Blown Away by Italian Jewelry & Architecture

Posted by: Mellany Artmstrong

A sore foot made Fine Arts major Sarah Tropio ‘18 realize she was getting her money’s worth out of her trip to Italy.

“I basically made sure I got to see as many museums as possible with the museum pass, to the point where my foot was swollen for half the trip,” she said. “It was starting to get hard to walk, so I had to go to the emergency room.”

Tropio was the recipient of the Harriet Sartain Travel Fellowship, which she used to study in Florence and Venice in the summer of 2017. She is Italian, and wanted to connect to her heritage.

“A lot of my family immigrated here and they tried to fit in with the American culture,” she said. “They learned English and didn’t speak Italian, so I lost those connections and I wanted to bring it back.”

Tropio had more than two weeks to explore the art, culture and sights of several cities, beginning her trip in Florence and ending it in Venice.

Tropio’s artwork involves metalsmithing, and she is interested in architecture.

“I wanted to go to the Duomo, and go into the cathedral, the Baptistery,” she said. “I wanted to see a lot of art and to spend a lot of time in the churches because all of the buildings are really old, and everything is decorated, like all the ceilings are decorated.”

She was overcome with emotion when seeing original paintings by Raphael and the statue of David.

“It was all so beautiful,” she said. “I can’t believe I was actually there to see them in person. It’s incredible, looking at the walls, this is so much culture and history that I wouldn’t be able to do without this fellowship.”

She found one of her favorite pieces in the museum at the Duomo, a silver and enamel altar that has narrative panels of John the Baptist’s life.

“I was doing a lot of narrative imagery before in my work, so I wanted to study them, I wanted to see them up close,” she said. She made sure to make the trek at night, when there were fewer tourists and she could look at the panels up close.

Tropio also climbed hundreds of steps and went through narrow hallways to get a glimpse from the top of the Duomo.

“I realized how out of shape I was, but it was worth it when I finally got to the top to see the whole city,” she said. “I was blown away by that.”

Tropio often wears enameled pins she has made, and did so as she visited the Palazzo Pitti museum in Florence, where she spent a lot of time looking at glass carved cameos.

“They had a jewelry collection, and I’m a jeweler, so it makes sense that I was drawn to it,” she said.

The island of Murano provided lots of inspiration with its renowned glasswork, and Tropio saw some of the oldest pieces in the world.

“All of it was in dim lighting to protect it, and again, I noticed the jewelry right away,” which she described as ‘stunning.’ “It’s really cool to see the beginnings of something. I will definitely remember that forever.”

Other stops on her tour included the cities of Pisa and Lucca, and then she moved on by water taxi to see the colorful buildings in Burano, where she learned how to make lace.

In Venice, Tropio attended La Biennale di Vienza, where she viewed many art exhibits and saw the life’s work of many famous jewelers.

Tropio transferred to Moore from the Community College of Philadelphia, and she would not be learning jewelry making at Moore if not for her sister, Gwendolyn Tropio, a senior at Moore who is studying Animation & Game Arts.

“My sister pushed me,” Tropio said. “I said, ‘I can’t draw,’ but she said, ‘Just do the jewelry program.’ I didn’t believe in myself. I didn’t even have a portfolio. But I learned a lot from Moore. It was worth it.”