Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Road to Castagno: A Renaissance Dream

From the timeless beauty and magic of Tuscany, springs this romantic tale of an artist's unfulfilled dream to paint the portraits of the town's people on the chuch walls of Castagno de Andrea.

The Road to Castagno is a portrait of a Canadian portraitist in his adopted landscape. Michael John Angel is a classically trained painter who studied in Florence in the 1960s and returned to live and work in Italy in 1989. Michelangelo is both his namesake and his mentor. Angel was inspired to become a painter at the age of seven when he first saw pictures of the Judgement from Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling.

The village of Castagno d'Andrea in the remote mountains of northern Tuscany is lovingly photographed in warm tones that evoke Renaissance images. Angel first visited the village when he went there in 1957 as an apprentice to his teacher, who was commissioned to paint a crucifix in the church commemorating the 500th anniversary of the town's most famous son, the painter Andre del Castagno. The film shows Angel's own work in progress, a commissioned mural in the same church that will eventually include more than 100 figures, all portraits of the villagers.

Angel works on initial portraits in his studio and painting en plein air. The indoor shots give scope to a discussion of the art of painting and portraiture, and the outdoor shots allow exploration of the intriguing, timeless countryside. Other than one conversation, the only voice beside that of Angel's is that of the local priest, who gives us a brief history of the town starting with its relocation in 1335 when a rock slide from Mount Falterona covered the town.

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