Tag Archives: Florence

A tale of two journeys: the composition and publication of the Codice Rustici

codice-rustici-facsimile-olschki-itinerario-di-fede-firenze-gerusalemmeIn 1450 or thereabouts a Florentine goldsmith, Matteo di Bartolomeo Rustici, began to write down the story of a perhaps imaginary journey to the Holy Land a decade earlier. He relied heavily on his favourite readings, copying and abridging them, illustrating his accounts of places and events with detailed watercolours, frequently digressing from his main storyline to include instructions on Christian doctrine for pilgrims, potted biographies of saints, tales associated with the places visited, recommendations of cures for tarantula bites …. the result, in the words of Kathleen Olive and Nerida Newbigin, editors of the critical edition of the Codice Rustici, recently published (Olschki 2016) with a facsimile of the original and collection of essays, ‘resembling the worst kind of research uncritically cobbled together from internet sources’. The beautifully illustrated story of the text’s survival and its own journey towards publication is told by the editors here.

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Site of Resistance: The Popular Piety of Santa Maria delle Carceri in Prato

 Shannon Gilmore   University of California, Santa Barbara

260px-Prato,_Santa_Maria_delle_CarceriThis summer I enjoyed a month-long sojourn in Florence to expand my dissertation project on Central Italian miraculous image cults established in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, specifically the cult of Santa Maria delle Carceri in Prato. My trip got off to a promising start: I had the good fortune to attend the special mass marking the anniversary of Santa Maria delle Carceri’s first miracle. I was immediately grateful that I had arrived early to snag a seat, as the interior of Giuliano da Sangallo’s church was bursting at the seams with the faithful whose eyes were fixed on the miraculous image of the Virgin and Child with Saints Leonard and Stephen (c. 1350) above the high altar. The cult’s continuing significance to the diocese of Prato was immediately evident as a television cameraman ducked in and out of the tightly packed crowd to capture a perfect shot of the bishop who proudly wore a vestment bearing a screen-printed copy of the Marian image.

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PLAGUE, PLACE AND FEAR IN EARLY MODERN FLORENCE

Nick Eckstein   University of Sydney

17thC plague coatIn the plague years of 1630-1631 the aristocratic confraternity of the Archangel Michael, nicknamed the ‘Stropiccioni’ (Zealots, or ‘Bible Thumpers’) sent pairs of its members into the streets and back-alleys of their own city in an unusual programme of ‘Visitations’.  The Visitations were recorded and constitute a remarkable resource for understanding the social and cultural role of plague in Renaissance Florence.

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Quaderno poetico #6: Going behind the scenes (II) – Archives

Theodore Ell   University of Sydney

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This is the first of two posts about working in archives, where so many of us spend so much our time, in Italy and elsewhere. My work concentrates on the Florentine poet Piero Bigongiari and I will have more to say about working on his archival materials later, as well as talking about the technical questions involved – transcribing handwriting, handling old paper and  so on. First, though, I have found myself reflecting on archival work in general, the fascination, frustrations, fun and fanaticism that surround it. I’m interested to hear other people’s archival stories and philosophies, particularly if they disagree with mine. Archival work often makes you feel that you’re the only one in the world doing what you’re doing (a chosen one, even!) but of course we’re never alone. The Renaissance scholar Gene Brucker has called himself an ‘archive junkie.’ There must be more out there. Be proud of it.  

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Tuscany meets Milan @ Datini office™ ☞ 1382

Josh Brown   University of Western Australia

220px-Francesco_di_Marco_DatiniWhen did Tuscan language forms reach Lombardy? The earliest time that Tuscanisation has been suggested for Milan is during the late Quattrocento when Tuscan became a model for the chancery, well before its codification by Bembo in the Cinquecento. But can evidence for an earlier presence be found? I believe it can. My key source for an earlier dating of Tuscanisation is the correspondence between merchants from Milan and the 14th century Tuscan merchant Francesco di Marco Datini (c.1335-1410), the famous ‘merchant of Prato’.

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Quaderno poetico #4: How the poetry works (II)

Theodore Ell   University of Sydney

What do you notice about these two samples of poetry?

“…se il vento rintocca nelle corti / come un rullo sordo e opaco di tamburo, / un ululo fedele accanto al muro / del padrone addormentato.”

“Le corti fiorentine / rintoccano a morto in una cupa vanità / come una pelle tesa di tamburo, / le ardesie soffocate di polvere quassù in alto…”

The quotations come from two separate poems, “La notte fiorentina,” written on the 27th of February 1946, and “Inverno arido,” written a few days later on the 3rd and 4th of March. But yes, the thing you notice is the repetition. Different poems, same material: the courtyards reverberating with a menacing, drumhead sound. The last post ended with the suggestion that Bigongiari’s writing unfolded through a process of elaboration, treating certain phrases, words or situations as motifs, to be taken up from previous poems and recoloured in new ones. What you see here is an example of elaboration in action.

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Quaderno poetico #3: How the poetry works (I)

Theodore Ell   University of Sydney

Once the historical labels are removed, the project of getting to know Piero Bigongiari arrives at the biggest question: if the idea of ermetismo is not the key to defining his work, then what is?Bigongiari photo Bigongiari’s poetry is often deeply abstract; it can be highly charged with emotion, but without a clear reason or point of reference; it sometimes plays odd games with internal rhymes and repetitions. Furthermore, the poems are presented in chronological order and their dates of composition are given in the table of contents. How do we discuss this coherently and sympathetically? And how do we draw philosophical conclusions from it?

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Quaderno poetico #2: Peeling off the labels

Theodore Ell   University of Sydney

When you write about authors who aren’t household names, the first thing you’re expected to do is place them somewhere in history, otherwise their writing won’t make sense. In Piero Bigongiari’s case this seems easy, as the job has been done for you by decades of common sense. The standard line is to say that Bigongiari was one of the terza generazione of ermetici. That is, he belonged to a group of poets who followed Ungaretti and Montale, dwelling on the abstract, the dreamlike and the mysterious. Other members of the terza generazione were Mario Luzi, Alessandro Parronchi and Alfonso Gatto, along with the critics Carlo Bo and Oreste Macrì. They all met as students in Florence in the 1930s, gathered in cafes for fervent discussion, and enjoyed one flowering of pure, apolitical poetic creativity (ignored by the Fascist regime, which didn’t get poetry) before the post-war shift leftwards in Italy’s cultural scene. Their moment was interesting while it lasted, but circumstances and politics turned taste elsewhere. This seems foolproof: the terza generazione come as a boxed set labelled Montale’s Friends, which fills out the library but which you pass over to read bigger things.

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Quaderno poetico #1: Our man Bigongiari

Theodore Ell   University of Sydney

bigongiariThe eyes follow you. They have been following me for six years. They belong to the Florentine poet Piero Bigongiari (1914-1997), one of the so-called terza generazione of ermeticiI wrote my doctorate on Bigongiari and am turning my research into a book. ACIS has kindly given me the opportunity to keep a diary of the project, and over the next several months I will be posting snippets and vignettes from the desk.

This will not be so much “writing about writing” as a reflection on Bigongiari as a subject and as a presence:  someone whose poems I read alongside his diaries and letters, whose voice I hear in recordings, whose loose and sometimes messy handwriting I have learned to decipher, and whose quirks and habits of mind are now very familiar to me, but who is not actually there. Few book subjects are, but there is still a feeling that they keep you company. How do you make your figure of interest seem real on the page? Bigongiari’s work may seem out-of-the-way, strange or difficult, but what are its real merits? What can it mean to us today? What is Bigongiari’s relationship to other poets of the last century, and what light do they shed on one another? And how, sometimes, do you manage to look away from those eyes that are following you all the time, and put your own opinion freely on the page?

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Slow Clothes: A Tale of Two Brothers, Two Sisters and a Butcher

Catherine Kovesi   University of Melbourne

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Sign on wall outside restaurant in Santorini

I started this year with some spinal surgery. The long recuperation which has followed has brought new resonance for me of the Italian concept of ‘Slow’, a concept first articulated by Carlo Petrini back in 1986 as a protest against fast food.  Everything in the last two months for me has had to proceed at a slow pace, sometimes excruciatingly so.  And yet being forced to take things slowly has proved not to be a bad thing overall. Therapists in rehab, kindly helping me to manage my pain levels, have inducted me into Mindfulness Therapy, which I have found very helpful. On reflection, I think that the principles of ‘mindfulness’ lie at the core of ‘slow’ – taking time to think, to observe, to reflect, and just to concentrate on the joys to be had in the simple.  It has reminded me also of the first time I started to understand the broader principles of ‘slow’, on a stunning April day in Florence in 2011, in the extraordinary textile mecca that is the Casa dei Tessuti.

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