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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Why Is Napoleon Marching Through Stresa?



It's definitely a bit like living in Disney World. One weekend ago Stresa was full of cowboys and everyone was line dancing during Festa Country; this past weekend Napoleon and his troops marched through town and fired cannons. It's been a couple of centuries since he was last here. Welcome to life in Stresa...

Crowds gathered in the piazzas and streets as soldiers, officers, courtiers, drummers,and Napoleon himself all paraded around town. The uniforms were very detailed and authentic, (no one had tell-tale Nike trainers showing under their French army trousers for example,) and the guns and bayonets looked scarily real.



(   Continued ...   )


Great realistic details, including his suspicious stare...

But cool fur backpacks they carried ... I hadn't known that before.

I also hadn't known Napoleon's outfit had been green ... I always thought blue... 

So, why were they all here, I bet you are wondering. They were part of this weekend's various military-themed events, which were all organized to coincide with a huge exposition taking place at the Palazzo dei Congressi. On July 11, 12, and 13 the Congressi, the large convention center in the center of Stresa, was given over to the 9th annual World Model Expo. This fascinating world, of which I must admit I previously knew absolutely nothing about, gathers model makers from around the world to exhibit, share, buy, sell, meet each other and admire each others' works. Thousands of people attended the show, either as exhibitors or guests.

Two of our apartments at La Lombarda this week were occupied by guests who had traveled far for this show: One family from Finland, and another group from the western coast of France, a 14-hour drive. We were honored to be shown around the show by our lovely guest from Finland, who was exhibiting several of his models in the historical military category. Here are a few photos of some models from the show, and some facts that I learned from him:

1. Models are built by hand, and from scratch. The model begins with a wire under-frame, onto which putty is then slowly applied and sculpted. When finished, the putty is dried and hardened, and the model completed with paint. That is a very simplistic explanation for what is actually a complicated, tedious, and sometimes almost microscopic process. These figures below are each less than two inches tall, and carefully painted in historically accurate outfits.




Small figurines such as these above could take a modeler a month to complete; a complicated panorama such as the waterfall scene below could easily take a year or more.


2. There are several categories of model-making, and they are all judged during the exposition. Categories are: soldiers (historical and fantasy), tanks, aircraft, military and civilian vehicles, dioramas, sci-fi, and collectors.





3. When it comes to appreciating, as well as judging, the models, attention should be given to the level and amount of detail. How intricate is the shading of paint? How realistically does the paint appear to be flesh, fabric, leather, etc.?



And for human figures, as opposed to fantastical ones such as in the above two photos, human figures should have absolutely perfect scale, musculature, and expressions. The more complex and emotive the expression, the better.


Personally, I really enjoyed looking at the dioramas. Where, through the cropped view of a camera lens, one can imagine it is a real scene. 



Our guide pointed out that these dioramas must look good from every angle, as can be seen in the two above, of Paris on Liberation Day.


Above, one I liked...

Our guide brought us to see the model that, in his estimation, was the best in show, a masterpiece. Here is a detail of it below. As he said, it is difficult to believe you are not looking at a painting. He pointed out how, from any angle, the lines of this incredibly intricate model function as those on a great painting, drawing the eye in to the center of the action, perfect in color, scale, and balance. 


Moving back a bit you can see the model on its pedestal. It is a scene representing a famous battle in Swedish history, in the 1630s. 



Both of our guests took home some medals for their models; we're so happy for them! They say the World Model Expo always changes locations, so they have fun traveling to it, but therefore I wonder if it will ever return to Stresa. There were also classes and demonstrations all weekend, so who knows if some new hobbyists were created here...






The Palazzo dei Congressi is the large, modern, glass-covered building just behind and to the left of the Regina Palace Hotel.  Entrance to the Palazzo dei Congressi was free for this event, and we were pleased to see so many locals and other visitors inside. Another of our guests told us how they had stumbled onto it and enjoyed it very much. This is a perfect example of why one should also take a look at the events at the Congressi while here; they are surprisingly varied and often open to the general public.

For anyone interested to learn more about the world of model-making, take a look at the website from the expo, which is full of information:  World Model Expo


Our charming guest traveled 14 hours from the western coast of France to show his models in the exhibition. So happy for his medal!

all photos stresasights, and a huge thank you to our wonderful guest for the private tour.

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