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DISPERSION OF THE ITALIAN ARTISTIC HERITAGE

Published November 18, 2014 by Tony

ITALIAN WORKS OF ART AROUND THE WORLD

The question of the Italian artistic heritage’s dispersion is very complex.
The reason why a so large number of Italian works of art is still in many foreign countries, is due to several factors.
Primarily, because of the misappropriation of the artworks due to foreigners regnant countries, that have made the history of Italy and that have succeeded over the centuries. Then, because of the phenomenon of collecting that has existed in a systematic way for over five centuries, and especially by the fact that from the unification of Italy onwards, the dispersion of the Italian artistic heritage came in succession thru hallucinating procedures and criteria, with the complicity of shrewd antique dealers, officials government, and by compliant and inappropriate laws and rules. Last but not least, the undue subtraction and thefts that constantly have been perpetrated against the Italian artistic heritage.

Rightly, the Napoleonic plunder and the failure in giving back so many masterpieces, is always remembered in this regard, but if such dispossession make us indignant, we must also ask ourselves why in Italy came many other works that were not part of that looting (excluding those that definitely were already out of Italy before the nineteenth century). For the uninitiated, the Napoleonic thefts refer to a number of subtractions of goods, in particular works of art, made during the military conquests of Napoleon Bonaparte. The subsequent peace treaties were the legal instrument used by Napoleon to legitimize these divestitures: between the clauses he considered the artworks as a tribute to war.
In 1799, in the Kingdom of Naples, the General Jean Etienne Championnet put into effect the same policy, as shown by a letter sent to the directorate in the windy year VII (25 February 1799):
« I announce you with pleasure that we have found riches that we thought to have lost. In addition to the arts in chalk of Herculaneum, there are two equestrian statues in marble by Nonius, father and son; Callipygian Venus will not go alone to Paris, because we found in the Porcelain Factory, the superb Agrippina awaiting death; the full-size marble statues of Caligula and Marcus Aurelius, a nice Mercury in bronze, and marble busts of the greatest value, including that of Homer. The convoy will leave in a few days. »


The works stolen by the Nazis and their allies before and during the Second World War, have been millions across Europe, including books and valuable documents. In this regard, we should remember the work done by Rodolfo Siviero, a non-commissioned Carabinieri’s officer, in charge of directing a diplomatic mission to the Allied Military Government in Germany, with the aim to establish the principle of restitution of stolen works to Italy. Since the fifties, and on behalf of the Italian Government, he has dealt systematically a search of all the works of art that were stolen and exported from Italy. This intense activity, which earned him the nickname “art’s 007”, lasts until his death in 1983. During this period Siviero often denounced the lack of attention that government institutions devoted to the problem of the recovery of our artistic heritage.
Berlin 1945-1946, the Second World War is over and the Red Army occupied the city. And here begins the odyssey of many masterpieces  which were secretly taken away by the Russians. According to the calculations of some German experts, the number of works of art disappeared from Germany, at the hands of the Russians, would be about one million of pieces. But we cannot know how many of them came from Italy occupied by the Germans, when Hermann Goering ordered the depredation.

In the past, other artistic commissioners were instructed to “negotiate” the return of looted works but, among compensation, sales and prescriptions, many are no longer returned in Italy. Despite everything, I am consoled by the thought that Italian art would not enjoy such a universal reputation, if its works were not present in some of the greatest museums in the world. Louvre, British Museum, National Gallery in Washington, Metropolitan in New York, Hermitage in Petersburg, Alte Pinakotheke in Monaco of Bavaria, Prado in Madrid and the Kunst Historisches Museum in Vienna, which are visited each year by millions of people from every continent. And in each of those museums the visitor finds ‘Italy’. This “mutual advantage” is perhaps the only reason that heals our consciences.

As mentioned at the beginning, there is no country in the world that has no  Italian historical relic or masterwork on display in their museums, and albeit the largest number can be found in French and English museums, America is no exception.
Although the United States have not their own art history (being officially founded only in 1776), following an optimal and targeted plan of purchase, persisted over the centuries, they hold great examples of classical art, medieval and modern, kept in so egregious way in their museums; the legitimacy of the housing is obviously questionable, despite the sensitivity of the issue: just think of one in all,  to the Chariot of Monteleone di Spoleto now in the Metropolitan museum, illegally transported in New York from the Umbrian city  in 1902, in the same years in which Italy was formulating a law to protect the assets belonging to its National Artistic Heritage.


For Americans who read me, I would like to give a complete listing of all our works that are scattered on their territory, but a systematic and comprehensive research is impossible, and  it will give back an endless list.

I can tell you that about Michelangelo you can see the “Young Archer,” a marble sculpture of 1491, at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, and “The Torment of Saint Anthony” a tempera of 1487, at Fort Worth in Texas.
About Caravaggio you can see, “Marta e Maria Maddalena “, olio su tela  del 1598 all’ Institute of Arts a Detroit. “Sacrificio di Isacco”, olio su tela del 1603 al Princeton,  Barbara Piasecka-Johnson Collection. “San Giovanni Battista”, olio su tela del 1604 al  Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art,  Kansas. “Crocifissione di Sant’Andrea”, olio su tela del 1607 a  Cleveland Museum of Art. “Negazione di San Pietro”, olio su tela del 1609 al Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York e il “San Francesco in Estasi”, al Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art di Hartford.

The Wadsworth Atheneum has other wonderful works of Italian medieval and modern art: sifting in the section relating to his collection on the official website, it is apparent the presence of historically important paintings by Italian artists, such as Ritrovamento di Vulcano, painted  by Piero di Cosimo in 1505; the Ritratto di un uomo in armatura,  1512 by Sebastiano del Piombo; Giuditta e la serva con la testa di Oloferne, 1624, by Orazio Gentileschi; the  Veduta di Piazza San Marco, 1750 by Canaletto;  the Trojan Horse, 1773 painting by Giandomenico Tiepolo.

The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.,  has one of the finest art collections in the world.
The strongest collection is the Italian Renaissance collection, which includes two panels from Duccio’s Maesta, the great tondo of the Adoration of the Magi by Fra Angelico and Filippo Lippi, a Botticelli on the same subject, Giorgione’s Allendale Nativity, Giovanni Bellini’s The Feast of the Gods, the only Leonardo da Vinci painting in the Americas, Ginevra de’ Benci; and significant groups of works by Titian and Raphael.

In the Metropolitan Museum of Art you can admire works of Francesco Bartolozzi, Stefano della Bella,  Bartolommeo Bonghi , Guercino (Giovanni Francesco Barbieri),  Parmigianino (Girolamo Francesco M. Mazzola), Francesco Piranesi,  Giovanni Battista Piranesi,  Marcantonio Raimondi,  Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio Santi), Giovanni Giacomo De Rossi,  Antonio Tempesta,  Enea Vico, Francesco Allegrini, Piedmontese, Giuseppe Galli Bibiena,  Giovanni Battista Foggini,  Giovanni Battista Tiepolo,  The Triumph of Fame; (reverse) Impresa of the Medici Family and Arms of the Medici and Tornabuoni Families, Giovanni di ser Giovanni Guidi (called Scheggia),  San Giovanni Valdarno, Alessandro Longhi (Italian, Venice 1733–1813 Venice).
Also, you can see, The Adoration of the Shepherds by Andrea Mantegna, The Birth of the Virgin, Fra Carnevale, Bartolomeo di Giovanni Corradini,  Portrait of a Woman with a Man at a Casement, Fra Filippo Lippi, Saints Peter, Martha, Mary Magdalen, and Leonard, Correggio, Madonna and Child with Angels by Pietro di Domenico da Montepulciano, Madonna and Child with Saints by Giovanni di Paolo di Grazia,  The Entombment and Christ in the Wilderness by Moretto da Brescia, Saint Andrew by Simone, Paradise by Giovanni di Paolo di Grazia, The Adoration of the Magi by Giotto di Bondone, Saint Catherine of Alexandria by Pietro Lorenzetti, The Agony in the Garden and  Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints by Raffaello Sanzio, Christ Crowned with Thorns by Antonello da Messina, Portrait of a Young Man by Cosimo di Domenico di Bonaventura, Madonna and Child by Vincenzo Foppa, The Flight into Egypt by Cosmè Tura, The Journey of the Magi by Stefano di Giovanni, Portrait of a Young Woman by Lorenzo di Credi, The Resurrection by Perugino, and many others anonymous Italian masterworks.

Work and Family in Naples

Published January 25, 2013 by Tony

Neapolitans:  Work & Family

napoli

I am against mama’s boys, against too obsessive parent’s attachment towards their children, which limits their freedom and experiences, but it also happens the other way, especially nowadays that both parents are busy with work and various daily commitments.
Parents who leave home early in the morning for work, and in some cases back just long enough to eat, then again to work until evening. The less fortunate are back at home directly in the late evening. Things to do are many, of course, and so parents’ free time must also be used for commitments and commissions, aside from leisure and other outdoor activities.
Result?
They spent very little time with their children, often with a quick hello in the morning and good night before going to bed only. During spare time, also kids have their own commitments, studying, friends or extra-curricular activities, and this shrinks the opportunities for parents and children to meet and stay together. Everyone daily involved in their activities leads, year after year, reduction and cooling of interpersonal relationships, with children who, over time, look to their parents as a simple mandatory presence in their lives, and that, like it or painful,  they still have to apply for any need or permission, and with parents who, instead, look at their kids as one of the reasons they must work, to meet all the expenses that growth, welfare and education imply. There are cases in which parents and children, even seeing every day and sleeping under the same roof, become outsiders, by a simple cohabitation. The ones who do not know needs, issues and expectations of others. The dialogue is condensed to a minimum and when it happens to have to or want to re-establish the normal parent-child relationship, then is too late, and parents realize that, beyond the genetic characteristics, have little in common, by now. If this lack of relation happens in children’s period of life between 10 and 15 years, which corresponds to the period in which kids are most in need of a parental presence, then it even becomes much more difficult to re-establish a close relationship. If it is true what we watch in many films from U.S., the above happens much more frequently in American families, because in Italy and Naples, where I live, such situations are infrequent. This probably is another difference between you and us.
Thanks to American films, we come to know about lifestyle of you overseas’ people, and often we see that relationship between adolescents and parents are not among the best. Parents too busy with work and commitments and boys now accustomed to fend for themselves. Just the opposite of what I said at the beginning of this post. This leads us to assume that work and some commitments have a significant part in your life. This is not to say that work or hobbies are nor important and necessary, indeed, but probably you Americans give them a different priority, compared with we Neapolitans.
For us, family and children come before anything else.
scugnizziBut to understand this, it is necessary for me to say something about work and Neapolitan people’s mindset.

In the past it was common to point to Naples citizens as one of those who did not like to work, slackers and malingerers. A cliché that for long any Napoletano has been labelled, especially from Northern Italy’s fellows.
As always, the southern regions of Italy have had less industries and infrastructure than North, therefore, fewer jobs and opportunities for businesses, which over the years has produced a high rate of unemployment. Every day, many people left the house in the morning looking for a job, trying to get by,  remedy and bring “nu piezze ‘e pane” (a piece of bread) at home, at least. For this reason Neapolitans have become famous for their ability to adapt, to have invented the oddest and unimaginable jobs, just to survive poverty. Even today, here the unemployment rate is one of the highest in Italy, but that does not mean we don’t like to work or snub the job. Although to be honest, apart from a few cases, I wonder who of you like to work really?
Neapolitans when they can, get a break from work to being at home, and if must be absent form work for family reasons, they do so without too much trouble. For women, this need is even greater, and here in the south there are still many women who don’t work and devote their lives to family and home. In this regard, I should make a distinction between wealthy families, middle and poor class.
Rich families such as the poor are the ones that usually allow more freedom to their children. Poor families’ children already at an early age are accustomed to being alone, to spend more time in the streets and fend for themselves. They are the heirs of the famous “scugnizzi” (street urchins) of a time that you can still meet in the hinterland or in the narrow alleys of Naples playing in groups. But these “guaglioni or guagliuni” (boys), as we call them, do not feel their parents absence, in fact, they love freedom and cut the “umbilical cord,” that binds them to their parents, as soon as possible. The low and middle income is not conducive for hobbies or other recreational activities, and apart from moms who stay all day at home, dads like to spend free time at home with their family. Who runs a shop, closes at lunch time (around 13.30) and reopen it at 4 pm,  and then close at 8 – 8,30 pm., while a worker usually works until 5 – 6 in the afternoon. On the other hand, famous are the Neapolitan sentences: “’e figlje so piezze ‘e core” (literally, children are pieces of heart), ” ‘a famiglia è sacra” (family is sacred), “tra moglie e marito non mettere dito” (literally, between wife and husband does not put the finger), and although here parents rarely invest money for the future of their children, woe to those who do them harm.