All posts tagged masterpiece


Published September 19, 2014 by Tony



Italy is worldwide well known for many things, and in a cultural context we can’t forget writers and poets. In a hypothetical list of places to see and things to eat, those who love Italy should not forget to also note some “work” to be read.
Lately, there are some Italian writers who have become famous abroad, apart from high-sounding names with their famous classics, undisputed masterpieces of literature, such as Dante Alighieri, Alessandro Manzoni, Luigi Pirandello, Giovanni Verga, etc.
Among the Italian authors who in recent decades have become known abroad, with millions of copies sold, international awards, translations in many languages and, in some cases, even film adaptations of their books, I can mention:

Umberto Eco. A long list of Italian and foreign honors for him. “The Name of the Rose” (1980), translated into 47 languages and sold over thirty million copies, then transposed to the movies. The satirical novel “Foucault’s Pendulum” (1988).
Alberto Bevilacqua (deceased in 2013). “Caliph” (1964), “This kind of love” (1972).
Oriana Fallaci. Successful author with books of fiction, she sold all over the world more than twenty million copies. “Letter to a Child Never Born” (1975) and “A Man” (1979) are probably her most famous books.
Claudio Magris. “Danube” (1986), is perhaps his masterpiece that established him as one of the greatest contemporary Italian writers.
Roberto Saviano. Author of “Gomorrah” (2006) and “Zerozerozero” (2013), collaborates with the New York Times, Time, Washington Post, Der Spiegel, Die Zeit, Times, El Pais.
Giorgio Faletti (deceased in 2014). Author of bestsellers such as “I kill” (2002) and “The Killer In My Eyes” (2004), translated into thirty languages.
Susanna Tamaro.  “Follow your Heart” (2006)

If you want a longer list of recommended international authors, I recommend you the ranking published by Peter Boxall and Peter Acroyd in their book “1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die.”
But, back to the initial speech, among the most famous Italian authors who have made history (masterpieces of Italian literature that are even academic subjects in schools), cutting down to the bone I can quote:

DIVINE COMEDY  (Dante Alighieri, 1265–1321)
THE BETROTHED (Alessandro Manzoni, 1785–1873)
THE LEOPARD (Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, 1896–1957)

But I also would add others authors like Giovanni Verga, Giovanni Pascolo, Torquato Tasso, Ludovico Ariosto, Ugo Foscolo, Gabriele D’Annunzio, Italo Svevo, Carlo Levi, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Cesare Pavese, Edmondo De Amicis (with his children’s novel “Heart”),  or masterworks like:

The Adventures of Pinocchio (Carlo Collodi, 1826–1890)
One, No one and One Hundred Thousand  (Luigi Pirandello, 1867–1936)
Decameron  (Giovanni Boccaccio, 1313–1375)

Works that, in addition to being undisputed masterpieces, reflect different historical moments and/or areas of our country, giving a meaningful picture.

I hope these books make enjoyable reading.


Published December 2, 2013 by Tony


The word “presepe” or “presepio” (crib) comes from the Latin verb “praesepire” which means “fencing with hedge.” A term used only in Italy (and in Hungary) because it was introduced in Naples in the fourteenth century, when one Anjou’s descendant became king. The tradition, mainly Italian, can be dated back to St. Francesco of Assisi who, in 1223 in Greccio, created the first living representation of the Nativity. His representation cannot be considered a crib as we currently consider it, because it was just a cave with two real animals on the sides of a trough with straw.
Statues in Basilica of Santo Stefano -  photo by  Giovanni Lattanzi www.giovannilattanzi.itThe first example of carved nativity scene is preserved in the Basilica of Santo Stefano (in Bologna), the oldest known nativity scene in the world that consists of the thirteenth century’s statues by an anonymous sculptor from Bologna.
Soon this kind of symbolism was widely understood at all levels, especially within families, where the representation of Jesus’ birth, with statuettes and elements taken from the wild, became a rite.
In the fifteenth century it became common practice to place big statues in the churches,  tradition that also spread throughout the sixteenth century. Some of these ancient statues have survived, despite many thefts, and are still on display during Christmastime.
The use of the crib started to spread in the nobles houses in the form of  knick-knacks or real chapels, although the great development of carved crèches occurred in the eighteenth century, through three different and great traditions: Neapolitan cribs, cribs from Genoa and from Bologna. In the eighteenth century, in Naples even began a competition between families over who had the most beautiful and gorgeous crib: the nobles used a whole room for represent the nativity, with statues dressed with precious fabrics and jewelry.
Although among the various Italian regions, the crib diversified for cultural reasons, from these perspective, the Italian crib’s art only differentiates for different products and materials used to recreate the nativity. Traditionally, the crib in Genova was made with wood, with papier-mâché in Puglia, while in Sicily some typical products are added, like branches of orange and mandarin, and different materials such as coral, pearl and alabaster.
The Neapolitan crib  was characterized by statuettes made with terracotta, with the use of cork to recreate the setting. Later in time, the use of clay was reduced as a result of the overwhelming success of plastic figurines, which provided large scale production at a lower price.
CiccibaccoThe Neapolitan crib scene added other popular and anachronistic characters, such as taverns, street traders and typical rural houses. Sometimes these characters are symbolic,  such as for example the tavern represented “the bad”, and the character of “Ciccibacco”, who brings barrels with wine,  represented the “devil”.
The Neapolitan crib art has remained unchanged for centuries, becoming part of the Neapolitan Christmas traditions. Famous in Naples is “San Gregorio Armeno” street,  that offers a showcase of all the local cribs crafts. In addition, there are many museums (like San Martino Museum or the Royal Palace of Caserta), where
San Martino Museum historical or very old pieces are exposed.
The first nativity scene in Naples is mentioned in a document that talks about a nativity scene in the Church of St. Maria ‘s crib in 1025 . In Amalfi, according Particular of the crib in Royal Palace of Casertato various sources, already in 1324 there was a “crib’s chapel” in  Alagni’s house.
In 1340 Queen Sancha of Aragon (wife of Robert of Anjou) gave to the Poor Clares a crib for their new church, and today only a statue remains, visible in the museum of St. Martin. Other examples date back to 1478, with a crib of Pietro and Giovanni Alemanno of which we have received twelve statues, and the crib in marble of 1475 by Antonio Rossellino, visible in Sant’Anna dei Lombardi church . One of the clearest examples of Neapolitan crib is given by manufacturing clay with pieces dating back to the eighteenth century, exposed in the EllipticGiuseppe Sammartino's crib room of the Royal Palace in Caserta. In the eighteenth century, the Neapolitan nativity scene experienced its golden age, when from the churches, where it was a religious object of devotion, the crib became a tradition in each aristocrat’s house. Giuseppe Sammartino, perhaps the greatest Neapolitan sculptor of the eighteenth century, a skilled artist for terracotta figures, gave rise to the first school for cribs.
In 1787, Goethe describes the crib in his Italian Journey to Italy.

“That’s the time to talk about another entertainment that is characteristic of the Neapolitans, the crib […] they build a small stage, hut shaped, all adorned with trees and small evergreen trees , and there they put the Lady, the Child Jesus and all the characters, including those that hover in the air, sumptuously dressed for the festivity […] . But what gives the whole show a note of incomparable grace is the background in which the Vesuvius frames itself with its surroundings. »

Although Jesus was a poor family’s son, with our cribs, it is as if for we scarabattoloNeapolitans Jesus’ birth happens in a Naples’ street, in a narrow and dark alley, among taverns and bassi, where poverty reigns. The crib can be made by poor people too, with papier-mâché or bark, twigs and a few plastic small statuettes. Until a few decades ago, only a few people  decorated a tree for Christmas, considered more a cold symbol of northern traditions, and it was said that once you had prepared a crib, you had to adorn and show it every year to avoid a bad luck!
Our cribs, as a symbol of equality, became the ransom of a miserable existence. It conveys joy and sweetness, and gives faith to even those who have little.
Once, it was the custom to visit relatives and friends to see their new crib; cribs that although simple and cheap, many families did not throw away, but kept close in a glass or wood’s container called “scarabattola” (Neapolitan term not translatable). Thanks to these containers, we today can admire old cribs that, centuries later, have got a historical and artistic value.


Published May 13, 2013 by Tony


 "Birth of Venus" by Botticelli

Back to what I have repeatedly stated, namely that Italy is the country with the biggest  concentration of works of art and archaeological finds in the world, the realization that major foreign museums ask for some works to be exhibited in their cities, this endorse my statement.
Works of art that come and go, becoming “loans” worldwide. It seems that nowadays the positive image of Italy is more “conveyed” by its "wooden Crucifix" by Cimabuemasterpieces.

The most beautiful archaeological remains of Pompeii are currently on display in London, and it is a recent news that the “wooden Crucifix” by Cimabue and the “Dancing Satyr” of Mazara del Vallo will be exhibited in a museum in the United States.
In 2010 fifty masterpieces of the Italian Baroque of inestimable value were exposed to the Smithsonian Institute in Florida and in the Italian Museum of Fitzgerald Foundation of Florence, while last July, 67 works of art from Florence,  they were useful to the Chinese to celebrate the centenary of the birth the National Museum in Beijing."Dancing Satyr", Mazara-del-Vallo-IV-sec.-a.C., Mazara-del-Vallo-IV-sec.-a.C.
Many Sicilian artworks are around:  the Auriga‘s marble from museum of Mozia, a work unique in its kind, sent to London as a result of trade agreements at the Olympic Games, and now in Malibu, in the Getty Museum, where it will be on display until August 2013; the Efebo of Selinunte is located in Shanghai on display at the exhibition organized for the Triennial, which will close on January, 2013; the Dancing Satyr, sculpture of extraordinary beauty attributed to the school of Lysippos, from Mazara del Vallo is in Shanghai for the Expo, along with the “Aries” from the archaeological Museum of Efebo of Selinunte
Salinas in Palermo.
Yet, the Satyr, Aries and Auriga are part of the twenty-one works that should be immovable, but, on the contrary, they continue to travel by special permits that let them be away also for long periods.
In 2007 there was controversy on the “Annunciation” by Leonardo, which left Italy to reach Tokyo. And while the borrowing request about  the “Birth of Venus” by Botticelli of some non-European countries is still being considered, the foreign tour of “Riace bronzes” has always been rejected by the archaeological superintendent of Calabria, events that reopen the debate on whether or not works of arts, preserved in our museums, should  travel around.Riace bronzes

I do not want to be accused of catastrophism, but those who has even a bit of acquaintance with this subject knows that the displacement of ancient works is always a risk, even without wanting to get to extreme cases such as the “Le peintre” by Pablo Picasso, destroyed in a plane crash on September 2, 1998
In addition, beyond the risks, an ethic issue should give any visitor, especially if coming from a distance, the right to find in a museum every work that is there stored.

"Annunciation" by LeonardoAnd last but not the least, the possibility that the exhibition of works of art in different states can be disadvantageous for the tourism in Italy. Something that this country needs, and  by way of example I can say that if I had the chance to see “Mona Lisa” by Leonardo, here in my country, I would certainly have  one “less reason” for visiting the Louvre… uh?!



Published June 9, 2012 by Tony



It’s well known that Italy was the cradle of art with a lot of works of art around, and for this, more is the chance to find some work that is striking for its originality or going against the political and religious customs of its time.
From this point of view, around there are some particular works that have “something strange”, disquieting, and in light of the recent discovery, who knows how many other works hide something we don’t know yet.

1 – miracle_of_the_false_madonnaThe Basilica of St. Eustorgio in Milan, where it is said to have preserved the bodies of the three Magi, became the headquarters of the Dominican Order in Milan from the thirteenth century. In the part assigned to the Preachers Friars is the “Portinari Chapel“, one of the most famous examples of Renaissance in Milan, decorated with frescoes by Vincenzo Foppa (1427  – 1515). Among these frescoes dated between 1464 and 1468 we find one somewhat mysterious, called “Miracle of the False Madonna” which depicts a Madonna and child “with horns”. It’s not usual to see a horned Madonna! In fact, he was the devil, who appeared to Saint Peter in this disguise trying to tempt him.

2 – giottoIn the famous Basilica of San Francesco in Assisi (Padua), which preserves the mortal remains of the saint and managed by the Order of Franciscan Friars, there are works by Cimabue and Giotto. Giotto (1267 – 1337) was given the task of representing the life of Saint Francesco through various frescoes in the upper Basilica, in the years 1280 to 1290. Only after the restoration that took place recently, on a fresco was found the face of a little demon hidden in a cloud. The weird thing is that the fresco had been there for eight hundred years, watched by millions of people and nobody had ever noticed that little horned head. Up to now the first artist to have “hidden” something between the clouds had been the painter Andrea Mantegna, who in his painting “San Sebastian”, painted in 1460, shows a knight emerging from a cloud, in the sky in the background. Now themantegna primacy would appertain to Giotto, instead. Experts do not yet know why Giotto painted a demon in the portion of the cloud nearest the angel, although in the Middle Ages it was believed that demons also inhabit the sky, hindering the souls ascent. But if we consider that in the sky of the “Last Judgement”, painted by Giotto in the “Scrovegni Chapel” in a small space located just above the Cross supported by angels, there are two faces with a third smaller one turned left, which so far no one had ever noticed,  this means that it is not an isolated case. In Padua, then, it’s a remarkable analogy with the recently discovered in Assisi.

3 – san pietro perugiaThe Abbey of San Pietro in Perugia, built around 996, has on the top west wall, facing the main altar, the world’s largest painting. A painting of 1252 by Antonio Vassillachi (1556 -1629), an artist trained in the school of Tintoretto. This huge painting is called the “Triumph of the Benedictine order“, because representing the celebration of St. Benedict and the Benedictine order, with in the middle depicted the saint celebrated by popes and bishops. But if we look at this painting from a distance, from the high altar, we may notice that all the figures form an eerie skull with fiery eyes, in vassillachiwhich the saint becomes the nasal septum and the stars the eyes of this demon. It’s obvious that this “pattern” was wanted by the artist, probably a hidden message in what was his vision of the church hierarchy; as to say that the church was the victim of a demonic perversion. In fact the “holy Inquisition”, that wasn’t at all “holy”,  was still very active at that time, and therefore those who would have liked to criticize, could only do it in a hidden manner.

4 – Death TrumphThe oratory of the “Disciplini” in Clusone (Bergamo), is a medieval building, located opposite the Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta, built by the lay confraternity of governing as the seat of their monastic order. The building, with its simple structure,  has on the facade a cycle of frescoes of great value, dated 1485 and painted by the painter Giacomo de Borlone Buschisi, divided into various registers that are named:  the TriumphMacavber dance of Death, Meeting among Dead and Alive, The Macabre Dance and The Last Judgment. Somewhat gloomy allegories in which the “Death” seems to triumph, pointing to the man that cannot escape his fate, while power, honor and wealth are of no value. The monks’ warning was: “Memento mori”  (remember that you must die).

5 – boccaccinoThe church of San Sigismondo in Cremona is currently the home of cloistered Dominican nuns and therefore cannot be visited now. Inside, among the various frescoes, there is a Camillo Boccaccino one (1505 – 1546), a fresco representing the scene of the adultery from the Bible with Jesus and the Pharisees. Strange fact, all the figures, including Jesus, seem blind with no pupil. A worrying scene without a known reason, although some believe it is only the outermost layer of the paint came off.

6 – On the works of Leonardo da Vinci have been written several Leonardo,_ultima_cena_(restored)books and we never stop to discover something new about his wonderful works. Certain is that in some works he wanted to send a secret code or hidden message, and only a mind artistically sublime like his,  could do it in a so eccentric way.
Leonardo da Vinci and the “V”.
The “Last Supper”, probably commissioned by Duke Ludovico Sforza in Milan, for the refectory of the convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, is perhaps, along with “Mona Lisa“, one of the most emblematic work of the Italian Renaissance. It is thought that through this masterpiece, by an artist who was Grand Master of Sion from 1510 to 1519, Leonardo wanted to represent that scene according to the Gnostic Gospels. The apostle to the right of Jesus is not John, but Mary Magdalene as the large space in the form of “V” between the two figures would suggest. This is a well-known symbol for the sacredness of women, sacred feminism, just the shape of a cup, always used to stylize the female sexuality. Besides, if you draw straight lines across the contour of these two figures, you will get a “M”, just the initial of Mary Magdalene. Why does Peter, on Mary’s right,  have Va dagger in his hand? The coffered ceiling draws a number associated with the devil, the 666, why?
Someone else, indulging himself, has overlapped the inverted image together the original and it is amazing to see what comes out. Since this operation can be performed with other works by Leonardo, suggest that it’s not accidental, but a symmetry and perspective play masterfully worked previously by the artist before painting.
To note that even his pupil “Cesare da Sesto“,1955-holy-family-with-st-catherine-cesare-da-sesto inspired by the paintings of the master and trying to absorb his symbolism, in its representation of the “Holy Family”, has shown a detail of the hand of St. Joseph indicating a “V”, unless the saint was suffering from arthritis in the fingers.
Recently, it has been found that in the eyes of the Mona Lisa Leonardo had hidden some symbols that are not visible to naked eye, but with a magnifying glass the letters “LV” are visible, while in the left eye other symbols are not very well defined, and on the arch of the bridge in the background the number 72 is visible, or it could be an L and the number 2. Why?
And this beyond the fact that Mona Lisa that would be a male portrait as Leonardo was gay or bisexual.
Moreover, according to the argument presented by the American experts of neuroanatomy Ian Suk and Rafael Tamargo, in a study published in the journal Neurosurgery, Leonardo would have also sent a message through his passion for drawing anatomy and his meticulous attention to detail in the fresco of the “Last Judgement” present in the Sistine chapel in Rome. In the initial panel of the fresco, that depicts God, could be the hidden design of a human brain. In fact, the throat and neck of God presents anatomical irregularities and, while any thing  is all illuminated on the left and below, the God’s neck is illuminated on the front.

But we also can mention other artists.
The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel (Rome) that Michelangelo Buonarroti painted in 4 years at the beginning of the 16th century, according to the book “Secrets of the Sistine: revealing the codes in Michelangelo’s masterpiece” written by Rabbi Benjamin Bleach, would actually a bridge between the Roman Catholic faith and the Jewish religion, because it conceals Jewish symbols.
The Dream” by Picasso, is a painting full of hidden messages. Scholars believe that the woman is dreaming of sexual activity. Looking at the image  we simply see a picassowoman represented under the forms of traditional cubism, but after a more careful and detailed look, we can notice as this technique has been used to conceal a further meaning. In fact, the upper part of the face is not that a penis. The woman’s fingers, are also not five, but six in each hand, both placed on the reproductive system, as to simulate masturbation. In other cases, such as the Flemish painter Hieronymus Bosch, the author deliberately address to a few adherents of a reality or sect to which he belonged, through his hidden messages.bosh

Whether they are subliminal messages, esoteric signs or iconography, even if unconventional, the fact that in a work of art there may be hidden elements, can be considered normal, because the works have always two sides, one explicit and one implicit, that only some expert people can understand. Most often these are works in which the author was commissioned to paint the “required” by the developer, and maybe it happens that intentionally the author then hide a “personal” message in the work. Independently if it was a forbidden criticism or a coded message.