Thursday, 22 March 2012

Michelangelo and Raffaello

Though Michelangelo was a sculptor, arguably he is as famous - if not more - for his work at the Sistine Chapel as he is for having created the David. There is one other exceptional artist who has worked on the tapestries of the Vatican – Raffaello. But this story is not about them! True to my promise, over the next few days, I will be writing only about people I know.
So, tucked away in another part of Italy, somewhere between Pisa and Sienna, is a little medieval Tuscan village called San Gimignano (pronounced as San-Gimin-yano) - you can identify it’s towers from a distance. History has it that during the middle ages, the town was a stop for merchants and rich families built these towers as a sign of power. Around 1300 AD there were as many as 72. Only 15 remain.  Today, this pedestrian only town (only those who live here are allowed to drive their cars inside the walls of the village), is home to a mere 7000 people – it’s not enough people to even justify setting up high-school! 
Views from the top of the tower

The other thing this place is famous for is the best Gelato. No kidding - ‘Pluripremiata Gelateria’ is the winner of several Gelato World Championships. And, of course I have been to the top of one of those 15 towers and I have eaten more than one Gelato here. But, the highlight of my visit to this place was something else.  
It was my meeting with the creators of SanGimignano 1300  - a museum. No, call it the home of a hand-made ceramic scaled reconstruction of the medieval city as it was 700 years ago (thus the suffix 1300). And Michelangelo and Raffaello are the master artists behind this exceptional piece of work.
Thiers is a story worth sharing! Born to a family of artists, the two brothers learnt most of their work under the guidance of their father Sergio Rubino. They migrated to New York in the early 90s and did a lot of incredible work that won them awards and accolades. Then, in 2006 – at a time when many Italians were looking at other countries for inspiration and personal growth, the brothers decided to recreate the medieval town of San Gimignano - their vision brought them back to Italy. And since I have had the honor of meeting these master artists, I could say that I have done everything that the world goes to San Gimignano for.
A very small part of what Michelangelo and Raffaello have recreated
  
What they have done with SanGimignano 1300 has to be seen to be believed. From historical research, to multimedia recreation of the city right down to reproducing each and every brick on the walls of 800 structures  as they were several hundred years ago and filling it with life and people as they lived at that time – this artwork is a result of 20,000 man hours - close to 3 years of selfless commitment. One no longer needs to wonder how this place or life was then – it’s all there for you to see. SanGimignano 1300 is not an exhibit; it’s a wonderful tribute to the magnificence of the city during the middle ages. 
They are an unlikely set of siblings though - Michelangelo and Raffaello. They have little resemblance to each other in looks and in personality. The one thing they do have in common is that they are artists. A lot like the other Michelangelo and Raffaello! And just like the other Michelangelo, this one is multi talented – he can create with metal, wood, ceramic and even paints.
Frankly, how they ended up with these names is an irresistible question. The story goes that Michelangelo’s mother had a very difficult time during childbirth. She went through hours of painful labour before he arrived. ‘For all that I have gone through, to bring him into this world, this one better be a Michelangelo!’ is what she’d said and so he became Michelangelo! When his brother was born some years later, she said – ‘Now that I have a Michelangelo, the other one better be a Raffaello.”
And they are!    

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