8 July 2022

8 July

Ernest Hemingway – American novelist

War wounds sustained in Italy inspire the great American novel

An 18-year-old American Red Cross driver named Ernest Hemingway was severely wounded by shrapnel from an Austrian mortar shell on this day in 1918 at Fossalta di Piave in the Veneto.  Hemingway was taken to a field hospital in Treviso, from where he was transferred by train to a hospital in Milan. While in the hospital and recovering after two operations, he fell in love with his nurse, 26-year-old Agnes von Kurowsky.  His experiences of being wounded in Italy and falling in love later inspired him to write the novel, A Farewell to Arms.  On leaving school Hemingway had worked briefly as a reporter for The Kansas City Star before leaving for the Italian front in World War One to enlist as an ambulance driver.  While stationed at Fossalta di Piave he was bringing chocolates and cigarettes to the men on the front line when he was seriously injured by mortar fire. Despite his own wounds, Hemingway assisted some Italian soldiers to safety, for which he later received the Italian Silver Medal of Bravery.  After his release from hospital, he returned to the United States in January 1919. He and Agnes had agreed to get married in America, but two months later she wrote to say she had become engaged to an Italian army officer.  Read more…


Artemisia Gentileschi – painter

Brilliant artist who survived torture by thumbscrews 

Artemisia Gentileschi, who followed in the footsteps of the Baroque painter Caravaggio by painting biblical scenes with dramatic realism, was born on this day in 1593 in Rome.  As a young woman she was raped by an artist friend of her father who had been entrusted with teaching her, and when he was brought to trial by her father she was forced to give evidence under torture.  This event shaped her life and she poured out her horrific experiences into brutal paintings, such as her two versions of Judith Slaying Holofernes.  Gentileschi was notable for pictures of strong and suffering women from myths, allegories, and the Bible. Some of her best known themes are Susanna and the Elders, Judith Slaying Holofernes, the most famous of which, painted between 1614 and 1620, is in the Uffizi in Florence, and Judith and Her Maidservant.   She had an ability to produce convincing depictions of the female figure, anywhere between nude and fully clothed, that few male painters could match.  It was many years before Gentileschi’s genius was fully appreciated, but a newly discovered self portrait depicting herself as St Catherine of Siena was bought by the National Gallery in London for £3.6 million, a record amount for her work.  Read more…


Death of the poet Shelley

Dramatic storm took the life of young literary talent

English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley died on this day in 1822 while travelling from Livorno in Tuscany to Lerici in Liguria in his sailing boat, the Don Juan.  Just a month before his 30th birthday, the brilliant poet of the Romantic era drowned during a sudden, dramatic storm in the Gulf of La Spezia that caused his boat to sink.  His body was later washed ashore and, in keeping with the quarantine regulations at the time, was cremated on the beach near Viareggio on the Tuscan coast.  Shelley had been living with his wife, the writer Mary Shelley, at a rented villa in Lerici and was returning to his home from Livorno, where he had been arranging the start up of a new literary magazine to be called The Liberal.  He had set sail with two other people on board the Don Juan at about noon on Monday 8 July.  His companions were a retired naval officer, Edward Ellerker Williams, and a boatboy, Charles Vivien. Both also perished.  A friend had watched Shelley’s departure until he was about ten miles out of the harbour and then there had been a storm and he had lost sight of the boat.  Three days later one of Shelley’s friends was informed that a water keg and some bottles from the boat had been washed up on a beach near Viareggio.  Read more…


Gian Giorgio Trissino – dramatist and poet

Innovative playwright spotted the potential of Palladio

Literary theorist, philologist, dramatist and poet Gian Giorgio Trissino was born on this day in 1478 in Vicenza.  As well as his contribution to Italian culture, Trissino is remembered for educating and helping Andrea di Pietro della Gondola, a young mason he discovered working on his villa in Cricoli, just outside Vicenza.  He took the young man on two visits to Rome that profoundly influenced his development into a great architect and he gave him the name Palladio, after the Greek goddess of wisdom, Pallas Athene.  Trissino had been born into a wealthy family and was able to travel widely, studying Greek in Milan and philosophy in Ferrara. He was part of Niccolò Machiavelli’s literary circle in Florence before he settled in Rome, where he associated with the humanist and poet, Pietro Bembo. He became a close friend of the dramatist, Giovanni Rucella, and served Popes Leo X and Clement VII.  Trissino’s most important dramatic work was the blank verse tragedy Sofonisba, published in 1524 and first performed in 1562.  The play was based on a story about the Carthaginian wars by the Roman historian Livy. It employed the dramatic techniques of Sophocles and Euripides.  Read more…


No comments:

Post a Comment