Yesterday at the British Institute in Florence the Buontalenti , held a Conference, Art Exhibition and a Symposium  and finished in the evening with a Concert by Modo Antiquo with Federico Maria Sardelli.

The day went under the theme of San Giovanni Battista as “Il Passato e Presente” with three speakers Kate Bolton, Federico Maria Sardelli and Samantha Stout from Sandiego whose lecture was mildly interrupted by a shudder which we later learnt measured 5.7 on the Richter scale – Fortunately all the books, pictures and sculptures in  the exhibition area stayed in place!

san giovanni with bees and haneycombpictured above San Giovanni in the desert with bees and honeycomb by Jason Arkles

Our day started early making the room ready for the guests with all the artworks, many created especially for this exhibition in place.

The Conference itself began with local Art Historian and teacher Kate Bolton, who teaches Cultural History and Baroque and Classical Music at New York University in Florence, as well as Italian culture and music courses at the Institute Lorenzo de’Medici where she is an adjunct professor for Marist College, USA.

Kate used images from the past to show the most striking changes in the views and feelings towards Salome – and indeed dancing – throughout the ages.

Kate Bolton

I was aware that dancing of all sorts was seen as the work of the devil in medieval times, but I had not seen these images where Salome’s lithe body is seen to twist and contort like a serpent – a second Eve with the head of a snake, similar to those shown in early Renaissance paintings ,

                                        Eve  by Masolino in the Brancacci Chapel

Salome as snake

In Medieval manuscripts the child’s body is still lithe and snake like in a perfect blue period dress with a long snake-like plait , and still bending over backwards to delight Herod .

Salome as medieval smake

There were other images showing Salome as little more than a child, and the famous plaintive face in what seems a more dreamlike trance than a seductive dance painted by Fra Filippo Lippi in Prato Cathedral.  Salome glides across the floor with the ghostlike watchers behind her.

DETAIL Fra Filippo Lippi

When we move on a century or two, in the paintings below by Titian and Bernandino  Luini we find Salome less in her role as a seductive dancer and more as a woman – holding the Saint’s head on a platter and realising with sorrow what she has been trapped by her mother into doing.

Liuni head

There were lots of other fascinating images and references – and Kate is an excellent speaker – I wish we had been able to share more images to create interest prior to the Conference.

Our second speech, about the past and present – was all in Italian – we were anxious to bring in more local Florentines as participants as well as delegates, so Federico Maria Sardelli explained how early in his life he had chosen to study and use the experience and methodology from earlier painters to create paintings which appear to be completely modern.

Federicos fathers hands

He is also fascinated by water – the canals and lagoons of Venice and also with the art of painting water – in both a realistic and an abstract fashion.

water - venice

Finally for the Conference section of the day we had another lecture from one of our British Institute members Samatha Stout – a lady who is privileged to be studying for her PHd with Mauricio Seracini of Editech.

Seracini is a man perhaps best known in Florence for his efforts to “Cerca Trova” under a Vasari frescoed on the wall of the Cinqucento in the Palazzo Vecchio – that which he is looking to find being Leonardo’s lost Battle of Agliari,

A banner showing the painting which might be hidden behind the Vasari wall

Samantha is also working for Editech in San Diego, on the famous  San Andreas Fault , which is possibly why she was so totally un-fazed by our small earthquake –  it has to be admitted that some of  the audience were less sanguine!

Sam showed us a collection of images of San Giovanni that have been non- invasively studied with the state of the art equipment developed by Editech, many details, including fingerprint smears, have been found underneath the surface of the paint – so their CSI team will be able to identify – with ever more certaintly – exactly whom painted what ….and one day, hopefully … they will find that lost Leonardo.

Thanks again to all those who came to the Conference and for their enthusiastic support.