Bologna (Escher Exhibition) & The Natural History Museum (La Specola)

Since we went to Cinque Terra, we have had a couple of quiet weekends due to the mediocre weather we have been having - cooler and a few showers, usually over the weekends!

Museum Of Natural History("La Specola")
On a rather dismal Sunday afternoon, we decided to go and have a look at this museum which is a sister museum to the Museum Of Anthropology (described in an earlier post).
This is another treasure that not too many people go and see and there is plenty of stuff that just makes you go "Wow!"
It is in a set of old buildings on Via Porta Romana, close to the Piazza Pitti.
This museum was inaugurated in 1175, the collection of items having been put together by several generations of Medicis. Until the early 1800s, it was the only scientific museum created for the public with regulated opening hours, guides and curators.
There are huge collections of shells, marine animals, stuffed animals, birds, reptiles, butterflies, insects, etc that just seem to go on and on.
The following images were taken from the internet as it is hard to get good photos, but they do not do this museum justice. This place is amazing if you like looking at old "stuff" from a bygone era - you just couldn't collect this type of exhibit in this day and age (illegal, immoral, unethical - probably all three!).
See if you can count the endangered animals in the following photos!

The tour consists of a structured walk and the last collection that you see is an incredible anatomy section that contains a huge collection of wax cutaways of the human body.

These wax models are incredibly lifelike and were created and used as training aids during the 18th century.
Some of them could well make some people squeamish, but they are absolutely fascinating glimpses into every part of the human body.
There are cutaways of the musculature system, nervous system, digestive system, blood supply, etc.
Below are two close-up images.

Take a look at the following link, where you can read more about the museum and see the different sections and collections.

This museum also has an astronomical observatory ("specola" means observatory) that is not open to the public except by special booking, however for a few days a year, it is open to the public for nominal entrance fee - but you have to book well in advance.
We have managed to book for the tour on 3rd May, so this will be interesting.

Bologna & The Escher Exhibition
Lyn was doing some research for her printmaking and came across an exhibition of Maurits C. Escher's work that was being shown in Bologna.
Last Saturday, we caught a high-speed train up to Bologna (40 minutes!) and spent the day there walking around the city and seeing the exhibition.
Bologna is a very nice (and interesting) city.
The streets are quite wide (by Florentine standards) and most of them have covered walkways (and by this, I mean stone covered corridors with arches and everything!)

We walked from the train station to the centre of the city (Piazza Maggiore) along the Via del'Indipendenza which is the main street running north/south. A lot of this street is closed to traffic, so is full of buskers another entertainment.

One of these buskers was a guy that danced with a full-sized puppet.

He was obviously the man's legs, but you couldn't tell which puppet he was in the top-half of until the end when he took his outfit off! He was in the lady puppet back-to-front! Very clever!

In the main piazza, there was an ageing rocker with his two mates, both of which looked like they might have inhaled a bit too much illicit stuff way back in the 70s! The heavy rock music was belting out and the two older guys were having a ball! Everything was mounted on this Harley and side-car so that they could just pack up and go when they were finished.

25th April is Italian Liberation Day as well as our ANZAC Day and on this day, all of the Italians that died in the wars are commemorated, especially the partisans who died.
I have to admit that this a part of Italian history that I knew nothing about, but the Italians seem to be very aware and respectful of the huge number of normal people who died because they were partisans.
In the main square of Bologna, there is a wall that has thousands of photographs of fallen partisans and everyone comes to pay their respects - it is a very moving place.

We got to the Escher exhibition a bit early (we had pre-booked tickets), so we went and had a magnificent pizza in a small trattoria close to where the exhibition was being held.
We had some red wine which had been chilled and when I asked the lady running the place what type of wine it was (because it was very good), she told me that it was a Sangiovese and that the correct way to serve it was chilled. She then gave us another glass of white sparkling Sangiovese  "on the house" that was nice as well.
We had a bit of a chat in Italian and left the trattoria having had a very enjoyable meal.

The Escher exhibition was great - there were approximately 150 of his prints, from his very early woodcuts through to the last print he did before he died. The audio devices were part of the exhibition and the descriptions were very helpful.
The images below are off the internet as cameras were forbidden - I had put a selection in that shows how extensive the exhibition was.
Self-Portrait Of Maurits C. Escher

The following print was exhibited as an album cover from "Mott The Hoople" (1969) and Lyn told me that she has a copy of this album at home.
Note to file: Find that album!
The exhibition was very well put together and we both thoroughly enjoyed it - we spent a good couple of hours wandering around.

After the exhibition, we walked back through the town a slightly different way and came across Bologna's very own leaning tower!
I consider this to be almost as spectacular as the Leaning Tower Of Pisa, but this one is in the middle of an intersection!

Also, close to the Escher exhibition, we happened to walk past a huge antique double-door that was ajar and there was a beautiful garden in behind it. This was a courtyard that was the entrance to a church, so we snuck in and took a couple of pictures. A really lovely area and typical of what you can find behind a lot of the tall walls in Italian cities.

Another courtyard that belonged to the library had very impressive frescoes under the covered footpaths.

Near the train station, there is a huge round park (Parco Della Montagnola) which seems to be where people go to relax. It was full of portable bars and cafes that suggested that festival of some kind had been there recently.

From here you get a good view of the remnants of the old wall that used to go right around the city.
One of the old gates is still there.

Bologna was a nice town to visit and I am sure that we will go back for another trip.

Lyn's Week In Printmaking 
I have had a few projects going on this week.
Manuel has been showing us some new techniques so I thought I should try them.
Simone (the director of Il Bisonte) also came to talk to us about the project that Il Bisonte is doing with some local schools and asked us all to participate.
The first print is of Pinocchio - I wanted to try to make him look like a tourist - a bit like my sheeple print from the last post (I am not sure if it was Liam or Mum who came up with the word "sheeple", but I like it!)
The drawing of Pinocchio is taken from early drawings of the character (of course, he didn't have a camera around his neck in the early drawings!) and the street scene is from Lucca, where we went a few weeks ago. I used line etching, aquatint and litho crayon for the road - plus a lot of burnishing as it became a little (a lot!) too dark.
Pinocchio as a tourist
I had also decided to chine colle the bee that I did in bulino - in Italian chine colle is called "Il fondino" (the bottom). It means something that's behind something else.
I asked if il fondino could also mean your own bottom, but apparently that's another word! 
Manuel had organised everyone to paint chine colle material the week before - in this case the yellow bible paper with rice paper glue.
To apply the chine colle you re-soak the chine colle paper and then slide it onto the already inked plate (glue side up). The plate with the chine colle is placed on the press bed and then the wet paper is placed on the top as you would normally do for a print. Theoretically it should all suck together - unless the glue is applied too thickly in the first place, and then it doesn't work properly. 

The next thing was Simone's project.
Il Bisonte has been bringing groups of primary school children in every week and Nino and Yuta have been teaching them how to do etching and dry point. They are also given tours and get to watch my group working in the studio. The kids are usually very well behaved, and they have some of their own teachers with them to keep them under control. For every hour they spend at Il Bisonte, they get a stamp on a card. These stamps are like money for the kids and at the end of the year there is an exhibition in which their own prints are involved. All of the adult students have also been asked to do a print for the exhibition and the school has supplied a small plate (10cm by 15cm) and enough paper to do an edition of 15 prints. The children can then buy the prints using the stamps that they have accumulated. Each print is worth a different amount (assessed by the teachers).
The reason for this is to encourage the kids to value printmaking, give them an idea of print value and hopefully get them on the road to become collectors.
The clown print is my contribution and I have just finished the edition yesterday.
It is a line etching with aquatint. I did the hair by dabbing on hard ground with a ball of cotton wool in case you are wondering!
Il Pagliaccio (the clown)

The next print was the one I did of "The Island" a few weeks ago.
I had seen a print in Manuel and Vincenzo's book of etching procedures and it was done with "maniere di sale" (the salt manner).
I asked Vincenzo how to do it;
Paint hard ground on a warm etching plate and while the ground is still wet, sprinkle with salt - both small grains and large chunks (fancy salt!)
When the ground is very dry, wash the salt of with running water - there should be little dots on the plate. Etch the plate in 1/20 nitric acid for about 10 minutes.
So this is what I did - you might have to zoom in to see it in the photo, it leaves little round spots and I like the effect. It would be good for a wall or just to give texture. I am going to do it a bit more tomorrow - Vincenzo said you have to put more salt on than you think and I obviously chickened out!
Isola with salt technique
Tomorrow I am working on 2 new plates using another 2 techniques of Manuel's. One is using lithograph ink and water to simulate cloud formations and the other is the "Maniera di sporcho" which is using all the crap and rubbish at the bottom of the trough where we clean our etching plates - this needs to dry for a few days and gives a crater like look to the plate.
Friday is a public holiday so Guy and I have 3 days to go and find new things to do!!