San Romano – Chris Dobson

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If you are a lover of reading but are time poor, you probably revert to the genres which give you the most pleasure, a natural tendency for most of us. Occasionally we may venture outside our favourite genres on the recommendation of a friend or a book review, or if we belong to a book club. Then again we may pick up a book in a favourite genre and be surprised and delighted. This was my experience with San Romano by Chris Dobson (ISBN 0-9541633-4-6, 2013).

In San Romano the author focuses on three wooden panels painted by the Florentine artist Paolo Uccello, collectively and traditionally known as The Battle of San Romano. However, more than just analyzing the these three astonishing works (now separated and hanging in separate art galleries) the author uses his extraordinary knowledge of weaponry and armour to take us to another level of understanding. 

Chris starts us on the journey of understanding these panels by taking us deep into the battlefield events that these panels are said to represent and it is this aspect of this book that I, a lover of Italian and Renaissance history found myself in unfamiliar but gripping territory of reading. Chris really shows his knowledge of battlefield tactics, armour and weaponry here so that one is drawn into the battle scenario.

Chris then takes the reader on the debate around who actually commissioned these works – a treat in itself – while discussing technique and influences on the painting style used by Uccello, especially in deconstructing the panels so that we can understand the ‘battle perspective’, while arguing why the Paris panel (the three are the Florence panel, the London panel and the Paris panel) does not seem to belong with the other two.

There is much that I could be write about this book, but that would give away the true depth of complexity that this work provides. I need to go back and re-read this book and I need to take my fascination with the subject matter and do my own research.

This may not, on the surface, be your reading ‘cup of tea’ or ‘glass of wine’ but do yourself a favour and make yourself that cup or tea or pour that glass of wine, take a seat and get ready for a wonderful read. You will be fascinated, intrigued and informed – all the elements that make up for a book to enjoy, keep and re-read.

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