The wonders of Padua (Padua, part 3)

Padova or Padua is a big subject! I’ve recently posted 2 times about it, here, here, here and here.  And, still, I am far from done!

This post includes a list of the major features that grace this lovely, historic town. But first, a sweet little video about the town itself:

 

Undoubtedly the most notable things about Padova is the Giotto masterpiece of fresco painting in the The Scrovegni Chapel (Cappella degli Scrovegni).  This incredible cycle of frescoes was completed in 1305 by Giotto.

It was commissioned by Enrico degli Scrovegni, a wealthy banker, as a private chapel once attached to his family’s palazzo. It is also called the “Arena Chapel” because it stands on the site of a Roman-era arena.

The fresco cycle details the life of the Virgin Mary and has been acknowledged by many to be one of the most important fresco cycles in the world for its role in the development of European painting. It is a miracle that the chapel survived through the centuries and especially the bombardment of the city at the end of WWII.  But for a few hundred yards, the chapel could have been destroyed like its neighbor, the Church of the Eremitani.
The Palazzo della Ragione, with its great hall on the upper floor, is reputed to have the largest roof unsupported by columns in Europe; the hall is nearly rectangular, its length  267.39 ft, its breadth 88.58 ft, and its height 78.74 ft; the walls are covered with allegorical frescoes. The building stands upon arches, and the upper story is surrounded by an open loggia, not unlike that which surrounds the basilica of Vicenza.

The Palazzo was begun in 1172 and finished in 1219. In 1306, Fra Giovanni, an Augustinian friar, covered the whole with one roof. Originally there were three roofs, spanning the three chambers into which the hall was at first divided; the internal partition walls remained till the fire of 1420, when the Venetian architects who undertook the restoration removed them, throwing all three spaces into one and forming the present great hall, the Salone. The new space was refrescoed by Nicolo’ Miretto and Stefano da Ferrara, working from 1425 to 1440. Beneath the great hall, there is a centuries-old market.
In the Piazza dei Signori is the loggia called the Gran Guardia, (1493–1526), and close by is the Palazzo del Capitaniato, the residence of the Venetian governors, with its great door, the work of Giovanni Maria Falconetto, the Veronese architect-sculptor who introduced Renaissance architecture to Padua and who completed the door in 1532.

Falconetto was also the architect of Alvise Cornaro’s garden loggia, (Loggia Cornaro), the first fully Renaissance building in Padua.

Nearby stands the il duomo, remodeled in 1552 after a design of Michelangelo. It contains works by Nicolò Semitecolo, Francesco Bassano and Giorgio Schiavone.

The nearby Baptistry, consecrated in 1281, houses the most important frescoes cycle by Giusto de’ Menabuoi.

The Basilica of St. Giustina, faces the great piazza of Prato della Valle.

The Teatro Verdi is host to performances of operas, musicals, plays, ballets, and concerts.

The most celebrated of the Paduan churches is the Basilica di Sant’Antonio da Padova. The bones of the saint rest in a chapel richly ornamented with carved marble, the work of various artists, among them Sansovino and Falconetto.

The basilica was begun around the year 1230 and completed in the following century. Tradition says that the building was designed by Nicola Pisano. It is covered by seven cupolas, two of them pyramidal.

Donatello’s equestrian statue of the Venetian general Gattamelata (Erasmo da Narni) can be found on the piazza in front of the Basilica di Sant’Antonio da Padova. It was cast in 1453, and was the first full-size equestrian bronze cast since antiquity. It was inspired by the Marcus Aurelius equestrian sculpture at the Capitoline Hill in Rome.

Not far from the Gattamelata are the St. George Oratory (13th century), with frescoes by Altichiero, and the Scuola di S. Antonio (16th century), with frescoes by Tiziano (Titian).

One of the best known symbols of Padua is the Prato della Valle, a large elliptical square, one of the biggest in Europe. In the center is a wide garden surrounded by a moat, which is lined by 78 statues portraying illustrious citizens. It was created by Andrea Memmo in the late 18th century.

Memmo once resided in the monumental 15th-century Palazzo Angeli, which now houses the Museum of Precinema.

The Abbey of Santa Giustina and adjacent Basilica. In the 5th century, this became one of the most important monasteries in the area, until it was suppressed by Napoleon in 1810. In 1919 it was reopened.

The tombs of several saints are housed in the interior, including those of Justine, St. Prosdocimus, St. Maximus, St. Urius, St. Felicita, St. Julianus, as well as relics of the Apostle St. Matthias and the Evangelist St. Luke.

The abbey is also home to some important art, including the Martyrdom of St. Justine by Paolo Veronese. The complex was founded in the 5th century on the tomb of the namesake saint, Justine of Padua.

The Church of the Eremitani is an Augustinian church of the 13th century, containing the tombs of Jacopo (1324) and Ubertinello (1345) da Carrara, lords of Padua, and the chapel of SS James and Christopher, formerly illustrated by Mantegna’s frescoes. The frescoes were all but destroyed bombs dropped by the Allies in WWII, because it was next to the Nazi headquarters.

The old monastery of the church now houses the Musei Civici di Padova (town archeological and art museum).

Santa Sofia is probably Padova’s most ancient church. The crypt was begun in the late 10th century by Venetian craftsmen. It has a basilica plan with Romanesque-Gothic interior and Byzantine elements. The apse was built in the 12th century. The edifice appears to be tilting slightly due to the soft terrain.

Botanical Garden (Orto Botanico)

The church of San Gaetano (1574–1586) was designed by Vincenzo Scamozzi, on an unusual octagonal plan. The interior, decorated with polychrome marbles, houses a Madonna and Child by Andrea Briosco, in Nanto stone.

The 16th-century Baroque Padua Synagogue

At the center of the historical city, the buildings of Palazzo del Bò, the center of the University.

The City Hall, called Palazzo Moroni, the wall of which is covered by the names of the Paduan dead in the different wars of Italy and which is attached to the Palazzo della Ragione

The Caffé Pedrocchi, built in 1831 by architect Giuseppe Jappelli in neoclassical style with Egyptian influence. This café has been open for almost two centuries. It hosts the Risorgimento museum, and the near building of the Pedrocchino (“little Pedrocchi”) in neogothic style.

There is also the Castello. Its main tower was transformed between 1767 and 1777 into an astronomical observatory known as Specola. However the other buildings were used as prisons during the 19th and 20th centuries. They are now being restored.

The Ponte San Lorenzo, a Roman bridge largely underground, along with the ancient Ponte Molino, Ponte Altinate, Ponte Corvo and Ponte S. Matteo.

There are many noble ville near Padova. These include:

Villa Molin, in the Mandria fraction, designed by Vincenzo Scamozzi in 1597.

Villa Mandriola (17th century), at Albignasego

Villa Pacchierotti-Trieste (17th century), at Limena

Villa Cittadella-Vigodarzere (19th century), at Saonara

Villa Selvatico da Porto (15th–18th century), at Vigonza

Villa Loredan, at Sant’Urbano

Villa Contarini, at Piazzola sul Brenta, built in 1546 by Palladio and enlarged in the following centuries, is the most important

Padua has long been acclaimed for its university, founded in 1222. Under the rule of Venice the university was governed by a board of three patricians, called the Riformatori dello Studio di Padova. The list of notable professors and alumni is long, containing, among others, the names of Bembo, Sperone Speroni, the anatomist Vesalius, Copernicus, Fallopius, Fabrizio d’Acquapendente, Galileo Galilei, William Harvey, Pietro Pomponazzi, Reginald, later Cardinal Pole, Scaliger, Tasso and Jan Zamoyski.

It is also where, in 1678, Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia became the first woman in the world to graduate from university.

The university hosts the oldest anatomy theatre, built in 1594.

The university also hosts the oldest botanical garden (1545) in the world. The botanical garden Orto Botanico di Padova was founded as the garden of curative herbs attached to the University’s faculty of medicine. It still contains an important collection of rare plants.

The place of Padua in the history of art is nearly as important as its place in the history of learning. The presence of the university attracted many distinguished artists, such as Giotto, Fra Filippo Lippi and Donatello; and for native art there was the school of Francesco Squarcione, whence issued Mantegna.

Padua is also the birthplace of the celebrated architect Andrea Palladio, whose 16th-century villas (country-houses) in the area of Padua, Venice, Vicenza and Treviso are among the most notable of Italy and they were often copied during the 18th and 19th centuries; and of Giovanni Battista Belzoni, adventurer, engineer and egyptologist.

The sculptor Antonio Canova produced his first work in Padua, one of which is among the statues of Prato della Valle (presently a copy is displayed in the open air, while the original is in the Musei Civici).

The Antonianum is settled among Prato della Valle, the Basilica of Saint Anthony and the Botanic Garden. It was built in 1897 by the Jesuit fathers and kept alive until 2002. During WWII, under the leadership of P. Messori Roncaglia SJ, it became the center of the resistance movement against the Nazis. Indeed, it briefly survived P. Messori’s death and was sold by the Jesuits in 2004.

Paolo De Poli, painter and enamellist, author of decorative panels and design objects, 15 times invited to the Venice Biennale was born in Padua. The electronic musician Tying Tiffany was also born in Padua.

 

Andrea Mantegna, his beginnings in Padua and the Cappella Ovetari

Andrea Mantegna (1431–1506) was an outstanding Italian Renaissance painter and engraver. He was also a student of Roman archeology, and the son-in-law of Jacopo Bellini.

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Mantegna is best known for the Camera degli Sposi (“Room of the Bride and Groom”), or Camera Picta (“Painted Room”) (1474), in the Palazzo Ducale of Mantua. His other principal works include the Ovetari Chapel frescoes (1448–55) in the Eremitani Church in Padua and the Triumph of Caesar (begun c. 1486), the pinnacle of his late style. All of these works are discussed below or in later posts.

Born in Isola di Carturo, a part of the Venetian Republic and very close to Padua, Mantegna’s extraordinary native abilities were recognized early. He was the second son of a woodworker, but his artistic future was set in motion when he was legally adopted by Paduan artist, Francesco Squarcione, by the time he was 10 years old.

Squarcione was a teacher of painting and a collector of antiquities in Padua; the cream of young local talent were drawn to his studio. Some of Squarcione’s protégés, including  Mantegna and another painter, Marco Zoppo, later had cause to regret being a part of the master’s studio.

Squarcione, whose original profession was tailoring, appears to have had a remarkable enthusiasm for ancient art, and a faculty for acting. Like his famous compatriot Petrarch, Squarcione was an ancient Rome enthusiast: he traveled in Italy, and perhaps also in Greece, collecting antique statues, reliefs, vases, etc., making drawings from them himself, then making available his collection for others to study. All the while, he continued undertaking works on commission, to which his pupils, no less than himself, contributed.

As many as 137 students passed through Squarcione’s school, which had been established around 1440 and which became famous all over Italy. Padua attracted artists not only from the Veneto but also from Tuscany, including such notables as Paolo Uccello, Filippo Lippi and Donatello.

Mantegna was said to be the favorite pupil of Squarcione, who taught him Latin and instructed him to study fragments of Roman sculpture. The master also preferred the used of a kind of forced pictorial perspective in his works, recollection of which may account for some of Mantegna’s later innovations.

In 1448, at age 17, Mantegna disassociated himself from Squarcione’s guardianship to establish his own workshop in Padua, later claiming that Squarcione had profited considerably from his services without giving due recompense.

Mantegna did not have to wait long for validation of his independence. The same year he was awarded a very important commission to create an altarpiece for the church of Santa Sofia in Padua.

Unfortunately, the altarpiece is now lost, but we know it demonstrated his precocity, for it was unusual for so young an artist to receive such a notable commission. Mantegna himself proudly called attention to his youthful ability in the painting’s inscription: “Andrea Mantegna from Padua, aged 17, painted this with his own hand, 1448.”

The same year, he was commissioned, together with Nicolò Pizzolo, to work with a large group of painters entrusted with the decoration of the Ovetari Chapel in the transept of another church in Padua, Sant’Agostino degli Eremitani (church of the Hermits of St. Augustine). Mantegna’s works in this church constitute his earliest surviving paintings.

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The facade of the Eremitani church, the Cappella Ovetari is in the right arm of the church’s transept.

Antonio Ovetari was a Padua notary who, at his death, left a large sum for the decoration of the family funerary chapel in the Eremitani church. The initial contracts for a series of frescoes were drawn up by the heirs of the notary in 1448. Works were commissioned from Giovanni d’Alemagna, Antonio Vivarini, Niccolò Pizzolo, and Mantegna. There is some indication that Mantegna (young as he was–17) may have been the originator of both the overall formal composition.  The stories portrayed were inspired by The Golden Legend by Jacopo da Varazze.

According to the original agreement, the first two artists were to paint the arch with histories of the Passion of Christ (never executed), the cross vault and the right wall (Histories of St. Chrisopther) while the two Paduans would paint the rest, including the left wall (Histories of St. James, son of Zebedee) and the altar wall, with its windows, was to depict the Assumption of the Virgin.

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Above, plan of the Eremitani Church in Padua.

 

The Cappella Ovetari fresco cycle:

  1.  Left (north) wall of Cappella Ovetari, Life of St. James

Mantegna probably painted the left wall with the scenes from the life of St James, which have been almost totally lost. Here is a list of the scenes depicted:

Vocation of the Saints James and John
St. James Preaching
St. James Baptizes Hermogenes
Judgement of St. James
Miracle of St. James
Martyrdom of St. James

Fortunately, great restoration work continues in Italy and can be found here:

https://www.wga.hu/html_m/m/mantegna/01/index.html 

https://www.2-people.com/project/ricostruzione-affreschi-cappella-ovetari/

These pictures can only give us a sense of how the wall once looked.

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Above, overview of scenes from the Life of St James (scenes 1-6)

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Scenes from the Life of St James (scenes 1-2)

 

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Scenes from the Life of St James (scene 3)

 

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Scenes from the Life of St James (scene 4)

 

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Scenes from the Life of St James (scene 5)

 

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Scenes from the Life of St James (scene 6)

 

 

2.  Left (south) wall of Cappella Ovetari, Life of St. Christopher. The two scenes at the bottom (scenes 5 and 6) are by Mantegna.

Here is a list of the scenes depicted:

St. Christopher Leaving the King by Ansuino da Forlì (attributed)
St. Christopher and the King of the Devils by Ansuino da Forlì (attributed)
St. Christopher Ferrying the Child by Bono da Ferrara (signed)
St. Christopher Preaching by Ansuino da Forlì (signed)
Martyrdom of St. Christopher by Andrea Mantegna
Transportation of St. Christopher Beheaded Body by Andrea Mantegna.

 

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Scenes from the Life of St Christopher (scenes 1-2)

 

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Scenes from the Life of St Christopher (scene 3)

 

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Scenes from the Life of St Christopher (scene 4)

 

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Scenes from the Life of St Christopher (scene 5)

 

 

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Scenes from the Life of St Christopher (scene 6)

 

 

 

3. The altar wall is for the most part the work by Mantegna: Assumption of the Virgin

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4.  The apse was divided into sections: Mantegna painted the saints Peter, Paul and Christopher within a stone frame decorated with festoons of fruit. These figures show similarities with the frescoes by Andrea del Castagno in the Venetian church of San Zaccaria (1442), both in the format and their sculptural firmness. Also similar is the cloud on which the figures are standing.

The remaining spaces were painted with images of the Eternal Father Blessing and the Doctors of the Church by Niccolò Pizzolo. The Doctors were depicted as majestic figures, and the saints were shown as Humanist scholars at work in their studios.

The arch was painted with two large heads, usually identified as self-portraits by Mantegna and Pizzolo.
5. The vault was decorated with Four Evangelists by Antonio Vivarini between festoons by Giovanni d’Alemagna.

6. A terra-cotta altarpiece completes the decoration of the chapel. It is covered with bronze by Pizzolo, and is extremely damaged. It shows a Sacra Conversazione in bas-relief.

Next, the history of the way the contract was executed by the painters.

Phase 1:

Already in 1449, there were personal problems between Mantegna and Pizzolo, the latter accusing the former of continuous interference in the execution of the chapel’s altarpiece. This led to a redistribution of the works among the artists; perhaps due to this Mantegna halted his work and visited Ferrara.

In 1450, Giovanni d’Alemagna, who had executed only the decorative festoons of the vault, died; the following year Vivarini left the work after completing the depictions of the four Evangelists in the vault.  Those 2 artists were replaced by Bono da Ferrara and Ansuino da Forlì, whose style was influenced by that of Piero della Francesca.

Mantegna began to work from the apse vault, where he placed images of three saints. Pizzolo painted images of the Doctors of the Church.

Next, Mantegna likely moved to the lunette on the left wall, with the Vocation of Saint James and St. John, and the Preaching of St. James, completed within 1450, and then moved to the middle sector.

 

Phase 2:

At the end of 1451 work was suspended due to lack of funds. They were restarted in November 1453 and completed in 1457. This second phase saw Mantegna alone at work, as Pizzolo had also died in 1453. Mantegna completed the Stories of St. James, frescoed the central wall with the Assumption of the Virgin and then completed the lower sector of the Stories of St. Cristopher begun by Bono da Ferrara and Ansuino da Forlì. Here Mantegna painted two unified scenes dealing with the subject of the Martyrdom of St. Christopher.

In 1457. Imperatrice Ovetari sued Mantegna, accusing him of having painted, in the Assumption, only eight apostles instead of twelve. Two painters from Milan, Pietro da Milano and Giovanni Storlato, were called in to solve the matter. They justified Mantegna’s choice due to the lack of space.

 

Subsequent history:

Fortunately, sometime around 1880, two of the scenes, the Assumption and the Martyrdom of St. Christopher, were detached from the church walls to protect them from dampness.  They were stored in a separate location and thus not destroyed during WWII.

During the war, those two frescoes were saved from the air bombardment that destroyed of all the rest of the cycle on 11 March 1944. Luckily, black-and-white photographs of the frescoes taken before the bombing allow us to visually reconstruct the cycle. First, let us look at images of the church taken after the bombings.

 

The 20th century bombing:

 

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The restoration of the chapel’s frescoes:

The fresco cycle of the Ovetari chapel was, like almost all of the church’s interior, destroyed by an Allied bombing in March of 1944: today, only two scenes and a  fragments survive. Painstaking work by talented art restorers have produced an almost unbelievable job of reconstituting the fragments into a whole, unveiled in 2006. The restorers had black-and-white photographs to guide their work.

Below are the photos I took on my recent visit to Padua.

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Emporio Duilio 48, Firenze

The “Emporio Duilio 48,” was founded in Florence (in the current Coin department store building, in Via de ‘Calzaiuoli) in 1902.  The sales formula was, everything was under the price of 48 cents.

It is a fascinating story about early 20th-century Florence, with the tragedy of WWII a part of it.

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The creator of the formula “all at 48 cents” was Joseph (Giuseppe) Siebzehner who was born in Vienna in 1863 and died in the Milan-Auschwitz route in the train departed on 29 January 1944 from platform 21).  He was a Jewish merchant of a large Polish family, originally from Kańczuga (south-eastern Poland), married to Amalia Koretz (born in Plzeň on 15 March 1871 and dead in Auschwitz), daughter of Ferdinando.

The Siebzehner, already active in trade in Vienna at the end of 1800, took over the commercial activity called Grande Emporio Duilio and founded in Florence in 1888 by the Papalini brothers, who in turn had taken over the renowned Bazar Bonajuti, founded in 1834 by the architect (son of merchant) Telemaco Bonajuti.

The expansion of the Florentine headquarters in 1907 gave rise to the new name Emporio Duilio 48. This was soon joined by the two more stores in Montecatini and Viareggio; the latter was initially located in a bench where today stands the renowned shoe store Gabrielli, next to Magazzini 48.

It seems that after 1911 there were also 2 stores in Bologna, named simply: Emporio Duilio.

It’s clear that Giuseppe Siebzehner was a cutting-edge merchant, ahead of his time in Italy.

In fact, from the family archive (owned today by Count Federico di Valvasone and the last descendant, Riccardo Francalancia Vivanti Siebzehner), it emerges that Giuseppe already had two exclusive contracts at the end of the 19th century.

One with a comasco producer of festoons, lights of paper and decorations for the holidays.

The other, even more important, was with the great Bolognese blacksmith, Giordani, who built prams, tricycles, and especially bicycles for which he became a famous producer after WWI.

Even more avant-garde, Joseph was the first to produce a product catalog with mail order, a forerunner of today’s online shopping phenomenon.

The activity later passed into the hands of Giuseppe’s sons: Giorgio Vivanti Siebzehner (born in Florence, 1895 and died in Florence, 1952), lawyer and author of the Dictionary of the Divine Comedy and his brother Federico (born in Florence, 1900 and died in Florence in 1978), an electronic engineer who was among the first in Italy to conduct extensive experiments on ceramic resistance at the Italian Ceramics Society – Verbano. He, was awarded the honor of Knight to Merit of the Italian Republic in 1956.

Over time, the Francalancia Vivanti Siebzehner heirs of Valvasone and Bemporad took over the property until the commercial activity was sold to Coin Department store in 1988. The Viareggino building was instead ceded to the Fontana family in the 1990s. They later opened the Liberty Store, one of the most famous record and video games stores in the city.

 

Galileo Museum, Florence

In all the time I’ve spent in Florence over the years, I have never, ever set foot in the Galileo Museum.  So, today I finally went.  Science in general is not my cup of tea, but this museum is much more than a science museum.

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For starters, here’s the view from the museum.  Hello up there, San Miniato!

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Not bad, right?!  I know.

You also can enjoy the tower of the Palazzo Vecchio from the museum:

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So, here’s how my visit went today.

For starters, I learned right off the bat that the basis for this incredible collection of scientific instruments and realia is courtesy of the Medici family. No surprise there, I suppose; I had just never thought about it.  In the case of this scientific collection, it is one of the later Medici (not the Renaissance era family) who put these amazing things together and bequeathed them to Firenze.  Here is Grand Duke Peter Leopold’s very interesting “chemistry cabinet.”  I’ve seen a lot of bunsen burners in my school days, but I’ve never seen a cabinet made of the finest woods and high quality finishing.  It is quite something.

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Neither of the pictures below do the cabinet justice.  There were just too many attractions in this room for me to focus on the cabinet itself.

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Here’s some interesting information about the collection and Grand Duke.

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Now, what I hadn’t known before today is that many scientific discoveries were performed for the European elite at their evening parties. Read the English text in the following slide, which discusses how these soirees would feature chemistry tricks, etc.

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I think the following panel tells the story most succinctly: electricity took the place of the quadrille.  Who needs to dance when you can be amazed when things light up and other “magical” effects.

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The 18th century was truly an age of discovery, as the following quote lays out:

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And, of course, if you are going to present scientific parlor tricks to the upper crust, you have to have some impressive and attractive equipment.  To wit: this label in English:

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Indeed, and here is a sampling of some of them.  They are presented in a very effective exhibition manner in this very handsome museum.

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Check out this portrait of an Italian scientist named Giovanni Battista Amici. What I immediately noticed was his unusual hairdo.  I wonder if he or his portraitist considered maybe combing his hair?

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Giovanni Battista Amici (1786-1863) was an Italian astronomer, microscopist, and botanist. He was the director of the observatory at Florence, where he also lectured at the museum of natural history. Amici died in Florence in 1863.

Amici is best known for the improvements he effected in the mirrors of reflecting telescopes and especially in the construction of the microscope. He was also a diligent and skillful observer, and busied himself not only with astronomical subjects, such as the double stars, the satellites of Jupiter and the measurement of the polar and equatorial diameters of the sun, but also with biological studies of the circulation of the sap in plants, the fructification of plants, infusoria etc. He was the first to observe the pollen tube. He invented the dipleidoscope and also the direct vision prism and the “Amici crater” on the Moon is named in his honor.

Back to the exquisite instruments.  These glass objects were mind-blowing in that they are hundreds of years old and fragile and some of these delicate vials and decanters are really large.

 

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As the museum exhibition makes clear, there was a boon for the manufacturers of these delicate and finely calibrated pieces of equipment.  The high echelon of society that enjoyed watching evening entertainments composed of science demonstrations often wanted to have some of their own objects.  Hence: a boom in the manufacturing.

 

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Here’s how you weighed yourself if you were uppercrust:

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And then there was the advancements in clock-making.

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Another genre of objets produced to amaze high society were paintings contrived so that you see one picture (a gentleman) when you look at it straight on, and you see a second picture (the gentleman’s wife?) when you look at the mirror attached to the top of the painting.  I’m an art historian and I’ve never seen anything like this.  Italy has a way of amazing me, almost daily.

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And then there are the armillary spheres and globes! The next set of pix are all of one spectacular Florentine 16th-century armillary sphere:

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And then there are the globes, both terrestrial and celestial:

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And the maps!  The elaborate 15th-century map below shows the known world.  Asia is a land mass to the west of Europe here.  The New World had not yet been imagined.

 

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And did you know, because I didn’t until today, that the Medici had plans to get involved in the great age of discovery:

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And then there are the atlases:

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And who might this be?

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Amerigo Vespucci, don’t you know.  He was a Florentine of course. I’ve seen his tomb in the Chiesa Di San Salvatore di Ognissanti.  (FYI: Sandro Botticelli is buried there too.)

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More instruments, beautifully displayed:

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The cabinet pieces:

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I’ve saved my favorite objets for last: the thinest, most beautiful glass vessels:

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See those tall, thin extensions of certain glass pieces above?  Those are glass and a part of the object.  It is absolutely stunning. And they are old! How did they survive?

 

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And finally, the important man for whom this collection is named:

 

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Inside Brunelleschi’s dome, Florence

Last month found me climbing the millions of steps to the top of the Florence cathedral dome.  Wow, what a hike and what an incredible view from the top!

One of the many treats of that worthwhile climb is the opportunity to see the Vasari frescoes of the Last Judgement, that adorns the interior of Brunelleschi’s magnificently engineered dome.  This post is dedicated to the Vasari paintings.

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Coffee on trains in Italy

Everybody knows Italians invented the coffee culture that is beloved around the world today.  I will never forget seeing a Starbucks in Dubai.  I almost fell to the ground in gratitude for something I recognized in that (to me) very foreign place!

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But despite how many places I have seen coffee on offer in Italia, nothing surprised me and yet didn’t surprise me at the same time as much as seeing fresh coffee beans ready to be ground and brewed on an Italo train from Milan to Verona last week.  I mean, per che no?  It only makes sense!

And this was a self service coffee maker at the end of a train car.  There is also a cafe car that serves freshly made espresso…but this machine is available closer to your seat and avoids the messy interaction with live people!  And sometimes train workers will pass by and offer you coffee or other things from their carts.  But, Italians, at least on this train, have yet another coffee option.  They might want to grind and brew their own joe on their own.

You have got to love this culture!

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Eat your heart out, Starbucks!

Stop and think: the handkerchief

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Today everyone uses disposable paper tissues and almost all mothers carry them in their handbags for everyone in the family to use.

But, what preceded the lowly “kleenex?”

Well, according to Professor M. Fanfani, the handkerchief was invented in Italy, just like the fork and the napkin.  I tend to think that the napkin and handkerchief both were created in various cultures because humans need these objects and surely someone would have thought of a good product solution.

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But readers know I love all things Italian and so of course I am going to go along with the professore and accept the fact that while various cultures no doubt had their own objects for cleaning the face and nose, the first rarified version no doubt was of Italian origin.  Most good things were. :-)

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So, let’s read and consider his thesis on the handkerchief.

 

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The use of the handkerchief, like that of the fork and napkin, was born in Italy and its use had more to do with the prestige of its possession, than its strictly hygienic reasons.

 

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As with so many details about life in Italy, paintings from the period give us a window into the daily life of some Italians.

In the works of Ghirlandaio, an attentive chronicler of the Florentine costume, this delicate accessory is a standout.

Handkerchiefs were rare and expensive; for example, we know that King Henry IV had only five of them in 1594.

We learn that blowing one’s  nose with the handkerchief (instead of with your fingers, or with the wide sleeves of a shirt) was a refined sign of nobility or high social standing.

 

 

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Ghirlandaio often recorded in paint the upper bourgeoisie in Florence. The possession and showing of an embroidered kerchief indicated status.

Who knew?

 

 

This text (which I’ve modified in English) appeared on a Facebook post recently
written by Prof. M: Fanfani.