Students participating in the Florence: Arts, Humanities, & Culture program are getting the chance to engage in a Florentine tradition that stretches back to antiquity and has been fundamental to the remarkable artistic output for which the city is so famous.
Masters & Workshops, an elective course offered by the program for the first time this fall, places students with master artisans for hands-on training. The class also includes an independent study project (ISP) in which the students explore the history behind those artistic disciplines.
Art conservator Rossella Lari demonstrates a lowering of tonalities technique to Savannah Dearhamer (Coe College).
Four students are studying and practicing techniques for restoring paintings with Rossella Lari, one of Florence’s most prominent art conservators. Three others are learning about making jewelry under the tutelage of master goldsmiths Carlo and Simone Bandini in their family-run workshop.
Each week, the students spend six hours in the studios for training and practice with the masters, with all instruction conducted in Italian. Program Director Jodie Mariotti guides the students in their independent projects, which will be similar to term papers, and leads a weekly session with each group, delving into the history behind the artisanal discipline the students are engaged in.
The students all keep workbooks with a daily record of what they do in the studio and the Italian vocabulary they’re learning that’s related to the work. To help in learning different techniques used by the artisans, the students are given different types of projects to work on.
|In the workshop with master goldsmith Simone Bandini. At right, Emily Rausch (Ripon College) at the workbench embossing a silver pendant.
Students in the jewelry workshop are instructed in using different tools as their skill levels advance. In the art conservation studio, Lari has the students switch between ongoing restorations, one of which is a 17th century painting from a private collection damaged by the mud waters of the 1966 flood of Florence.
In a recent blog post, Glenys Hunt from Grinnell College wrote:
“My restoration ISP has become my favorite class here by far, as I’ve begun to really practice the art of restoration. Last class, Rossella sat me down in front of a damaged portrait of a lady. The bottom half had been lost, and the original canvas was attached to a new canvas with ox glue by a previous restorer. The missing section was covered with stucco [yup, like the building material] and I was to use watercolor pigments to fill in the stark white of the stucco.”
Ola Johnson (Lake Forest College) prepares the saw for open work on a silver pendant.
The Florence Program focuses primarily on the art and history of the Italian Renaissance through a variety of courses that draw on the city’s museums, churches, and other resources. There is also an elective studio art course at the historic Charles H. Cecil Studios and, for students with sufficient Italian language ability, the chance to apply for internships at the Uffizi Gallery. Students are engaged in contemporary Italian society, too, as they take a class in conversational Italian language and live in a home stay.
The Masters & Workshops course adds another hands-on opportunity for student learning, as well as a way for students to interact with Italians in a different setting. Apprenticeship is the time-honored, traditional way that artisans have been trained in Florence — for generations, in the case of the Bandini family — and the masters have been very generous to the students with their time and in sharing their knowledge, according to Mariotti.
Niles George (Coe College) saws a piece of wood for a frame adjustment in the restoration studio.
“This is a rare experience for our students to be in these studios, working so closely and learning from people who are at the top of their profession,” she said. “It’s also a full language immersion for the students, and it really stretches them to improve their language skills.”
Once this semester is over, the course will be evaluated and a decision made on whether to continue it next fall.
“This is a chance to see how this class works and to gauge the level of student interest,” Mariotti said. “We think the course has tremendous potential and are working on plans to make it a regular feature of the fall semester curriculum.”
Photos are courtesy of Jodie Mariotti.
- Florence: Arts, Humanities, & Culture
- Florence Program course descriptions, including Masters & Workshops
- Florence Program student blogs
- Read about students’ internships in Florence: