It was my birthday this week and unusually I’ve been able to see my birthday present being made in front of me. It wouldn’t have existed except for a small boy falling through a hole in the centre of Rome in 1480.
What he discovered was a palace from ancient Rome, a Domus Aurea, a Golden House. It was built by Emperor Nero in AD 64. That was after he’d finished fiddling while Rome burned. Finding it then, in the Italian Renaissance, caused a sensation and the painting style was a huge inspiration to Raphael in his painting of rooms in the Vatican.
It’s taken the Puffin Whisperer a week to complete.
The same style of painting was subsequently revived in the 18th Century and called Neoclassicism.
It was named after what seemed like caves in which the extensive paintings were found. The Italian for cave is grotta, so the style became known as grotesque.
The Grotesque style contains fabulous beasts, strange expressions, realistic animals and plants and a very distinctive arrangement of images balanced over large areas. It was only later that the word grotesque changed to mean ugly.
The Grotesque style’s also been the inspiration for the Puffin Whisperer this week. She’s spent decades as a specialist art restorer in Rome and worked in the Sistine Chapel for four years. She’s lived and breathed the Grotesque style.
She’s currently stuck in England after her flights back to Rome have been cancelled. A quick order of Windsor and Newton Cotman watercolours from Jackson’s Art Supplies and a search round my house for some of my mum’s paint brushes and she’s been able to keep herself more than busy.
I also had to find her a magnifying glass, because the work is exceptionally fine. Perhaps my favourite part of the watercolour is the Blue Tit and Goldfinch holding a garland:
Fabulous, isn’t it? It gets better the closer you are.
Now I’m going to cut acid-free bevelled mounts and choose a simple white frame for it. It’s Grotesque in style only. What a beautiful present.
And yes, she is available for commissions, for watercolours like this and for icons like the Puffin icon using 24ct real gold.
Just get in touch using the Contact page if you’d love to have one on your wall. Thanks!