I was speaking with Gunner today about his studies at Stanford in Florence. He said he was watching an artist at the Duomo di Milano- “Milan Cathedral” restore an old masterpiece painting by Tintoretto. The artist was stripping down the masterpiece to the original brush strokes of the artist.
He said being in Florence studying with teachers such as Monsignor Timothy Verdon and Fillippo Rossi has stripped all the layers of disbelief in his thoughts about his art and of himself as a person. He said his vision has grown clear about his art. He also said he has grown much more grounded as a person.
Born in the United States (New Jersey, 1946), Timothy Verdon is an art historian formed at Yale University (Ph.D. 1975). He has lived in Italy for more than fifty years and since 1994 is a Roman Catholic priest in Florence, where he directs the Diocesan Office of Sacred Art and Church Cultural Heritage and the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo. Richly illustrated, Monsignor Verdon wrote Art and Prayer which explains that images work in believers as tools that teach them how to turn to God.
Gunner loves this teacher and says as he walks on tours with him people are always stopping to speak with him because he is so well known and loved.
Filippo Rossi (1970), who has been exhibiting his work since 1994, has been exploring the themes of Christian sacred art for over 10 years. After training in the life drawing school at the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence, he graduated in art history from the University of Florence.
Since 1997 he has been Visiting Professor at the Stanford University Centre for Overseas Studies in Florence. He also collaborates with the art historian Timothy Verdon. He is currently Coordinator of the Diocesan Office of Sacred Art and Church Cultural Heritage at the Curia of the Archdiocese of Florence. His works are conserved in museums and collections both in Italy and abroad.
Gunner is so excited to have Mr. Rossi as a teacher and he promised to have Gunner attend one of his Gallery openings before Gunner’s term is over.
Gunner has made friends with a group of students at Stanford in Florence and they take trips on the weekend. This trip was to Milan! Some will be going with Gunner to Budapest, Venice, and Barcelona before the end of their schooling. Gunner will return to New Orleans March 17th before returning to Stanford for his senior year!
When we arrived in Florence and met up with Gunner at the airport in Florence; we got settled in our apartment and started our days of exploring Florence. We toured the Petti Palace and the Galleria dell’Accedemia where we had a wonderful guided tour with historical facts about the creation of “the David.” It was fascinating! We were to tour the Duomo but realized we made the reservation for the Duomo in Milan by mistake. Oh well! We had seen so much we were very tired and when I saw how big the Duomo was I was glad to call it a day!
Stanford is housed in the private residence of the Smelick Family. The university is located on the second floor and only thirty students attend each session. The students will have two dinners with the family and other dignitaries from Florence before they leave. They were also given passes to the Duomo, The Uffizi Gallery, and the Galleria dell’Accademis to visit as much as they like. Gunner has an internship at the Duomo which he says is pretty boring. He sits at a desk and greets people and give them a free 30 minute free tour of the main Chapel. “Thank goodness it’s only for 2 hours a week,” he says.
One day we venture to Pisa to see the Leaning Tower which is a freestanding bell tower of the Cathedral. It is known worldwide for its four-degree lean due to an unstable foundation. The structure was stabilized by remedial work between 1993 and 2001 which reduced the tilt.
Duke and I enjoyed a dinner at the bar of the Four Season’s hotel in Florence the last night we were in Florence. It was the perfect ending to a great trip. Gunner was living with an Italian family who spoke no English. Gunner has taken Italian but found it difficult speaking with his Italian family. They reassured him he would leave speaking fluent Italian. He is now speaking like he is Italian and he is very proud of himself in so many ways. Duke and I will remember Florence fondly! Gunner will remember Florence as a “major period of growth in his life.”