31st October 2007
Trying to explain to a bricklayer that you don’t want straight walls is a conversation you don’t want to have in a foreign language. He probably assumed the real meaning was lost somewhere in translation, and it probably was, however, despite a fair bit of inexplicable muttering from both of us, we are getting what we want, we think.
As an antidote to the new/old walls palaver at the house, and as I seem to be (in the words of a familiar but forgettable song from the 80’s) ‘always running around, trying to find, certainty’ I went off to do a little research about some rather more beautiful old/old walls, in fact fresco paintings by one of my favourite Renaissance painters, Piero Della Francesca.
Piero is one of the greats, not just because of the ease with which he seems to achieve harmony, balance and concord in his paintings, but also in that his figures are all strikingly beautiful, whatever they happen to be doing. His most stunning fresco, the Madonna Del Parto, is in a little hill-top town about an hour north of here, and I have seen it many times, but nearer to us is the fabulous town of Arezzo, and in Arezzo is Piero’s fresco cycle, ‘The Legend of the True Cross’ painted around the altar in San Francesco.
The fact that it almost surrounds you on its three sides and having to crane your neck to follow the story from the Death of Adam to the Restoration of the Cross to Jerusalem means that you are drawn right into this colourful and captivating story and perhaps explains why they only allow you half an hour at a time for each visit.
The most magically theatrical part is the Dream of Constantine, set at night in a beautifully lit tent with the angel appearing in bizarre perspective holding a tiny cross of light and pointing with her little finger at the sleeping Emperor. It is truly breathtaking and is worth the entrance fee on its own.
Sadly, but reassuringly, many parts of this fresco have been lost over the years to earthquakes, damp and nearby building work, so my return to our crumbling house and to the builders, still seemingly uncertain about what they were doing, made it all not seem quite so bad.
The stupidest thing I did today;
Asking my wife what that funny noise was, coming from behind the oven in the kitchen. Our deaf cat and stupid dog having shown no interest whatsoever, I am now obliged to assume the role of ‘man of the house’ and deal with whatever is lurking there.