17 October 2023

17 October

NEW - Cristofano Allori – artist 

Mannerist painter’s masterpiece was inspired by his mistress 

The artist Cristofano Allori, who is particularly remembered for his 1613 painting of Judith with the Head of Holofernes, which is now in the British Royal Collection, was born on this day in 1577 in Florence. Allori was a painter of the late Florentine Mannerist school who specialised in portraits and religious subjects. He is well regarded by experts because of the delicacy and technical perfection of his work. His skill was demonstrated by some copies he made of Correggio’s works, which for a time were thought to be duplicates that had been painted by Correggio himself. The artist was extremely fastidious about his work, which limited the number of paintings he executed, but there are still fine examples of his art to be seen in Florence. He received his first lessons in painting from his father, Alessandro Allori, who had many distinguished pupils, including the painter known as Cigoli, whose real name was Lodovico Cardi. Cristofano became dissatisfied with the anatomical drawing and use of colour that distinguished the work of his father and went into the studio of Gregorio Pagani, who was one of the leading artists of the late Florentine school. Read more…


Bartolommeo Bandinelli - Renaissance sculptor

Career scarred by petty jealousies

The sculptor Bartolommeo Bandinelli, a contemporary and rival of Michelangelo and Benvenuto Cellini in Renaissance Italy, was born on this day in 1473 in Florence.  He left his mark on Florence in the shape of the monumental statue of Hercules and Cacus in the Piazza della Signoria and his statues of Adam and Eve, originally created for the Duomo but today housed in the Museo Nazionale del Bargello.  Also known as Baccio Bandinelli and Bartolommeo Brandini, he was skilled in small sculptures but became known and disliked for his antagonistic manner with other artists and his particular hatred of Michelangelo, of whom he was bitterly jealous.  Giorgio Vasari, the artist and sculptor who was the first to compile a written history of art and artists, and who was a student in Bandinelli’s workshop, recalled an occasion when Bandinelli was so enraged by the excitement that ensued when a Michelangelo drawing was uncovered in the Palazzo Vecchio that, as soon as an opportunity arose, he tore it up.  Where Michelangelo was revered for everything he did, Bandinelli’s critics said he lacked the skills required to tackle large sculptures.  Read more…


The founding of Atalanta football club

Bergamo institution started by students of local high school

The football club now known as Atalanta Bergamasca Calcio - generally referred to as Atalanta - was founded on this day in 1907 in the Lombardy city of Bergamo.  The club was the idea of a group of students from the Liceo Classico Paolo Sarpi, one of the city’s oldest and most prestigious high schools.  They gave it the rather long-winded name of the Società Bergamasca di Ginnastica e Sports Atletici - the Bergamasca Society of Gymnastics and Athletic Sports - to which they attached the name Atalanta after the Greek mythological heroine famed for her running prowess.  For the first seven years of its life, the new club had no home and played friendly matches on whatever open space was available, but in 1914 found a home ground in Via Maglio del Lotto, adjoining the railway line just outside Bergamo station.  The ground had a small grandstand housing 1,000 spectators. It is said that the drivers of trains approaching the station on match days would slow down in order to enjoy a few moments of the action.  Read more…


The end of the Venetian Republic

Peace treaty saw Venice given away to Austria

A peace settlement signed in a small town in north-east Italy on this day in 1797 heralded a dark day for Venice as the Most Serene Republic officially lost its independence after 1,100 years.  The Treaty of Campo Formio, drawn up after the Austrians had sought an armistice when faced with Napoleon Bonaparte's advance on Vienna, included an exchange of territory that saw Napoleon hand Venice to Austria.  It marked the end of the First Coalition of countries allied against the French, although it was a short-lived peace.  A Second Coalition was formed the following year.  The Venetian Republic, still a playground for the rich but in decline for several centuries in terms of real power, had proclaimed itself neutral during the Napoleonic Wars, wary that it could not afford to sustain any kind of conflict.  But Napoleon wanted to acquire the city nonetheless, seeing it as a potential bargaining chip in his empire-building plans and had his eye on its vast art treasures.  In May 1797 he provoked the Venetians into attacking a French ship and used this as an excuse to declare war.  The reaction of the Venetian Grand Council and the last of its Doges, Ludovico Manin, was to vote the Republic out of existence.  Read more…


Giovanni Matteo Mario - operatic tenor

Disgraced nobleman became the toast of London and Paris

The operatic tenor Giovanni Matteo Mario, a Sardinian nobleman who deserted from the army and began singing only to earn a living after fleeing to Paris, was born on this day in 1810 in Cagliari.  He was baptised Giovanni Matteo de Candia, born into an aristocratic family belonging to Savoyard-Sardinian nobility. Some of his relatives were members of the Royal Court of Turin. His father, Don Stefano de Candia of Alghero, held the rank of general in the Royal Sardinian Army and was aide-de-camp to the Savoy king Charles Felix of Sardinia.  He became Giovanni Mario or Mario de Candia only after he had begun his stage career at the age of 28. He was entitled to call himself Cavaliere (Knight), Nobile (Nobleman) and Don (Sir) in accordance with his inherited titles, yet on his first professional contract, he signed himself simply ‘Mario’ out of respect for his father, who considered singing a lowly career.  Although he was one of the most celebrated tenors of the 18th century, Italy never heard Mario sing. Instead, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in London and the Théâtre Italien in Paris witnessed most of his triumphs.  Read more…


Book of the Day: The Oxford History of the Renaissance, edited by Gordon Campbell

The Renaissance is one of the most celebrated periods in European history. But when did it begin? When did it end? And what did it include? Traditionally regarded as a revival of classical art and learning, centred upon 15th-century Italy, views of the Renaissance have changed considerably in recent decades. The glories of Florence and the art of Raphael and Michelangelo remain an important element of the Renaissance story, but they are now only a part of a much wider story which looks beyond an exclusive focus on high culture, beyond the Italian peninsula, and beyond the 15th century.  The Oxford History of the Renaissance tells the cultural history of this broader and longer Renaissance: from seminal figures such as Dante and Giotto in 13th-century Italy, to the waning of Spain's 'golden age' in the 1630s, and the closure of the English theatres in 1642, the date generally taken to mark the end of the English literary Renaissance.  Thematically, under Gordon Campbell's expert editorial guidance, the volume covers the whole gamut of Renaissance civilization, with chapters on humanism and the classical tradition; war and the state; religion; art and architecture; the performing arts; literature; craft and technology; science and medicine; and travel and cultural exchange.

Gordon Campbell is Fellow in Renaissance Studies at the University of Leicester, and is a Fellow of the British Academy. In January 2012 he was presented with the Longman History Today Trustees Award. He has authored and edited many other books for Oxford University Press, including Renaissance Art and Architecture (2004); John Milton: Life, Work and Thought (2008; co-author); Bible: the Story of the King James Version, 1611-2011 (2010); and The Hermit in the Garden: from Imperial Rome to Ornamental Gnome (2013).

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