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.
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.
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]
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.