Anticipating a Trip

The next best thing to travel is the anticipation of a trip. Next month I’m off to Italy for work, and for me that’s an even more exciting prospect than if I were going there on vacation. The land and light that inspired the art of the Renaissance shines on. I intend to steep myself in both.

For now, I’m cloistered in the college library, reading up on Tuscan history, pouring over bookplates of Etruscan antiquities and investigating the geology of the region. There’s a thrill that comes from cracking the covers of a book that just can’t be found in an “online” quest for information. A book holds its author in benign captivity. He or she is held in suspended animation between the pages until the reader sets them free. Though they may be long dead, they’re voice comes alive through the printed word.

Adrian Stokes wrote a book titled “Stones of Rimini,” published in 1934. He was an Englishman besot by Italian culture. He became particularly enamored of panels in the Tempio at Rimini carved by an artist named Agostino di Duccio. They are the main subject of his rather eccentric book but not what attracted me to his writing. Stokes was crazy about the qualities of Italian limestone. His praise for Agostino has more to do with the way he handled the stone than it did for his compositional skills. In Stokes’ words, “A figure carved in stone is fine carving when one feels that not the figure, but the stone through the medium of the figure, has come to life.” He bemoaned the fact that, in his lifetime, stone had lost it’s place as the preeminent building material of architecture. I fully concur with his sentiment, “…so far as stone loses its use as a construction material, it loses also power over the imagination.” I’m going to Italy to touch stone, and give my imagination a good stirring.

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4 Responses to Anticipating a Trip

  1. Dan Snow February 16, 2010 at 10:43 am #

    Hi Francesca,

    I’d be very interested to read your essay, thanks. daniel.e.snow@gmail.com

    Your choice of subjects for comparative studies certainly hits home. The two have been intertwined in my professional life for quite a while now. I find that my sculpture and writing share many qualities. The construction of a sentence can be as expressive as the thought contained within. The writing of Adrian Stokes, despite its academic tenor, has a kind of wild abandon to it that makes me smile. He puts a thought in a knot but always unties it by the end of the sentence.

  2. francesca February 15, 2010 at 1:39 pm #

    Dear Dan, I have just discovered your blog and read about your trip to Italy. I was struck by your mentioning Adrian Stokes and I am happy to read him mentioned. I published an essay about his relationship to limestone and Agostino di Duccio in 2006 and in case you are interested in it, please let me know and I will send it by email in pdf format. Its title is: A Tale of Two Shores: The Adriatic and Its Modernisms. On Ivan Meštrović, Adrian Stokes and the Sculptural Imagination. Your work is awsome and I will certainly read your books. As a researcher in comparative studies, I work on the relationship between sculpture and writing.

  3. Dan Snow February 11, 2010 at 2:47 pm #

    Hello M,
    I cant promise a very exciting read with Adrian Stokes but he does present some interesting arguments, such as; it was sculptors, not painters, who invented perspective. For a companion to red wine you
    might rather consider the book on my bedside table a the moment, “Bridge of Sighs” by Richard Russo.
    D.

  4. michaela February 10, 2010 at 6:12 pm #

    Hmmm. A litte envious – but a lot excited for you. I hope that you and Elin have a wonderful time. I will be sipping Italian red in your honor, and hunting down that book !
    xo M

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