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(July–September 2015)

Clifford P. Williams

Edith J. Carrier Arboretum at JMU

Andrew Varlamov

Majolica Cloister of Santa Chiara

Naples, Italy

August 28, 2015, 14:11 UTC (16:11 local time)

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© 2015 Andrew Varlamov, All Rights Reserved.

Santa Chiara is a religious complex in Naples, Italy, that includes the Church of Santa Chiara, a monastery, tombs and an archeological museum. The Basilica church of Santa Chiara faces Via Benedetto Croce, which is the easternmost leg of Via Spaccanapoli. The church facade of Santa Chiara is diagonally across from the church of Gesù Nuovo.

The double monastic complex was built in 1313–1340 by Queen Sancha of Majorca and her husband King Robert of Naples, who is also buried in the complex. The original church was in traditional Provençal-Gothic style, but was decorated in the 17th century in Baroque style by Domenico Antonio Vaccaro. After the edifice was almost entirely destroyed by a fire after the Allied bombings during World War II (4th June 1943), it was brought back to the alleged original state by a disputed restoration, which was completed in 1953.

The monastery of Santa Chiara includes four monumental cloisters, Large Cloister of St. Clare is the largest of them. Its decoration was commissioned by the Abbess Ippolita di Carmignano to Domenico Antonio Vaccaro, who executed it between 1739 and 1742. Vaccaro maintained unchanged the fourteenth-century arcades of the portico surrounding the garden, but had the painted decoration of the ambulatory renewed - a job originally commissioned to the painter Filippo Galletti, but subsequently done again several times. Two paths intersect in the center of the garden. They are lined with sixty benches faced with painted majolica tiles framed by sixty-four decorated octagonal pillars, typical both of fourteenth and eighteenth-century architecture. The result is an almost immaterial architectural space dominated by a pictorial taste freely inspired by Neapolitan nature and landscapes.

The pillars are decorated with flowers, fruit and leaves, while the seats and parapet bordering the perimeter of the cloister carry everyday-life scenes. There are working scenes featuring shepherds, farmers, sailors and fishermen; festival scenes showing dances to the sound of local instruments such as the putipù, wreathed girls dancing while Pulcinella entertains them, and carnivals; scenes depicting sports such as archery and hunting; pictures of riders; and even an image of a building whose sign - a staff with hanging ribbons - possibly identifies it as a brothel. The physical elements are represented by four allegorical floats representing Earth, Water, Air, and Fire. Finally, there is a scene which, though not profane, provides a rare glimpse of everyday life in the convent: a nun feeding cats in the middle of the cloister, which is bare as it must have been before its renovation.

Among the many ceramists mentioned in the archive documents, those of Donato and Giuseppe Massa stand out. These master riggiolari - i.e., majolica workers, riggiola being a Neapolitan vernacular term derived from the Spanish rajola - were exponents of a Neapolitan school of ceramics independent from the majolica of the Abruzzi. The decoration of the Cloister of Santa Chiara is the most authentic testimony of this local school. The garden was restored in 1938-39 and again after World War II.

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Camera: Pentax K20D
Lens: Samyang 8mm f/3.5 UMC Fish-eye CS II
Hot shoe rwo axis double bubble spirit level: ROWI 197
Cable switch: CS-205
Shooting without tripod manual by Nuno A. Madeira (Portugal)
PC Software: PTGui Pro 10.0.10 by New House Internet Services B.V. (dated by November 19, 2014), Pano2QTVR Pro Flash version 1.6.6 by Thomas Rauscher

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