On the streets and back alleys of Italian towns, you might come across a communal dinner like this... a miss-mosh of chairs, tables, sawhorses and plywood hobbled together to create an impossibly long dining table--often blocks long. The celebration might be a birthday, a wedding, a baptism, anniversary or even a more organized event or town festival. But the result is the same... bringing families together in one huge feast, sharing wine, food, laughter and love.
Citrus fruits were brought to Italy via Sicily by the Arabs around 850 AD. Its warm climate and mild and sea breezes are perfect conditions for large-scale cultivation of many types of citrus. At first only bitter and yellow oranges were grown, though over time sweeter, loose-skinned and even red varieties were developed.
The climate and local conditions in the plain of Catania, near its volcano, is the only place in the world growing Sicilian Blood Oranges. Sicilian citrus groves are found throughout the island region. There are also Mandarins, Tangerines, Cicilian Lemons, and Limette (Sicilian Limes).
Sicilian Blood Oranges
Mandarin grove in Sicily
Sicilian lemons - No pesticides needed, just Sicilian soil and sun
You'll find this fruit and vegetable barge selling its produce at the base of Ponte dei Pugni, the bridge of fists in the Dorsoduro sestiere (neighborhood), while other vendors move from place to place using other types of watercraft. Look for them while in Venice--it's how the locals buy their fresh produce.
The art of Trompe L'oeil (fool the eye) has been around for at least two thousand years... as evidenced by frescoes and mosaics from Pompeii and Herculaneum. Artists have always attempted to make their works seem as realistic as possible, with the goal of having the images leave their flat space on the wall and enter the real world. Of course, it all depends on the skills of the artists' hands and eyes, some being better than others.
When they added realistic shadows, cast from the same direction as the real world light in the viewing room, the effect was magical. When they would put a life sized mouse running along the edge of the floor, the reality effect was enhanced. If they made some elements like grapes or vines seeming come right out of the frame and onto the wall, you felt like you could reach out and touch and feel what your eyes perceived.
From Oplontis, near Pompeii
Tromp L'Oeil usually keeps the objects the same size as the item is in real life to trick the eye into thinking the two dimensional objects are really three dimensional things coming out of the painting and into our real world, as in ancient bowls of fruit sitting atop faux mantles. Modern day Photo-realism or Hyper-realism painters of today have a different goal: to fool the viewer into thinking that they are not looking at paintings at all, but photographs or digital captures of real life. Hyper-realism is, in essence, Trompe l'Oeil in reverse. And in some cases, the artwork is enormous... dozens of times larger than life.
I find it curious that photography has become the symbol of "reality" rather than real life itself. When photography was in its infancy, artists were in an uproar (especially portrait artists) because they were losing assignments to people who they claimed were not artists, but merely technicians clicking the shutter on a machine. In no way could photography become a true art form.
An "unswept floor" Trompe L'oeil mosaic from Pompeii.. realistic shadows aid the effect
It's amazing to see how photography has become both a form of artistic expression and a way to capture reality as if the viewer was looking through a window at the real life scene. As a professional photographer, I also find it curious how it has come full circle and painters are now imitating photography with hyper-realism.
In any event, I've collected a small sampling of hyper-realism paintings of food relating to Italian cuisine... Enjoy the slide show!