Thursday, 19 May 2022

assunta

Dedicated and presented to the public for the first time on this day in 1518, the larger-than-life altarpiece by Renaissance artist Tiziano Vecellio (known mononymically in English as Titian) created for the Venetian Basilica of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari established the master as leading painter on par with contemporaries Michelangelo and Raphael (coming to be called “The Sun amidst small stars,” after the last line of Paradiso). This aspect of Marian theology, that the Virgin Mother was taken up into Heaven, was counted among various albeit popular adiaphora in the sixteenth century and not made an article of faith until 1950 and still unsettled whether she was raptured while still alive or assumed after a normal death—a difference of opinion that the artist acknowledges with a barely visible stone sarcophagus at the base of the image that allows parishioners to take it or leave it. Though bold and potentially scandalous for its departure from the conventional artwork of Venice, the work was ultimately well-received and earned him further commissions for the Doge. Though unplanned and a result of the chaos of the plague which killed him, Titian was interred in the same church in 1576, aged eighty-eight.

Thursday, 28 April 2022

hollywood on the tiber

Dedicated on this day in 1937 by Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, the sprawling studio complex in Rome, Cinecittร , was built in accordance with the motto ”il cinema รจ l‘arma piรน forte“—that is, movies are the most powerful weapons. Their aims however were not exclusively for propaganda with the primary goal of reviving the country‘s flagging film industry, which had virtually collapsed in the early 1930s. Subject to bombardment during World War II and post-war was host to an encampment for displaced persons. Rebuilt in the early 1950s, the studio site garnered the titular nickname with over three-thousand productions, including Roman Holiday, Quo Vadis, Ben-Hur, Cleopatra, The Agony and the Ecstasy plus numerous films by Franco Zeffirelli and Federico Fellini. More recently the the studios were the set of the BBC/HBO co-production Rome and The Young Pope, a full-scale mock-up of St Peter’s and the Sistine Chapel on site, just a few kilometres away from the actual location.

Monday, 25 April 2022

san marco

Variously identified as the cousin of Barnabas and textually as the anonymous water-bearer of the Last Supper and the Naked Fugitive during Jesus' arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane (see also), the Mark the Evangelist, fรชted on this day, would go on to author one of the gospels—by traditional accounts—and to found the episcopal See of Alexandria, among the most important of early Christianity. Sharing the iconography of the winged lion with the saint, he is venerated in Venice as the city’s and thalassocracy’s patron and in Lithuania, where he is regarded as the guardian of the harvest and there is a general fast prescribed as a well as a prohibition on disturbing the earth as to give the land a rest before the planting season begins. 25 April is a national holiday throughout Italy, but not as Saint Mark’s Day and rather as marking the 1945 anniversary of the liberation of the country by the resistance movement against the Nazi occupation and the puppet government of the fascists.

Wednesday, 6 April 2022

stanze della segnatura

Born on this day (or possibly 28 March) in 1483 (†1520—on the same day), the artist mononymously known as Raphael—Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino—would go on to become one of the trinity of Italian High Renaissance art alongside Leonardo and Michelangelo, prolific despite his relatively early death, working in Umbria, Florence and finally in Rome under the patronage of two popes, the majority of his creations on display in the Vatican. Reflecting his Neoplatonic ideals, arguably his best known, commercially duplicated work is The School of Athens (Sculoa di Atene, complemented by The Parnassus and the Disputa on opposite walls), a suite of frescos commissioned between 1509 and 1511 to decorate the rooms of the papal palace with a celebration and revival of the arts and sciences and cameos of philosophers portrayed by contemporaries.

Saturday, 2 April 2022

6x6

un robot quadrupede al servizio dell’archeologia: SPOT to patrol ruins of Pompeii and protect the site from looters—also raising a quandary for future archaeologists 

satanic panic: the full 1993 (!) cult awareness pamphlet (see previously)—via Weird Universe  

dans l’ombre du star wars kid: the National Film Board of Canada’s documentary on the internet phenomenon  

entrรฉe: a family-run Tbilisi-based artisanal bakery expands into East London 

the atlantean: after Dallas (debuting on this day in 1978), Patrick Duffy appeared as a merfolk-hybrid hero

intonarumori: Luigi Russolo’s experimental sound machines

Monday, 21 March 2022

benedictus

Fรชted on this day prior to the calendar reforms of 1970 on the occasion of his passing in 547 (*480), twin brother of Saint Scholastica and patron protector of Officers at Arms, spelunkers, Europe nettles and architects Benedict of Nursia is venerated in all Christian communions as the founder of Western monasticism. After establishing communities in Lazio near Rome, Benedict went to the mountains and founded an order at Monte Cassino that sought balance and moderation with his Rule promulgated in 516 that outlaid a hierarchy in the brotherhood with an abbot in charge. With chapters including both spiritual and administrative guidance, the communities adhered to the golden rule of “Ora et Labora”—prayer and work, with the days quartered and eight hours each allotted for prayer and study, sleep, manual work and charity.

Sunday, 13 March 2022

sant’ansovino

Fรชted on this day, the sainted bishop of Camerino-San Severino Marche in the Apennines refused the high office until could secure personal guarantees from Holy Roman Emperor, Louis II—for who Ansovinus was former confessor—that his congregation would be exempt from military conscription, one of the chief jobs of bishops during that time was as recruiter for the imperial army. Reportedly having the gift of inexhaustibly multiplying stores of wheat in the regional granary in Castel Raimondo and for producing a copious amount of crops from his own meagre plot of land, never refusing to share, this ninth century figure is named the patron of agriculture and the protector of small farmers.

Wednesday, 9 March 2022

8x8

catwalk: the home of architect of Vittorio Garatti in Milan—via Messy Nessy Chic  

inktrap: a Japanese typeface design book from 1957—via Present /&/ Correct  

operation danube: the Soviet invasion of Prague (see previously) in pictures—via Everlasting Blรถrt  

east-enders: a retrospective look at women protesting for peace in the 1980s in London  

river antban country club: blindly, an AI tries naming golfing ranges (see previously

carrousel: Logan’s Run plus spin-offs—see previously

bones mccoy: a compilation of Deforest Kelley pronouncing  

not chav: a fresh perspective on London’s council houses

Saturday, 5 March 2022

achtung baby!

We thoroughly enjoyed this episode of The Allusionist podcast that explores the ephemeral nature of warnings obilge and the limits of translation through the lens of the of the cautionary statement—in thirty-four languages—included with the toy prize as small-print pamphlets in Kinder Eggs/Kinder รœberraschung produced on a global scale, though still unavailable in certain jurisdictions in this format, by Italian confectioner Ferrero (as Kinder Sorpresa or Ovetto Kinder) as examined and considered by sociologist and ethnographer Keith Kahn-Harris. What makes the cut internationally as a language for inclusion in one’s corner shop? What counts as correspondence in this regulatory, disclaimer tone? More food for thought below.

Friday, 11 February 2022

7x7

heiti and songti: the typefaces that helped China transition to the digital age 

no soup for you: the Fay-Cutler malapropism (see previously) of the week 

memphis milano: iconic design studio of Ettore Sottsass (previously) acquired by Italian furniture company  

earn it act: controversial bill restricting encryption—presented as an anti-trafficking and child safety initiative (see also) passes committee in the US Senate  

quantitative easing: lampooning practises that exacerbate inflation and speculation, an artist in Kuala Lumpur opens Memebank  

all hail hypnotoad: Futurama (previously) returns for an eighth season—with most of the original talent  

dingbats: a typographic homage to pre-emoji Webdings—see also for one carry-over

Tuesday, 8 February 2022

giuseppina bakhita

Declared a saint of the Canossian order in 2000, Mother Josephine Margaret Bakhita—the first Black woman to be beatified by the Catholic Church in modern times—escaped from a life of enslavement in Darfur (*1869 - †1947) and eventually entered a sisterhood at a convent in Schio outside of Vicenza. Credited by villagers as sparing the town from casualties when it was bombed during World War II, Josephine Bakhita ( ุจุฎูŠุชุฉ ) Arabic for lucky, Fortunata, her family name lost to the trauma of her early life) is the patron protectress of Sudan, South Sudan and survivors of human trafficking. Upheld as an example of hope and determination, her legacy includes several charitable and social justice causes in her original and adopted homeland.

Monday, 7 February 2022

falรฒ delle vanitร 

Though mostly used in the figurative sense, the term bonfire of the vanities is sourced back to an actual auto-da-fรฉ of thousands of articles condemned as “occasions of sin”—that is, externalities that appeal to human frailties and lead to temptation—which occurred on this day in Florence in 1497. The Shrove Tuesday bonfire held in the central square saw the destruction of countless mirrors, cosmetics, finery, playing cards, musical instruments and works of art was organised by Fra Girolamo Savonarola, personally dedicated to combating luxury in all forms and the indolence it brought, but his zealotry and aestheticism didn’t win him many friends with Pope Alexander VI condemning Savonarola to death by crucifixion and immolation in that same public square a year later.

Friday, 4 February 2022

traho fatis

The Latin motto—drawn by fate—echoes through this intriguing Renaissance tarot deck called Sola Busca, limned with an anachronistic marshalling of ancient heroes, medieval bestiaries and then contemporary weapons and armour. Housed presently in a museum in Milan and the earliest known deck to illustrate the complete suites of the major and minor arcana—probably engraved in Ferrara in 1491 and later hand-coloured in Venice—the allegory of iconography informs later iterations, including the familiar Smith-Waite design.  Nebuchadnezzar II, Gaius Marius, the uncle of Julius Caesar and several members of the Greek and Roman panthea.  Peruse the entire deck and learn more about the provenance at Public Domain Review at the link above.

Monday, 31 January 2022

civitas germiniana

Venerated on this day in the occasion of the translation of his body and relics in 1106 to his namesake San Gimignano, Saint Geminianus was a fourth-century deacon and later Bishop of Modena. Rarely referenced outside of the region, his iconography usually depicts him as either a bishop bearing a model of his city or as a man calming the sea and residents credit his intercession to both sparing them from marauding Huns by shrouding the towers with a dense fog and casting out a demon from the daughter of the Emperor Jovian, the exorcism reportedly prompting Jovian to reverse some of the policies of suppression on the exercise of Christianity by his predecessor Julian.

Sunday, 16 January 2022

6x6

teed-off: the worse examples of gerrymandered voting precincts in the US portrayed as formidable mini-golf hazards—via Print Magazine  

blursday afternoon is never ending: time reforms for 2022 

toponymy: Wordle (previously) place-names editions—see also 

la pista automobilistica: Nag on the Lake gives us the chance to revisit the incredible Fiat factory in Turin with rooftop test-track  

crying is for plain women—pretty women go shopping: season one Golden Girls are younger than the cast of the Sex in the City reboot and other essential reading  

undercounted: email traffic reveals how Trump interfered with US census to ensure polities with large immigrant populations didn’t gain clout

Sunday, 9 January 2022

hello che si dice you getta happy in the feetsas

Despite a lack of airplay domestically as the American Broadcasting Company deemed it below their standards of “good taste,” the Bob Merrill number written for Rosemary Clooney, accompanied by the The Mellomen, a pop string quartet founded by Thurl Ravenscroft (the voice talent behind the Grinch, Tony the Tiger, the Ghost Host from the Haunted Mansion attraction) became an enduring standard and reached the top of the UK singles charts on this day in 1955. It was since covered by Dean Martin, Carla Boni (making it popular in Italy the following year) and British electronica duo Shaft in 2000 and has appeared in numerous film soundtracks.

Monday, 3 January 2022

daniel of padua

Venerated on the occasion of the translation (repatriation) to the cathedral of Padua on this day in 1064, the sainted deacon under Saint Prosdocimus, the city’s first bishop dispatched by Apostle Peter, Daniel helped win converts to the faith and was later martyred (†168 CE) and is represented with the iconography of a towel and laver to signify the importance of the ritual of feet washing and of cleanliness—in sense of purity, therapy and hygiene—in general. Patron and protector of both Padua and Treviso, Daniel is invoked by army wives to guarantee their husband’s return from war and, like fellow Patavino Anthony, is called upon to find lost articles.

Friday, 26 November 2021

mysterium hoc arcanum

Located to the left door jamb of the Baptistery of Pisa, one of the other ensemble of buildings in the Piazzia dei Miracoli often upstaged by the cathedral’s campanile, the structure designed by architect Diotisalvi and built from 1153 to 1363 contains an undeciphered epigraph, which while representing an unknown script, is not unique—lost though having

appeared in Lucca and other places in Tuscany—is suggested to in a sense a kind of gamification to hunt for such mystery inscriptions and debate, contemplate what they might mean without any definitive interpretation established. Courtesy of one of the commentators, here is the puzzle to solve.

Tuesday, 23 November 2021

il bronzino

Passing away on this day in Florence, where he had spent his entire life, in 1572 (*1503), Agnolo di Cosimo, better known by his sobriquet for his dark complexion and red hair, was from his late thirties on engaged as a court painter for the grand ducal family of Tuscany, the Medicis—specifically for Cosimo I and Eleonora, which the Mannerist-trained painter portrayed here as Orpheus, musical virtuoso, around 1538.
The style curried disfavour from the general art world (see previously) from the late-Romantic to early Modern eras, but the disciplined poses and idealised renderings have seen somewhat of a resurgence recently.
Such impressions of poise and unchanging elegance made a lasting influence on aristocratic portraiture though not many others employed heroic nudity for public figures, patrons or otherwise. Many of his commissions were also allegories of classical mythology and biblical passages, including his 1533 depiction of the popular subject of Saint Sebastian—see previously.

Thursday, 18 November 2021

narthex and nave

On this day in 1626, on the thirteen-hundredth anniversary of the consecration of old St Peter’s by Pope Sylvester I, the new papal basilica (Basilica Santci Petri Vaticano) planned by Popes Nicholas V and Julius II with construction starting more than a century earlier was heralded as complete. Financed chiefly through the selling of indulgences, with the Archbishop of Mainz and Magdeburg being a major advocate for this fund-raising method, sparking the objections of a certain Augustinian monk.