Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Piccolomini Library

Adjoining the Siena Cathedral by a narrow passageway is a small room called the Piccolomini Library.  My eyes must have gotten as big as saucers when I entered this room.  The sheer exquisiteness of this tiny space is hard to describe and even harder to convey in my humble photos.

The room contains illuminated displays of choir books and.... surrounded by frescos by Bernardino di Betto which were probably based on designs by Raphael.  The visual impact of the frescoes is quite spectacular.  

The frescoes tell the story of the life of Siena's favorite son, cardinal Enea Silvio Piccolomini who eventually became Pope Pius II.  That is certainly something for the community to be proud of.  
In the middle of the library is the famous "Three Graces".  It's a Roman copy of the Greek original.

Everywhere I looked in this tiny room was a visual feast including the ceiling.  

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Siena's Beautiful Cathedral

One of the things I wanted to see while in Siena Italy was the magnificent cathedral.  I had heard from other travelers that it was one of the most beautiful in all of Italy and I have to say, it lived up to that description.

So after climbing up and down the narrow streets of Siena, we rounded a corner and there it was in all of its dazzling beauty.

Both the exterior and interior are constructed of a combination of white and greenish-black marble in alternating stripes.
Since the color "burnt siena" was named for this city, it was hard to believe that at one time black and white were considered the symbolic colors of the city of Siena.

The facade of the Siena Cathedral is capped with a glowing mosaic of the Coronation of the Virgin with two smaller mosaics over the two side doors.  And, those mosaics are surrounded in all directions by statues of saints and lace-like adornments.

Inside the cathedral, my eyes were immediately appreciative of the symmetrical black and white stripes of the walls and the columns.

The molding around the nave of the church contains 172 plaster busts of popes starting with Saint Peter and ending with Lucious III.

The round stained glass window in the front of the church dates back to 1549 and represents the Last Supper.  The vivid colors belie their long years on display.

I found myself drawn to the inlaid marble floor which is said to be one of the most ornate in Italy.  The inlaid marble covers the entire floor of the cathedral with panels of different sizes telling stories from the Old Testament.

The Cathedral of Siena was truly the most beautiful church I saw on my trip to Italy.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

A Resort with Some History

One recent July, I decided to take a long drive around the very southern part of my state of Arizona.  I traveled to many towns that I don't visit very often.  Late in the afternoon I pulled into the Tubac Golf Resort on the spur of the moment and checked to see if they had any rooms available.  They did and at summer rates that were too good to pass up.  So, after settling in to my rather sumptuous room, I decided to do a little exploring.

At the time, I didn't realize that I had stumbled on to such a historic place.  The resort sits on a piece of property that was once part of a very large ranch and that ranch dates back to 1789.  In America, that's a very long time ago.  The land was granted to Don Torbio de Otero by King Charles IV of Spain.  This was at a time when the Spanish ruled parts of the southern half of our state and Mexico.

In 1853 the land was brought into the United States as part of the Gadsden Purchase.  By this time, the ranch was being run by Otero's grandson who traveled back to Mexico and learned how to raise cattle.  He returned to the ranch and introduced cattle to the property, making the ranch the home to one of the largest cattle empires in Arizona.

Remnants of the ranching days still remain on the property like the above silo and old wagons and other relics of the era.  The property remained in the Otero family until 1941.

In 1959, a group of businessmen headed by singing legend Bing Crosby, acquired the ranch and began the operation that is today the Tubac Golf Resort and Spa.

The new owners were careful to preserve the historic integrity of the land and buildings on it.  Today, the influence of the original owners can be felt throughout the property.

When I went to dinner at one of the restaurants on the property, I had a spectacular view of the golf course and the beautiful mountains in the distance.  I'm not a golfer but, I can see why any avid golfer would be drawn to such a beautiful place to play the game.

I would have to warn those golfers that they will have to play around a few cattle who still roam the property.  I've been told that the cattle tolerate the golfers and the golfers are careful not to drive any balls in their direction.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Orange County Gem

If you find yourself in Orange County California with some time to spare, I might suggest you check out this gem of a museum in Santa Ana.  The Bowers Museum was introduced to me by my good friends Julie and Dave.  They are members and visit the museum often.

My admiration for the place began on the outside when I saw these fantastically tall pine trees on the grounds around the building.  I'm not sure what variety they are but they are certainly a unique breed.

I also thought it was amusing to see a sign warning people to watch out for falling pine cones.  I tried to spot one but I couldn't see any among the foliage.  I wonder just how big they are.  I know for a fact that the pine cones of the giant sequoia trees are tiny things about the size of a child's fist.

The museum is known for it's huge collection of Pacific Islands artifacts and highlights three cultural regions of Oceania; Micronesia, Melanesia, and Polynesia.

Here's an attractive fellow I admired.  He is called a Flute Stopper and he's designed to convey an intimidating power which he seems to be doing quite well.

He is from the Biwat people who were feared throughout the region for their cannibalism and warrior ways.  Surely a group not to be trifled with.

The collections features thousands of pieces created by the Pacific Islands people.  It was extremely interesting to see the differences in the craftsmanship of the different tribal communities and to learn about the customs of each group of people.

The oldest part of the museum was built in 1932 and contains displays from the Americas.  The land for the museum was donated to the city of Santa Ana by Ada Elvira Bowers and her husband Charles W. Bowers who was a citrus grower and land developer of the era.  In addition to the land, they donated $100,000 to begin the building process.

The ceiling in this particular room was a piece of artwork in itself.  The carved wood seems to drip from the ceiling down the walls of the room.

In an adjacent room, this painted and carved ceiling stole the show.

Here is a close-up view of the center panel of the ceiling.

Visitors are greeted by this statue of the Spanish explorer, Juan Cabrillo as they enter the museum through the courtyard.  It was placed there in 1936 and was the work of the artist Ada Mae Sharpless.   

In addition to the vast Oceania collection, the museum is also known for it's traveling exhibits that appear throughout the year.  That's always a great way for people in the nearby community to see things from foreign museums around the world.