23 May 2019

23 May

Giuseppe Parini – writer


Satirist avenged bad treatment though his poetry

Poet and satirist Giuseppe Parini was born on this day in 1729 in Bosisio in Lombardy.  A writer associated the Age of Enlightenment in Europe, he is remembered for his series of Horatian odes and for Il giorno - The Day - a satirical poem in four books about the selfishness and superficiality of the aristocracy in Milan.  In 1752 his first volume of verse introduced him to literary circles and in 1754 he was ordained a priest in 1754 - a condition of a legacy made to him by a great aunt - and entered the household of Duke Gabrio Serbelloni at Tremezzo on Lake Como to be tutor to his eldest son.  Parini was unhappy there and felt badly treated, but he twice got his revenge on his employer through his writing. In 1757 he wrote his Dialogo sopra la nobilit√†, a discussion between the corpse of a nobleman and the corpse of a poet about the true nature of nobility. Later, his masterpiece, the satirical poem, Il Giorno, contained ironic instructions to a young nobleman about the best ways to spend his days. Read more...

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Sergio Gonella - football referee


First Italian to referee a World Cup final

Sergio Gonella, the first Italian football referee to take charge of a World Cup final, was born on this day in 1933 in Asti, in Piedmont. Gonella was appointed to officiate in the 1978 final between the Netherlands and the hosts Argentina in Buenos Aires and although he was criticised by many journalists and football historians for what they perceived as a weak performance lacking authority, few matches in the history of the competition can have presented a tougher challenge.  Against a backcloth of political turmoil in a country which had suffered a military coup only two years earlier and where opponents of the regime were routinely kidnapped and tortured, or simply disappeared, the final was played in an atmosphere as intimidating as anything Gonella would have experienced in his whole 13-year professional career.  Read more…

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Ferdinando II de’ Medici – Grand Duke of Tuscany


Technology fan who supported scientist Galileo

Inventor and patron of science Ferdinando II de’ Medici died on this day in 1670 in Florence.  Like his grandmother, the dowager Grand Duchess Christina, Ferdinando II was a loyal friend to Galileo and he welcomed the scientist back to Florence after the prison sentence imposed on him for ‘vehement suspicion of heresy’ was commuted to house arrest.  Ferdinando II was reputed to be obsessed with new technology and had hygrometers, barometers, thermometers and telescopes installed at his home in the Pitti Palace.  He has also been credited with the invention of the sealed glass thermometer in 1654.  Ferdinando II was born in 1610, the eldest son of Cosimo II de’ Medici and Maria Maddalena of Austria.  He became Grand Duke of Tuscany in 1621 when he was just 10 years old after the death of his father.  His mother, Maddalena, and paternal grandmother, Christina, acted as joint regents for him. Christina is said to have been the power behind the throne until her death in 1636.  Read more…

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Girolamo Savonarola executed


Death of the friar who was to inspire best-selling novel by Tom Wolfe

The hellfire preacher Girolamo Savonarola was hanged and burned on this day in 1498 in Piazza della Signoria in Florence.  By sheer force of personality, Savonarola had convinced rich people to burn their worldly goods in spectacular bonfires in Florence during 1497, but within a year it was Savonarola’s burning corpse that the crowds turned out to see.  Savonarola had become famous for his outspoken sermons against vice and corruption in the Catholic Church in Italy and he encouraged wealthy people to burn their valuable goods, paintings and books in what have became known as ‘bonfires of the vanities.’  This phrase inspired Tom Wolfe to write The Bonfire of the Vanities, a novel about ambition and politics in 1980s New York.  Savonarola was born in 1452 in Ferrara. He became a Dominican friar and entered the convent of Saint Mark in Florence in 1482, when he began preaching against corruption and vice. Read more…

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