Ingrid D. Rowland is a professor, based in Rome, at the University of Notre Dame School of Architecture. A frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books, she is the author of The Culture of the High Renaissance: Ancients and Moderns in Sixteenth-Century Rome and The Scarith of Scornello: A Tale of Renaissance Forgery. She has also published a translation of Vitruvius’ Ten Books of Architecture and a history of Villa Taverna, the US ambassador’s residence in Rome. Her new book, From Pompeii: The Afterlife of a Roman Town, will be published in spring 2014.
Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum catalog by Paul Roberts of a recent exhibition at the British Museum
Herculaneum: Art of a Buried City by Maria Paola Guidobaldi and Domenico Esposito, with photographs by Luciano Pedicini, translated from the Italian by Ceil Friedman
Titian: His Life by Sheila Hale
Tiziano an exhibition at the Scuderie del Quirinale, Rome, March 5–June 16, 2013
Late Raphael an exhibition at the Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, June 12–September 16, 2012, and the Musée du Louvre, Paris, October 8, 2012–January 14, 2013
Money and Beauty: Bankers, Botticelli and the Bonfire of the Vanities Catalog of a recent exhibition at the Palazzo Strozzi, Florence, edited by Ludovica Sebregondi and Tim Parks
Rome: A Cultural, Visual, and Personal History by Robert Hughes
“I Have Always Loved the Holy Tongue”: Isaac Casaubon, the Jews, and a Forgotten Chapter in Renaissance Scholarship by Anthony Grafton and Joanna Weinberg, with Alastair Hamilton
The Collected Prose, 1948–1998 by Zbigniew Herbert, edited and with an introduction by Alissa Valles, with a preface by Charles Simic, and translated from the Polish by Michael March and Jarosław Anders, John and Bogdana Carpenter, and Alissa Valles
Bronzino: Artist and Poet at the Court of the Medici an exhibition at the Palazzo Strozzi, Florence, September 24, 2010–
The Drawings of Bronzino an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City,
Orlando Furioso by Ludovico Ariosto, translated from the Italian by David R. Slavitt
A Time for Everything by Karl Ove Knausgaard, translated from the Norwegian by James Anderson
Caravaggio an exhibition at the Scuderie del Quirinale, Rome, February 20–June 13, 2010
Tiepolo Pink by Roberto Calasso, translated from the Italian by Alastair McEwen
The Hand of Palladio by Paolo Portoghesi, with photographs by Lorenzo Capellini, and translated from the Italian by Erika G. Young
Les Portes du Ciel: Visions du monde dans l’Égypte ancienne an exhibition at the Louvre, Paris, March 6–June 29, 2009.
L’Égypte ancienne entre mémoire et sciences by Jan Assmann
Dilettanti: The Antic and the Antique in Eighteenth-Century England by Bruce Redford
Maria Sibylla Merian & Daughters: Women of Art and Science an exhibition at the Rembrandt House Museum, Amsterdam, February 23–May 18, 2008, and the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, June 10–August 31, 2008.
Renaissance Siena: Art for a City an exhibition at the National Gallery, London, October 24, 2007–January 13, 2008
Bathers, Bodies, Beauty: The Visceral Eye by Linda Nochlin
WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution an exhibition at the P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, Long Island City, February 17–May 12, 2008
Rome from the Ground Up by James H.S. McGregor
The Seven Hills of Rome: A Geological Tour of the Eternal City by Grant Heiken, Renato Funiciello, and Donatella De Rita
The Secrets of Rome: Love and Death in the Eternal City by Corrado Augias, translated from the Italian by A. Lawrence Jenkens
The Colosseum by Keith Hopkins and Mary Beard
Velázquez Catalog of the exhibition by Dawson W. Carr, with essays by Xavier Bray, John H. Elliott, Larry Keith, and Javier Portús
Antonello da Messina Catalog of the exhibition by Mauro Lucco, with essays by Dominique Thiébaut, Till-Holger Borchert, and others
Antonello da Messina e la pittura del ‘400 in Sicilia by Giorgio Vigni and Giovanni Carandente
Antonello da Messina by Alessandro Marabottini and Fiorella Sricchia Santoro
Antonello da Messina, Sicily’s Renaissance Master by Gioacchino Barbera, with contributions by Keith Christiansen and Andrea Bayer
Michelangelo Drawings: Closer to the Master Catalog of the exhibition by Hugo Chapman
Michelangelo and the Reinvention of the Human Body by James Hall
Memento Mori: A Companion to the Most Beautiful Floor in the World by Dane Munro, with photographs by Maurizio Urso
The Web of Images: Vernacular Preaching from Its Origins to St. Bernardino da Siena by Lina Bolzoni,translated from the Italian by Carole Preston and Lisa Chien
Caravaggio: The Final Years Catalog of the exhibition edited by Nicola Spinosa
Caravaggio: L’ultimo tempo 1606–1610
Raphael: From Urbino to Rome Catalog of the exhibition by Hugh Chapman, Tom Henry, and Carol Plazzota, with contributions from Arnold Nesselrath and Nicholas Penny
Feast: A History of Grand Eating by Roy Strong
Byzantium: Faith and Power (1261–1557) Catalog of the exhibition edited by Helen C. Evans
Titian Catalog of the exhibition edited by David Jaffé, with essays by Charles Hope, Jennifer Fletcher, Jill Dunkerton, and Miguel Falomir
Tiziano Catalog of the exhibition edited by Miguel Falomir, with essays by Charles Hope, Paul Hills, David Rosand, and others
Leonardo da Vinci, Master Draftsman Catalog of the exhibition edited by Carmen C. Bambach
Demon Lovers: Witchcraft, Sex, and the Crisis of Belief by Walter Stephens
Devices of Wonder:From the World in a Box to Images on a Screen Catalog of the exhibition by Barbara Maria Stafford and Frances Terpak
Ars Magna Lucis et Umbrae by Athanasius Kircher
Iconismi e Mirabilia da Athanasius Kircher edited by Eugenio Lo Sardo
Venice: Lion City: The Religion of Empire by Garry Wills
Myths of Venice: The Figuration of a State by David Rosand
The Tombs of the Doges of Venice by Debra Pincus
Gli Etruschi (The Etruscans)
The Etruscans edited by Mario Torelli, translated from the Italian by Rhoda Billingsley et al.
Etruscan Civilization: A Cultural History Sybille Haynes
Cardano’s Cosmos: The Worlds and Works of a Renaissance Astrologer by Anthony Grafton
Giordano Bruno and Renaissance Science by Hilary Gatti
Galileo’s Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love by Dava Sobel
The Sun in the Church: Cathedrals as Solar Observatories by J.L. Heilbron
Taking Positions: On the Erotic in Renaissance Culture by Bette Talvacchia
Hypnerotomachia Poliphili: The Strife of Love in a Dream by Francesco Colonna, Translated from the Italian by Joscelyn Godwin
Caravaggio: A Life by Helen Langdon
M in the UK by Bloomsbury in November, and in the US by Henry Holt in February 2000.) by Peter Robb
Caravaggio: A Passionate Life by Desmond Seward
Caravaggio’s ‘Saint John’ and Masterpieces from the Capitoline Museum in Rome 1999, and the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, July 15-September 12, 1999. an exhibition at the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, April 20-June 20,, Catalog of the exhibition by Maria Elisa Tittoni, by Patrizia Masini, by Sergio Guarino
Saints and Sinners: Caravaggio and the Baroque Image February 1-May 24, 1999. an exhibition at the McMullen Museum of Art, Boston College, Catalog of the exhibition edited by Mormando Franco
Titian’s Women by Rona Goffen
Tiziano: Amor Sacro e Amor Profano edited by Maria Grazia Bernardini
Correggio by David Ekserdjian
Correggio’s Frescoes in Parma Cathedral by Carolyn Smyth
Renaissance by George Holmes
Worldly Goods: A New History of the Renaissance by Lisa Jardine
Venice and Antiquity: The Venetian Sense of the Past by Patricia Fortini Brown
Art and Life in Renaissance Venice by Patricia Fortini Brown
Housecraft and Statecraft: Domestic Service in Renaissance Venice, 1400-1600 by Dennis Romano
Provincial Families of the Renaissance: Private and Public Life in the Veneto by James S. Grubb
Florentine Drama for Convent and Festival: Seven Sacred Plays by Antonia Pulci, annotated and translated by James Wyatt Cook, edited by James Wyatt Cook, by Barbara Collier Cook
Autobiography of An Aspiring Saint by Cecilia Ferrazzi, transcribed, translated, and edited by Anne Jacobson Schutte
Forbidden Friendships: Homosexuality and Male Culture in Renaissance Florence by Michael Rocke
Machiavelli, Leonardo, and the Science of Power by Roger D. Masters
Etruscan Art Ridgway. by Otto J. Brendel
The Western Greeks edited by Giovanni Pugliese Carratelli
Harvest of the Cold Months: The Social History of Ice and Ices by Elizabeth David, edited by Jill Norman
Egyptomania: Egypt in Western Art, 17301930 National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, and the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna an exhibition held in 1994 at the Musée du Louvre, Paris, the
Egyptomania: Egypt in Western Art, 17301930 catalog of the exhibition by Jean-Marcel Humbert, by Michael Pantazzi, by Christiane Ziegler
The Villas of Pliny from Antiquity to Posterity by Pierre de la Ruffinière du Prey
The Currency of Fame: Portrait Medals of the Renaissance edited by Stephen K. Scher, photography by John Bigelow Taylor
Titian was a painter of astonishing versatility, a master of landscape, of portraiture, of sacred painting, historical painting, mythology, a magician who could turn a dab of pigment into a flame, a pleat, a thunderbolt, a twinkle in the eye, a Cupid’s wing.
Perfectly preserved under the ash for nearly seventeen centuries, the ancient city of Pompeii is rapidly decaying through mismanagement, overuse, and institutional neglect.
Just north of Naples, a smoldering ruin is all that remains of the museum called the City of Science. It was deliberately set on fire during the night between March 4 and 5, and it is not hard to read the message behind its destruction.
I first went to Hadrian’s Villa, the incomparably beautiful rural residence of that most cultured of all Roman emperors, in 1967 with my father. I was a teenager for whom the long country road from Rome to the spa town of Tivoli seemed endless, and endlessly mysterious. We climbed over vaults and crept through tunnels, watched the swans and carp navigate the murky green waters of the imperial reflecting pools, drank in the quiet and the breezes that softened the summer heat. If local and regional officials get their way, however, the villa may soon be remembered less for its ancient pleasures than for the stench of modern refuse wafting through its ruins.
There seems to be a nearly universal agreement that the Costa Concordia, the gigantic cruise ship that lies wrecked at an 80 degree angle just off the Tuscan island of Giglio, somehow embodies the very essence of Italy, despite the fact that Aristotle would have recognized its story as a perfect Greek tragedy: a man, no better or worse than most of us, makes a mistake and thereby unleashes a cataclysm, and we look on the resultant disaster with a cathartic mix of pity and fear. But the hubris of captain Francesco Schettino (now under house arrest) has struck many Italians as a distinctively home-grown kind of hubris, and catharsis is not a sensation that anyone can feel when so many souls are still unaccounted for.
On Thursday, my students and I walked along from the Colosseum to the Cathedral of Saint John Lateran in Rome. Two nights later, those same Roman streets became a battleground, as a group of about 1500 black-clad, hooded incognito street fighters succeeded in derailing one of the largest economic protests that has yet been staged in any western country. It had been planned as a huge non-violent demonstration by some 150,000 “Indignati”—outraged Italian citizens—to decry the Berlusconi government’s failure to face the global economic crisis, and it was meant to chime in with similar protests taking place in many other countries. But as the demonstration moved peacefully down toward the Roman Forum, the masked street fighters, both male and female, jumped into action, smashing shop windows, uprooting signs, burning cars, throwing bottles, cobblestones, fire extinguishers and petards, and brutally beating anyone in their way: journalists, peaceful demonstrators, and police.
Italy, from many standpoints, is in dreadful shape. The news is out and inescapable. People in the rest of the world wonder why, in the face of a stagnant economy and pervasive corruption, the country continues to keep Silvio Berlusconi as its prime minister. The reasons are many, from inertia to resignation to the conviction that at last the man can stew in his own juices—and he certainly looks awful enough to suggest that he is no longer enjoying the position to which he clings with limpet-like tenacity. The reasons for Italy’s inaction also, however, include a well-founded fear that the left will not be able to do much better.
Caravaggio novels, as a knowledgeable friend has observed, are not only unrelentingly bad, but bad in the same way. A related case of badness afflicts The Borgias, the new Showtime TV series that bears the name of director Neil Jordan and improbably stars Jeremy Irons as the patriarch of the powerful fifteenth- and sixteenth-century clan.
Of all the ceremonies staged for the beatification of John Paul II on May 1—the Vatican’s official admission of him into the ranks of the blessed and a crucial step on the path toward sainthood—there may have been none more moving than a Lord’s Prayer sung in Syro-Armenian chant by a Syrian countertenor (Razek François Bitar) in the cavernous Baroque church of Santa Maria in Campitelli.
Located near the site of its ancient predecessor, in the heart of historical Alexandria, the remarkable Bibliotheca Alexandrina, the new Library of Alexandria, which opened in 2002, has been uncomfortably close to the turmoil that now wracks Egypt, and especially Egypt’s cities.
The phrase “Renaissance man” tends to conjure up images of Italians in tights, like Leonardo da Vinci, or that tireless fifteenth-century self-promoter Leon Battista Alberti. Yet the real early modern masters of a thousand arts seem to have come from parts farther north. Peter Paul Rubens was famously both a student of philosophy and a diplomat as well as painter, but no artist may have diversified his talents as widely as the elder Lucas Cranach (1472-1553), mayor of Wittenberg, tavern keeper, and, more than incidentally, court painter for more than half a century to the Electors of Saxony.
For Italian columnist Giacomo Papi, the essence of contemporary society has been revealed once and for all in the way we eat. It all started, he maintains, in the 1980s, when bow tie pasta with salmon in cream sauce began to appear on Italian menus.
The scandals that buzz ever more insistently around Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi are hardly the first that old Rome has ever seen.
Several remarkable things have happened here in Italy in the past week. One: Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, that self-styled man for all seasons—tycoon, soccer team owner, politician, crooner, swain—the perennial fixer who not too long ago said, in Milanese dialect, ghe pensi mi, “I’ll take care of it”—“il premier,” il Cavaliere (that is, Sir Silvio), has apparently been driven by the present political situation to say, “I don’t know what to do.”
MAXXI is Rome’s new, much-touted national museum of contemporary art (the XXI standing, in Roman numerals, for the present century). With such a mission, this $188 million project of the Italian Ministry of Culture has a number of tasks to perform simultaneously: not only housing what aspires to be an inspirational, international selection of recent work, but also proving that—despite frequent claims to the contrary—a city that once played host and Muse to so many great architects, famous and forgotten, from Etruscan times onward, can do so again.
The Italians have a one-syllable word, an interjection, that means “I don’t know”: “Boh.” And “Boh” is probably the only credible commentary anyone can make right now about the country’s political situation.
It is hard to imagine that so thoroughly beguiling a place as Orvieto was ever famous for anything but the bounty of its generous earth. But the city used to be different, as we can see from one of its greatest artistic treasures: a terrifying Renaissance Apocalypse, painted by Luca Signorelli between 1499 and 1504.
Rome is under siege these days. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, always willing to assume the role of martyr, continues to claim that everyone is out to get him: the Communists, pinko magistrates (called “red togas” in Roman parlance), and the Left in general. Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican Secretary of State, responding to the sudden torrent of sexual abuse allegations against the priesthood, says that everyone is out to get the Church and the Pope. Everywhere this spring, the open city seems to be sprouting new street barriers, or permanent guard posts, or at least a vanload of police.
If the Earth has never been shy about proclaiming the instability of its surface, the creature misnamed Homo sapiens has never been shy about ignoring the message. Dubai’s 828 meter-tall Burj Khalifa skyscraper, which opened in early January, is only the latest in a millennial series of contenders for the title of world’s tallest building. It looms, at least for now, above Malaysia’s Petronas Towers, Toronto’s CN Tower, Chicago’s Sears Tower, and the quaintly venerable Empire State Building in that proverbial city of towers, New York. Yet the profile of Burj Khalifa suggests nothing so much as a seventeenth-century engraving intended to ridicule the human habit of tower-building, part of the German Jesuit Athanasius Kircher’s exquisitely illustrated essay on the Tower of Babel, Turris Babel of 1679.
Given their long personal histories of accessibility, and Italian society’s general focus on physical presence as an essential part of life (the chic version of this phenomenon is presenzialismo, the art of showing up in all the right places), Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Pope Benedict XVI have always run a certain degree of bodily risk in their positions; the fact that they were both assaulted last month—Berlusconi wounded in the face by a sculpture-wielding psychotic and the Pope jumped at by a woman at a Christmas Eve mass—was thus a matter of chance rather than any greater design, divine or human. Furthermore, violent attacks on public figures are a recurring story in Italian history, to say nothing of ancient Rome: King Umberto I was knifed by one anarchist, Giovanni Passanante, in 1878, and fatally shot by another, Gaetano Bresci, in 1900. Former Prime Minister Aldo Moro was kidnapped in March 1978 by the Red Brigades and murdered the following May after 55 excruciating days in a “People’s Prison.”
As a political analyst, the Sienese painter Ambrogio Lorenzetti is hard to rival, even if he painted rather than wrote, and did so towards the middle of the fourteenth century. The frescoes he executed for the city council of Siena in 1338–1339, showing The Effects of Good and Bad Government on the City and Countryside, mark what may be a unique achievement in the history of art: making Heaven, (or at least Heaven on earth), look infinitely more interesting than Hell.
Titian visited Rome twice in his life, and now he is back with forty paintings for an exhibition at the Scuderie del Quirinale in Rome.
Pietro Bembo (1470-1547) romanced Lucrezia Borgia, climbed Mount Etna and invented the semicolon. Titian painted his portrait. An exhibition in Padua focuses on the man and his collection, both extraordinary.
When the City of Rome decided to sell off the eighteenth-century horseshoe theatre a group of outraged (and talented) citizens took it over as squatters. Thanks to them, the Teatro Valle Occupato presents a full program of theatre and music.
Malta's marvelously intact eighteenth-century Manoel Theatre offers a wide range of music in a city where Baroque art and architecture are part of everyday life.