Shhhh, – it’s a hidden secret. A modern-day Michelangelo shares tips on what to look for at the largest outdoor sculpture museum in Europe.
Do you find Michelangelo’s sculptures breathtaking? Do you wish you could get an up-close look at sculptures as amazing as Michelangelo’s Pieta and Moses?
Believe it or not, there is a little-known place in Genoa, Italy, that houses thousands of lifelike sculptures that are close enough to touch (but don’t touch them) and arguably just as astounding! Have I piqued your interest yet?
The place I’m describing is the largest outdoor sculpture museum in Europe, Camposanto di Staglieno. Never heard of it? You’re not alone.
One thing you should know about Staglieno is that it’s a cemetery. If you can get over this spooky fact, you’ll find it’s one of the most awe-inspiring destinations ever.
Mark Twain describes Staglieno as “…a hundred fold more lovely than the damaged and dingy statuary they have saved from the wreck of ancient art and set up in the galleries of Paris for the worship of the world.” (Innocents Abroad 1869).
History buffs enjoy looking for the numerous historical figures buried there, including Giuseppe Mazzini, Ferruccio “Maurizio” Parri, and Oscar Wilde’s wife.
Now, imagine visiting this hidden gem with an aspiring modern-day Michelangelo
I had the rare opportunity to explore Staglieno with sculptor Kevin Williams, owner of Original Handmade Sculpture. Williams, now a professional sculptor, learned the secrets of the (almost) lost art of stone carving through a traditional Italian-style internship. While Williams is trained in all areas of sculpture, his ideal projects involve carving realistic human figures.
Needless to say, he had unique insight into how these nineteenth and early twentieth century sculptors were able to carve puffy stone pillows, lacy fabric, and people, who seem to resonate with life and breath.
Here are a few little tidbits I took away from my artist-led adventure:
- Look into the eyes of the figures. Deeply soulful, huh? Sculptors use varying texture to influence the light and shadow, which can make the people appear to resonate with life. It also makes the fabrics, pillows, feathers and the other details look convincingly real.
- Notice how some of the stone figures look light as a feather. Highly-trained sculptors know how to distribute weight in ways that the general public wouldn’t notice; so, for example, they may sculpt a figure standing on tippy toe, but leaning on a ledge, which takes on just enough weight to support the figure.
- These artisans specialized in specific areas of carving, such as drapery, ornament, hands, and eyes. They would spend decades perfecting their skills in their individual areas of expertise. Today’s stone carvers, like Kevin Williams are so few in number that they need to learn how to carve all aspects of the figure if they wish to sculpt realistic people (which is why it’s amazing when a contemporary sculptor like Williams can produce results like what you see in Staglieno)!
So put Staglieno on your bucket list, and if you don’t have your own modern-day Michelangelo to take you on tour, I suppose you can borrow mine!
All images © Kevin Williams Art and OriginalHandmadeSculpture.com
If you are after more on Staglieno visit http://www.staglieno.com/
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