, only a trace will remain.

17.engraving on concrete, Shilpa Gupta

The huge paintings of Carlos Capeláns Implosions series filled the walls of the next gallery.

21.Implosion series, Carlos Capelán

Upon entering the gallery, we were asked not to touch the curtains in the hallway as they were, in fact, an art installation. Sangeeta Sandrasegar has created five panels of Indian khadi cotton over-hung with silk organza, hand-dyed with indigo and Australian native cherry. What falls from view covers the windows in the Vista Walk gallery, changing the Yarra Valley landscape outside as the material wafted gently in the breeze.

22.What falls from view, Sangeeta Sandrasegar

The picture framed at the end of the hallway showed nature at her best.

23.view

What could be more beautiful than autumn hues in the morning sunlight?

24.autumn colours

mapali

Last month, the tenth biennial Ten Days on the Island festival inhabited Tasmania once again. Previously, the program has run throughout the state over the course of ten days. This year, it was split over three weekends, firstly in the northwest, then the northeast and concluding in the south. We  couldn’t resist the opportunity to experience the opening of the festival on the beach at Devonport at sunrise. mapali was a celebration at first light, narrated by David mangenner Gough, featuring over a hundred performers from the indigenous community, Slipstream Circus acrobats, Taiko Drummers, school students and a community choir. We didn’t anticipate the crowd and lack of parking, the fires were alight by the time we reached the beach.

1.mapali

David’s voice was clear as he led a Welcome to Country ceremony, acknowledging the significant history of the northwest coastline and local aboriginal communities with the sweeping and smoking of the beach.

3.fires

The kelp gatherers made their way eerily from the shore in the firelight.

2.kelp harvesters

With the rhythmic beat of Taiko drums resounding in the still morning air,

4.Taiko drums

our attention turned to a solitary dark figure suspended in a hoop above the sand.

The drumming ceased while a chorus of ethereal voices harmonised from the balcony.

8.choir

Our senses feasted as a fusion of drums and chorus accompanied the visual spectacle evolving against the peppery hue of nature’s backdrop.

7.Taiko drums & choir9.acrobat

We were next summoned to the village, a representation of a traditional village of the punnilerpanner people who have lived in this area since the beginning of time.

18.the village

On this, International Women’s Day, David spoke in honour of the women who hunted off the coast for shellfish

19.David mangenner Gough

and gathered kelp to clad the huts.

20.kelp hut

He also paid respect to ongoing traditions that the women are passing on to the young, in particular, shell stringing. For thousands of years, Aboriginal women have been collecting maireener shells to make necklaces and bracelets. The shells can only be collected at certain times of the year and each necklace has a unique combination and pattern. Local schoolchildren had made huge effigies of the shells in readiness for this moment.

21.maireener shells

David instructed those positioned around the edge of the village to hold up the rope, a symbol of the twine that binds us together as people, and string on the maireener shells to represent a giant necklace.

22.maireener shells

He then commanded the lighting of patrula, meaning fire in palawa kani, the language of Tasmanian Aborigines.

With the sunrise ceremony concluded,

the crowd dispersed, the beach resumed its peaceful sublimity

27.Bluff Beach

and we went in search of breakfast.