Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Rome, the water and the public fountains

In Rome there are many famous fountains as the Trevi fountain in Piazza di Trevi or the Barcaccia at the bottom of the Spanish Steps or the Four Rivers fountain in Piazza Navona....but few seem to realize that the water coming from the fountains is not only free, but clean and drinkable. 

So next time you’re in Rome be sure to take a sip from the waters of the Eternal City! Especially when it is summer, it is so nice to stop and have a drink of water for free!

public fountain in Rome

In appearance some of these fountains are not so attractive, nevertheless the water is always fresh! The nasoni or big nose are round and stout, they are made of cast iron and produce fresh water. On each one of them you will find the initials S.P.Q.R. stamped, which stands for Senātus Populusque Rōmānus (Senate and People of Rome), that you can also find on the rubbish bin and on the city’s sewer grates. The water for these fountains comes from the Riserve del Peschiera which runs approximately seventy miles of channels before emerging from the spout of a city fountain.

The water fountains is the same that comes out of the Roman houses, so if you just around the city and you have are thirsty you can refill your bottle in one of these fountains.

Lorenzo @ the Gianicolo 

There are plenty of them around, from Campo dei Fiori, to the Pantheon, to the Trevi fountain, just to mention the most popular ones. Anyway if you want to know where they are located, have a look to  the map provided by the


Monday, July 1, 2013


Cauliflower is a vegetable typical of the winter season, which is likely to be prepared in many ways and is ideal for making delicious soups. The ZUPPA DI CAVOLFIORE is a rustic dish prepared with simple ingredients which give a special flavour to the preparation. 

The cauliflower soup is a delicious first course, light and nutritious, quick and easy to prepare, especially if it served hot with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

The white cauliflower comes from the Marche region, from where this recipe comes from.

The process is very easy! 

Just start blending together a quarter of an onion, half a carrot and a piece of celery


Then chop a cauliflower and two small potatoes.


Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, the carrot and the celery and cook, stirring, for 5-6 minutes or until soft. Then add the cauliflower, potato, stock and water. Cover and bring to the boil. 

Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes or until the cauliflower and the potatoes are tender. 

cooking the soup

Leave the soup to rest aside for a short time and then blend until smooth. Add some cream and season with some salt and cheese. 

blend the soup

Ladle soup among serving bowls and drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil. Season with some extra cheese and serve with some fresh bread.

cauliflower soup


Monday, June 10, 2013

Art awareness: appreciation, understanding and SMALL COFFEE CHAT

How much do you love art? What is your appreciation for the Baroque? 
What do you love about Rome and Italy? 

Small coffee chat in Brisbane!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

A beautiful secret place in Rome: the Oratory of Gonfalone

Just off the beaten track of the touristy Rome is the Oratory of Gonfalone, one of the many secret places of the eternal city, today used for music concert .

This place is informally called the "Sistine Chapel of the Mannerism". In fact, the entire walls are decorated with a frescoes cycle representing the 'Passion of Christ' by leading artists of the Roam Mannerism, including Federico Zuccari, who was the only one who dated his fresco.

Federico Zuccari
The Flagellation (1573) 

The cycle is divided into twelve episodes, starting with the Entry into Jerusalem, to carry one with the different episodes of the passion of Christ, to finally end up with the Resurrection. The scenes are framed by an architectural framework formed by twisted columns, which, according to an ancient legend, came from the Temple of Solomon. 

The decoration itself was conducted between 1569 and 1576, when Alessandro Farnese was the Cardinal protector of the oratory. Started under the direction of Jacopo Zanguidi, nicknamed Bertoja, the decoration was executed by several artists, including Federico Zuccari, who executed the theatrical Flagellation in 1573. 

The story takes place from the bottom of the right wall at the bottom of the left wall, according to a path from right to left, which corresponds to the natural movement of the reading.

Entry into Jerusalem by Bertoja

It follows on the same wall ....

Last Supper by Livio Agresti from Forli

The next panel is the...

Agony in the Garden by Domenico da Modena

Domenico da Modena could be perhaps identified with Domenico Carnevali, who was the first restorer of the Sistine Chapel ceiling, immediately after the death of Michelangelo.

It follows the Capture of Christ by Marcantonio dal Forno and then the last panel of this wall...

Christ in front of Caiaphas by Raffaellino Motta

The cycle proceeds with the Flagellation by Federico Zuccari, dated 1573 and surmounted by a prophet and a Sybil  always of Zuccari, flanked by the allegorical figure of the Charity. From the panel of Zuccari the point of view of the frescoes changes, according to an idea probably elaborated by Marco Pino da Siena (di sotto in su').

Flagellation by Federico Zuccari and Crowning of thorns by Cesare Nebbia

The work proceeds on the new wall with the execution of the Ecce Homo by Caesar Nebbia and the Slope of the Calvary by Livio Agresti. Then it's the turn of the Resurrection, the most damaged artwork. 

Resurrection by Guidonio Guelfi(??)

The last two panels are...

The Deposition of the Cross, perhaps work of a follower of Daniel da Volterra, identifiable as Giacomo Rocca.

 Resurrection of Christ by Marco Pino, most probably dated to 1572.

The Oratory was restored between 1999 and 2000 and my dad was involved in this operation and my thesis was based on this, so I would recommend a visit there if you go to Rome!

NOTE: All these photos were taken while I was studying and some of them were used for my presentation.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Going to Italy? HAVE A UNIQUE EXPERIENCE........

Once the German novelist Hermann Hesse once wrote:

“Tourists travel where they are sure to find thousands of other tourists, where they find the same overcrowded places, the same café, the same music, the same throng, the same mass of people, the same press, the same lack of room and light (..)They behave this way, because according to the current fashion it is right to behave such a way. (..) and they all go there, where all the others go.”


Well... NOOOO!!!! Not everyone likes to be mixed with the crowd! There are people who love to go to Italy and have a UNIQUE EXPERIENCE. Like me they love to travel, HAVE FUN, see beautiful places and enjoy their experience! 

Laocoon and His sons at the Vatican Museum

Italy has got food, culture, art.....enjoy all of this!!!!!

Spaghetti aglio e olio in a local restaurant

Mantua....and immerse yourself in the art and taste the Emilian food?

Otranto.....the beach...the romance...

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The traditional ITALIAN CIAMBELLONE in two colours

If you like to cook, here for you a unique Italian cake, the ciambellone. 

Have you ever tried this cake when you were on holiday in Italy?

This is an old traditional cake, usually prepared during the Winter time. Loved by children, but also by adults, the cake is perfect for breakfast or for an afternoon snack. 

So here the recipe for you!

  • 3 eggs
  • 300 grams all purpose flour
  • 200 grams sugar
  • 1/2 glass of oil
  • 1 glass of milk
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • some butter to grease the pan
  • cocoa powder

Empty bowl 

Ready to go in the oven


And then.... what are you going to do?

Easy, here the INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat the oven at around 180 C, if not forced. First of all beat the eggs with the sugar until you obtain a nice zabaglione, then add the baking powder, the milk and the oil, and finally the flour and mix until evenly combined. You can either use a whisk, as well as a food processor. YOUR CHOICE!

Grease your baking pan with butter and then add some flour. Move the pan until all the surface is covered with flour to prevent the cake stick while it cooks in the oven.

Add half of the butter into the pan. Then add cocoa into the half batter still in the bowl and mix until blended, and pour gently over the other batter already in the pan.

Cook between 30 and 40 minutes, depend on the oven.You can check if it's ready by piercing the cake with a toothpick. If it comes out clean, it's ready!


NOW... Try the recipe and then let me know what you think!

A presto!

The Italian ciambellone 

Monday, May 20, 2013

A day outside Rome: Hadrian Villa in Tivoli

If you have intention to spend a day outside Rome, Hadrian Villa in Tivoli is the perfect destination. This is an exceptional complex of classical buildings created in the second century A.D. by the Roman emperor Hadrian, who decided to combine the best elements of the architectural heritage of Egypt, Greece and Rome in the form of an ideal city, after having travelled to the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire.

Maritime Theatre in Hadrian Villa at Tivoli

The site is so big and the gardens are so beautiful, so if you have children and you love to have a unique experience, you have to come here! The complex was constructed outside Rome, just for him to escape the pressure of the city of Rome....and if you think this was really another was completely independent and had a big library, the Maritime theatre, the palace, the temple of Venus, large and small thermae and much more...   

 Canopus at Tivoli

Tivoli is a special destination point for students and people interested in ancient history! It is a fantastic opportunity not to be missed! 

I was there in April with a wonderful group of students and teachers!
The weather was fantastic and it was very very relaxing!

Group of students from Australia


Alla prossima!

Friday, May 17, 2013


If you have a good knowledge of the Italian language and you want to practise here for you one of the most famous and beautiful text written by Giacomo Leopardi, estrapolated from the "Canti".


Sempre caro mi fu quest'ermo colle,
e questa siepe, che da tanta parte
dell'ultimo orizzonte il guardo esclude.
Ma sedendo e mirando, interminati
spazi di la' da quella, e sovrumani
silenzi, e profondissima quiete
io nel pensier mi fingo: ove per poco
il cor non si spaura. E come il vento
odo stormir tra queste piante, io quello
infinito silenzio a questa voce
vo comparando: e mi sovvien l'eterno,
e le morte stagioni, e la presente
e viva, e il suon di lei. Cosi' tra questa
immensita' s'annega il pensier mio:
e il naufragar m'e' dolce in questo mare.


A presto!

Saturday, April 6, 2013


The Triumph of Divine Providence by Pietro da Cortona was the subject of my MA thesis in New Zealand, submitted to the University of Auckland in August 2006. Below is the story of the decoration with appropriate explanation, extrapolated by my thesis.

The decoration

The decoration of the huge ceiling of this majestic hall was intended to celebrate the triumph of the Barberini family, personified in Maffeo Barberini’s ascent to the papal throne in 1623, and the family’s spiritual and temporal power. The imposing fresco depicts The Triumph of Divine Providence and the fulfilment of her ends under the papacy of Pope Urban VIII.

Cortona with his trusted assistants, Romanelli, Ubaldini and Giovanni Maria Bottalla (Savona 1613/Milan 1644), painted the vault, using the big scaffolding which had to be rearranged from time to time throughout the execution of the work. There is no documentation that can establish exactly what duty the assistants were responsible for, whether they worked on the decorations only or also the figures, whether they were free to paint their own creations or whether they painted only secondary details. In preparation, Cortona with all his assistants almost certainly discussed themes and choices until they converged on the same language and style, the fruit of their shared experience. 

The result of this representation is described in this way by Ludwig von Pastor, in The History of the Popes (originally printed in 1855):

In the centre the figure of Divine Providence is seen enthroned in heavenly glory and resplendent with dazzling light; Immortality floating upwards holds a crown of stars with which to crown it; at its behest winged genii carry towards heaven the tiara, Peter’s keys, and poet’s laurel wreath shaped like a shield and bearing the Barberini bees. The representations of the longitudinal and transverse sides are likewise subordinate to the main group. The former show Minerva casting down the Giants, viz. Heresy and Unbelief; at the bidding of Justice, Hercules slays the harpies whilst Plenty pours out its cornucopia over the earth; human Wisdom and its spring, religion, overcome the passions of the body; Papal Sovereignty, guided by Prudence, fetters war and holds it in check by the creation of an armed force (Vulcan’s smithy).

A large-scale project like the vault had to follow a standard modus operandi, which was used by Cortona and many other artists. Unfortunately there is neither trace nor mention among the Barberini documents of a possible large-scale outline on canvas created by Cortona and showing the entire ornamentation of the ceiling or a single section. This is very unusual, as Cortona would have needed some way to show his design to his patron.

Only a few drawings have survived in the case of the Barberini ceiling and these are scattered in museums all over the world. Amongst them we can mention the clypeus with the Heroism of Mucius Scaevola. The iconographic subject here is the theme of Fortitude, with the representation of the lion. Between the final execution and this drawing there are some differences, such as the introduction of a mask on top of the octagonal episodes that are not evident in the fresco. Another interesting drawing is in Florence. The subjects represented here are: the Cyclops forging arms; Peace enthroned, and Furor. This drawing is mentioned only in the Santarelli collection as a drawing made by Cortona. Making a comparison between this drawing and the fresco decoration we can consider the drawing as a copy of the original episode painted by Cortona, because it is meticulously copied from the original.

Fortunately the various types of surviving drawings – sketches, details and overall views – confirm that Cortona began by roughing out his ideas, intended to provide inspiration and act as a reference during the actual painting stage, but they were not, strictly speaking, technical apparatus. In contrast, the full-scale cartoons, which unfortunately do not exist or have disappeared, were produced to play a different role: they were placed on top of the plaster like a kind of stencil for the transfer of various sections of the decoration. A wooden stylus was used to trace the outlines onto the wet plaster through the card, which is more porous than paper. The cartoons were not necessary for purely linear elements such as architectural details, cornices and trimmings, and the lines were directly engraved into the intonaco. As a rule, cartoons and sketches, which were often only considered in terms of their importance for the final result, did not receive appropriate attention. When used up on the scaffolding to assist the artist in reproducing the lines in their painting, they could get stained or torn, thus they did not survive the work for which they had been created.

The drawings were not the only source utilised for the execution of a fresco decoration. For Cortona’s planning stage, it was necessary to decide on the subject to illustrate on the vault. In the past, for example, it was the custom to celebrate the family ancestors, along with ancient personages and heroes, such as Vasari’s Sala dei Cento Giorni in the Palazzo della Cancelleria. However, during the seventeenth century the new families like the Barberini, not having a proud history to tell, decided to include only present family events with representations of mythological, biblical subjects and/or allegorical figures in their personal residences.

The programme of the vault frescoed by Cortona originated in the cultured circles of the Barberini family and of the erudite Pope, author of several poems, collector, and the foremost patron of arts during his long pontificate, as discussed in chapter one. Urban VIII lived in splendour with his family in the palace, surrounding himself with a court of intellectuals, with whom he undoubtedly developed the ceiling project.

The consultations amongst the members of the Barberini circle probably gave birth to the fresco project, drawn up by a person very close to the Pope, the Tuscan Francesco Bracciolini (1566-1645), who wrote a little book on the election of Urban VIII. Scott summarises Bracciolini’s book, 'L’Elettione di Papa Urbano VIII' (1628), where the main focus is the election of the Pope. 
Scott summarises Bracciolini’s book with these words:

Anxious over the possible election of Maffeo Barberini to the papacy, the vices, with Falsity as their leader, from themselves into seven groups and occupy the Seven Hills of Rome, while Truth and the other virtues repair Castelgandolfo. After an initial setback, the vices rally a Fury wounds Justice with an arrow. Self-Interest challenges each of the virtues to duel, and, as the vices gain the upper hand, Justice suggests that the virtues abandon the earth and return to heaven. Charity and Justice then climb up to the heaven in search of help. At the threshold of paradise they encounter Divine Providence, who ensures them that God will provide for the proper resolution of the conflict. Then word arrives that the life of Self-Interest is in danger because of excessive drinking. Charity descends, out of the pity, to aid the stricken vice. Meanwhile, Ecclesia, in supplication at the foot of the throne of the Eternal, receives assurance that the current crisis will be resolve by the election of Maffeo Barberini to the papacy. Astrea descends in order to learn about the new pontiff from the virtues and hears from Mercury and Urania about the origin of the Barberini family. Reason of State opposes the election of Maffeo, using the now revived Self-Interest to spread discord among the cardinals. Religion slays Self-Interest, but then Sickness is dispatched against the cardinals. Maffeo’s guardian angel predicts that he will be elected. Making a final stand, Pluto himself sends Envy and Error into the conclave. Maffeo immediately vanquishes Envy, but Error manages to carry off on of the ballots. As Maffeo calls for another vote, a Virgin enters the conclave and banishes Error. Maffeo is elected by anonymous vote.

The poem is very long and intricate, even so can be considered the main inspirational source, because it is the only published source prior to the execution of the ceiling. Bracciolini is mentioned for the first time in a letter written by Domenichino to Francesco Angeloni in 1640, where Domenichino showed interest in the new ceiling painted by Cortona:

I have been delighted in learning about the newly unveiled painting by Cortona… I would be curious only to know the means of invention of the stories represented; it seems I have heard that it is a fantasy of Bracciolini’s on the praises of the pope. According to the little information given to me, I doubt that it is wanting, and it would appear to be more suitable for a secular prince.

Even if Bracciolini is mentioned in the painter Domenichino’s letter, Scott does not believe Bracciolini was an inspiration for Cortona, because he did not provide a written programme. He considers, instead, the Dichiaratione by Mattia Rosichino (Rome, 1640) as the “definitive program of the painting”, because it was written under the suggestion of Bracciolini, as an early source of information, after the ceiling was finished. In fact, Rosichino’s short pamphlet was addressed to the visitors of the palace, who could in this way identify the figures and the general meaning of the scenes without difficulty. Rosichino used these words:

Rosichino to the Spectators: As one gazes at the paintings made by Signor Pietro Berrettini da Cortona on the vault of the hall of the Signori Barberini, he understands that they are among those things that above all others delight the eyes of mortals. But because such pleasure extends only to the form and disposition of the colours and figures, the observers, remaining deprived of the enjoyment of understanding the meaning, continually turned to me, since I am always around here (as required by my position), and asked me to explain the paintings to them. They perhaps thought that because I am always present where these paintings are located that I even knew them intrinsically. Forced therefore by these curious people, I went on this matter to someone who is a poet, or at least a philosopher, and told him of the need I had of his erudition because of the curiosity of others. Out of compassion he shared it with me and made me knowledgeable of the explanation I sought. But fearing the defect of a memory not too accustomed to retaining things so speculative and exalted, I decided to have them printed and to present them to you spectators in order to free myself from that nuisance and satisfy your questions. I beg of you only that, if I do not tell those matters exactly as they were taught to me, you excuse my poor memory and accept in compensation the good will I have had and have to serve you.

The writer, Rosichino, thinks it is more appropriate to explain the meaning of the fresco in a pamphlet, but this programme was composed after the ceiling was completed so can not be used as the main planning source. 

Rosichino describes the ceiling in this way:

Declaration of the Paintings: The vault of the great hall of the Barberini is divided and painted in five parts. In the centre part is Divine Providence, who sits on a cloud, ornamented with splendours, with a sceptre, and in the act of commanding the present and the future. And therefore Time, who in the form of Saturn devours his own children, is held with the Fates under her. Around her are Justice, Mercy, Eternity, Truth, Purity, Beauty, and others who seem to want to obey her. But above all others Immortality appears to execute the commands, moving with the crown of stars to crown the arms of Urban VIII Supreme Pontiff. The papal arms are surrounded by two great branches of laurel, which rendered together create the image of a shield supported by Faith and Hope at the sides and by Charity at the bottom, with the three bees flying inside these. Above are Religion with the keys and Rome with the Papal Tiara, and a child with a garland also of laurel – sign of poetic excellence – is playing there nearby. In the second part, that is, in the front of the hall toward the garden, is the image of Minerva, denoting Wisdom, who overthrows with her lance the Giants who are seen hurled down and weighed down by those mountains they themselves has amassed in order to challenge Heaven. Here is expressed the defence of ecclesiastical things. Opposite, the third part represents the temporal government. Those two youths who seem to be coming from above signify, first, Authority with the consular fasces, and, second, Abundance with the cornucopia. Kneeling in front of these are all kinds of people, such as old men, children, and widows, and many others who expect gifts from them. There, by Hercules, who casts out the Harpies, is meant the chastisement of kings. Beneath this part, in the feigned bas-relief ornament is the club of this same Hercules, which sprouts – a device of the Barberini family. On the right as you enter in the fourth part; here one sees Knowledge uplifted by Divine Assistance, who is denoted in the young man who is agile with his wings. Knowledge holds a book in one hand for the knowledge of things and, in the other, a flame to symbolize that it is her nature to uplift herself. She is also accompanied by Piety toward God, expressed in the modestly dressed and venerable woman who has a tripod with fire inside ready for the sacrifice. Beneath Knowledge are gluttony and lasciviousness. The first is represented by Silenus, for whom fauns and satyrs pour wine in the great cup he holds in his hand. Bacchantes, with young Bacchus in their lap avidly devouring a bunch of grapes, represent the bad upbringing of youths. Lasciviousness is embodied in a reclining woman next to whom are discerned some chaste and lewd cupids. But the chaste ones, urged on by Chastity, personified by the woman dressed in white with the lily in hand, drive away the lewd ones with torches so that she who is lying seems frightened by them. Not far from here there is painted a fountain with women around it, one of whom is adorning herself in order to denote the vanity of worldly pleasures. The device perceived here is the plough pulled by two bees with a third who steers it and is guiding them with a whip. Opposite this, one sees the last section. In this, Dignity holds in the right hand the caduceus and in the left a key. Prudence reverently holds up a mirror to her, and Power, delegated with a key and a written sheet, is nearby but in the act of departing. Then next is Fame. And Peace with the olive branch closes the door to the Temple of Janus, outside of which one sees Furor tied with his torches on top of many armaments. He seems in appearance to struggle, except that Gentleness holds him still with a noose. There is also Fury with her torch who, thrown down, appears deprived of strength. Not far away is the forge of Vulcan where several Cyclops exert themselves to make weapons, alluding to the preparedness which is necessary for the defence of the provinces even in peace time. Here the rising sun is the device. Besides this there are four medallions in the four corners of this vault. In these there are expressed the four virtues – Temperance, Fortitude, Justice, and Prudence. Temperance: with Scipio the Younger sent back untarnished to her Saguntine spouse the young maid he had captured as his booty. Fortitude: with Mucius Scaevola when he burned his right hand, having erred killing a civilian instead of King Porsenna. Justice: with Titus Manlius when he even happily had beheaded his son who had violated his prohibition. Prudence: with the story of Fabius Maximus when restraining himself in his quarters held Hannibal in check. Under the medallions one sees portrayed a unicorn to represent Temperance, a lion for Fortitude, a hippogriff for Justice, and some bears for Prudence because they develop their offspring slowly with time.

The description is short, but exhaustive, without moral and complicated language. The author identifies the figures, describes their action and states the meanings. It is addressed to the visitors of the palace, who in this way can enjoy the Cortona’s fresco ceiling.

But Rosichino’s pamphlet is not the only one composed after the ceiling was completed. There are other longer sources, such as the anonymous Il Pellegrino ò vero la Dichiarazione delle Pitture della Sala Barberina (around 1642), more sophisticated and with philosophical meaning, and therefore not accessible to a general audience but only to erudite people like the educated sphere of the Barberini family. Almost certainly manuscript circulated amongst the members of the Barberini circles and today it is conserved between the other family documents in the Vatican Archive. This Codex Barberini Latino 4335 (Il Pellegrino) is a description of the fresco, contained in a moral commentary and ornamented with poetic conceits.

The manuscript takes the form of a conversation between a young traveller and an elderly palace guide, who wants to instruct the pilgrim on the allegory and the sense of the figures. In his explanation the author uses analogies, which creates parallels between the nine stories represented in the vault and the nine Muses, described by Ripa in his book, Iconologia. The immediate consequence is a connection between poetry and art, from which emerges the famous verse created by Horace’s: ut pictura poesis. First, the guide wants to introduce the more complex and emblematic part of the vault, the central zone, where the Triumph of the Divine Providence is represented. Here the author mentions the presence of God manifested in the figure of Providence, Fame, Theological Love and the light they share. The Pope has power received from God, through which he governs the Catholic Church. With God’s help, he can defend the Catholic population from external circumstances and provide them with love and knowledge in spiritual matters. By doing this the Pope will be remembered forever. The source reports these words:

… But we have still to consider – paying particular care – how these Barberini bees, their laurel branches, the Virtues who hold them, the assistant who help, Heaven itself, which favours them, Time, Movement, the Fates and indeed everything that is shown in that uppermost cove of the Salone, how all of this depends (and after all what does not?) upon Divine Providence, and is known thanks to her and not by earthly means. Because Divine Providence is nothing less than God Himself, governing all things, turning them upside down, starting, finishing, disposing, rearranging without paying heed to a single soul. So: the main narrative that we are admiring and making an effort to understand, is nothing else but God, and because He is like an infinite and incomprehensible ocean whose depths are unsounded and whose farthest shore are unknown, we expend our efforts in vain, trying to hoist the little sails of our human intellects..

Moreover, these sources do not formulate the original programme of the ceiling, because they were written after the ceiling was completed. For the execution of the Triumph of the Divine Providence, Cortona probably used Bracciolini as a basic source, Ripa’s Iconologia, his previous experience, his trip to Florence and northern Italy, plus continued consultations amongst other artists, advisers and patrons. The several drawings have various subjects and are related to specific personages represented in the fresco. However, we do not possess a drawing where the entire vault is represented. This suggests that the artist desires to be free in his execution with no limitations or restrictions, with the possibility to change parts of the fresco and produce something else.

Considering the complexity of the ceiling and its iconography, presented in extensive and detailed manner by Scott, I will give an overview of the ceiling. Later I will focus my attention on the several restoration campaigns and the result of the most recent restoration, which is going to follow in the next chapter. The main scene is the central one, as expressed by Rosichino in 1640 and by the author of Il Pellegrino (around 1642), whose subject gives the title to the entire fresco. Rosichino does not say much about Divine Providence. She “sits on a cloud, ornamented with splendours, with a sceptre, and in the act of commanding the present and the future”. Instead the anonymous author of Il Pellegrino praises Divine Providence, describing her in this way:

She was intelligently represented by the artist seated upon a cloud to demonstrate her decisiveness with regard to this lucid genealogy. And the cloud which forms her support symbolises the hidden way by which God acts through second causes in his provision for us, the effects of which we cannot predict, only recognize them afterward when the events are over. Look how Divine Providence sits, actually giving the order of command, holding her sceptre, the sign of her majesty in one hand, while around her head glows a very bright light contrasting with the blue of the sky.

The head surrounded by a halo of light underlines her divine nature, thus justifying Urban VIII’s divine election to the pontificate with God’s intercession. The “lucid genealogy” symbolises the connection between the figure of Aeneas and the Barberini family. Aeneas arrived to Latium with his parents and founded the “Roman kingdom” after Troy was destroyed. The Pope’s family left Florence for Rome, where he was glorified as “Supreme Pontiff – just as the heirs of Aeneas founded the Roman empire on the soil of Latium”.

Divine Providence is surrounded by other Virtues, who move at her command, because she is the one who rules over the present and the future. Chronos, or Time, depicted naked and mighty, with great feathered wings, in the act of devouring his children. He is below Providence and represents the present. On his right the Three Fates, Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos, holding the thread of human existence, are a further reference to the fleeting nature of time and its incessant passing. To the left of Providence and moving at her command is Glory, wrapped in fluttering drapery and holding a crown of bright stars above the great Barberini coat of arms depicted in the centre of the vault, thus crowning it with eternal glory. This ingenious apparatus glorifies the Pope through the symbol of his house, three bees, painted here in a giant monumental form, set within an unusual escutcheon formed by laurel branches, symbolising not only triumph but also poetic value, a reference to one of Urban VIII’s many virtues. Holding up this unusual shield are the three Theological Virtues: Faith, dressed in white, Charity in red and Hope in green. On the left, at the summit of the coat of arms, is Religion holding two keys, one for divine authority, the other for temporal authority; and on the right, powerful and monumental Rome hands the papal tiara to Urban.

On the short side above the windows, the scene represents the Triumph of Peace and Justice . In the top right section is the solemn figure of Justice, distinguished by her bundle of rods and her two-edged hatchet, thus connected by the artist with the more antique Roman justice. She is accompanied by Abundance, bearing fruit and grain, without which humanity could not live in prosperity and happiness. On the left is Hercules, the hero of legend, depicted in the act of swinging his club at the Harpies, fierce monstrous creatures personifying evil, thus alluding to the victory of virtue over vice. One of the harpies seems to plummet towards the spectator tumbling towards the space near to the corner of the she-bears.

The section on the long side opposite the entrance represents the good government of the Barberini during the Triumph of Religion and Spirituality. Knowledge is depicted in the centre with Divine Assistance. These figures together symbolise the Pope’s knowledge of spiritual matters illustrated along the same panel on the left with the portrayal of Lust, a provocative female figure scantily dressed in white drapes and a red mantle billowing out behind her. The backdrop is formed by a lovely garden and a fountain around which a group of young maidens cluster, one of whom is intent upon combing her hair, thus referring to the vanity of worldly things. On the right side of the same panel is the fat Silenus sprawling drunkenly and surrounded by Fauns and Satyrs pouring wine into a goblet, and scantily-dressed Bacchantes wearing veils and leopard skins are holding the child Bacchus in their arms. The Bacchante facing away from us, her tousled hair pulled into a knot on the nape of her neck, is a genial invention of the artist and an example of great female beauty which he would represent on many other occasions.

The section on the short side opposite the windows symbolises the victory of Intelligence over brute Force. The protagonist is Minerva, a powerful figure in flight, rushing through the scenes, armed with a lance and shield. The goddess of sciences and wisdom, Minerva, is shown trouncing Gaea’s colossal sons who attempted to overthrow the gods and who represent primitive brutality. The artist depicts their muscular entwined limbs, huge hands and fierce, wild faces. The marked foreshortening of this scene accentuates the rushing fall of the Giants towards the viewer. Giulio Romano’s splendid fresco decoration for the Sala dei Giganti in Palazzo Te in Mantua (around 1531) was probably a good inspiration for Cortona, who saw that during his journey north.

The subject of the section on the long side to the left of the entrance represents the beneficial effects of the government and policies expressed by the papacy of Urban VIII. The centre is dominated by the figure of Dignity, sometimes called Peace, holding in her left hand a key and in her right hand a caduceus, or winged staff formed by an entwining serpent, the attribute of Mercury and symbol of peace. By her side, almost in the guise of advisor, stands Prudence, wearing red and white and holding out a mirror, her symbol, and with her back to us, Delegated Power, holding a key and a piece of writing, ready to depart at her orders. Near to the Delegated Power area is winged Fame blowing a horn to proclaim the glory of the Barberini family. Peace bears an olive branch and runs close to the door to the Temple of Janus, as a sign of new times of peace and prosperity which will give rise to art and a quite life. To underline this concept, the artist placed the figure of Fury in the right-hand section of the panel. This menacing naked figure lying on a heap of broken weapons is shown struggling to free himself from the chains and ropes with which he has been bound by Docility. At his feet, a now weakened Fury armed with a torch tries ineffectively to free him, representing the devastating effects and misery produced by war. Completing the scene, on the opposite side, is the workshop of Vulcan who is depicted forging weapons together with some Cyclops, recognisable by the single eye in the middle of their foreheads.

Groups of four huge sculptures are painted to correspond to the elaborate trabeations at the four corners of the cornice as though to support and confine the complex corner decorations. Above the two nudes painted in profile the sinuous bodies of the Tritons wind around the octagonal clypeus painted in fake bronze. They depict a famous episode from Roman history, reported in the Ab Urbe Condita of Livy, alluding to the civic and the moral virtues passed down from the antique world to the Barberini house. Depicted below each clypeus, almost at the bottom edge of the decoration, is an animal whose allegorical meaning reflects the virtue represented above.

In the corner next to the entrance we find the figure of the hippogriff, symbol of perspicacity, in correspondence with the clypeus representing the Justice of Consul Manlius. Further to the right we find two she-bears, symbol of rationality, below the octagon with the Providence of Fabius Maximus. In the other corner there is the unicorn, symbol of purity, linked to the Temperance of Scipio. Finally, the lion, symbol of fortitude, is by the clypeus with the Heroism of Mucius Scaevola.

Considering the entire ceiling, the historian Passeri describes that with words of praise, as if “it seems painted in the space of a single day”. The most surprising characteristic of the work is the supreme unity of the fresco work that permits us to take in the multitude of scenes and their variety in a single view, as if they had been created all together and not during the long period that was actually required to paint them (1632-1639). The quality of the fresco creates an overwhelming sensation in the viewer, who desires to see, appreciate and gradually scan the work in order to identify the sequence of scenes.

The big fresco is conceived as a single epic narration even though the artist decided to use a huge amount of images to fill the entire vault, painting various scenes separated in the several panels of the ceiling. The variety of the scenes which overlap and run into the vault forces the observer to move back and forth across the entire ceiling to follow the sequence of images, which are linked together, creating a constant relationship with the surroundings. For example, Science and Winged Genius, who turn their attention to the figures in the centre panel, or their neighbours Providence, and Religion on her left, refer to the three theological virtues, Faith, Hope and Charity, painted just above her; Dignity seems to be directly linked to Immortality who looms above her in the central section of the vault. And, though they occupy separate panels, Fury and Giants are depicted in all their savage brutality on either side of the corner ornament distinguished by the lion. The image of Justice bearing her rods on her shoulder is echoed by the monochrome putti in the corner with the hippogriff who are struggling to hold an enormous bundle of rods. The effect is that of a recreation of reality that captivates the viewer, involving their senses and provoking their wonder. Considered from this point of view the Barberini ceiling has no precedent in the history of art and represents the blooming of a new language. The decoration of the vault confirms Cortona’s position as a great history painter. In the Rome of his days this commission conferred Cortona supremacy, which would accompany him throughout his career as a painter. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Italian for children @ New Farm State School

Learning a new language for a child has to be fun and enjoyable!
Children prefer a happy environment when they learn ....
You have to challenge them and you will see results!

....and you see they learn!!

They draw and then write the new words in Italian!

......until they are tested again!!

  ...they will know many things at the end of each term!

Let your children try!!




Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Classical proportions in Venice: Tullio Lombardo

'Once the victory was won, it was Venice and not Florence that achieved in sculpture the truer recreation of antiquity' - John Pope- Hennessy

As well as Giorgione, Bellini and Titian, famous Venetian painters of the XV and XVI century, other artists, such as Tullio Lombardo, can be added to the circle of the Venetian accomplished artists of this period.

In fact, around 1495, Tullio Lombardo (1460-1532) inscribed his name on the relief 'A Couple' that now belong to the Galleria Giorgio Franchetti in the Ca' d'Oro Museum, a work that nobody had never seen until then in Venice or anywhere else. 

Tullio Lombardo's relief has been called a double portrait of Renaissance Italians in antique style, a commemorative monument and a romantic subject from ancient mythology interpreted in the form of paired busts.

A couple
Tullio Lombardo
Ca' d'Oro, Venice

Tullio Lombardo came from a prestigious family of sculptors and architects in Venice. He worked with his brother and dad, receiving many commission, including the tomb for the doge Andrea Vendramin (d. 1478) now in the church of Santi Giovanni e Paolo, the most lavish funerary monument of  Venetian Renaissance.   It originally contained this life-size figure of Adam, signed on the base by the sculptor.

Remarkable for the purity of its marble and the smoothness of its carving, 'Adam' was the first monumental classical nude carved following antiquity; prudery led to its removal from display around 1810–19, when the monument was transferred to SS. Giovanni e Paolo.

Adam (1490-1500)
Tullio Lombardo
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

There is always something new to discover!

A presto!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Dance of the Devils

Abballu Di Li Diavuli
On Easter Sunday morning, in the small Sicilian town of Prizzi near Palermo, two locals don gruesome red, metal masks and red robes to disguise themselves as devils, joined by another masked local dressed in yellow representing Death in a ritual that dates to medieval times. They walk through the town offering money and sweets in an attempt to tempt as many people as possible and transport their souls to hell. However, their plans are thwarted in the early afternoon when they encounter statues of the Virgin Mary and the Risen Christ in a procession escorted by two angels holding swords. The meeting between good and evil is known as the ‘Dance Of The Devils’ because the devils and dance around to avoid meeting the Christ and the Virgin. Good triumphs over evil when the statues of the Virgin and Christ meet, and the angels defeat the devils.
Location: Prizzi, Palermo, Sicily
Date: Easter Sunday 31 March



Happy Easter!


Thursday, March 21, 2013

I'm back...teaching Italian and enjoying life, art and good food!

I have been away for sometimes as everyone does during their journey! I'm back in New Farm and I am involved in new different projects!

If you like to cook and you want to join my cooking classes, I'm offering a course at New Farm State School between May and June. Places are very limited, so be quick!

In New Farm I also offer several Italian classes between Monday and Tuesday.
New courses will start Monday April 29th and Tuesday April 30th.

When in Rome @ Mario's by Italian Cultural Experience

If you have only a short amount of time and you want to learn quickly some Italian expressions, this course in May is perfect for you! The class will be held every Thursday of the month!

This is a new initiative with ANFE in Newstead!

Italian classes at ANFE

Maybe you prefer to relax, enjoy a coffee and practise your Italian! I can arrange even this for you!
Just send me an email! I will be very happy to assist you in this task!

Italian conversation classes Brisbane

I also organise cultural morning! If you are interested in these type of meetings, get in touch!

Luca Giordano
On loan at the QAG 

I look forward to hearing back from you!

A presto!

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