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‘Paradise doesn’t exist’!

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This well-executed, politically-minded graffiti made me smile when I snapped it on Saturday in a back alley near the Museo Diocesano in the Centro Storico in Naples.  The skeletal figures are taken from the workers on strike in the famous painting Il Quarto Stato – The Fourth Estate (1901) by Giuseppe Pellizza da Volpedo which is in the Museo del Novecento, Milan.

More on Naples graffiti, love it or loath it, here.  There is even a Napoli Street Art Twitter feed you can follow here.

Flabellum-shaped Fan, Museo di Capodimonte

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A Flabellum in Christian liturgical use is ‘a fan of metal, leather, silk, parchment or feathers, intended to keep away insects from the consecrated Body and Blood of Christ and from the priest, as well as to show honour. The ceremonial use of such fans dates back to ancient Egypt’.  They fell out of use in the Catholic liturgy in the 14th Century.

This  exquisite 16th Century  decorative example, in the Museo di Capodimonte, Naples comes from Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), is 20 inches high, made of ivory and:

has a long handle decorated with plant and animal motifs, with segmented ivory sticks arranged like spokes. The upper part portrays the neck and head of a bird, whose eyes are made up of tiny cabochon-cut sapphires, thereby concealing the central flanges.

Photograph: Imgur.

A Summer poem: on the Banks of a Canal, near Naples, 1872

10 days before before he died, Seamus Heaney, the Irish poet and recipient of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature, completed his final poem.

It was inspired by the ‘quiet beauty‘ of a picture of a Naples canal painted in 1872 by the French artist Gustave Caillebotte which hangs in the National Gallery of Ireland.  In the picture the artist ‘depicts a canal and pathway extending into the distant horizon of a flat Italian landscape.  By allowing the edges of his canvas to slice through the water and path, Caillebotte gives the scene a sense of randomness that marked a particularly modern way of seeing‘.  Heaney wrote:

Say ‘canal’ and there’s that final vowel

Towing silence with it, slowing time

To a walking pace, a path, a whitewashed gleam

Of dwellings at the skyline. World stands still.

The stunted concrete mocks the classical.

Water says, ‘My place here is in dream,

In quiet good standing. Like a sleeping stream,

Come rain or sullen shine I’m peaceable.’

Stretched to the horizon, placid ploughland,

The sky not truly bright or overcast:

I know that clay, the damp and dirt of it,

The coolth along the bank, the grassy zest

Of verges, the path not narrow but still straight

Where soul could mind itself or stray beyond.

Poem c/o Seamus Heaney, 2014.  More detail on the picture at National Gallery of Ireland.

‘The sleek flight of planes whose propellers chatter in the wind like banners’..

Aeropainting, or aeropittura, was called ‘the daughter of Fascist aviation and Italian futurism‘ by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, front man of the avant garde futurist movement which emphasised everything that was fast, young, modern, vigorous and violent.  Propelled by Italy’s military preeminence in aviation, aeropittura shifted the Futurist gaze skywards, offering startling and disconcerting perspectives to the viewer and glorifying fast, sleek, polished aerial machines and their pilots.

In the example above, Aerial Battle over the Gulf of Naples or Infernal Battle over the Paradise of the Gulf, Gerardo Dottori imagines a violent dog fight high above an idyllic, peaceful and sunlit Naples set against a dark cloud of dust thrown up by an erupting Vesuvius.

Neapolitan Song

Joseph Stella was an American futurist artist who was born near Naples and who suffered homesickness for Italy.  Known for his industrially inspired work, in Neapolitan Song (1929), an ‘exotic, brilliantly colored landscape depicting a crane, plants and with Vesuvius in the distance,’ his picture is ‘reaching across the sea, bridging the distance between Stella’s old home and his adopted country’. Is the crane shedding a tear for the old country?

The picture is in the Smithsonian American Art Museum.