NORTHBRIDGE, Mass. – When Andy Volpe talks of artists he admires, it’s not Picasso or da Vinci but names most won’t recognize, Martin Schongauer, Albrecht Durer, Hendrick Goltzius and Jacob de Gheyn. Volpe lives in Grafton and has a studio in Northbridge's Whitin Mill.
Schongauer and Durer, in the 1400 and 1500s, “were among the first to use goldsmithing techniques applied specifically to making images on paper as an illustrative means,’’ Volpe said. Goltzius and de Gheyn, in the 1600s, “were absolute masters in engraving.”
Though just 34, Volpe is as comfortable wielding a sword in a suit of armor as he is wielding an engraving tool (a Burin) in jeans. Though an artist and living historian, his expertise is the medieval.
On the walls of Volpe’s small studio at historic Whitin Mill on Douglas Road are his paintings and etchings – some created the traditional way, others made in the complicated process of etching and engraving.
Volpe brings all his interests together in a kind of traveling classroom he brings to schools, colleges and libraries. His programs touch on Roman legionnaires, Greek citizen soldiers and the Renaissance.
He’s taught at Worcester Art Museum and Higgons Armory and can say with confidence that armor isn’t as heavy as films would have us believe. “If you fall wearing armor, you can get up,’’ he said.
He currently offers four programs:
- Roman Legionary – dressed for the period dating to 100 AD, he looks at the life of a Roman soldier and the training, fighting tactics and arms and armor.
- Late Republic – dressed for the period dating to 40 to 30 BC, he looks at the period of Julius Caesar’s Gallic Wars and the great civil war between Caesar and Pompey, again from the soldier’s perspective and the arms, armor, tactics and training.
- Medieval/Renaissance Artist – dressed for the period, he looks at drawing techniques (from 1300 to 1600) in silverpoint, feather quill pen and brush, as well printmaking methods like engraving.
- He also offers a non-costumes workshop at which he brings examples of his artwork and discusses the technique and process.
In an attachment to this story, Volpe explains the processes he uses in his art.