by Andrea Ponsi published on September 22, 2009
I didn’t bring my watercolors with me. If I had, now, leaning against this railing at Piazzale Michelangelo overlooking the fields towards the Forte di Belvedere, I would take out a sheet of paper, dip my brush in water and mix my colors.
First I would prepare a nice green, as fresh as these April meadows right after a rain. With two or three brushstrokes I would draw an isosceles triangle with its top side horizontal to the skyline, one side slanting to the right where the city walls dip down into the city, and the third side slanting lower, interspersed with cypress trees.
After mixing a darker green, almost black, I would make bold strokes from the bottom towards the top, lifting my brush as I go, to create cypresses with tops pointed like flames, some isolated and others joined together in a little woods. Next I would mix gray and blue, and spreading the color broadly, I would flood the entire upper half of the sheet with sky. Then while this wash was drying, I would come back to the green of the fields, which would be dry by now, with quick touches of the brush in pink (the peach trees in bloom) and yellow-ochre (the farm-houses). Taking a pencil, I would define some details: the branches of a distant pine tree, next to the outline of the Forte di Belvedere, the little windows of the houses on the meadows, the line of the city walls that make their way into the city, topped at intervals by square watchtowers.
I would let the paper dry again. I would look at the landscape again and perhaps think that what I had done was only the interpretation of a given moment, of something that is always transformed with the changing seasons, the time of day, the intensity of the light, the weather, the point of view. That it was the vision of a landscape that is never the same, that changes over time along with the person who observes it, feels it, draws it, describes it – like me, in this precise moment, different from every other moment.
© 2009 by the Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. Excerpted from "Florence: A Map of Perceptions", forthcoming from the University of Virginia Press. Watercolor by Andrea Ponsi.