26 February 2023

26 February

Napoleon escapes from Elba

Emperor leaves idyllic island to face his Waterloo

French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte escaped from the Italian island of Elba, where he had been living in exile, on this day in 1815.  Less than a year before he had arrived in Elba, an island dotted with attractive hills and scenic bays, following his unconditional abdication from the throne of France.  Several countries had formed an alliance to fight Napoleon’s army and had chosen to send him to live in exile on the small Mediterranean island about 10km (6 miles) off the Tuscan coast.  They gave Napoleon sovereignty over the island and he was allowed to keep a small personal army to guard him. He soon set about developing the iron mines and brought in modern agricultural methods to improve the quality of life of the islanders.  But he began to be worried about being banished still further from France. He had heard through his supporters that the French Government were beginning to question having to pay him an annual salary.  He had also been told that many European ministers felt Elba was too close to France for comfort.  Napoleon also missed his wife, Marie-Louise, who he believed his captors were preventing from joining him.  Read more…


Dante Ferretti – set designer

Three-times Oscar winner worked with Fellini and Scorsese

Dante Ferretti, who in more than half a century in movie production design has been nominated for 10 Academy Awards and won three, was born on this day in 1943 in the city of Macerata, in the Marche region of central Italy.  Ferretti, who works in partnership with his wife, the set decorator Francesca Lo Schiavo, won two of his Oscars for films directed by Martin Scorsese, with whom he has enjoyed a collaboration that began 25 years ago this year.  Nominated for his first film with Scorsese, The Age of Innocence (1993) and subsequently for Kundun (1998) and Gangs of New York (2003), he was successful with The Aviator (2005) and Hugo Cabret (2012).  Both Oscars, for Best Scenography, were shared with Lo Schiavo, with whom he also shared an Oscar for Tim Burton’s 2008 film Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.  Ferretti also enjoyed long collaborations with Federico Fellini and Pier Paolo Pasolini, and worked with a string of other major directors, including Elio Petri, Ettore Scola, Franco Zeffirelli, Jean-Jacques Annaud, Terry Gilliam, Anthony Minghella, Brian de Palma, Julie Taymor and Kenneth Branagh.  Read more…


Angelo Mangiarotti - architect and designer

Iconic glass church among legacy to city of Milan 

Angelo Mangiarotti, regarded by his peers as one of the greats of modern Italian architecture and design, was born on this day in 1921 in Milan.  Many notable examples of his work in urban design can be found in his home city, including the Repubblica and Venezia underground stations, the iconic glass church of Nostra Signora della Misericordia in the Baranzate suburb and several unique residential properties, including the distinctive Casa a tre cilindri - composed of a trio of cylindrical blocks - in Via Gavirate in the San Siro district of the city.  He also worked extensively in furniture design with major companies such as Vistosi, Fontana Arte, Danese, Artemide, Skipper and the kitchen producer Snaidero.  Mangiarotti graduated from the Architecture School of the Politecnico di Milano in 1948. He moved to the United States in 1953 and worked in Chicago as a visiting professor for the Illinois Institute of Technology. While in Illinois, he met internationally renowned architects Frank Lloyd Wright, Walter Gropius, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Konrad Wachsmann, all of whom were substantial influences.  Read more…


Emanuele Severino - philosopher

Thinker famous for theories on eternity and being

The contemporary philosopher Emanuele Severino, who died in January 2020, was born on this day in 1929 in Brescia, in northern Italy.  Severino is regarded by many as one of Italy’s greatest thinkers of the modern era, yet came into conflict with the Catholic Church, so much that the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, the body that once stood in judgment of those it deemed as heretics, banished him from the Church in 1969 on the basis that his beliefs were not compatible with Christianity.  The basis for their action was his belief in “the eternity of all being”, which essentially denies the existence of God as a creator.  Severino believed that the ancient Greek theory of all things coming from nothing and returning to nothing after being granted temporary existence was flawed, and that the Greek sense of becoming was an error. He contended that the idea that an entity can move from ‘being’ to ‘non-being’ and vice-versa was absurd.  He argued that everything is eternal, not only all people and all things, but every moment of life, every feeling, every aspect of reality, and that nothing becomes or ceases to be.  Read more…


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