QEST study visit, Olivia Irvine in the room with the garden of Livia fresco

I made a wonderful study visit to Rome and Naples, thanks to a QEST Anthony and Elizabeth Mellows Charitable Settlement Scholarship. ​Following on from my gold leaf course in Bosa, I took the boat from Sardinia to the mainland and trains to Naples, Pompeii, Herculaneum and Rome. 

For the first part of my weeklong QEST study visit, I visited the Archaeological museum in Naples, as well as Pompeii and Herculaneum looking at Roman frescoes. I had been to these places before but more had been revealed in Pompeii. It really is the most incredible place.

I was in Naples during many days of heavy deluge, so took cover in the catacombs of Saint Gennaro and Saint Guadioso. These were curious places with layers of history. In the latter, skulls were set into frescoes of skeletons – the females wore skirts and the males cloaks.

I continued my QEST scholarship study visit in Rome where I saw many frescoes, including wonderful ceilings by Giovanni Battista in the church of Il Gesù and by Andrea Pozzo in the church of Sant’Ignazio. They had placed a large mirror to make the viewing easier but there was a large queue. Instead, I lay on a pew and gazed upwards. In the Palazzo Barberini, they had even laid out deck chairs to look at The Triumph of Divine Providence, the ceiling fresco by Pietro da Cortona. I made several sketches using watercolour pencils. I was amazed at the complexity of the imagery but how it all flowed together.

I was fortunate to catch the limited opening hours to see the colourful secular frescoes of the Aula Gótica di Qattro Coronati (no photos allowed) and to stumble upon  Raphael’s frescoes in La Loggia de Galatea at the Villa Farnesina. A particular highlight was revisiting the Museo Massimo where I saw wonderful Roman frescoes, including Livia’s Garden and more frescoes from Villa Farnesina. I was struck by how complex imagery can be rendered in just a few colours – ochre, red and black.

I continued my QEST scholarship in Rome by attending a two day strappo course.

QEST study visit, Olivia Irvine at Herculaneume
QEST study visit, frescoes of skeletons with skirts on
A ceiling fresco