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Monday, November 2, 2015

Hugue-or-not?


In 1572, the famous artist and artists' biographer Giorgio Vasari was called to fresco the Sala Regia (Royal Room) in Vatican. Some of the episodes depicted, that were meant to glorify the Papacy, concerned the fierce repression against the Huguenots (Calvinists) in France. The painting above shows a fact that occurred that very year: Admiral Coligny, the head of the Huguenots, being wounded by a hit man -- he would be killed not much time later during the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre. Now, Vasari's portrait of Coligny recalls The Entombment of Christ, especially in the well-known version by Raphael. Definitely a honorable connection. Whose side was the artist on? And, did the Pope notice this?

For an interesting study of this time period with reference to Tasso's life and works, see Luigi Firpo (ed.), Torquato Tasso: Tre scritti politici, Turin: UTET, 1980. The "three political manuscripts" include a reportage from France in 1571, a paper about the best form of governance, and a piercing comment on the events of 1585 in France (the Catholic League vs. King Henry III). Unfortunately, Prof. Firpo often misunderstands the poet's views because of his own liberal/Enlightenment approach, and even worse than that, he still believes the old lie according to which Tasso was partially insane. But, on the whole, his historical essays collected here provide a lot of very precious materials spiced with a gentleman's irony.