Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Ragusa Rag

Back when I was still on vacation in Sicilia I posted a clip of a rather unconventional piece of "church" music being played at a church in Ragusa Ibla. There are a few more unusual liturgical traditions there which I hope to wrote about in the next day or two but even the noon-hour Angelus has a different sound in this charming hillside town.

28 maggio - San'Emilio

Sicilian Ceramics

It seems that no matter where you go here in Italy there is a regional style of ceramics: though many of the items - particularly those made for mass consumption in locations far removed from Italy - bear striking similarities there are colour, themes and designs that are specific to Umbria, Tuscany, the Veneto, Napoli or Sicilia.  Its hard to avoid the shops crammed with wall plaques, holy water stoops, pots, Christmas ornaments, jars, urns or table wear of dubious provenance.  However it is still possible to find the work of local artists that reflect the tradition of the region but with a twist that also reflects the approach of the creator.

Though, god knows, we don't really need more things in the past four years the household inventory has been augmented by a few items, particularly the Christmas ornaments - yes I know as if we really need more Christmas ornaments.  However a wall plate, a Beaulieu-Hobbs name plaque and a large jar, all created by Valentina Pietrosanti in Sermoneta, will also be making their way back to Canada come July.

I'm pretty sure that Nicky thinks the sunshine that he loves so much comes out of this ceramic pot - and Nora is willing to let him do the ground work and she'll just bask in the rays afterwards.  The pot itself shows the distinct style of ceramics from the Lazio region - particularly the lemon branches.  It was created by the very talented Valentina Pietrosanti at Labratorio Uscio e Bottega in Sermoneta.
And they will be kept company by a few little items that were picked up on the trip to Sicilia. The style there seems to be a bit more naive and colours at times more primary than in many of the other regions.  Having said that I saw a plate in Erice and a platter in Ragusa -  though both are the work of artists in Caltagirone, a town famous for its ceramics, on the east side of the island - that had subtle colourings and simple almost primitive designs but still, I find, had echos of some of the antique patterns of Siciliana.  

I bought this plate in Erice however it was produced by Giacomo Alessi in his workshop in Caltagirone near Catania.  The town is renowned for its ceramics and Alessi is one of the better known artists in the field.  What attracted me was those pomegranates - they are as exuberant and as light hearted as the island itself.
This piece is also from a studio in Caltagirone though again bought in another part of the island.  Francesco Boria is perhaps better known for his pieces in the antique baroque style so this subtle use of the green and simple line drawing is surprising when compared to much of his work.
Equally fascinating are the ceramics of Agosto Fiorito who works in miniatures as part of an artisan collective on Via Bara all’Olivella in Palermo. His ceramics have a charming naivety and his creation of presepi has led him to adapted the multitude of small items that fill the scenes of these traditional Nativity scenes and turned them into, of all things, fridge magnets.  Taking his inspiration from the rich world of the Sicilian kitchen he has platters of sea food, pasteria trays of dolci and paper cones of the fresh vegetable on the shelves of his clutter corner of this wonderfully atmospheric shop.

Agosto Fiorito's miniature ceramics - a left click will show them in actual size - are tiny representations of the riches of the farms, seas and pastry shops of Sicilia.  Those vegetabls would made a wonderful caponata and the casatte and canoli look good enough to eat.
Fortunately Fiorito's little gems will pack easy and may well find their way into various Christmas stockings as a reminder of the time spent here  The other pieces are going to require some special handling so I'll have a few words with the movers and Sant'Anna, their patron saint, to make sure they arrive back in Canada in one piece.

28 maggio - San Just
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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Signs of the Times

While having lunch today at Piazza Ungaria with my friend Carol Anne I saw a few sights that reminded me of how colourful a city I've been living in for the past few years.

As we sat sipping our prosecco behind the plexiglass divider that separated us from the sidewalk we watched the parade of Parioli ladies and gents in their finery as well as the African vendors and a few of the local beggars that work the area.  An elderly gentleman lurched out of this rather esoteric procession of the good, the bad and the ugly.  His tongue was hanging out, he appeared to be gasping for air and was in obvious distress.  He supported himself against a lamp post and seemed to be on the point of collapse.  Both of us expressed alarm to the owner of the restaurant as did people at several other tables.  She gave a little laugh and said "That's Antonio, he's working.  Just watch him."  A woman stopped to see if she could help and he burst into tears and gesticulated a story of some sort - she gave him a few euros.  We saw this act repeated several times as he "worked" his way lurching and collapsing along the street.  He must have made €20.00 within 10 minutes.  On a contract at the Embassy I'd have to work over an hour to make that much.  Obviously I'm in the wrong line of work.

Later we sat drinking our coffee when my eye caught this rather interesting sign on some sort of service box on one of the sidewalk poles. No I don't mean the one for the dog sitter!

If the advertiser were writing in classic Italian it would suggest they were Slavic and looking for a lady however I have a feeling it may not exactly be the intention of the service being offered.

26 maggio - San Filippo Neri

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Sicilia or Bust

Coat of arm of Sicily
Well after months of anticipation and planning the vacation to Sicilia has come and gone. Its been a busy – at times maybe too busy – 16 days: food, wine, sights and sites. I'm not sure how many kilometres were clocked up on the car but its probably more in that two weeks than have been put on it in four years in Italy. And I'm not sure that even driving in Mexico City, Cairo and Roma had prepared Laurent for the singular style of driving that we encountered in the towns and road of Sicilia. Ah well we're in one piece which says more about him than it does the local drivers.  One thing: I wouldn't have wanted to do it without the help of a GPS – that smarmy British voice telling us to “bear left” may be irritating at times but damned he knows the roads – or a least the ones that haven't been changed and not updated. Note to TomTom – there's an entirely new subdivision on the main road in Gela that nobody told you about!

The overnight crossing (12 hours) from Civittavechia to Palermo was smooth sailing however the good ship Splendid was not - splendid I mean.  Grandi Navi Veloci should either update their website or their fleet.

The first and last legs of the trip were on car ferries – Roma to Palermo/Catania to Napoli. The Grandi NaviVeloci to Sicily was, to put it kindly, an interesting experience. Shabby would be too polite a word. Let's just say that the boat had seen better days and I was afraid of walking barefoot on the carpeting.   The TTT ferry back from Catania to Napoli, though smaller, was clean, cabin at the bow spacious and staff helpful - too bad they don't do the Civettavecchia to Palermo run.

The first part of our travels took us from Palermo along the Tyrrhenian Sea to the West and than eastward along the Mediterranean Coast.
Laurent has written extensively on his blog about the various stops on the itinerary and I'll be posting a few items on thing that caught my fancy as we travelled from Palermo to Trapani, Erice, Marsala, Mazara del Vallo, Agrigento, Ragusa, Siracusa, Noto and Catania. Looking at that list – and a general sense of fatigue at the end of the trip – make me aware that this is a trip that should have broken into two trips; in fact I said only the other day that had we been wise we would have spent a week in a different area of Sicily each year that we were here. But should, would and could are all conditional verbs – and in this case conditional past – so no point in labouring over what we should have done; just sit back and enjoy the memories of what we did.

Continuing on from Agrigento we headed a bit inland to Ragusa and then back eastward to the Ionian coast and the two major seas ports of Siracusa and Catania.
And the memories are varied.  Wonderful music - an emotionally charged performance of A Greek Passion in Palermo; wonderful food - an unexpected lobster fest at a local trattoria in Marsala were the room was filled with groups of men sharing a meal with their friends and only three women in the whole place and no it wasn't a gay restaurant; great wine - quite a few Enoteche but particularly Michelle's in Trapani and Salvatore's in Marsala; over the top baroque churches - the Duomi in Mazara del Vallo takes the prize with Ragusa running a close second; antiquities galore - the Valley of the Temple leading the pack; and friendly, warm, welcoming, if at times slightly suspicious of strangers, people. 

The departure from Catania and the trip up to the Straits of Messina  on TTT's Partenope was a bit on the rough side but once into the Tyrrhenian it was a smooth sail up to Napoli and then on to Roma by road.
The one thing that struck me the first time I went to Palermo and was confirmed on this trip as I saw more of the island is that Sicily may be part of Italy but it isn't really Italian. It shares a common language and some history but the people, the food, the landscape has been molded by the influences of the Mediterranean in a way that makes it a place unto itself.  A succession of occupiers - the Greeks,  the Phoenicians, the Carthaginians, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Arabs, the Normans, the French and the Spanish - have left their mark. As it always is Nature has been both kind and cruel: the sea, earthquakes and volcanoes have formed, enriched and scarred the terrain making it both welcoming and hostile. Religion – Pagan and Christian – has molded the architecture of cities and minds. And a wry sense of survival on the part of the inhabitants has taken all these things – the good and the bad - and created a place that is Sicilia.

24 maggio - Santa Maria Ausiliatrice

Friday, May 20, 2011

Now Is the End

According to the calculations of an American Tele-evangelist the world is going to end later today. Apparently, like New Year's Eve celebrations, its going to happen time zone by time zone at 6 PM local time starting somewhere between Pago Pago, American Samoa, and Nuku'alofa, Tonga. To celebrate (if that's the word I'm looking for?) I thought I'd post this little gem from Beyond the Fringe.

Considering they did this back in 1962 its taken a bit of time for them to hit a winner!

21 maggio - San Cristóbal Magallanes Jara

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Devine Gelato Wine

Anyone who lives any time in Italy is bound to have a favourite gelateria: the place where they make "the best Gelato in the world".  I have heard arguments break out between normally rational people about where to find the best  Pistacchio or  Cioccolato and there are those who, with the same seriousness as they would offer their opinion on politics,  debate the merits of the Caffé or Zuppe Inglese at their preferred ice cream shop.  And I admit that I have been known to take part in these world-shaking discussions on several occasions when defending Leonard at Tropical Ice.   Though there are three other excellent gelaterie in our area if asked to name "the best" it would have to be the creamy delights and fresh flavours that Leonardo serves up.

However if by some miracle Gelati DiVini were to be moved lock, stock, staff and gelato tubs from Piazza Duomo in Ragusa to Porta Pia I'd be hard pressed to choose between the two.  This little shop and its sister shop next door offer two of my favourite Italian foods groups - gelato and wine.  And it mixes them.

I had read about Gelati DiVini (a lovely play on words - it could be read as either Wine Gelato or Devine Gelato) in Lonely Planet and on several websites and everyone lauded its fresh, creamy, often unusual and frequently wine inspired flavours.  When I arrived on Monday to find it closed up and a peep through the window revealed empty counters my heart sank.  I'm not saying that I prayed to blessed San Giorgio in his eponymous Duomo across the way but miraculously the next day I found their shutters open, tables set out in the Piazza and most important the counter now filled with jewel-like tubs of gelato.

There were 22 flavour available and though each was labelled - sometimes using a play on words - there were also little indications of the ingredients on each tub - a piece of fruit, a wine cork, a pod or spring of what had been turned into icy goodness.  And though my two favourites, Pistacchio and Caffé, seemed to be missing a few of the old standards were there -  Strawberry, Chocolate, Pear and Cream.  However you don't go to Gelati DiVini for the standard flavours - you go for the unusual and unusual they were offering.  How does Ricotta, Cardamon or Date gelato sound?  Or how about Beet, Peppered Chocolate or Carob?  Or Moscato, Rose or Marsala for those of us that like the idea of the mix of Gelatoria and Enotecha?

For my first go-around - yes I visited the smiling Rosalie twice during the day but I only ordered the medium size cup said he with a defensive tone in his voice - I had the Moscato and, at her suggestion, the Fragoline (field strawberry). DiVini! Laurent was a little more adventurous and went for the Date and the Beet. Beet??? Yes I had a taste of it but since my doctor once told me not to eat beets because they were disgusting I passed on that one. An interesting flavour not to my liking but very much to his.

Before tackling the 232 steps up to the first approach to Ragusa Superiore later that afternoon a gelato surge was required. This time I went for the Marsala - yes I know more wine - and Cinnamon with the sweetness of the wine contrasting with the bite of the spice. Laurent recharged with fiery Peppered Chocolate and cooling Fiori di pane (Rich Cream). Just what both of us needed - not for our waistlines on this trip but for our energy levels.

But before I left I had to ask Rosalie about one of the flavours that was puzzling me: Gocce Verdi. Now verdi means green and gocce means a drop - a drop of green???  That sprig of green should have been a dead give away but she gave me a taste and said "tell me what it is?"  It was olive oil - subtle but there;  the taste that Sicilia is famous for transformed into cold, creamy gelato.

Perhaps I should have stopped by and asked San Giorgio about doing that lock, stock, staff and tub transporting thing.

18 maggio - San Leonardo Murialdo
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Monday, May 16, 2011

Lunedi Lunacy

One of the features of a stop in any town in Sicily is a visit to the Duomo or a church of note. Now I've stated before that I am not a fan of the baroque but Sicilian baroque is so overloaded, so over stated, so over the top that its beautiful. What is so often ponderous in Roma here has a light-heartedness and beauty that reflects the devotion of the people. That is not to say it isn't sincere just that there is sometimes a slight tongue-in-cheek air to it all.

And in Ragusa I've seen two examples of that strange mix of the serious and the wry that gave me a chuckle.

This morning in the beautiful Cathedrale di San Giorgio (the Patron Saint of Ragusa) in Ragusa Ibla I came upon this devote woman kneeling in prayer. She was addressing her requests to the Almighty in a strong loud voice.

It wasn't until I heard her say, in a slightly testy tone, "Ascolti me!" that I realized she was talking on the cell phone. I only wish the picture had been clearer but there she was on her knees, in the Cathedrale and giving proper hell to someone about something.

Now I know some American evangelists have maintained they have a direct line to God but so it would seem does some little Lady in Ragusa Ibla. And she knows Him well enough to put Him in His place.

And yesterday the quiet of a sunny Sunday afternoon was broken by the sounds of organ music coming from the Chiesa del Anime in Purgatorio in Piazza Republica. Listening to the soothing sounds of church music seemed like an appropriate way to end the afternoon and a nice pause before climbing the 800 odd steps that would take me from Ragusa Ibla up to Ragusa Superiore. What I got instead was this little display of virtuosity which surprised even me, who thought he had heard everything in the way of music in church.

I honestly didn't know that church organs had all those percussion stops but I guess this one does. I was reminded of the story about one of the Pope's in the 19th century banning popular music in the church as it was becoming too raucous. Obviously the ban has been lifted or never made it this far south.

16 maggio - Santa Gemma Galgani

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Italian Engineering Feets

Yes I know that should probably read "feats" but honestly every time I look at shoe store windows here in Italy I'm overwhelmed by the minds that could dream up footwear like this!  And I'm not just talking about the high fashion centres in Milano or Roma - these photos are from stores in Marsala, Trapani and Argrigento in Sicilia.  Not exactly the captials of the haute souliers. 

Perhaps even more remarkable than the footwear is the way that many of the women here are able to navigate cobblestoned streets and dodge careening motorinos while tottering along in them.  And still keep their poise as the runway models that they all know they were meant to be.

And you know its odd before I came here I don't ever recall looking closely at women's shoes. I've certainly never wanted to wear them - I mean I don't have the ankles or the calves for them and drag has never really been my thing. But damn you have to admire a country that can produce engineers to create footwear like this and more importantly the women who can figure out how to wear them.

14 maggio - San Mattia apostolo

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Canadjan! Eh?

I needed toothpaste today and was feeling patriotic.

The nice lady in the shop couldn't believe that I was a Canadian and had never heard of this dental cream. Why according to her that's why the Mounties have those white, bright smiles!

There's always something new to learn about my homeland.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Homeless

There seemed to be a certain unsettling theme to this past Sunday in Palermo:  the Homeless. It was not an intentional theme - the day was bright and sunny, a bit cool in the shade but pleasant; people were out enjoying themselves, window shopping, strolling, going to mass then to lunch. We were amongst the people enjoying the day - nothing really planned other than Sunday lunch then later in the afternoon an opera at the magnificent, if sadly neglected, Teatro Massimo.  But the image of the homeless raised its head twice during the day.

The Greek Passion is an opera I had heard of but never seen and to be honest other than one symphony (the 4th) I heard last year in London at the urging of my friend David of I'll Think of Something Later I was not familiar with much of Bohuslav Martinů's work. When he heard I was going to see Greek Passion David told me I was in for something special - and as always he was right. It was one of the most emotional performances I have attended in a long while.  The orchestral and choral writing are superb, the performances was moving and totally committed and the staging, with a few caveats, exceptional.  And the emotional impact was overwhelming.  I am quite ready to admit I was on the verge of tears several times during the performance.

Based on Nikos Kazantzakis' Christ Recrucified it tells of the impact that the ritual of a traditional Passion Play and  the arrival of a group of refugees fleeing ethnic persecution have on the life of a small Greek village.  The arrival of these homeless people, though fellow Greeks, brings a less than welcoming response from the priest and leaders of the village but a compassionate response from the people chosen to represent Christ and his followers in the play.  Sadly once again the chief priests and pharisees triumph and the refugees are finally driven away - homeless once again. 

But that image of the homeless had appeared earlier in the day as we were strolling through the garden of Piazza Castelnuovo.  There in a bronze grouping by the Sicilian sculptor Pasqualle Civeletti were the homeless of another time and another place.  Italy of the 19th century - the streets of Palermo or perhaps Napoli or even one of the prosperous northern cities.  The figures of two lost boys sit in the middle of the terrace of the garden mostly ignored by passers by and badly scarred by graffiti.  They carry the simple title I Senza Tetto - the Homeless.

I Senza Tetto (The Homeless)  by Pasqualle Civeletti in the garden of the Piazza Castelnuovo has as powerful a message today as it did when he created it.
It took some time to find out anything about this piece - because of the graffiti I had trouble from my photo making out the signature of the artist. When I finally did what little information there was in English centered on the statue of Verdi that Civeletti and his older brother Benedetto cast for the City of New York in 1906 and little else.  An Italian search revealed a bit more: he was born in Palermo in 1858 and died there in 1952 - one can only imagine the changes he saw in his 96 years.  Though his brother was considered the major talent in the family Pasquale created many of the statues that are seen throughout the city of Palermo. The first mention I found of I Senzatetto indicates it was created in 1895 for a exhibition in Torino but the indication on the piece itself says clearly "fece 1904" - made in 1904. It is quite possible this is a copy - not an infrequent case with many bronzes. But why is it there? Who commissioned it? What is the story behind it? None of that appears to be recorded.

But what is recorded is the cold, the weariness, the hunger and the hopelessness of the two young boys. Barefoot, poorly clad, exhausted, hunched over, old before their time, their desperate state apparent even when viewed from behind - it is a powerful statement of what was seen on the streets of many countries at the time and sadly can still be seen in our own times. 

It was difficult to make out Civiletti's signature with all the graffiti that has disfigured it over the years.  A sad state for what is, to my mind at least, a work that deserves to be better seen and thought upon.
I would be fascinated to find out what inspired Civeletti to create the piece - a commission? a social conscience? or just an exercise in his art?  And I also wonder why it has been allowed to reach the state that it is in today - neglected except by pranksters and  love sick swains bent on expressing their love for Angelica.  What ever Civeletti's purpose the message is one that deserves to be better seen and better cared for. 

10 maggio - Santi Alfio, Cirino e Filadelfo

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Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Mercoledi Musicale

Its been awhile since I created a Mercoledi Muscicale, which was at one point a weekly post and its been a long while since I've posted anything on the operas or concerts that I've seen in the past few months. Its not that music hasn't been happening or is no longer a part of my life. It is very much - concerts, operas and various goings-on around Rome and Italy are all part of daily life for me here. Music took us as far away as Salzburg and Vienna this year and will be part of our upcoming holiday in Sicily. Its just that for some reason, which I'm sure my therapist could eventually ferret out, I haven't been moved to share many of those experiences or a piece that I've discovered and enjoyed.

While I was in Siena this weekend I wandered into the Palazzo Chigi Saracini, once the home of one of the most powerful families in Italy it now is the centre of the Accademia Musicale Chigiana, founded by the remarkable Guido Chigi Saracini. In their bookstore I found an album by one of my favourite groups Accordone. I wrote about two of their concerts at the Salzburg Whitsun Festival in 2008 and 2009. I have most of their CDs but Fra Diavolo was one that I was pretty certain wasn't in my collection as it was only recorded late in 2009. It turns out that is an expanded version of their Via Toledo programme which I had heard and bought that first year.  However there are enough new items in it to make it a worthy addition to their catalogue.

But it also reminded me of that magic moment back in 2009 when Marco Beasley and Elisabetta de Mircovich filled the stilled space of the Mozarteum Grand Hall with the lovely melody of La Bella Noeva,  a traditional serenata from the Liguria region of Northern Italy.  I was able to find a version of it from a concert in Brussels in 2006 with Beasley, de Mircovich, Claudia Caffagni and Helicon.  It allowed me to relive one of the more magical moments of my music going in the past four years.

I thought I'd share it with you.

04 maggio - San Ciriaco di Gerusalemme
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Monday, May 02, 2011

Governmental Allegories

Between 1338 and 1340 at the request of the leaders of the Republic of Siena the great Sienese artist Ambrogio Lorenzetti painted frescoes in the Sala dei Nove (Salon of the Nine) of the Palazzo Pubblico. The "Nine" was the oligarchical assembly of guild and monetary interests that governed the republic under the leadership of the Podestà or chief-magistrate.  Though the Palazzo chapel was adorned with frescoes of a religious nature the other rooms were unique in that the "Nine" commissioned frescoes of a secular nature - reflecting the commune of Siena - its successes and its aspirations.

The Sala dei Nove or Sala della Pace holds the most famous of these works: Allegoria ed Effetti del Buono e Cattivo Governo (The Allegory and Effects of  Good and Bad Government).   Given what is happening today in Canada it was with a certain sense of irony that I found myself taking in these great pieces of Medieval works of art over the weekend.  Today is Election Day in Canada, a fact that has been understandable overshadowed by larger events in the world; today Canadians go to the polls for the third time in five years.  And for the past few weeks they have been listening to politicians mouth promises, threats and policies of government - perhaps good perhaps bad.

Voter turnout in the past two elections has shown a marked disinterest in the process of election in Canada - in fact sadly there is more interest shown in the United States elections than our own and events of the past few years have shown that as a people we are largely ignorant of our own process.  Perhaps it would be fitting for a modern artist to take a cue from Lorenzetti and give us a work of art showing the effects of good and bad government on our country.

The Allegory of Good Government - a left click will enlarge the photo.
In the central fresco Lorenzetti portrays the Allegory of Good Government: Justice in government dominates both as an allegorical and a civic figure.  On the right the allegorical Justice - unusually for the period shown as a woman -  is guided by Wisdom and meats out punishment and rewards.  At her feet sits Virtue passing on to recognizable Sianese citizens of the period (1338-40)  the attributes of her calling.  And these good worthies look towards a Judge who has surrounded himself with Peace, Faith, Charity, Prudence, Temperance and Fortitude.  Though secular in nature the figures have an almost ecclesiastical appearance and in other contexts could be mistaken for Mary, Queen of Heaven and Christ as Judge at the Final Judgment reminding us that the link between the government and the church was a symbiotic one in many ways.

The Effects of Good Government in the City - again a left click will enlarge the picture.
On the right hand wall the Effects of Good Government are pictured. First its effects in the city itself. It is a cityscape that is definitely Siena with the Duomo in the background. It is a well ordered place with buildings tastefully adorned with mullioned windows, ornamented gables, terraces alive with plants and paved streets. The citizens pursue their crafts and trades - cobblers, stone masons and teachers; the arts are not forgotten as a group dances to the sounds of instruments. And farmers come into the city to share the produce of their labours within the stout and well-fortified walls. It is the Utopia that only the wisdom and justice of good government could bring.

The Effects of Good Government in the Countryside - again that left click will do the trick.
And the effects of good government are seen to spread beyond the city walls into the countryside.  Lorenzetti was more concerned with showing the prosperity and security of the country than in accuracy so plowing, sowing, harvesting and reaping are all pictured simultaneously.  The landscape is orderly and fertile and people are pursuing their activities in an atmosphere of peace and well being.  Farmers take their produce into town - hogs, wheat, eggs as local burghers make their way into the countryside.  On the edge of the carriageway there is a beggar, an indication of the social stratification that still existed under the "Government of the Nine":  Good Government did not mean that social inequalities were levelled but that each layer of society would have its place and live and work in peace and safety. 

The Effects of Bad Government - left click once again.
Sadly the fresco on the left wall, the dire warning to the Effects of Bad Government,  has been significantly damaged and much of the painter's intent can only be guessed at.  Bad Government is pictured as Tyranny - a squinty-eyed monster with fangs, horns, demonic hair and clawed feet with a black goat grovelling before him. Hovering over this monster are Greed, Pride and Vanity in direct contrast to the Virtues of Good Government.  Arranged on either side of this tyrannical ruler  we see other Vices - Cruelty, Betrayal, Fraud, Falsehood, Anger, Discord and War - the antithesis of everything the other frescoes assure us are the marks of Good Government. Much of the Effects of Bad Government has disappeared but there is no doubt that the citizens are suffering with Justice now a bound and humiliated figure. Corpses lie in the streets and violence erupts in a city that has decayed and declined from its once glorious state.

These 700 year old frescoes can simply be thought of as political propaganda of their age - an effort by the "Nine" to assure the Sienese that what they were being offered by their governors was the way to prosperity and a good life; a bit like the campaign promises that have been peppered on the Canadian voters from all sides in the past few weeks.

Or it could be seen as a timeless warning to politicians everywhere - or perhaps given what I've seen in the past few years in Canada a timely message to my country's elected parliament?  Sadly it would appear that it is a lesson too many politicians, regardless of party or ideology,  have yet to learn.  Perhaps they should have been forced to look at and come to terms with Lorenzetti's powerful statement of what we expect, but so seldom, get from our elected parliament. 

02 maggio - Sant'Atanasio di Alessandria

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