Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Antonini with the Berlin Philharmonic

Now available on the Berlin Philharmonic's Digital Concert Hall website, a concert given on the 23rd September 2010, featuring guest conductor Giovanni Antonini:

Johann Sebastian Bach:
Orchestral Suite No. 1 in C major
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach:
Symphony in F major Wq 183 No. 3
Ludwig van Beethoven:
Symphony No. 2 in D major (36:39)
Giovanni Antonini in conversation with Raimar Orlovsky
(this interview is free to watch upon registration with the website)
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
conducted by Giovanni Antonini
Running time: 01:33:54
24-hour ticket: €9.90
Watch it here

This is the latest in a series of guest conductorships of the Berlin Philharmonic by 'period' specialists, clearly something this particular orchestra is keen on. As someone who grew up listening to these 'great' orchestras but has since fully embraced the 'early music' revolution, to the point of finding these so-called 'traditional' orchestras (I would prefer to call them 'romantic') largely irrelevant, I would have to question their motivations for inviting these conductors to work with them. It may nevertheless be significant in that it signals a realisation on their part that attempts to compartmentalise the early music movement as a musicological sideshow have failed, for in truth their own attempts to desperately cling on to a dated, superseded 19th century aesthetic have long since been emptied of any real artistic or cultural moment. Let us be clear, the early music explosion of recent years is not in any way an academic or niche activity, it amounts to a veritable revolution, the rediscovery (I would even say discovery) of music itself, an art forgotten by the deaf 20th century.

But back to the concert; here are some brief excerpts:

And here some excerpts from rehearsals:

This concert follows earlier guest conductorships of the Berlin Philharmonic by Nikolaus Harnoncourt, details of which I gave in a previous post, and by Ton Koopman in a concert of Bach and Haydn. Here is a brief excerpt from Koopman's performance of Haydn's Symphony No. 98 in B flat major:

Koopman's concert also features three works by Bach: the Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D major, the motet Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden, and the Magnificat in D major BWV 243. You can watch it here (again, the talk by Ton Koopman is free to watch upon registration).

For those of you who prefer not to pay, here in consolation is Ton Koopman in a complete performance conducting the French Radio Philharmonic Orchestra in Haydn's 'Drum Roll' Symphony in E flat Major No. 103, from the 2007 French TV series Clefs de l'Orchestre.

Monday, 29 November 2010

The Restoration of Adam and Eve

Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528), Adam and Eve (1507)
Museo del Prado, Madrid
The magnificent pair of panels of Adam and Eve by Dürer are once again on dispay in the Prado Museum in Madrid, after two years of intensive restoration work on their pictorial surfaces and panels. The restoration of the panels has been undertaken by a team of international experts, coordinated between the Prado and the Getty Foundation in Los Angeles, which funded the restoration of the delicate supports of the two paintings. For one of them an ingenious technical solution has been necessary for its stabilisation. To draw public attention to the complex work done on both panels, the two works will be exhibited specially for four months in a different location to their usual one, with a special exhibition display sponsored by the Fundación Iberdrola, patron of the Museum’s restoration program.

Video (in Spanish): Overview of the restoration project by Gabriele Finaldi, Deputy Director of Conservation, and Pilar Silva Maroto, Head of the Department of Flemish Painting (1400-1600) and of Spanish Painting (1100-1500)

In 1507, following his second trip to Venice, Dürer painted the life-size figures of Adam and Eve, defining the figures with a fluid and continuous line. He replaced the Vitruvian proportional canon of eight heads with a more elegant one of nine heads and barely suggested the anatomical details of the figures. Their unstable poses and rhythmical movements, as well as their artificial gestures and self-absorbed expressions all anticipate Mannerism, an approach that Dürer would, however, soon abandon.

Video report by Informe Seminal (in Spanish): The resurrection of Adam and Eve

Albrecht Dürer
Portrait of a Young Venetian Woman (1505)
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
While no documentary evidence survives regarding the commission for these works, it is thought that they were originally painted for the Town Hall of Nuremberg as they were to be found there in the late 16th century when the City Council gave them as a gift to the Emperor Rudolf II, who displayed them in the new gallery of his castle in Prague. Looted by the Swedes during the Sack of Prague (1648), the panels were moved to Stockholm. In 1654, following her abdication, Christina of Sweden (who did not appreciate northern painting) gave them to Philip IV of Spain, a great lover of painting.

When they arrived in Madrid the panels were considered to be 'nudes' and as such were hung in the 'vaults of Titian', the summer quarters in the Alcázar that housed nudes by Titian, Rubens, Tintoretto, Ribera and other leading artists. Fortunately, this part of the Alcázar was little affected by the fire of 1734 and Dürer’s panels were taken to the Buen Retiro palace along with others saved from the disaster. In 1762 moral qualms led Charles III to add the paintings to a list of others considered 'indecent' and which were to be destroyed. The intervention of the court painter Mengs saved Dürer’s panels as he was able to convince the monarch that both paintings “were very useful for his pupils to study.” With this didactic purpose in mind, ten years later the two panels were taken to the Academia de San Fernando where they were stored away. They could only be seen without restrictions during the reign of Joseph Bonaparte (1809-1813), when they were hung in the Sala de Juntas for the purposes of “study by the pupils of the Academy and delight for lovers of the fine arts.” The paintings entered the Prado in 1827 and were kept in the closed store where nudes were housed until 1838, at which date they were incorporated into the display of works on view to the public.

Albrecht Dürer, Self-Portrait aged 26 (1498)
Museo del Prado, Madrid
These two panels are masterpieces within Dürer’s oeuvre, as well as outstanding examples of the monumental nude. They are, however, more than just an exaltation of nude flesh and both involve an underlying moral reflection. On the cartouche that hangs from the branch of the tree in the Eve panel and which includes the artist’s name, anagram and the date of the work, the words post Virginis partum [after the Virgin gave birth] refer to Mary as the 'new Eve', the immaculate Virgin, chosen by God to save mankind from the sin that Adam and Eve are about to commit.

Documentation exists on restorations undertaken on the paintings since the 18th century when they were in the Spanish royal collection. Having entered the Prado in 1827, they were restored in the mid-19th century and it is recorded that further work was undertaken on the Adam in the 20th century, when a cradle was attached to the back. The accumulation of these interventions ultimately resulted in a harsh, flat image that lacked the original enamelled effect achieved by the artist. Thick layers of dirt, oxidised varnishes and areas of repainting that had darkened over time covered the paint surfaces, concealing Dürer’s brushstrokes and original colouring. These old restorations also affected the panels and resulted in numerous vertical cracks, particularly in the Adam. The depth of that panel was reduced in order to attach a rigid structure to the back, after which the original wood could not move. The Eve panel had three new cross-bars nailed to it from the front in order to eliminate its natural curvature. The inevitable movement of the wood had resulted in distortions and bulging that in turn created shadows and irregularities on the paint surface and negatively affected Dürer’s forms. All these problems meant that restoration was considered necessary.

Albrecht Dürer, Feast of the Rose Garlands (1506)
(painted for the church of San Bartolomeo, Fondaco dei Tedeschi, Venice)
Národní Galerie, Prague
In 2004 the Prado organised an international meeting on the project to restore the Adam and Eve. It saw the participation of restorers from various institutions and was intended to establish the best way of approaching a project of this complexity and delicacy. In collaboration with the Metropolitan Museum conservator, George Bisacca and an engineer, research was undertaken to develop a new mechanism based on springs that would give Adam’s panel (one of which had been reduced in thickness and cradled in the past) greater structural resistance. The old cradle (a wooden grid stuck to the back of the original panel) was removed from the Adam and the numerous cracks that it had produced were closed up. Due to the fragility of that panel it was decided to attach a new, reinforcing structure that would respect the natural curvature of the wood and which was only attached to the original panel at a number of specific points, thus allowing it to move freely. The three, screwed-on cross-bars were removed from the Eve panel while the original surviving cross-bar was restored and laminated in order to adapt it to the curvature of the panel.

Restoration process of the panels of Adam and Eve by Dürer, with comments by José de la Fuente, restorer at the Museo Nacional del Prado and George Bisacca, restorer at the Metropolitan Museum of New York

Having stabilised the support and given the panels' smooth, continuous surfaces, work started on the delicate, complex task of restoring the paint surfaces, undertaken by Maite Dávila. Her work involved eliminating the incorrect contrasts and modifications visible in the paintings, as well as revealing the underdrawing, which the artist executed with a brush and a fluid medium. Of great complexity and refinement, this underdrawing was softened by Dürer through the application of fine glazes of flesh tones that served to emphasise the differences between the male and female nudes.

Restoration of the pictorial surface of Adam and Eve by Dürer, with comments by María Teresa Dávila, restorer at the Museo Nacional del Prado

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Pergolesi Missa Romana & Stabat Mater

Giovanni Battista Pergolesi (1710-1736)
From the Ambronay Festival 2008
A concert given at the Abbey Church of Ambronay

Giovanni Battista Pergolesi
Missa Romana for soloists, chorus & orchestra in F major

Elisabeth Colombani -  soprano
Malgorzata Grzegorzewicz Rodek - soprano
Iva Ionova - soprano
Marcin Ciszewski - countertenor
Konstantin Mikhalski - countertenor
Matteo Bellotto - bass
Orchestre de l'Académie Baroque Européenne d'Ambronay
conducted by Rinaldo Alessandrini

A concert given at St Denis Basilica
23rd June 2009
Pergolesi: Stabat Mater

Sabina Puertolas - soprano
Vivica Genaux - mezzosoprano
Les Talens Lyriques
conducted by Christophe Rousset

Saturday, 27 November 2010

France 1500 - From Middle Ages to Renaissance

Master of Moulins (Jean Hey), Annunciation
Art Institute of Chicago
France 1500 - from Middle Ages to Renaissance
Grand Palais National Galleries, Paris
6th October 2010 - 10th January 2011
Art Institute of Chicago
26th February - 29th May 2011

This exhibition explores an unprecedented but still often misunderstood period of artistic encounters and creative ferment in France. It is the first major event devoted to the pivotal period spanned by the reigns of Charles VIII (1483-1498) and Louis XII (1498-1515), and dominated by the personality of Anne de Bretagne, wife successively of these two kings. A period of economic recovery, population growth, territorial ambitions in the famous Italian wars, cultural development under the banner of humanism, and above all expansion and contrasts in the artistic field. Nevertheless, this period is often overlooked, to the point where most books on European art of the period barely mention France if at all.

Thanks to over 200 masterworks and in the light of recent studies, this exhibition provides a clearer picture of this period when France was at the crossroads of many developments, while examining the notions of tradition and development, continuity and rupture. The works of the greatest painters of the period are the subject of several outstanding groupings, such as paintings by the Master of Moulins, aka Jean Hey, the most famous 'French' painter of the period, thanks to prestigious loans from Chicago, Munich, Brussels, Paris and Autun. Remarkable sculptures and stained glass from all over France, tapestries lent by public and private collections in Europe and the United States, and rare silverware complete the panorama. The art of the book, whether manuscript or printed, occupies a major place in the artistic production of the time and is represented in this exhibition by some of its greatest masterpieces, thanks to generous loans from the National Library of France, which possesses a collection of unique richness for this period.

The exhibition is divided into three areas, allowing a closer examination of artistic creation in this period in its different facets:

Our Lady of Grace
Musée Augustin, Toulouse
The sources of creation: artists and clients
This first section shows how the encounter between art lovers and artists was a source of creativity. France from 1483-1515 is distinguished by the quantity and diversity of the artistic fruits of these encounters, at a time when the capital city was not the only cultural capital, but where, instead, a creative explosion occured throughout the country. Without wishing to present an exhaustive tour de France, the exhibition highlights a few significant centres such as the Loire Valley, where the sovereigns lived, Bourbonnais, enriched by great princes, Normandy, Champagne, Languedoc, ... where individual and collective commissions generate artistic creation.

The image in all its forms
While the recent invention of printing enabled the diffusion of images and decorative motifs on a hitherto unprecedented scale, artists expressed their creativity in recent and new media like the book and the printed image but also the medal and painted enamel. Versatile artists worked with manuscripts and printed books, while the same models used to illustrate books were used to provide cartoons for stained glass windows or tapestries. Innovation is not necessarily found where we would expect it: Gothic ornament, at the time described as 'modern', and that resulting from the models of Roman antiquity, described as 'antique', were both successful and sometimes coexist in surprising ways.

Leonardo da Vinci, La belle Ferronière
Musée du Louvre, Paris
North-South Exchanges
The final part of the exhibition, designed as its culmination, demonstrates the encounters between men, works and forms, some with local roots, others from north or south. Artists settle in France or work there temporarily; works are imported, witness to the vitality of certain objects (eg Antwerp altarpieces), but also to the interests of French collectors. Combinations and comparisons are spectacular, like that of the four panels of the Master of Saint Gilles, divided between London and Washington. Some special loans from the Louvre and the Art Institute of Chicago remind us that the king of France and his entourage had, before 1515, acquired works by painters like Andrea Solari, Baccio della Porta (Fra Bartolomeo) and Leonardo da Vinci.

Committee of Curators
Elisabeth Taburet-Delahaye, Director of the Cluny Museum of the Middle Ages
Genevieve Bresc-Bautier, Director of the Department of Sculpture at the Louvre
Thierry Crepin-Leblond, Director of the National Museum of the Renaissance, Château d'Ecouen
Martha Wolff, Curator of European Painting and Sculpture before 1750, Eleanor Wood Prince Collection, Art Institute of Chicago.

Presentation of the exhibition by Elisabeth Taburet-Delahaye (in French)

Official audio visual guide to the exhibition

Friday, 26 November 2010

Vivaldi's Ottone in Villa

Antonio Vivaldi
Ottone in Villa

Ottone: Sonia Prina - contralto
Caio Silio: Julia Lezhneva - soprano
Cleonilla: Veronica Cangemi - soprano
Tullia: Roberta Invernizzi - soprano
Decio: Topi Lehtipuu - tenor
Il Giardino Armonico
Giovanni Antonini

2 x CD, Naive Classique
Release Date: 15th November 2010

Ottone in villa is the second recording of a Vivaldi opera this year, and the first full opera recording ever done by leading Baroque music specialist Il Giardino Armonico and its music director Giovanni Antonini. They are joined by a cast including confirmed performers and rising stars such as Julia Lezhneva and Topi Lehtipuu. Ottone in Villa is the earliest opera by Vivaldi, and this is the world premiere of a complete recording of the work.

Il Giardino Armonico, founded in Milan in 1985 and directed by Giovanni Antonini, is one of today’s most admired and sought-after ensembles specialising in performance on period instruments. The ensemble has made many award winning recordings of instrumental works by Vivaldi and other seventeenth and eighteenth-century composers.

Long thought to be Vivaldi’s first opera, Ottone in villa (Otho on vacation) had its premier in 1713 in the small public theatre of Vicenza, the Teatro delle Garzerie. By this time Antonio Vivaldi was already a celebrated violin virtuoso and teacher at La Pietà. Ottone in villa bears witness to Vivaldi’s mastery in his first productive period (in 1711 he had published his Op. 3 concerti, L’estro armonico), and is a precious example of Venetian operatic culture. The drama is a satire of Imperial Rome’s high society, concentrating on amorous intrigues among an attractive group of young characters in a pastoral setting.

Il Giardino Armonico toured a concert hall performance of the opera earlier this year. The following video sequences were filmed at Cracow Opera House:

An interview with Giovanni Antonini:

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Louis Cretey - A Visionary between Lyon and Rome

Louis Cretey (1635-1702), The Vision of St Jerome
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyon
Louis Cretey - A Visionary between Lyon and Rome
Fine Arts Museum, Lyon
22nd October 2010 to 24th January 2011

Pierre Rosenberg of the Académie Française and Honorary Director-President of the Louvre Museum
Aude Henry-Gobet, Dr in Art History

Following the restoration of the frescoes in the refectory of St Peter's Abbey in Lyon, the museum is devoting this large exhibition to the great seventeenth century painter Louis Cretey. More than sixty paintings and drawings, mostly from private collections but also from French and foreign institutions celebrate the work of the artist. His poetic and expressive style, delicate and at the same time profoundly dramatic, makes him a visionary painter, a true precursor of modern art.

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue edited by Pierre Rosenberg of the Académie Française, a specialist in seventeenth and eighteenth century French art.

Louis Cretey, St Augustine and the Infant Christ
Church of St Augustine, Lyon
Louis Cretey, formerly known as Pierre-Louis Cretey (c.1635, in Lyon - after 1702), was a French baroque painter. Records place Cretey in Rome from 1661 to 1679, then Modena in 1679 - another place he probably worked was Florence. He then returned to France and spent most of his subsequent career in Lyon, gaining renown from the 1680s onwards as a history painter and for producing altarpieces like The Road to Emmaus (in the church of Ste Blandine, Lyon). He became Thomas Blanchet's main collaborator, working with him on many decorative schemes such as at the Palais de Roanne (now Palais de Justice). From 1684 to 1686, Cretey created a series of paintings for the refectory of the Benedictine abbey of Saint-Pierre, including The Last Supper, The Multiplication of the Loaves, The Assumption of the Virgin, The Ascension of Christ and an Elias. These refectory paintings (now in the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon) show groups of figures vividly lit in front of dark backgrounds, recalling not only 16th-century Venetian baroque prototypes but also Simon Vouet's early Italian works and their chiaroscuro.

Fine Arts Museum, Lyon website

Presentation of the Exhibition (in French)

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Songs and Sighs of the Renaissance - Paul van Nevel

A concert given in the Chapel of the Knights of Malta, St Petersburg as part of the 2009 St Petersburg Early Music Festival
29th September 2009
Huelgas Ensemble
cond: Paul van Nevel

Matheus de Sancto Johanne (ca. 1350-before 1391): Science n'a nul ennemi
Alexander Agricola (1446-1506): Agnus Dei from the Missa In minen syn à 4
Nicolas Gombert (ca.1495-ca.1560): Je prens congie de mes amours à 8
Thomas Ashewell (ca.1478-after 1513): Agnus Dei from the Missa Ave Maria à 6
Pierre de Manchicourt (1510-1564): Faulte d'argent à 8
Cipriano de Rore (1515-1565): Mon petit coeur à 8
Antoine Brumel (ca.1460-1512): Agnus Dei from the Missa Et ecce terre motus à 6

Chants et Soupirs des Renaissants selon Paul van Nevel:
2001 documentary (in French) by Sandrine Willems
Running time: 52'

During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, polyphony flourished in Flanders and France; this music reveals the harmony man was searching for in Gothic flamboyance or astrological dreams. Steeped in this Renaissance sensibility, the conductor Paul van Nevel resurrects this beautiful music while meditating on the landscape where it was born. Sharing the taste for earthiness and melancholy of the Renaissance, van Nevel has performed the music of that era for many years. Researching forgotten compositions in libraries, insisting on studying the original scores, which already determine their interpretation, this cantor of curiosity also investigates the concrete life of Renaissance man.

He thus recreates a world where time was slower, though life was shorter, where the dead watched over the living, where dreams reigned supreme, where children imagined mountains and marvels out of nothing, where long journeys began, where 'landscape' was invented. And van Nevel, contemplating the Franco-Flemish landscapes where all the major polyphonists originated, finds the same forms in their compositions; thanks to him, hills and valleys suddenly begin to sing Gombert, Lassus and Manchicourt, and we become once again the dreamers of another age.

Interviews with Paul Van Nevel, Marie-Claude Vallin, Ignace Bossuyt, François Sabatier, Philippe Contamine.
Excerpts from Dufay, Lassus, Desprez, Agricola, Minami, Gombert, Pipelare, Richafort, performed by the Huelgas Ensemble.

Chants et Soupirs des Renaissants - Part 1/6
Chants et Soupirs des Renaissants - Part 2/6
Chants et Soupirs des Renaissants - Part 3/6
Chants et Soupirs des Renaissants - Part 4/6
Chants et Soupirs des Renaissants - Part 5/6
Chants et Soupirs des Renaissants - Part 6/6

Anyone who in the seventies had the privilege of attending one of the first concerts with Paul van Nevel's fledgling Huelgas Ensemble's group is still talking about it today. Two words come to mind: awe and ecstasy. The ensemble has persisted over more than three decades. The shock of hearing this old music, an echo of several hundred years ago which sounds new and strange to us, should, in theory, decline over time. But it has not. The reason being that the Huelgas Ensemble do not want to leave the public stage. Again and again they revitalise the work of these previously unknown masters. Van Nevel and his singers have never tired, the audience that hears them for the first time is never bored and always happy.

A few years ago, reviewing their first concert in New York, the newspaper Newsday spoke of a "perfectly tuned instrument" and also mentioned that New York finally understood what it had been missing all those years. The New York Times described the concert as "simply superb." From the U.S. to Japan similar words of praise are heard, and, of course, throughout Europe: Saintes, Brussels, Lille, Klagenfurt, Évora and elsewhere.

Paul van Nevel is sometimes considered a musical detective, a Hercule Poirot or Inspector Morse, spending half his time hunting in libraries; thanks to his study of centuries-old manuscripts names such as Nicolas Gombert, Claude Le Jeune, Johannes Ciconia, Pierre de Manchicourt and many others have been liberated from the closed circle of a few specialised musicologists. His research has also contributed to the incisive scholarly precision with which the Huelgas Ensemble performs music. Their interpretations reflect a broad knowledge of musical concepts prevalent during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

Needless to say, van Nevel is familiar with early musical notation and texts. But he does not end there; he also places the music in the cultural and intellectual context of the period in which it was created. He investigates, among other things, the four humours, for example in the case of the great medieval scholastic Albertus Magnus, and classical rhetoric, in conjunction with the teatro della memoria of the Italian humanist Giulio Camillo Delmimio. He also takes into account the prevailing literature of the period in which his chosen composers lived.

What is very distinctive of the Huelgas Ensemble is their extraordinary purity of sound. Each of the twelve voices is clearly heard, and thus simultaneously contribute to a harmonious symphony that is sometimes powerful, sometimes delicate, and often passionate. The Huelgas Ensemble sounds like a combination of heaven and earth. Not surprisingly, van Nevel and the Huelgas Ensemble have been showered with awards. The Caecilia Prijs of the Belgian musical press, the Choc de l'Année of Le Monde de la Musique, the Edison Award, the Cannes Classical Award in early music, the Prix in Honorem of the Académie Charles Cros, an honorary award from European Union Radio and also from Canadian Radio are just some of the awards in a list that is far from complete. In addition, admirers of Renaissance music are almost certainly guaranteed to have dozens of the Huelgas Ensemble's albums in their collection. The ensemble has recorded extensively with the Sony Classics label (in the collection Vivarte) and Harmonia Mundi France.

Something moves inside us very time the Huelgas Ensemble breaks the silence. It is not at all surprising or extraordinary, but evokes deep humility, nostalgia and without doubt a deep respect and admiration for the beauty of the strangely familiar musical treasures offered by Europe. This music comes to life from the moment the creative soul Paul van Nevel discovers it to when he applies his masterly finishing touches.

Geert van Istendael (Belgian writer, essayist and music lover)

(Translation: A Curran)

Paul van Nevel talks (in Flemish) about Rolande de Lassus's Lagrime di San Pietro (The tears of St Peter) :

Interview (in Flemish) with Paul van Nevel at the 2009 Jewish Cultural Festival in Antwerp:

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Ten Undiscovered Treasures of Italy

From north to south, 10 undiscovered treasures of Italy
(article by Isa Grassano in La Repubblica travel)

From Vigevano to Cisternino, from Sabbioneta to Massa Marittima, a guide to some beautiful small towns of Italy that deserve more fame and more visits.

"Wow I did not expect this! What a fantastic place!" How many times has this cry been uttered in a piazza by people who did not imagine that it could contain such beauty! There are many such places to discover in Italy, little known or off the big tourist trails. Yet each of them is a marvel! We chose ten sites that boast unparalleled treasures, protected by towers and bastions, surrounded by still-intact walls, not visited as much as they merit, too often hidden along the nameless byways away from the national motorways. All of them treasures waiting to be discovered.

The Piazza Ducale, Vigevano
And one of the most beautiful historical sites of Lombardy, the Piazza Ducale in Vigevano, near Pavia. A Renaissance gem built by Ludovico il Moro, Duke of Milan, as the imposing entranceway to the Visconti-Sforzesco Castle. Today it forms the heart of an ancient and modern town, its living-room, a scenic spot of great harmony. It is said that the maestro Arturo Toscanini, though ill, asked to be brought to Vigevano to sit at a table outside the bar in the Piazza Ducale, which he regarded as a musical symphony, a four-sided orchestral work like the four movements of a symphony. Under the arcades of the shops, once occupied by wool and silk merchants, offering tourists the chance to shop for quality, visit art galleries, or sit at the tables of numerous bars and cafés. The piazza is also still the main access to the Visconti-Sforzesco Castle. A masterpiece that in some cases even escapes those who live in Milan, 25 miles away.

The Piazza Ducale, Sabbioneta
In Lombardy also the outstanding Sabbioneta, 20 miles from Mantua, recently declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For many years it was considered the ideal city, as Vespasian the First of Gonzaga, who commissioned its construction (between 1556 and 1591), transformed it into an urban space expertly built and rationally organized. Within the hexagonal ring of the remains of the mighty star-shaped 16th century fortifications are the two most beautiful piazze, positioned asymmetrically, which time has not robbed of their charm. The Piazza Ducale, the oldest, which is the political, administrative and religious hub, and onto which are grafted, at right angles, the small streets and arcaded alleyways. And the Piazza d'Armi (Parade), with the Gallery of the Ancients (97 metres long, which housed Vespasian Gonzaga's collection of antique marble statues) and the Palazzo del Giardino, devoted to leisure. Nearby is one of the masterpieces of the history of the theatre, the Teatro Olimpico, designed by Vincenzo Scamozzi.

Among the most beautiful fortified towns in Europe, Montagnana, in the midst of the Veneto plain, in the province of Padua. Preserving almost intact medieval walls (up to 8 metres high), reinforced by 24 hexagonal towers and two strong ramparts that surround the town in a vigorous embrace. The magnificent buildings that surround the Piazza Maggiore recall the Venetian architecture of the 18th century.

Massa Marittima
Massa Marittima, in the heart of the Metallifere hills in Tuscany; its charm revolves around the church of San Cerbone (13th century) which looks 'askance' at the tourists in the Piazza della Cattedrale from its white travertine. It almost seems like a theatrical scene where the churchyard forms a double stage. As if the piazza was speaking in two directions at once: the cathedral facade against the sky, the piazza full of people. Stop to observe the different styles of the church (Pisan Romanesque portico, Sienese pillars); a history lesson in the open. Explore the medieval city, enclosed like a shell, through the narrow passageways lined by tall buildings. Should you reach the top, get a broader view that spans the green valley of Marsiliana, the Gulf of Follonica and the Tuscan Archipelago.

In the heart of Lunigiana, between Liguria and Tuscany, Sarzana (near La Spezia), is worth a visit; it seems to have the vocation of 'Athens in miniature' and continues to testify to its religious, military and commercial past. Enclosed by medieval walls, to be discovered slowly, among the collection of noble palazzi and piazzette, like the former Piazza della Calcandola Sarzana, now named after Matteotti. It is also famous for a historical event: 6th October 1306, early in the morning, the great poet Dante received legal authority from Franceschino Malaspina, Marquis of Mulazzo. This facilitated, a few hours later, in the Bishops Palace in Castelnuovo Magra, the conclusion of the treaty that would finally seal the peace between Malaspina's Ghibellines and the Lunigianese clergy. An epigraph by Achille Pellizzari on the facade of the sixteenth century Palazzo Comunale commemorates that event and reveals its grandeur in the final verse: "A decree by Dante is never annulled."

Sant'Arcangelo di Romagna
And at Sant'Arcangelo di Romagna we breathe the essence of the Romagna, with its narrow streets called contrade and its caves carved into the tufa of Jovis hill that pierce the historic centre like lace. Rock basilicas named after the god Mithras? Wine cellars? Catacombs? What is certain is that the caves are unique and of rare architectural beauty. The heart of the village is the Piazza Ganganelli, breathtaking in its size, and the arch of the same name, built in honour of Pope Clement XIV.

And arches surround and protect, like a long umbrella in stone, another beautiful town that deserves to be discovered; Cento, near Ferrara, the home of the painter Guercino. Its centrepiece is the Piazza Guercino, social and cultural heart of the town. There stands the Palazzo del Governatore (which houses the Aroldo Bonzagni Gallery of Modern Art), and in the shadow of the ramparts of this 16th century mansion stands a monument to Guercino. Do not miss nearby the Collegiate Basilica of San Biagio (open only on Sunday mornings), the church so dear to the brilliant 17th century painter.  He attended it every day, always entering through the side door to avoid disturbing the faithful in prayer, himself kneeling on his own personal 'cushion of wood.' He also dedicated a chapel for himself and his family, which portrays the theme of the Crucifixion. It is curious that the figures of St. John, St. Francis and God with a long beard reflect his own name, Giovanni Francesco Barbieri. A little further on stands the imposing castle.

Moving on to Abruzzo, Lanciano is another place often misunderstood, but full of incredible surprises. The hub is the Piazza Plebiscito, in which the quarters of the old town are intertwined with the new and vibrant parts of the community.  Everything unfolds around the old town, which is a real gem of narrow streets, beautiful churches (Santa Maria Maggiore, a jewel of Italian Gothic architecture, and Sts Legonziano and Domitian, scene of the first Eucharistic miracle), unique sights like the hundred steps, with a view over the tower. Below, under the paving on the piazza, an archaeological dig is under way.

Collalto Sabino
Joys are concealed also in Collalto Sabino, one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, where you can enjoy one of the best preserved castles in Lazio: Located nearly 1,000 metres high in the Valle del Turano, it marks the highest point of the old town with its battlements and the slender shape of the towers which contribute to its rather fairy castle aspect. It was built in the 19th century according to the wishes of a Hungarian nobleman. Within the walls is a beautiful park, while from the highest vantage point of the tower the view on a clear day takes in the peaks of Lazio (the Terminillo) and Abruzzo (the Gran Sasso and the Maiella). And it all becomes even more beautiful at sunset when one can see the lights of 34 villages, all around. But the entire historical centre is to be admired: walking along the narrow paved streets, you can admire the beautiful stone doorways of the houses, in an atmosphere that takes you back through the centuries.

The piazza, Cisternino
Finally, Cisternino, in the Valle d'Itria in Apulia, perched on one of the highest hills in southern Murgia, which appears like a drawing in the landscape, with the fantastic architecture of its milky-white houses and inner courtyards lining the cobbled lanes. It preserves an ancient Mediterranean authenticity and the charm of a small casbah which has survived since the time of the Saracen invasions. In the eerie silence of autumn afternoons, it is pleasant to walk on the chianche (the typical paving stones), in the play of light and shade that comes from the narrow alleys, the arches and the underpasses. Dazzling white walls and blue skies: this is the poetry of the south.

(Translation: A Curran)

Monday, 22 November 2010

Bronzino - Artist and Poet at the Court of the Medici

Agnolo di Cosimo (Bronzino)
Eleanora di Toledo with her son Giovanni de' Medici
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence
Bronzino. Artist and Poet at the Court of the Medici
Palazzo Strozzi, Florence
September 24, 2010 - January 23, 2011

This unique exhibition is the very first to be devoted to the work of one of the greatest painters of the 16th century, Agnolo di Cosimo known as Bronzino (1503−1572), a sophisticated court painter in the years in which Cosimo I de’ Medici was in power and one of the greatest artists in the history of Italian painting.

The exhibition, with loans from some of the leading museums of the world, offers visitors the chance to admire over 70 paintings by the artist himself (the 80% of his total production), alongside work by Pontormo, Cellini, Tribolo, Baccio Bandinelli, Pierino da Vinci and Alessandro Allori. The decision to exhibit only works of the highest quality gives a broad audience the chance to admire and to explore the dizzying poetic heights achieved by the painter, thanks to direct comparison with the work of other artists set alongside Bronzino’s artistic output for the very first time.

Palazzo Strozzi, Florence
The exhibition is promoted and produced by: Ente Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze, Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali, Soprintendenza PSAE e per il Polo Museale della città di Firenze.

Contemporary literary sources and Bronzino’s own poems highlight his interest in the depiction of the lifelike. So rather than relegating his work to the abstract category of ‘Mannerism’ (as it so often is today), our intention here is to follow the views expressed quite explicitly during his own lifetime. It is worthwhile reflecting on some of opinions voiced by Giorgio Vasari, a particularly reliable biographer when it comes to his Florentine contemporaries. Vasari published his “life” of Bronzino in 1568: “He was talented at drawing from life as meticulously as can be”, his portraits are “so natural as to appear truly alive, wanting only for a soul”, and “he drew from a real cadaver nailed to a cross” the Crucified Christ for the Panciatichi family.

Review of the exhibition by TuscanyArts:

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Vivaldi Arie e Concerti - Sonia Prina

Sonia Prina
Concert given at Cracow Opera House
13th April 2009
Sonia Prina - contralto
Il Giardino Armonico
Giovanni Antonini - conductor

Concerto in G minor RV 157
Là sull'eterna sponda from Motezuma
Concerto in B minor RV 580
Anderò, volerò, griderò from Orlando finto pazzo
Vedrò con mio diletto from Giustino
Nel profondo cieco mondo from Orlando furioso
Ho il cor già lacero from Griselda
Agitata infido flatu from Juditha triumphans
Concerto in C major RV 443
Sol da te from Orlando furioso

Sonia Prina is an Italian classical contralto who has had an active career in concerts and operas since the mid 1990s. She is particularly known for her appearances in Baroque operas and for her performances of the Baroque concert repertoire. She has recorded works by composers George Frideric Handel and Antonio Vivaldi. Born in Magenta, Prina studied singing and the trumpet at the Music Conservatoire Giuseppe Verdi, Milan and then pursued further studies at the La Scala Academy. She began performing in operas in the mid 1990s, first in the Italian repertoire of Rossini and Donizetti. By 1997 she had established herself as an artist in the Baroque repertoire.

Il Giardino Armonico is a pioneering Italian early music ensemble founded in Milan in 1985 by Luca Pianca and Giovanni Antonini, primarily to play 17th- and 18th-century music on period instruments. Il Giardino Armonico performs with soloists such as the mezzosoprano Cecilia Bartoli, duo pianists Katia and Marielle Labèque, cellist Christophe Coin, soprano Danielle de Niese; and its recordings have met with honours including the Gramophone and Grammy Awards.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Ian Bostridge - Three Baroque Tenors

Concert given at the Barbican Hall, London
29th October 2010
Ian Bostridge - tenor
Europa Galante
dir: Fabio Biondi

A. Scarlatti: Se non sa qual vento (from Marco Attilo Regolo)
Vivaldi: La tiranna e avversa sorte (from Arsilda)
Caldara: Lo so, lo so: con periglia (from Joaz)
Handel: Scorta siate a passi miei (from Giulio Cesare)
Handel: From celestial seats descending (from Hercules)
Boyce: Softly rise, o southern breeze (from Solomon)

The unique attributes of the greatest singers' voices have always inspired composers to craft some of their most profound music. This programme sees English tenor Ian Bostridge perform arias specifically written for three of his 18th century Baroque-era predecessors, all of whom had strong links with Handel, two pieces of whose we hear in this concert.

Concert download links (audio):-

Ian Bostridge - Three Baroque Tenors
CD released 18th October 2010
EMI Classics

John Beard, Francesco Borosini, Annibale Fabri: these three men helped to revolutionized music in the 18th century. Their voices moved the greatest composers of the time to increasingly write for tenors, a move from the Castrati, which had dominated opera since 1600. Now, three centuries since this trio’s brilliance encouraged a surge of new repertoire for the vocal range, world renowned tenor Ian Bostridge celebrates their legacy with his stunning new release, Three Baroque Tenors.

This recording features works by the masters of the age, including six world premier recordings of arias by Caldara, Conti, Gasparini, Handel, Scarlatti and Vivaldi. The previously unrecorded Handel aria is Scorta siate a passi miei, from the “Borosini” edition of his famous opera Giulio Cesare. In this version, Borosini sang the role of Sesto, which was traditionally performed by a castrato with different arias. Much of the repertoire selected by Bostridge has rarely been performed in modern times.

Three Baroque Tenors is a recording that is as fascinating as it is magnificent. It is an overdue homage to this neglected musical evolution and the men who inspired it. It illustrates both Bostridge’s gift for interpreting repertoire from this period, as previously heard on his Great Handel recording, and his skills as a historian. Bostridge, who received his D.Phil in History from Corpus Christi College, Oxford, is well respected in historical and journalism circles. His new collection of essays, On Music, will be published by Faber & Faber in spring 2011.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Encyclopedia of the Enlightenment

Encyclopedia of the Enlightenment (4 vol. set)
Alan Charles Kors (editor)
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
Publication Date: 26th December 2002
ISBN: 0195104307
e-Reference edition
e-book format: CHM
1920 pages
7.73 MB

Comprising more than seven hundred articles totalling more than one million words, the Encyclopedia of the Enlightenment is a unique and comprehensive reference work on the entire range of philosophic and social changes wrought by the Enlightenment. It is available in both print and as an e-reference text from Oxford's Digital Reference Shelf.

The Enlightenment is here defined as the 'long eighteenth century', from the rise of Descartes's disciples in 1670 to the Restoration of the Bourbon monarchy in France in 1815, including themes central to the ongoing history of Europe and the United States. These include increasing secularisation and a critical attitude toward inherited authority, the extension of scientific method beyond the physical sciences to law and economics, a broadened commitment to the ethical criterion of utility, an expansion of the dimensions of human life deemed subject to reform and human control, a disdain for sectarian religious strife and for its diversely perceived causes, and an elevation of the theme of 'toleration' among the concerns of the Western conscience. The four volumes draw together the resources of a select group of editors, advisers, and contributors and provides fresh perspectives on recent scholarship in such areas as gender history and the history of popular culture.

Clearly written and well balanced, this reference work offers students, scholars, and other readers an up-to-date reference tool that, for the first time, places the entire range of Enlightenment studies into an authoritative encyclopedic format. This work brings together the people and places that played a role in the Enlightenment, explains the movement's concepts and themes, and describes its impact on areas as diverse as politics, religion, science, philosophy, society, and art.

This definitive work presents and assesses the subject in many thematic and geographical areas, including: transnational communication, including such topics as the diffusion of texts, the Republic of Letters, languages and translation, censorship and press freedom, the Grand Tour, the Enlightenment in Iberian, Ibero-American, Scandinavian, Jewish, Russian, and Eastern European culture, material culture, especially the 'history of the book', and the resonance of the Enlightenment in more popular culture, the impact of world exploration and contact on eighteenth-century life and letters, 'secondary' and 'provincial' centres of intellectual and cultural activity, such as Milan, Saint Petersburg, and Philadelphia, the history of Enlightenment studies, including recent theoretical and methodological approaches, and the scope of current interpretations and debates.

These dramatic developments inform the more than one hundred articles that comprise the encyclopedia and are reflected in the work's synoptic outline, which covers such conceptual categories as biographies, cities, concepts, education, major schools of thought, and nations and states. Intended for the non-specialist as well as the specialist, with both wide-ranging and up-to-date coverage, the encyclopedia will prove a powerful reference tool for undergraduates, graduate students, advanced scholars, and general readers alike. An extensive system of cross-references, a synoptic outline of contents, and a comprehensive topical index provide easy access to networks of related articles. Each entry is signed by the contributor and the work is illustrated with photographs, line drawings, and maps.

Authoritative, comprehensive, and accessible, the Encyclopedia of the Enlightenment is an invaluable and indispensable addition to personal, public, academic, and research libraries.

Download links

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Louvre Appeal - Cranach's Three Graces

The Louvre Museum in Paris has launched an unprecedented appeal for individual donors to purchase a masterpiece by Lucas Cranach, The Three Graces, painted in 1531.

Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553), The Three Graces
Private Collection

An excellent dedicated multimedia website has been set up by the Louvre, with detailed analysis of the work and its history.

Lucas Cranach the Elder, The Three Graces
Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City
This initiative of the museum is intended to secure the acquisition of this small picture by the German master, which its owner has put up for sale for four million euro. "We have assembled three-quarters of the sum, so this is a last effort to make this painting part of the national collections," said Henri Loyrette, president of the Louvre. Never displayed in public, the painting has remained in private collections since its creation in the sixteenth century. It is far superior to Cranach's more famous representation of the same subject, in Kansas City, USA.

The Three Graces, a small picture (24 cm x 37 cm), shows three young women naked on a dark background. It was probably a private commission, and this objet d'art has been in the collection of the same French owner since 1932. The identity of the three young women is also a mystery. "Does it represent the three Graces as suggested by the title of the painting, or is it, as some scholars believe, an allegorical representation of Charity, Friendship and Fidelity. The problem is reinforced by the surprising postures of each of the girls," says the dedicated website in its presentation of the painting. "The astonishing perfection of the work, its rarity and the remarkable state of preservation allowed it to be declared a National Treasure, " the Louvre explained. For Vincent Pomarède, Director of Paintings at the Louvre "it is a work at the same time fun, troubling, mysterious, and extremely sensual." Mr. Loyrette is convinced that the painting "could become a kind of icon" of the museum.

Tiziano Vecellio (Titian), Diana and Actaeon
National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh
This appeal for individual donors is a first in France, but is commonplace in other countries. Thus in Great Britain, the Tate Gallery was able to purchase in 2008 a drawing by Rubens, The Apotheosis of James I (1628), a treasure of the English national heritage. Its then owner, Viscount Hampden, was threatening to sell it abroad. After launching a public appeal, the Tate purchased it for £5.7 million. More dramatically, the National Gallery and National Galleries of Scotland managed to raise around £50 million from private donors (individuals and businesses) for a Titian painting, Diana and Acteon (1559), acquired in 2008 from the Duke of Sutherland. For the Louvre to purchase the Cranach, donors have until 31st January to make their donations directly online or by requesting a form. Like donations to NGOs or associations of public benefit, payments will be tax deductible up to 66%. The list of individual donors will be published by the Louvre, excluding the names of donors requesting anonymity.

Persons donating more than €200 will have the privilege of admiring the painting on a private visit and those giving more than €500 can discover this little masterpiece prior to its public display.

A reminder about the public appeal for donations for Breughel the Younger's Procession to Calvary, featured in an earlier post, which closes at Christmas.

Jonathan Jones has a feature on this piece on the Guardian website.
Official page for donations.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Evviva il coltellino!

Sacrificium - The Art of the Castrati
Cecilia Bartoli - mezzo-soprano
Il Giardino Armonico
cond: Giovanni Antonini
CD released 12th October 2009
DVD released 1st March 2010

The Sacrificium project tells the story of the castrati in all its complexity; its beauty, glamour, controversy and cruelty. The album focuses on the Neapolitan school, which produced superstar castrati including Farinelli and Caffarelli.

‘The age of the castrati’ inspired some of the most virtuosic repertoire ever written for the human voice; elaborate coloratura showpieces and beautiful slow arias, written for the extraordinary vocal abilities of the leading castrati.

Following the international success of Opera Proibita, Cecilia Bartoli uncovers more lost jewels of baroque music, with an album almost entirely composed of World Premiere recordings. For the first time since their record-breaking Vivaldi Album, Cecilia Bartoli is reunited with leading Italian period instrument ensemble Il Giardino Armonico and their director Giovanni Antonini.

The age of the castratos was one of the most dazzling and remarkable in European music history. Seldom has there ever been such a complete fusion of sensuousness and splendour, form and content, poetry and music, and, above all, such a perfection of vocal virtuosity, as was achieved in the glory days of the Baroque era. The legendary art of the castratos continues to exert its fascination even today, and, despite the great human sacrifice it exacted, a new assessment of this extraordinary period is surely justified.

For over two hundred years in the musical capitals of Europe, it was unthinkable to do without the virtuosity of the omnipresent castratos: men who, in early youth, had been surgically robbed of their sexuality, and thus of their identity and emotional equilibrium, as well as any chance of leading a 'normal' life, by those dedicated to creating musical instruments of unprecedented beauty out of mutilated boys.

In order to recreate the sound of that world for today’s listeners, we must resort to a little theatrical trickery and make modern interpreters (of both sexes) assume the musical guise of castratos. Thus several exponents of the flourishing early music scene, and especially countertenors, have produced valuable documents about a number of these figures (including Senesino and Carestini). Women’s voices, too, now regularly appropriate the repertoire of these artists who sang in the soprano and alto range, but paradoxically, even in the heyday of the great castratos, it was widely held that female singers, with their particular vocal capabilities, were worthy competitors:

“Thus, for example, I believed that no woman’s voice in the world could compare with those of Farinelli or Caffarelli; and yet here before me, blooming and dazzling in her sumptuous beauty, is the living refutation of that view” (Wilhelm Heinse, 1795).

Until now, however, there has been no comprehensive presentation of the art of the castratos in music, word and image. In our attempt to portray this musical phenomenon as fully as possible, Naples and its inestimably rich musical culture have served as our model. Thanks to its historical, demographic and cultural situation, this city developed towards the end of the seventeenth century into the centre of the Western musical world -the true capital of European music, as it were -and its influence extended well into the eighteenth century.

The pivotal character in this story is the Neapolitan composer, composition teacher, vocal pedagogue and impresario Nicola Porpora {1686-1768}, who quickly attained a reputation as the foremost voice trainer of the eighteenth century -"premier maitre de chant de l'univers" (George Sand). Porpora achieved renown through his singing pupils: Farinelli, Caffarelli, Salimbeni, Appiani and Porporino, an illustrious quintet which includes the most famous castratos of all time. Besides these singers, Porpora also taught the great opera librettist Pietro Metastasio and, to a certain degree, the composers Johann Adolf Hasse and Joseph Haydn.

The present compilation of arias - both typical and colourfully varied - has been drawn from several hundred works {operas, cantatas and sacred pieces} written as repertoire for graduates of Porpora's Scuola dei castrati {school for castratos}. By virtue of their stupendous virtuosity, cultivation of piano singing, protracted melismas, endless coloratura chains, lung-bursting challenges to breathing and phrasing, and tessitura - stretching from the contralto register via the mezzo-soprano range right up to that of the soprano, they represent some of the most demanding music ever composed for the human voice. May these arias, in all their rich variety and exploitation of every conceivable Baroque affect, succeed in recreating for our senses the sound-stage of a vanished era in all its magnificence and extravagance.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Venus seen from America and Russia

Giorgione (1477-1510), Sleeping Venus
Gemaeldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden
"She’s all just harmony and wonder, higher than passions and the world, she rests, with her sweet shyness, under her beauty’s ritual abode."

- Alexander Pushkin, To Beauty

The author of this blog, having recently applied to join a US-based blog distribution service, which discretion compels him not to name, was more than a little amused to receive the following email in reply:

"Thank you for submitting your blog to us! Unforunitly (sic), at this time, we are unable to approve your blog due to the small amounts of nudity in a couple blog postings. While these are very tasteful (and famous) works of art, we are asked by our clients that we keep any and all nudity from blogs certified into the system. We very much understand that these works of art are classy (sic) and not pornographic in any form, but we must comply with our clients wishes. We hope you understand. Thanks so much! If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask. Thanks again."

We would like to keep you amused, but fear we may be alone in finding something unintentionally hilarious in this Russian-produced clip on Giorgione's Sleeping Venus, recently featured on the art history blog Three Pipe Problem:

Tiziano Vecellio (Titian) (1490-1576), Venus of Urbino
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence
In a similar vein, our attention was brought by the Museworthy blog to the following famous reaction to Titian's Venus of Urbino (for which Giorgione's Venus is, of course, the main inspiration) by the American writer Mark Twain in 1880:

"You enter, and proceed to that most-visited little gallery that exists in the world - the Tribune - and there, against the wall, without obstructing rag or leaf, you may look your fill upon the foulest, the vilest, the obscenest picture the world possesses - Titian's Venus. It isn't that she is naked and stretched out on a bed - no, it is the attitude of one of her arms and hand. If I ventured to describe that attitude, there would be a fine howl - but there the Venus lies, for anybody to gloat over that wants to - and there she has a right to lie, for she is a work of art, and Art has its privileges.

Edouard Manet (1832-1883), Olympia
Musée d'Orsay, Paris
I saw young girls stealing furtive glances at her; I saw young men gaze long and absorbedly at her; I saw aged, infirm men hang upon her charms with a pathetic interest. How I should like to describe her - just to see what a holy indignation I could stir up in the world - just to hear the unreflecting average man deliver himself about my grossness and coarseness, and all that. The world says that no worded description of a moving spectacle is a hundredth part as moving as the same spectacle seen with one's own eyes - yet the world is willing to let its son and its daughter and itself look at Titian's beast, but won't stand a description of it in words. Which shows that the world is not as consistent as it might be.

There are pictures of nude women which suggest no impure thought - I am well aware of that. I am not railing at such. What I am trying to emphasize is the fact that Titian's Venus is very far from being one of that sort. Without any question it was painted for a bagnio and it was probably refused because it was a trifle too strong. In truth, it is too strong for any place but a public Art Gallery."

- Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad, 1880.

No further commentary.