Throwback Thursday

I thought I’d take one final look at that magnificent Bronzino exhibition that so fascinated me back in 2011. Though initially I was touched by the painting of the Holy Family with St John I find now the image that I recall in my mind’s eye is that powerful and simple Crucifixion that he did for the Panciatichi. Perhaps because I feel it sums up the religious strife that defined so much of the history of that time in that place.

March 14 is – yes I know Pi Day but more importantly it’s National Potato Chip Day! Let’s get our priorities straight here.

Willy Or Won't He

I thought I’d posted more of the enchanting observations on a few of the paintings that were in the Bronzino exhibition that just closed in Firenze. You may recall that Italian author Roberto Piumini wrote doggeral verses in the style popular with the painter and his friends at the Academia and Konrad Eisenbichler used them as his inspiration for English verses. They thought of them as “ways to look at Bronzino”.

I think this is perhaps one of the loveliest paintings I have ever seen of a sleeping child – you almost feel John’s kiss awakening his little cousin.

*“Dear Mary,” Joseph says, “if in a while,
Our little Jesus should awake
And want to eat, I’ll light this little pile
of sticks so you might cook a meal or bake,

But note,” then Joseph adds, “his cousin John
has come to play with him, and when they’re done

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Brought to Life

Art as Theatre and Theatre as Art.

300px-Sick_young_Bacchus_by_CaravaggioCoincidence is a strange beast.  Just the other day I was looking at some photos of patriotic tableaux vivants from the 1920s and musing, yes dear reader I have been known to muse, as to whither people still engage in this innocent form of entertainment.  At one time it was as popular on the Broadway stage as it was in town halls and in home parlours but seems to have disappeared. Then doesn’t my friend Cathy send me a link to this video of a performance September past in Sutri an ancient town about 50 kms north of Rome.


I often observed after visiting a church, museum or gallery in Italy that you would walk out into the street and see the same faces that Caravaggio, da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo et al captured in their works.  This is living proof of that observation.

Paintings staged:
1. The entombment of Christ
2. Mary Magdalen in ecstasy
3. Crucifixion of Saint Peter
4. Beheading of John the Baptist
5. Judith beheading Holofernes
6. Flagellation of Christ
7. The martyrdom of Saint Matthew
8. The Annunciation
9. Rest on the flight into Egypt
10. Narcissus
11. The raising of Lazarus
12. Saint Francis of Assisi in ecstasy
13. Bacchus

Directed by Ludovica Rambelli
Video: Simone Calcagni

On this day in 1689: General Piccolomini of Austria burns down Skopje to prevent the spread of cholera. He died of cholera himself soon after.

Throwback Thursday

As I am still working on posts about the recent trips – Prince Edward Island and the cruise to Saint-Pierre et Miquelon I thought I’d do a bit of a Throwback Thursday. Here’s a post from September 2010 during our time in Italy.

Willy Or Won't He

I had only seen Villa d’Este in the winter so when friends Lorraine and John suggested a Sunday jaunt at the beginning of August we decided that, like much here, a second look was well deserved. This time around most of the fountains were working – though as always there was something under repair.

I’ve put together this video look at them with some film and photos I took that day. Please excuse the hand-held jerky moments, I really should take a film course or better yet buy a tripod. As the project was done in a larger format you may want to double click on the video and go directly to the YouTube download.

The wonderful music – which I’m hoping won’t be removed by EMI – is by Leo Delibes and is the Galliarde from his ballet music for Victor Hugo’s Le Roi s’amuse. Sir Thomas Beecham

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As she has done for almost a thousand years if not longer, tonight La Befana will mount her broomstick and fly from house to house in Italy and in Italian households all over the world.  The good will be, justly, rewarded with sweets, fruits and perhaps a small gift; the bad will reap the rewards of their badness – a lump of coal or in some households a turnip.

Given the onslaught of Halloween – a holiday unknown in Italy until a decade ago – and the appearance of Babo Natale (Santa Claus) there is a chance that this lovely and age old tradition will disappear before the forces of marketing.  However this little vignette on YouTube from Walks of Italy gives me some assurance that she will not go the way of the zampognari or shepherds who would come down from the mountains and serenade Romans with the bagpipe carols.  Let’s hope that when Beatrice wakes up tomorrow there will be both “sweet carbone” and an extra treat for being a good girl and sharing her traditions with us.

I’ve written extensively in the past about the stories – there are several versions of her history – and celebration of La Befana.  As I said last year each story enriches both the old lady and the traditions surrounding her.  If you haven’t read them before do take a look; if you have, well a second look does not harm.

January 2008 – An Italian Christmas Tradition – La Befana 
January 2009 – Ephipania II
January 2011 – Viva La Befana! La Befana!
January 2012 –  The Flight of La Befana

Carbonne DolciTo all my loved ones in Italy – don’t forget a glass of warming wine and a biscotti will help the old lady on her way in the cold night.  And my hope is that when you wake in the morning La Befana will have left your stockings full of good things and for that once or twice that you just may have been less than good a lump of carbonne but like Beatrice carbonne dolci to sweeten the experience. 

Viva la Befana! Viva!

December 5 – 1974: Warmest reliably measured temperature in Antarctica of +59 °F (+15 °C) recorded at Vanda Station.

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Viva La Befana Viva

And once again this evening, as she has done for millennia, La Befana flies from house to house in Italy – and I’ve been told in some part of Canada too.  On her first journey she searched for the Christ Child but being told that she could find him in each child she made it her task to reward children for their good deeds with sweets, oranges and small gifts.  But being a wise woman she knew that no child was ever always good so she keeps a supply of coal and turnips (?) for those times when behaviour deserved not reward but a reminder to be better next year.

La Befana has had a place on our Christmas Tree since our first Christmas in Italy back in 2007.
Now she serves as a reminder of the love and friendship of all our dear friends, who we miss so much, in Italy.

I’ve written on several occasions about the many stories of how La Befana became, for one night of the year, the guardian of all the children.  Each variation makes the story of this old woman richer and more endearing and I can only hope more enduring.

January 2008 – An Italian Christmas Tradition – La Befana 
January 2009 – Ephipania II
January 2011 – Viva La Befana! La Befana!
January 2012 –  The Flight of La Befana

To all my friends and loved ones in Italy, I hope with all my heart that La Bifana rewards you for your goodness and is forgiving of those bad times.  Viva La Befana Viva!

05 January – 1925: Nellie Tayloe Ross of Wyoming becomes the first female governor in the United States.

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