Two Types of Rose Window by Sasha Ward

Early morning drawing of the Basilica in Assisi                   Cathedral of San Rufino, Assisi

The rose windows in the buildings of Assisi are particularly beautiful. Painton Cowen, writing in 'Rose Windows' calls them "Wheels within wheels...The wheel finds its greatest expression at Assisi". The one that I drew on the facade of the Upper Basilica of San Francesco (above left, dated c.1250) "faces the rising sun - exactly the opposite of most other wheel or rose windows." Another beautiful, west facing and earlier example is on the facade of the Cathedral of San Rufino, with carved figures holding it up.

It's the geometry in these windows that is much more interesting than the little bits of stained glass they contain. And so fabulous to see them made into a curtain pattern, complete with troupe l'oeil beam and hangings, in a fifteenth century fresco in the church of San Francesco in nearby Montefalco - the design comes with a yellow background on one wall and blue on the other.

C15th frescoes, Chapel of the Annunciation, San Francesco, Montefalco, Umbria

My design and photo of sandblasted wall with mosaic band, Leeds General Infirmary 1997

The type of rose window that I've used a lot in my own design work is made from intersecting circles. An example shown above is from Leeds General Infirmary: I did this commission in 1997 and I think it must still be there as it was sandblasted into the wall of the entrance rotunda. I loved this technique which I never had the chance to use again, I also love the intersecting circle patterns but will definitely be making them more complicated and wheel like in future designs.

The simple circle pattern cropped up in a local doorway and in the balcony outside Santa Chiara, Assisi (both below) where there is another intricate "wheel within wheel" window and a wonderful view of the setting sun.

Click on the images to enlarge them

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Resolute Beginnings by Sasha Ward

'Resolute Beginnings' was a title that I always liked given by one of my fellow art students to her mass of smashed up and refired glass pieces. In this case it refers to drawing with colour, which I never do. So, for a trip to Assisi, Umbria, Italy, I bought a new box of watercolours and set off with resolution. If in doubt I draw the view through the window, this green view (below) was what I could see when sitting up in bed.

 New watercolours                                         View from my bed                                      On opening the door

 New watercolours                                         View from my bed                                      On opening the door

Through the door there was a balcony with a beautiful view of the mountains to the north east of Assisi. The camera captures the rhythms and shadows of the balcony, the ink drawings, one example below, are better at getting into the contours and details of the landscape.

On the last evening I went as far as painting the sky from the end of the balcony. As the sun set on the other side of the building there was a riot of colour in the sky and briefly across the illuminated landscape. Phthalocyanine and cinereous blues, even dioxazine purple, more useful than I could have imagined.

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Assisi windows and walls by Sasha Ward

The Basilica of St Francis in Assisi - Lower Church

The Basilica of St Francis in Assisi - Lower Church

The stained glass photo above was in the first stained glass book I remember getting. I have always wanted to visit these windows that are in the Lower Church in Assisi, and unbelievably the experience was even better than I could have imagined. The vaulted ceilings covered with frescoes that I know so well from my equally treasured Giotto book turned out to be my favourite part of the whole place.

The atmosphere upstairs is more like a Gothic cathedral, with the first and largest set of stained glass windows in Italy (all heavily restored) surrounded by Giotto's frescoes of the Legend of Francis. The pastel coloured glass in combination with the wall painting was so exciting to see. Photography is banned inside - great not to be surrounded by people with cameras and to know that I'll have to return for a longer visit to draw the colours and rich detail working together.


The Basilica of St Francis in Assisi - Nave of the Upper Church

The Basilica of St Francis in Assisi - Nave of the Upper Church