The Stones of Tuscany

 
 Cattedrale di San Martino – Lucca

Cattedrale di San Martino – Lucca

We were in Tuscany last week for our first proper holiday in ages. I’d been to Florence before but nowhere else so we spent a day each in Pisa, San Gimignano, Siena & Lucca eating gelato and being tourists. Most of the cities are built from brick with stone reserved for the grander public buildings. The use of a dark and light marble in horizontal bands gives the churches such a bold presence, the clean-cut white stone making crisp shadows in the strong sunlight. The pattern is forgiving of crude repairs and the patched surfaces record the passing of the centuries. I like the large expanses of flat stonework between areas of fine detailing, the way a wall manages to simultaneously express both monumental scale, precise form and delicate refinement.

Ben Nicholson’s drawings capture those aspects of the architecture with beautiful simplicity. His choice of which lines to draw, what to simplify and what to leave out is very personal and stylised but it creates a highly evocative image of the place. I have included a couple below.

 San Michele in Foro – Lucca

San Michele in Foro – Lucca

 Lucca

Lucca

 Lucca

Lucca

 Lucca

Lucca

 Doorway of San Michele in Foro – Lucca

Doorway of San Michele in Foro – Lucca

 Ben Nicholson – Lucca San Pietro, 1956

Ben Nicholson – Lucca San Pietro, 1956

 Ben Nicholson – Siena Campanile, May 1957

Ben Nicholson – Siena Campanile, May 1957

 Basilica of San Frediano – Lucca

Basilica of San Frediano – Lucca

 Basilica of San Frediano – Lucca

Basilica of San Frediano – Lucca

 Basilica of San Frediano – Lucca

Basilica of San Frediano – Lucca

 Houses built into the walls of the Roman amphitheatre – Lucca

Houses built into the walls of the Roman amphitheatre – Lucca

 Sheer brick walls where Siena meets the surrounding countryside

Sheer brick walls where Siena meets the surrounding countryside

 Brick buildings butt right up against the Cathedral – Siena.

Brick buildings butt right up against the Cathedral – Siena.

 San Gimignano

San Gimignano

 

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