The Florence of Telemaco Signorini; exhibition at Palazzo Antinori

Lovers of the ottocento and of old Florence will love the current exhibition at the Palazzo Antinori.  Entitled “The Florence of Giovanni and Telemaco Signorini” (father and son), the show runs through 10 November 2019.  For people like me, it is a delightful experience to not only see the show, but to also have a look at the piano nobile of the Antinori Palace.

The exhibition also includes a few paintings by contemporaries of the Signorini father/son painters. It includes: Ruggero Panerai, Luigi Gioli, Francesco Gioli, Giorgio Mignaty, Adolfo Tommasi, and Antonio Puccinelli.  There is also a sculpted bust of Telemaco Signorini by Giovanni Dupre.

Here’s what the brochure announces about this exhibition:

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Regarding the beautiful palazzo itself:

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Allora, now that I am done being a voyeur for the palazzo itself, let us look at some of the paintings in the exhibition: First up, a few paintings by Giovanni Signorini

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Above, Giovanni Signorini, Veduta dell’ Arno da Ponte alla Carraia, 1846

 

And now, for some paintings by Telemaco Signorini

 

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Above: Telemaco Signorini, Mercato Vecchio, 1882-83

 

 

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Above: Telemaco Signorini, Il ponte Vecchio a Firenze, 1880

 

 

 

 

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Some snapshots of Padua in September 2019 and playing around with my new camera

Last weekend I returned to Padua for another opportunity to see the Giotto frescoes at the Scrovegni Chapel.  Since the visits are only 20 minutes long, it takes me more than one trip to Padua to really see the frescoes as I want to see them.

But, I also wanted to return to Padua to enjoy more of the city, now that I have discovered it fully.  I went armed with my new fancy smartphone and its powerful camera.  Some of the pictures below are of pretty Padova and some are just experiments with my camera.

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I love any city with a street named for one of my favorite sculptors, Donatello.

 

The Botanic Garden of Padua dates back to 1545 and is regarded as the most ancient university garden in the world. Founded to foster the growth of medicinal plants, in Italian called semplice, since the remedies were obtained directly from nature without any manipulation. The garden was named Hortus Simplicium. The first keeper of the garden was Luigi Squalermo called Anguillara.

 

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Nymphaea:

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Below, fall blooming crocus:

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More water lilies:

 

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Random plant life:

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Nature with a background of Italian church bells:

 

 

Gigantic lily pads:

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The horticultural complex in Padua is very impressive and state of the art.

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Porta Portello:

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Reminders of the influence of Venice on Padua are everywhere in this city:

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Padova is surrounded by water.  The canals make lovely views. I love to think back to the times when people and goods moved here by gondole, burci and mascarete, all typical boats, along internal canals, following the waterways and floating under bridges.

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Padua has a lot of beautiful architecture.  I want to make another trip there to enjoy and photograph all the great sculptural embellishments on the palazzi.

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Ponte Vecchio, Florence, all lit up

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In early October, I had the good fortune to spend a lovely evening at La Società Canottieri   on the banks of the Arno in Florence.  The evening was spectacular enough, getting to visit this special place and watch afternoon fade into evening. I’ve posted about it here and here.

But, then, somebody somewhere flipped a switch the the Ponte Vecchio was illuminated in purple. We were all surprised and there were audible gasps of delight as we took in the bright lights on the old bridge.

 

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Piazza Sant’ Ambrogio, Florence and Pope Pius VII

I recently met a friend in front of the church in Piazza Sant’ Ambrogio, near Santa Croce, in a spot that is the terminus for 3 streets : via de’ Pilastri, via di Mezzo, and Borgo la Croce e via Carducci.

While waiting, I noticed for the first time, although I’ve been in this piazza a hundred times before, something new.

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Looking a bit higher than I normally do, I saw a glazed terra-cotta tabernacle, in the style of the Della Robbia, of a figure that I assumed was a priest or even a pope, making a sign of blessing.

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I ventured nearer to photograph the inscription below, and was rewarded with this information:

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Loosely translated, the inscription reads: “Stop, you passers by, and read this. Know that 2 neighborhoods were passed by the immortal Pope Pius VII on 8 May, 1807, where he devotedly and humbly gave an apostolic blessing to the inhabitants.”

I seldom have occasion to discuss the Catholic Church, that foundational stone of Italian culture, in my blog, so let’s do a little something about that now.

Who was Pope Pius VII?

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Portrait of Pius VII painted by Jacques-Louis David

He was born in 1742 as Barnaba Niccolò Maria Luigi Chiaramonti. He would rise all the way to head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 1800 until his death in 1823. Chiaramonti was also a monk of the Order of Saint Benedict in addition to being a well-known theologian and bishop throughout his life.

Chiaramonti was born in Cesena, about 30 miles south of Ravenna, in 1742, the youngest son of Count Scipione Chiaramonti (1698 – 1750) and Giovanna Coronata (d. 1777). His mother was the daughter of the Marquess Ghini; though his family was of noble status, they were not wealthy.

Like his brothers, he attended the Collegio dei Nobili in Ravenna but decided to join the Order of Saint Benedict at the age of 14 on 2 October 1756 as a novice at the Abbey of Santa Maria del Monte in Cesena. In 1758, he became a professed member and assumed the name of Gregorio. He taught at Benedictine colleges in Parma and Rome, and was ordained a priest on 21 September 1765.

In 1789, as the French Revolution took place, a series of anti-clerical governments came into power. During the French Revolutionary Wars, troops under Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Rome and took Pope Pius VI as a prisoner. He was taken as prisoner to France, where he died in 1799. The following year, after a sede vacante period lasting approximately six months, Chiaramonti was elected to the papacy, and took as his pontifical name Pius VII, in honor of his immediate predecessor.

He was crowned on 21 March 1800 in a rather unusual ceremony, wearing a papier-mâché papal tiara as the French had seized the tiaras held by the Holy See when occupying Rome and forcing Pius VI into exile. Pius VII then left for Rome, sailing on a barely seaworthy Austrian ship, the Bellona. The twelve-day voyage ended at Pesaro and he proceeded to Rome.

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Pius at first attempted to take a cautious approach in dealing with Napoleon. He signed the Concordat of 1801, through which he succeeded in guaranteeing religious freedom for Catholics living in France, and presided over his coronation as Emperor of the French in 1804. Pius VII presided at the coronation of Napoleon I in 1804.

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Once again, in 1809, Napoleon invaded the Papal States during the Napoleonic Wars; this earned him ex-communication. Pius VII was taken prisoner and transported to France. He remained there until Napoleon abdicated in 1813 and Pius VII returned to Rome.  He was greeted warmly as a hero and defender of the faith and immediately revived the Inquisition and the Index of Condemned Books.

His works, some notable, some to be regretted:

Pius VII joined the declaration of the 1815 Congress of Vienna, represented by Cardinal Secretary of State Ercole Consalvi, and urged the suppression of the slave trade. This pertained particularly to places such as Spain and Portugal where slavery was economically important. The pope wrote a letter to King Louis XVIII of France dated 20 September 1814 and to the King John VI of Portugal in 1823 to urge the end of slavery. He condemned the slave trade and defined the sale of people as an injustice to the dignity of the human person. In his letter to the King of Portugal, he wrote: “the Pope regrets that this trade in blacks, that he believed having ceased, is still exercised in some regions and even more cruel way. He begs and begs the King of Portugal that it implement all its authority and wisdom to extirpate this unholy and abominable shame.”

Under Napoleonic rule, the Jewish Ghetto had been abolished and Jews were free to live and move where they would. Following the restoration of Papal rule, Pius VII re-instituted the confinement of Jews to the Ghetto, having the doors closed at nighttime.

Pius VII was a man of culture and attempted to reinvigorate Rome with archaeological excavations in Ostia which revealed ruins and icons from ancient times. He also had walls and other buildings rebuilt and restored the Arch of Constantine. He ordered the construction of fountains and piazzas and erected the obelisk at Monte Pincio.

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The pope also made sure Rome was a place for artists and the leading artists of the time like Antonio Canova and Peter von Cornelius. He also enriched the Vatican Library with numerous manuscripts and books.

 
The so-called “miracle” of Pius VII. On 15 August 1811 – the Feast of the Assumption – it is recorded that the pope celebrated Mass and was said to have entered a trance and began to levitate in a manner that drew him to the altar. This particular episode aroused great wonder and awe among attendants which included the French soldiers guarding him who were in disbelief of what had occurred.

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Relationship with the United States. On the United States’ undertaking of the First Barbary War to suppress the Muslim Barbary pirates along the southern Mediterranean coast, ending their kidnapping of Europeans for ransom and slavery, Pius VII declared that the United States “had done more for the cause of Christianity than the most powerful nations of Christendom have done for ages.”

For the United States, he established several new dioceses in 1808 for Boston, New York City, and Philadelphia. In 1821, he also established the dioceses of Charleston, Richmond and Cincinnati.

Pius VII died in 1823 at the age of 81. He was later buried in a monument in Saint Peter’s Basilica by the leading sculptor of the day, the Danish Bertel Thorvaldsen.

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La Società Canottieri, Firenze

What lies beneath is always fascinating, be it in persons, places, or things.  In Florence, one of the most interesting places lying underneath the city is La Società Canottieri, a rowing club with an august past.

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Upon entering the club, you know it’s something special, just based upon the size of the escutcheon.  Check it out, it’s taller than the average doorway!

 

Looking upward from the banks of the club’s riverside location. That’s the Uffizi you see grandly sitting above.

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I’ve walked along this section of the Lungarno hundreds, if not thousands, of times, and always wished I could enter this subterranean location, to see what’s actually going on in the space.  This week, I finally got my chance.

Spilling out onto the banks of the Arno River, the rowing club is situated beneath the courtyard and structure of the Uffizi.

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The view across the Arno from the club.

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Up close and personal, the club’s view of the Ponte Vecchio. This view only becomes more spectacular as late afternoon shifts to twilight and evening.

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The interior of the club begins with a social space, with displays of hundreds of victory cups:

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Most interesting of all is how the space stretches into a  deep cavern under the city in a fairly shallow and narrow way.  Hundreds of boats and accessories are housed here, and two gyms provide equipment for rowers to train and keep fit.

 

 

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