Wednesday 17 August 2016

Some Arts and Crafts Delights During a Visit to Italy. Part 1 of 2: Florence

WMSC member Gianna Wichelow spent June in Florence and Rome... and on her travels found a few exciting spots that she recommends for future trips if you're an admirer of Morris and his circle. Here are a few photographs:

St. Mark's English Church, Florence, was founded by the Reverend Charles Tooth, and its current site (a 15th-century palazzo) was purchased in 1880. John Roddam Spencer Stanhope, a second-wave Pre-Raphaelite and uncle/teacher to Evelyn de Morgan, designed and created the wall and ceiling decorations at his own expense, with stencil designs by George Frederick Bodley. The church was active by 1881, and the premises were enlarged by the purchase of the site next door. The striking paintings inside the church are by mostly unidentified Italian artists. William Holman Hunt lost his young wife in Florence, where she is buried. He set her wedding ring into the stem of a chalice he designed for the church. The terrible flooding of the Arno in 1966 damaged the lower part of the stencilled walls, now covered up.

Stanhope had close connections to Edward Burne-Jones and George Frederic Watts. And his home, Sandroyd, was designed by Philip Webb, whose only previous house design up to that point had been William Morris's Red House.

The church remains very active and is a warm and welcoming place, featuring opera performances and lots of visiting choirs. But whatever your interest, I urge you to visit it if you're in Florence.

The Salvatore Ferragamo Museum has a stunning exhibition on, "Tra Arte e Moda," which explores the links and inspirations between art and fashion, artists and designers. This is an outstanding collection of ideas and objects, and one of the display cases featured examples of esthetic dress. Photographs of Jane Morris, William's wife, were taken by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (and others) to inspire his paintings, and those paintings helped inspire a new, looser form of dress which Liberty helped popularize.

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