The moon in fact and fiction

As the 50th anniversary of men first setting foot on the moon is observed across the world, it is only right that this blog highlights some of the European moon-related items in our collections.

First is Sidereus nuncius by Galileo, dating from 1610. This groundbreaking work was the first publication to be based on observations using what was then a new instrument, the telescope. Indeed, Galileo had built his own telescope and what it revealed to him was an irregular surface. His descriptions of what he saw and his comparisons with Earth challenged the then standard belief, dating back to Aristotle, that the moon was smooth: Continue reading

Remo Giatti’s prints in the Cambridge Diane française, “Musée de Poche” collection

Giatti’s original print for Le livre et sa matière (2018)

In an earlier blog post, I talked about the artist books donation of the Diane française publisher “Musée de Poche” collection to Cambridge University Library. One of the works I discovered in this series is that of Remo Giatti, an artist form Northern Italy who uses a variety of techniques (engraving, lithography, drawing and collage…), and whose prints often include elements in “relief”. His work featured on the cover of the catalogue (F201.a.4.1), accompanied in the numbered Cambridge copy by an original print. Giatti also contributed to four “Musée de Poche” books (three of them are double volumes containing up to eight prints).

Le plus beau poème du monde est un poème d’amour (2014) by the Italian poet Arturo Schwarz, translated into French by Raphael Monticelli and inspired by Lucretius is a tribute to the beloved woman and her body through the elements. In this context, Giatti’s first and last prints evoke the stains of biological elements enlarged through a microscope, and the cracks forming on an arid soil in shades of grey. In the central double print, a grey shape with lines, strokes and cracks, pops up dramatically towards the viewer. It is set on top of another print which acts as a colourful brown and green background for the other one, reusing patterns of bubbles, stains and lines, and creating a strange effect of alignment and perspective from the top to the bottom print. Continue reading

Sorolla, Spanish master of light

The exhibition Sorolla: Spanish master of light (S950.a.201.6770) that inspired this post is coming to an end at the National Gallery (London) on 7 July, but will open at the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin between 10 August and 3 November.

1_1113px-Joaquín_Sorolla_y_Bastida_-_Self_Portrait_-_Google_Art_Project

Self-portrait, 1904 (partial view. Via Wikimedia, click to see enlarged)

Although probably not known to the English-speaking educated public, Sorolla was the most internationally well-known Spanish artist of his time. A painter with a style close to impressionism, and without any doubt, a master at capturing light.

Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida (1863-1923) was born in Valencia, the son of a tradesman, but became an orphan at a young age. Joaquín and his sister were taken under the care of their aunt and uncle, who was a locksmith. Sorolla showed an early interest in painting. He started taking drawing classes in 1874, later followed by studies at the Fine arts school in Valencia. With the support of the photographer Antonio García Peris (see S950.c.201.1204), his future father-in-law, he was able to set up his first studio. Continue reading

Polish archaeologists and Palmyra : the June 2019 Slavonic item of the month

The book’s cover, showing a digital reconstruction of the temple of Allat

In early 2016, a few months after the destruction of much of Palmyra, our former colleague Josh (now at UC Irvine) wrote about Palmyra and Henri Seyrig. A new arrival, unpacked this week and purchased at the request of a researcher in the Classics department, is a good reminder of the Polish contribution to Palmyra research.

The requested book, Palmyra by Michał Gawlikowski, was written in 2010.  It is only 131 pages long and well illustrated and provides a general introduction (in Polish) to what was then still a well-maintained site of great importance.  The book starts with a history of Polish involvement in the site, dating back to 1959 when Kazimierz Michałowski, the founder and head of the Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology, set up an archaeological team there.  The Polish team at Palmyra was later led by Gawlikowski, from 1973, and suspended with the beginning of the Syrian civil war in 2011.  Palmyra ends with a bibliography, with many entries for Michałowski and Gawlikowski; some of those by the latter were co-written with Khaled al-Asaad, once chief archaeologist of Palmyra, who would be murdered by ISIS in 2015. Continue reading

Franco Zeffirelli (1923-2019)

We were sad to hear of the recent death of Franco Zeffirelli, one of the best known Italian directors and producers of film and opera of the 20th century. Hugely influential and iconic, he stood at the heart of Italian film for decades.

Born Gian Franco Corsi Zeffirelli, he was the illegitimate child of a fashion designer and Florentine wool and silk merchant. After the death of his mother when he was six, he was brought up by the English expatriate community in Florence, who took him under their wing – this part of his story was immortalised in his semi-autobiographical film Tea with Mussolini, set in the pre-war Florence of the “scorpioni” (the English community there, represented by the inspirational Maggie Smith, Judi Dench and Joan Plowright) and in the Tuscany of the war years as war took hold. He enrolled to study art at the University of Florence, and when war broke out he joined the partisans, later acting as translator to the occupying British forces. After the war he turned towards the theatre, inspired by seeing Laurence Olivier in Henry V, and it was whilst working as a scenic painter that he met Luchino Visconti who was to have a profound influence on him. He worked in London and New York, designing and directing plays, and then turned to film, directing Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in The Taming of the Shrew. In 1968 he directed Romeo and Juliet – hugely popular and a massive box-office hit. From Shakespeare he moved on to other themes, directing such films as Brother Sun, Sister Moon, about St Francis of Assisi and St Clare, and the mini-series Jesus of Nazareth. Continue reading