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February 21, 2013

You'll never guess what inspired painting of city's train bridge

Artist: Images don't always match their meanings

If you tried to guess the meaning behind the painting by local artist Marc Mannheimer that hangs at Northern Essex Community College, you likely wouldn’t stand a chance.

It’s a scene from 2000 of the train bridge over the Merrimack River, with smoke billowing from the stack of the old Paperboard company in the distance.

If you guessed Mannheimer was inspired to do the painting because of his love of Haverhill or interest in the river or bridge, you’re wrong.

Would you believe he painted the scene because it somehow reminded him of the burning at-the-stake of Girolamo Savonarola for heresy in 1498 in Florence, Italy?

”When I’ve shown it in the past, people asked me about it and I explained it,’’ Mannheimer said. “As a college professor, I want people to learn about Savoranola. It is historically interesting.”

Girolamo Savonarola was an Italian Dominican friar and preacher active in Florence and known for his prophecies of civic glory and calls for Christian renewal. He was condemned, hanged and burned in the main square of Florence for heresy.

The 144-by-24-inch oil painting titled “The Death of Savonarola” was painted by Mannheimer, a professor of art and design at NECC. iT was recently put on display in the Harold Bentley Library on the college’s Haverhill campus.

”I wanted the work to be seen and our library is a logical location as the work is of Haverhill,” Mannheimer said. “It has only previously been seen in gallery shows of my work.”

Mannheimer said he was inspired to do the painting while walking across Haverhill’s Comeau Bridge in 2000, before the bridge was demolished and replaced with a new bridge. He had recently returned from a trip to Florence, Italy. While walking across the Comeau Bridge, he took a few moments to look at the train bridge farther down river and the smokestack in the distance.

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