Isola Bella on Lake Maggiore

Back in the 1600s, a few successive members of the House of Borromeo, an old noble Milanese family, built summer houses on two of the small islands on southern Lake Maggiore – Isola Madre and Isola Bella. Today I spent the afternoon on Isola Bella, one of the three Borromean islands (the third, fyi, is called Isola Superiore).
Initially, I had planned to visit all of the islands, but my morning got side-tracked on the phone to Covent Garden, trying to get tickets only to have the call drop after close to two hours on hold. But, anyway, back to Isolla Bella.

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This island is small and unremarkable but for the beautiful Palazzo and the even more impressive gardens. I spent my time leisurely walking through the house, complete with a “basement” decorated to emulate coral reefs, then strolling through the majestic gardens, where, in 30 degree weather, even the white peacocks were seeking shade.

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The one thing that impressed me the most, beyond the grandeur of the house or the ostentatiousness of the gardens, was a beautiful statue of Venus portrayed asleep by a sculptor whose name, unfortunately I cannot recall. [UPDATE:the sculptor is Vincenzo Monti]

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It never ceases to amaze me how stone can be made into a fabric so sensuous and warm under the expert hand of a talented sculptor. Unlike painting, which can be retouched, sculpture is an art-form that is truly four dimensional: a spatial representation frozen in time, for a second’s mistake can ruin everything. For this reason, in my opinion, among all arts, sculpture is only akin to music, in that both capture a moment in time, freeze it, and allow this moment to continue into perpetuity and to also be experienced by others. I’m not sure I can articulate this clearly… I guess what I mean is that both music and sculpture succeed, though in very different ways, to encode, and thus stop, time.

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