Jurassic Piacenza

Beware: the Dinosaurs are back and this time they are not guests of John Hammond’s Jurassic Park, but of the Italian city of Piacenza.

Tyrannosaurus Rex - Prehistoric Minds© , GeoModel©

For the uninitiated, Piacenza is one of Emilia Romagna region’s major cities, the closer to the river Po and Lombardy. A city rich in art and good cuisine.
Here, from March 1 to May 31, 2011, in the scenographic context of an industrial archeology site, called Urban Center, which houses the local Museum of Natural History, a detachment of the Polytechnic University of Milan and any exhibition spaces, takes place the exhibition “Dinosauri in carne e ossa” (Dinosaurs in the flesh).


The event was organized by Simone Maganuco e Stefania Nosotti, paleontologists at the Museum of Natural History in Milan and includes  20 full-scale reconstructions of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals, 90 illustrated educational panels, 7 panoramic extra-long panels, 5 palaeoenvironmental reconstructions, the preview of a paleo-3D aquarium.

Many organizations have been involved in: the Municipality of Piacenza, the Parma Italian Palaeontological Association – APPI, museums of natural history of Piacenza and Milan, the Polytechnic of Milan, the University Geology Departments of Pavia, Bologna, Florence. Finally, the laboratory Geomodel specialized in paleontological reconstructions.
At the exhibition are accompanied eight conferences held by experts, with the special guest John Jack Horner, American paleontologist famous for his scientific advice to the “Jurassic Park ” movie.

Spinosaurus aegyptiacus - Prehistoric Minds© , GeoModel©

But the real driving force behind this initiative is Prehistoric Minds , a team consisting of a paleontologist (Simone Maganuco), a paleoartist (Davide Bonadonna) and a graphic designer (Andrea Pirondini). Their Mission is the overall design of paleontological exhibitions and parks.

Davide Bonadonna is my friend and client, and therefore I know his career. After a short stay in Biology faculty, Bonadonna has attended the IED-Istituto Europeo del Design, working then in the scientific and medical illustration for book publisher (Elsevier-Masson, DeAgostini) and magazines (Focus, Geo).

I and Bonadonna

The passion for dinosaurs dating back however to childhood, with a preference for illustrations of Zdeněk Burian – a czech illustrator, famous for its accurate paleontological reconstructions by the dramatic style, the first to have represented dinosaurs not as lethargic big lizards, but as animals from powerful muscle movements –.
In 2005, Bonadonna illustrated for DeAgostini a book about dinosaurs and from that moment his professional interest has definitely taken the direction of paleo-art.

To confirm its capabilities, any prestigious awards: in 2009, the third prize at the International Competition of Illustration on the Dinosaurs of the Portuguese museum of Lurinhã for a dramatic fight scene between a Torvosaurus and a Miragaia and in 2010 (with the Maganuco’s scientific advice) no less than the first prize of the American Lanzendorf PaleoArt Prize – the equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize for a paleo-artist – for the “Restoring Diplodocus Carnegie Hatcher “.

Bonadonna and his panel winner of the 2010 Lanzendorf PaleoArt Prize

Bonadonna’s approach to his subjects is global and accurate. He starts with the skeletal reconstruction  to understand, for example, the possibility of movement of the dinosaur. On the skeleton, he rebuilds the muscle morphology. Then, he seeks iconographic material about the elements included in the illustration. At this point, there’s the pencil drawing and the chiaroscuro by ink water diluted – to define the light and shade – followed by the painting of colour and by any digital retouchs. Recently, Bonadonna is considering – with my great regret – to switch completely to digital painting.

An interesting part of the exploration process is the creation of three-dimensional models. Bonadonna is a capable sculptor and in the Piacenza’s exhibition he has demonstrated its ability to work the clay giving shape to the dinosaurs.

Instead, for the digital models production, necessary for the realization of real-size models, he has used a digital sculpting software. The files were then converted into “real” dinosaurs, from the Venetian workshop GeoModel, which is specialized in paleontological reconstructions.

Indricotherium transouralicum - Prehistoric Minds© , GeoModel©

Bonadonna doesn’t consider himself an artist but a craftsman of the scientific illustration, which collects the daily challenge to learn to draw something new. However, I consider the artist in accordance with the Renaissance vision, as one who performs work according to the Rule of Art, loyal to a visual code understandable to all, putting in what he does a little of his heart.

And for this I think that David Bonadonna can be considered an artist –and I envy him, because he has a chance to see his creations enlarged to 8 meters high models 😉


About liviusnotes

Architect, Graphic Illustrator, Drawing Teacher, Gentleman.
This entry was posted in Animals, Creative People, Exhibition, Illustration and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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