Roman ruin at Schönbrunn Palace

This artificial ruin, built in the Gardens of Schönbrunn Palace in 1778, is an example of a sub-genre that is having a strong effect on my imagination of late, that of the anticipated ruin. Parisian painter, Hubert Robert, probably invented it as a way of reflecting on the rise and fall of civilizations and empires. Modelled on the ancient Roman temple of Vespasian and Titus, the Viennese ruin features in the pool two figures representing the gods of the Rivers Danube and Enns.

Film: Fuji Provia 100F

Camera: Canon EOS 300

Location: Schönbrunn Palace and Gardens, Vienna, Austria

Candid photos in art galleries

Although I do spend a lot of time in art galleries and museums looking at works of art and people looking at works of art, I am fundamentally uncomfortable with the idea of taking photos of people who are not aware of being photographed. Having said that, here is a couple of recent candid shots.

Positive Vienna

Positive because I used a slide film, which makes a positive instead of a negative. Glittering Vienna here.

On my last day in Vienna, while strolling around the district of Leopoldstadt which is a little off the tourist trail, this gentleman unexpectedly appeared from the left and ... I'm so glad I captured him and his extraordinary hat!

Film: Fuji Provia 100F

Camera: Canon EOS 300

Location: Vienna, Austria

Glittering Vienna

Oh, Vienna! One single late afternoon walk around the Innere Stadt had me smitten with the city! In no particular order these are the things I loved: the luminous red of the Austrian Airline's uniform; my very central hotel; getting around it on foot; coffee in all shapes and sizes; umpteen Italian gelato parlours; majestic caryatids and astonishing doorways; rococo interiors; Annatorte at Demel Chocolatiers; Sacher torte at the Café Sacher; the elliptical staircase with iron wrought rail I came across while looking for the restaurant's toilet (where is a camera when you need one?); the Imperial palaces and art galleries - it lashed down four out of five days so I got to spend a lot of time in the Hofburg Imperial Palace, Schönbrunn Palace, Albertina, The Kunsthistorisches Museum, Belvedere, The State Hall and St Charles Church.

I was amused by: waiters mixing tapping (my contact less card) up with tipping; an Italian gelato parlour translating chestnut into moron (the German word 'marone' for chestnut might have confused them) and cone (as in ice cream cone) into cornet; bird chirping played as background noise in restaurants' toilets.

I didn't like at all the widespread rudeness. Waiters were ill-mannered and unpleasant in too many occasions, with the Café Gloriette in the garden of Schönbrunn Palace really taking the biscuit! I also disliked the mushrooming of Starbucks - I am in no way a coffee snob, but I find that these and other chain outlets make no sense in the city which has elevated coffee culture to an art form!

Film: Fujicolor Natura 1600

Camera: Canon EOS 300

Location: Vienna, Austria

The State Hall in Vienna

The State Hall of the Austrian National Library is one of the most beautiful historic libraries in the world. It was commissioned during the 1720s by Emperor Charles VI - represented as 'Hercules Musarum' in the larger-than-life marble statue you can see in the photo below right - for his Court library. The walnut bookcases lined along this 77m-long and 14m-wide library hold around 200.000 books from 1501 to 1850.

Film: Fujicolor Natura 1600

Camera: Canon EOS 300

Location: The State Hall, Vienna, Austria

A unique view at close range

If you find yourself around Karlsplatz in Vienna and don't suffer from heights, it is well worth entering St Charles Church and taking the lift to reach the top of a 32-metres-high scaffolding tower that was erected in 2002 for the renovation of the church's interior but is still there and open to the public. You will be asked to pay a ticket  - revenue from tickets sold is used to finance other renovation projects - but the close-ups you will get of the dome paintings are certainly unique. If you then feel adventurous and climb up just an extra few flights of steps, you will be rewarded with a view of the city as well.

As the church is dedicated to Saint Carlo Borromeo the huge frescos represent the glories of the Italian saint. They were painted by Johann Michael Rottmayr during the second half of the 1720s.

The church's interior, with its use of all the different lighting conditions, is a most spectacular example of the Baroque style. In one of the two large chapels on the sides of the central aisle it is possible to admire 'The Assumption of Mary' by Sebastiano Ricci. It is a pity I didn't manage to capture the brilliance of its blues and reds!

Film: Fujicolor Natura 1600

Camera: Canon EOS 300

Location: St Charles Church, Vienna, Austria

Winter sun streaming in

Winter sun streaming in like a notable guest and lighting up the Shaw Room's elegant staircase.

Film: Fuji Provia 100F

Camera: Canon EOS 300

Location: National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, Ireland

Kindlestown Wood

Leave only footprints. Take only memories.

Film: Fuji Provia 100F

Camera: Canon EOS 300

Location: Kindlestown Wood, Delgany, Co Wicklow, Ireland

Looking back at 2017 - My Year in Art

It's that time of the year again, and as I have a bit of time on my hands and hundreds of digital photos to organise, I thought that list-making might make it more fun. The following list is not a 'best of' but an all-inclusive (read: boring) roll of the exhibitions I visited in 2017, whereas the photos are the ones worth sharing.

Emily Jacir: Europa, IMMA, Dublin

Tales from Ovid's Metamorphoses, The Wallace Collection, London

Beyond Caravaggio, NGI, Dublin

Margaret Clarke: An Independent Spirit, NGI, Dublin

Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting: Inspiration and Rivalry, NGI, Dublin

The Hot Press Covers, National Photographic Archive, Dublin

Women of Fashion, Castletown House, Celbridge, Co. Kildare

Grace: Photographs, 1955–1969, Castletown House, Celbridge, Co. Kildare

Maria Theresa and the Arts, Belvedere Museum, Vienna

Klimt and Antiquity, Belvedere Museum, Vienna

Medieval Treasury. Study Collection in the Palace Stables, Belvedere Museum, Vienna

Robert Adam: Total Design, Total Obsession, Osterley House, London

Alma-Tadema: At Home in Antiquity, Leighton House, London



The 'twin' lights

Two lighthouses were first built on Wicklow Head in 1781 to prevent mariners from confusing it with Howth Head and Hook Head, both of which had only a single light. Both were then rebuilt in 1816 at a lower level.

The upper lighthouse is in the care of the Irish Landmark Trust, which rent it as a self-catering holiday accommodation. I visited it at the end of August, on a special open day during National Heritage Week. There are 6 octagonal rooms, 109 winding steps, and 27 deep windows from where to enjoy plenty of views.

To reach this collection of lighthouses you need to leave your car in the public car park and walk a two kilometers quiet farm road.

Film: Ilford Pan F+ 50

Camera: Canon EOS 300

Location: Dunbur Head, Co. Wicklow, Ireland

A truly one of a kind lighthouse

Hook Lighthouse is situated at the tip of the Hook Peninsula in County Wexford, only a couple of hours drive from Dublin. It is one of the oldest lighthouses in the world, as it was built eight hundred years ago, and is accessible only by guided tour.

Film: Ilford Pan F+ 50

Camera: Canon EOS 300

Location: Hook Peninsula, Co. Wexford, Ireland

A roll of film a month | June [...]

Let's not beat around the bush and admit from the beginning that my photography project for 2017, the one of shooting at least one roll of film a month, hit bottom this summer so, yes, a more correct title for this post would be 'A roll of film a month | June, July, and August'. It started to go wrong when, only a few days before the end of June, I ruined my last T-Max 400 while loading it in my too long neglected Zero 2000 pinhole camera. Fast-forwarding to the first Sunday in July, just before going out to see the Dun Laoghaire Regatta, I reached for an ISO 50 film because the day was luminous enough for it. It tuned out I should have given less thought to the weather and more to the fact that the film was a 35mm as it took me all summer to shoot all its 36 poses!

Film: Ilford Pan F+ 50

Camera: Canon EOS 300

Location: Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin, Ireland

When the shutter counter says nine

The confusion of discovering my Voigtländer Vitoret DR camera had already a film loaded in it; the thrill of noticing the shutter counter said nine but I had no recollection of when and where I took those photos; the constant questioning myself while shooting the remaining frames; the anticipation while waiting for the roll to be processed and, finally, the sheer delight of realizing I came back from last-year visit to Garnish Island in southwest Ireland with a couple of more pics. These are the things I wouldn't have experienced if I hadn't gone back to shooting film.

Film: Kodak T-Max 400 B&W

Camera: Voigtländer Vitoret DR

Location: Garnish Island, Glengarriff, West Cork, Ireland

A roll of film a month | May

Film: Kodak T-Max 400 B&W

Camera: Voigtländer Vitoret DR

Location: Kilmacurragh Botanic Gardens, Co. Wicklow, Ireland

Had I known a black and white film was loaded in the camera, I'd have picked another camera. But more on this later.

Photo opportunity

Every now and then, a notification that invites me to take photos and add them to Google Map, appears in the upper left-hand corner of my mobile. I haven't turn it off yet because it amuses me when it says things such as 'SuperValu Greystones' photos are popular on Google Maps'. Now, for those who don't live in this neck of the woods, SuperValu is a grocery supermarket chain. Some stores are undeniably more attractive than others, but I still can't comprehend their allegedly popularity. Every time I see the message I look around and wonder, is there something I am missing here? What are people taking photos of? A salmon fillet?

Conversely, as I work in one of Ireland's most photographed landmark, I do often wonder how tourists would cope (how I would cope for that matter) with a camera that would retract the shutter and block the viewfinder if too many photos of the same subject have already been taken. Camera Restricta is the brainchild of designer Philipp Schmitt and the kind of camera I would buy tomorrow if it wasn't only a speculative design.

The photo below was taken last year in charming Mount Stewart House, a Neo-classical residence which was home of the 7th Marchioness Edith, Lady Londonderry and her family in the early 20th century. I have no recollection of a message appearing on my mobile but I am positive Mount Stewart photos are popular on Google Map.

L’italiano acculturato a Dublino e dintorni – edizione Estate 2017, parte II

[Parte I]

Le gallerie d’arte pubbliche a Dublino sono la National Gallery of Ireland e la Collezione Civica Hugh Lane. Come detto in precedenza, l’ingresso alla National Gallery è gratuito, ma questo non include l’ingresso alle mostre. L’attesissima riapertura dell’intera galleria il 15 Giugno (il restauro è durato sei anni) sarà seguita dopo solo due giorni dall’apertura di una mostra dedicata al pittore olandese Jan Vermeer. Questa è la mostra che era al Louvre in primavera e che ha ricevuto cinque stelle dal The Guardian. Se intendete vistare la mostra, prenotate i vostri biglietti seguendo il link sulla pagina principale del loro sito web.

Musei e gallerie in generale chiudono al pubblico abbastanza presto (intorno alle 5.30), ma il giovedì la National Gallery è aperta fino alle 8.30.

La Collezione Civica Hugh Lane ha un’interessante collezione permanente. La galleria prende il nome dal collezionista e mercante d’arte che per decenni si batte’ e lavorò strenuamente per la costruzione e apertura di una galleria di arte moderna a Dublino. Sempre pensando alla costituzione di una collezione pubblica e permanente, Sir Hugh Lane acquistò le più importanti opere disponibili all'epoca sul mercato. In seguito alla sua morte inaspettata (il collezionista era di ritorno da New York City quando il transatlantico RMS Lusitania, su cui era a bordo, fu affondato da un sommergibile tedesco durante la Prima Guerra Mondiale), poiché’ il codicillo che lasciava tutte le sue opere alla galleria Dublinese era stato redatto e firmato non alla presenza di testimoni, gli otto capolavori Impressionisti per cui la galleria è maggiormente famosa, sono stati divisi in due gruppi e si alternano ogni sei anni con la National Gallery di Londra. La galleria merita una visita indipendentemente dai capolavori impressionisti. Se siete interessati all’opera di Francis Bacon, non potete perdervi una visita al suo studio il cui contenuto, alla fine degli anni Novanta, fu interamente trasferito da Londra alla galleria dublinese. La galleria è chiusa il lunedì.

Molto vicino alla prigione di Kilmainham è l’IMMA, Irish Museum of Modern Art. Il museo ospita mostre di arte contemporanea, ma se desiderate informazioni sulla costruzione di questo enorme edificio che, costruito nel 1680, era un ospizio per soldati in pensione, visitate la mostra The Old Man’s House. L’ingresso alla maggior parte delle mostre è gratuito, ma occorre comprare un biglietto d’ingresso se volete visitare quella dedicata a Lucian Freud. Il biglietto costa 8 euro, ma è gratuito il Martedì. Gli orari di apertura variano durante la settimana (in generale, vi consiglierei di prendervela comoda al mattino) per cui controllate il sito web. Anche in questo caso il museo è chiuso il lunedì.

E a questo punto non mi resta che salutarvi con un proverbio irlandese che tradotto in italiano suonerebbe 'I viaggiatori hanno storie da raccontare'. Buone vacanze!

L’italiano acculturato a Dublino e dintorni – edizione Estate 2017

Questa è una raccolta di consigli per gli Italiani che intendono visitare la capitale della Repubblica Irlandese quest’estate e trascorrere una considerevole parte del proprio tempo visitando monumenti, gallerie d’arte e musei, o anche solo sono in cerca di attività da svolgere al riparo dalla pioggia e dal vento. Ah, le sorpese che l'estate irlandese vi può riservare ...

A chi intende visitare Dublino e un po’ di Irlanda, consiglierei di prendere in considerazione l’acquisto di una Heritage Card (le opzioni sono: Adulto; Studente – se siete studenti universitari, portate la tessera; Senior – per chi ha più di sessanta anni; Family – per famiglia si intende due adulti e (fino a) cinque bambini, in Irlanda si è considerati ‘bambini’ fino a diciassette anni). La carta è valida in tutti i siti gestiti da OPW, statali per intendersi. Il Castello di Dublino, la prigione di Kilmainham, il Castello di Kilkenny, la Rocca di Cashel (solo per nominarne alcuni) sono inclusi nella Card, ma per una lista completa dei castelli, siti archeologici, chiese e palazzi vi consiglio di scaricare la brochure e scrutinarla mentre siete ancora comodamente seduti sul vostro divano. A partire dal 1 Luglio i bambini al di sotto dei 12 anni di età non pagano. Non ci sono gratuità per insegnanti (fuorché non accompagnino gruppi di studenti la cui visita è stata prenotata in anticipo) o giornalisti (fuorché non intendano recensire una mostra e in tal caso hanno già contattato l’Ufficio Stampa o Eventi).

Se invece visiterete solo la capitale e avete già programmato di visitare un certo numero di monumenti e attrazioni (il Castello di Dublino, Dublinia, The Guinness Storehouse, le due Cattedrali, una o tutte le distillerie di whisky presenti nella capitale etc. etc.) vagliate l’acquisto di una tessera Dublin Pass valida per 2/3 or 5 giorni. Onde evitare malumori, leggete tutte le note ai siti inclusi nella tessera (sono pubblicate sul sito web ma anche nel booklet, che potete scaricare dal sito) in quanto, ad esempio, al Castello di Dublino non potete saltare la fila alla biglietteria perché dovete comunque ritirare un biglietto (anche se gratuito), e se volete una visita guidata, dovete pagare 3 euro extra.

A coloro il cui hotel non è in centro, ma anche a coloro che intendono avventurarsi al di fuori del centro storico, raccomanderei l’acquisto di una Visitor Leap card. La tessera è valida nell’area detta 'Great Dublin', per intendersi quella che potete attraversare con i bus di Dublin Bus (quelli blu e gialli a due piani) la DART (il treno verde metropolitano che va su e giù lungo la baia di Dublino) e la LUAS (le due linee del tram). Trovate informazioni (in italiano) sui prezzi qui. La soluzione migliore sarebbe acquistarla in aeroporto (all’Ufficio Informazioni Turistiche se arrivate al T1, all’Ufficio Informazioni Turistiche 'Discover Ireland' se arrivate al T2), giacché potete usarla subito per la navetta aeroportuale che vi porterà in centro.

Castletown House (sopra) si raggiunge con il bus numero 67 da Merrion Square (scendete alla fermata 'Celbridge Village') e una passeggiata nel parco di circa dieci minuti.

L’ingresso ai musei nazionali e le gallerie d’arte è gratuito. A Dublino i musei nazionali sono:

Il Museo Archeologico, che al pian terreno espone talmente tanti artefatti d’oro (alcuni davvero misteriosi) da far arrossire Bulgari;

Il Museo di Storia Naturale, affettuosamente chiamato 'The Dead Zoo' poiché il nucleo della collezione è costituito da animali imbalsamati;

e il Museo di Arti Decorative Collins Barracks, nelle cui gallerie si può girovagare per ore giacché il museo è un mix straordinario di collezioni. Non perdetevelo se siete appassionati di design o storia militare.

A roll of film a month | April

Film: Kodak Portra 400

Camera: Yashica Mat-124G

Location: The Devil's Glen, Co Wicklow, Ireland

A rock arch, bench-back poetry, the scent of oaks, a waterfall, slippy stones, muddy spots, tree trunks, sculptures along the trail, bluebells.

A roll of film a month | March

Film: Lomography B&W 100

Camera: Hasselblad 500C/M

Location: From Wicklow to Wexford, Ireland