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a masterpiece in an unlikely place

Down a dirt road in the Tuscan countryside, in a tiny room of a broken down monastery we discovered something very unexpected.

Story behind the image

Traveling in Italy was wonderful, and we had worked very hard and had gotten some great imagery. But today was going to be for leisure. No big plans and no booked photo shoots that required us to be “on” and in high gear. Even so, it is safe to say we would never leave home  (in this case our hotel) without our camera gear... just in case. This particular day I was very glad I followed that rule.

Wandering the backroads and taking in the scenery we spotted a tiny sign that lead us to a monastery named Sant’ Anna Caprena built in 1324. The place seemed abandoned except for the lone old man lounging near the entrance.  Curious, and always loving a place that whispers history and is void of tourists, Bryan and I went inside. Very peaceful but somewhat broken down we were amazed at the old stone, and the tiny windows. Going from room to room we entered a humble door to what appeared to be a tiny chapel. The walls were cracked and yellowed and unpretentious, but two steps into the room and my breath caught in my throat at what I saw.

Frescos. Some of them unfinished.

I pulled out my camera.

The artist was Giovanni Antonio Bazzi,  also known as “il Sodoma” (1477-1549). This was the first major painting commission for the 25 year old artist in 1503 who later became one of Siena’s greats. Influenced by DaVinci’s style, while Leonardo was composing the Mona Lisa, Bazzi was painting this, and in my opinion included a portrait of Leonardo, as well as himself, as one of the characters.

Bazzi apparantly had an impish and sometimes irreverant sense of humor.

As I viewed his work in this place, and later in more well known locations, it was clear that he liked to poke fun at the establishment. Trained to paint in this classic style, he pushed the boundries by adding content that was less accepted. For example in the bacground of the fresco of Christ performing the miracle of the loaves and fishes, Bazzi included  folks stripping off their clothes and wading into the lake behind.

Funny. It reminded me that those “masters” that have come before us were people just like us, with frailties, as well as aspirations. It also reminded me that they were bound inside their context of time with all the influences both political and cultural.

As an artist I couldn’t help but feel a bit of sympathy and kindred spirit for what he must have faced throughout his life while struggling to remain true to his artistic expression.

get this image as well as others in the Signature Collection: Lost Frescos of Christ.

written by Blair Anderson

As well as being the founder of avisualplanet and one of its artists

Blair is also a contributing author to Christianity Today’s: Gifted for Leadership

rule to follow:

always take your camera...

no matter what.