SiStan ChapLee

Saturday, December 29, 2018

A relic, a saint, a poet


A visit to the Real Chiesa di San Lorenzo, Royal Church of Saint Lawrence, in Turin, NW Italy. "Royal" refers to the Savoia (Savoy) family, who ruled first Piedmont, then whole Italy, until 1946. This experimental Baroque church was built, or rather rebuilt, as a vow after the Battle of Saint Quentin of August 10, 1557: a very important episode in the 16-17th century war between France and Spain for the control of Italy. The Spaniards won, led by Duke Emanuele Filiberto of Savoy. The battle can be seen sculpted on the monument to Emanuele Filiberto in Piazza San Carlo (Saint Charles Square) in downtown Turin. The plaque inside Saint Lawrence's Church, set four centuries later, reads:

Here, where an old chapel rose
dedicated to Saint Mary "Ad Praesepe"
and to the holy deacon Lawrence, the martyr,
the Holy Shroud was put down,
transferred from Chambéry to Turin
by the will of Duke Emanuele Filiberto.
Here in the morning of October 10, 1578,
Saint Carlo Borromeo, Archbishop of Milan,
worshiped the Savior's wounds
and celebrated the Eucharistic Sacrifice
before a praying crowd;
blending into them, there asked for peace,
restless and lonely, Torquato Tasso.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

It takes one to know one


Originally titled El Greco: El visionario y la pintura (“The seer and his art”), this biography has been translated into Italian, for some reason though not very consistently, as “The enlightened seer.” It follows the usual style of the author, the Spanish writer Ramón Gómez de la Serna (1888-1963), that alternates curious historical details with free mental associations, and often jumps from the past to the present, seasoning it all with post-modern versions of Baroque agudezas. The outcome is infinitely more interesting than the flat standard catalogs.

In brief, El Greco is described as the artist who first succeeded in capturing the odd spiritual atmospheres of Spain, and especially of the city of Toledo, in the Baroque Era: stern black garments with grotesque collars, American wealth that however made hidalgos poor, multiethnicity in spite of intolerance, high ideals but narrow-mindedness, and Death in glory. That meant to break with the Italian school of art, even if precisely Venice had provided the launchpad to this painter born in Crete. Gómez de la Serna visited the Prado Museum a lot of times in order to have silent conversations with El Greco. He then reworked the life of the great Greek/Castilian "seer" into experimental fiction, where the most surrealist flashes conceal true history, and the other way round. Gómez de la Serna's opinions on the personages and events—e.g. King Philip II, the Jews—often turn out to be the opposite of the views current during the 16th and 17th centuries.

The painter left "a library with few books, among which a Bible and works by Homer, Euripides, Demosthenes, Aristotle, Plutarch, Saint John Chrysostom, Ariosto, Tasso, etc."

"Not El Greco was mad; his time was."

"You gotta be bold in order to watch."

Sunday, December 23, 2018

A hidden side of G. B. Marino?


"The poet's aim is marvel," G. B. Marino will say in a very well known verse meaning that, in the Baroque as well as in other [literary, artistic, cultural] genres centred on wisdom, to strike the imagination, to break the circle of usual perceptions is essential to the understanding of Art. That, on the other hand, is the very same technique employed by Raimondo Di Sangro for his Sansevero Chapel [in Naples, 18th century].
. . .
Let us not forget that G. B. Marino lives at the court of Mary of France, the Medici Queen, who is deeply interested in occultism.

From: Giancarlo Elia Valori, Raimondo di Sangro. Il Principe di Sansevero e la magia dell'Illuminismo, Perugia (Italy): Futura edizioni, 2014, p. 55.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Off Topic: The discovery of James


The Biblical canon seems to have expanded in the later years of Emanuel Swedenborg. He usually limited the New Testament to the four Gospels and the Book of Revelation, excluding the Acts of the Apostles and the Letters, as his unruly disciple William Blake will also do. Swedenborg abstained from mentioning Saint Paul even when he happened to quote from him, even literally (e.g. 2 Corinthians 11.14). And yet, in spite of himself, his whole Christology may be described as a mix between the Letters to the Ephesians and to the Hebrews, whose author was then considered to be the Apostle in person.

But in his 1766 book Apocalypsis Revelata, "Apocalypse Revealed," Swedenborg apparently started to appreciate other parts of the New Testament, for example the Acts of the Apostles. Acts 17.28 is quoted in #31; remarkably, a sentence said by Paul. Besides, some teachings ascribed by the Swedish seer to the Gospel of John actually come more directly from his First Letter.

There especially emerges the Letter of James, though still passing over his name in silence; a New Testament text that surely did not appear among Martin Luther's favorites -- and Swedenborg was the son of a Swedish Lutheran bishop. The two sentences below, quite close to each other, either summarize or echo passages from respectively James 2.17, 19, and 1.23-4. The general purpose is a controversy against Lutheran theology and, more in depth, against Pauline theology, or at least against a certain interpretation of it. The English translation of Apocalypse Revealed is John Withehead's, revised and updated, West Chester (PA): The Swedenborg Foundation, 1997.
#136 . . . faith without works is dead and diabolical. . . .
#141 . . . charity and faith without works are only like airy images, which vanish as soon as they have appeared. . .

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Bergson on the origin of the Renaissance species


It is (. . .) true that the Reformation, the Renaissance and the first symptoms or precursory signs of the great inventive [i.e. technological] impetus date from the same period. It is not impossible that there were here three reactions, interrelated, against the form taken until then by the Christian ideal.
What form?
Throughout the Middle Ages, an ascetic ideal had predominated. (. . .) It may be alleged that ascetism was confined to a very small minority, and this is true. But just as mysticism, the privilege of a few, was popularized by religion, so concentrated ascetism, which was doubtless exceptional, became diluted for the rank and file of mankind into a general indifference to the conditions of daily existence. There was for one and all an absence of comfort which to us is astonishing. Rich and poor did without superfluities which we consider as necessities.
Henri Bergson, The Two Sources of Morality and Religion (1932), ch. 4, from the translation by R. Ashley Audra and Cloudesley Brereton freely available online (Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 1977). And actually, as a historian once put it, "No Renaissance prince would ever accept to live in a Medieval castle." On the other hand, these paragraphs would deserve further analysis because, as e.g. Friedrich Nietzsche stressed among others, Martin Luther's ideal and the (Italian) Renaissance way of life were at loggerheads with each other, even if both reacted against the previous pattern of religion and society.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Renaissance design 'clothes'


The Aegis, Minerva's (after Jupiter's) warlike and terrifying breastplate (or shield, in other versions) is here turned into a sexy bondage ornament by Giorgio Vasari in his 1564 painting Vulcan's Smithy. Oil on copper. Florence, Uffizi Gallery.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Apocalypse Now——meaning the Renaissance

by Salvador Dalí

In his interpretation of the Book of Revelation (included in his 1845 Theodicy, ch. 28 of Part III), Antonio Rosmini was intelligent enough as not to fall into the common mistake of saying that the signs of doomsday were precisely the ones that people were then experiencing. Naa. In fact, he foresees a long series of events to go, whole eras indeed, before the astounding science-fictional End. As for the current centuries, he describes them, on the basis of some passages from the Book of Revelation, as a new Era of Christian martyrdom, prophetically in line with what nowadays Pope Francis often states.

The Modern Era, according to Rosmini as well as to most of his contemporaries, started with the 18th century. This led him to undervalue not only the Middle Ages, but even the Renaissance! In the paragraphs dealing with the 16th-17th centuries, not one line is dedicated to the masterpieces of art, let alone poetry, nor is any discovery of a "new world" mentioned. It runs like that:
#799. (. . .) against the heresies of the 16th century and the lack of faith in which they all ended up, Christ reacted with the rejection of many, and a great number of extraordinary saints who beautified his Church; thus exercising justice toward the former, and grace and mercy toward the latter, by means of his power.
#803. (. . .) This is the epoch in which the human mind, growing bold [this is the most interesting detail] after the Middle Ages, abuses science so as to corrupt the world with errors and lack of faith. The pale horse, death, and hell [Rev. 6.7-8] represent [N.B.] Christ's divine power to punish the reprobates with eternal damnation, letting them be struck by death while still in sin (. . .).

But, appearances aside, the general atmosphere in these scenarios is quite different from Medieval or Renissance apocalyptic preachers because Rosmini belonged to a very different environment and, all in all, was deeply fascinated by the great battles of Christ and Christianity, both material and spiritual (see). In spite of his undervaluing the Renaissance, he did love to show the Son of God as a valiant knight, so he provided Him occasions to play the role. Not without joking a bit, imho.

Monday, December 3, 2018

A dangerous gentleman

by Luca

Beware of anthologies! An Italian book called Dio è amore (God Is Love) collects a certain number of texts by Antonio Rosmini, the controversial Catholic theologian and religious founder of the 19th century: whole essays, or passages from longer volumes. Well, a significant section from his Teodicea (Theodicy) is also included, namely some dozens of pages that describe the blessed's final glory in heaven. But.

But the quotation is cut immediately before the pages in which he started to say the 'worst' things. The Theodicy is actually a set of three essays written between 1825 and 1845, almost an upgrade of Leibniz's book of the same name. The first Part deals with the intrinsic limits of human thought. The second with the mix of goods and evils in the world. The third, longer than the other two put together, summarizes the preceding contents and examines them more in depth. The fateful passage comes from this Part, #682 and following.

Here in fact Rosmini -- who was well known as a magnanimous gentleman -- says that, among the pros enjoyed by the blessed, there will be the opportunity to exercise one's own feeling of superiority. A world entirely made of good fellas would be unbearably boring, to the extent that God himself allowed, or practically planned Adam's original sin in order to destroy the artificial welfare of Eden, and therefore let humankind develop all of their potentials, the bad ones included, the whole range from Christ to the Antichrist. Not by chance, the 19th century was the era of Romanticism, that also meant 'mauditism,' and even Satanism (as a literary and artistic trend). The same epoch in which William Blake overturned the meaning of John Milton's Paradise Lost. But the influence of this subversive culture on Roman Catholic authors could not be taken for granted.

Antonio Rosmini was Pope Pius VII's favorite theologian. The Jesuits however fiercely obstructed his career because they maintained he was dangerous. Thank God, he was!

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Ariosto goes to WWI


The graphic novel Colore inferno ("Color: Hell," text by Ariel Macchi, art by Cecilia Valagussa, Rome: Ifix Edizioni, 2018, pages 112, euros 19) imagines the last hours in the lives of nine famous personages who died at the front during the First World War, on different sides. They were either artists: Antonio Sant'Elia, Umberto Boccioni, August Macke, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Franz Marc, or writers: Saki, Louis Pergaud, Renato Serra, plus the sexy dancer and alleged spy Mata Hari. The stories, each drawn/painted in a style that recalls the very author taken into consideration, have a surreal or dreamy atmosphere, that however conveys the real personality of the character, and the real horrors of the war.

The story dealing with Renato Serra is based on a description in which he compared the landscape at the front to the surface of the moon. So, he and his comrades are magically transported to the same satellite where, in Ludovico Ariosto's long poem Orlando Furioso, Roland's lost mind was retrieved in a vial and brought back to him. Here, in the hope that humankind might learn something from those apocalyptic events. In vain.