Showing posts with label Piazza del Popolo. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Piazza del Popolo. Show all posts

23 February 2020

Corrado Cagli - painter

Jewish artist who fought in World War II as a US soldier

Corrado Cagli, pictured in his studio in Rome in around 1969
Corrado Cagli, pictured in his studio in Rome
in around 1969
The painter Corrado Cagli, one of the outstanding figures in the New Roman school that emerged in the early part of the 20th century, was born in Ancona on this day in 1910. 

He moved with his family to Rome in 1915 at the age of five and by the age of 17 had created his first significant work, a mural painted on a building in Via Sistina, the street that links Piazza Barberini with the Spanish Steps in the historic centre of the city.

The following year he painted another mural inside a palazzo on the Via del Vantaggio, not far from Piazza del Popolo.  In 1932, he held his first personal exhibition at Rome’s Galleria d’Arte Moderna.

At this stage, despite being both Jewish and gay, Cagli had the support of the Fascist government, who commissioned him and others to produce mosaics and murals for public buildings.

Although he would go on to experiment in neo-Cubist style and metaphysical styles, the aim of the Scuola Romana he sought to establish with fellow artists such as Giuseppe Capogrossi and Emanuele Cavalli was to reaffirm the principles of classical and Renaissance art.

However, in 1938, when the Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini stepped up his persecution of Jews and other minorities, Cagli sought refuge in Paris and later fled to New York.

A detail from Cagli's 1936 painting, The Battle of San Martino, the final battle of the Second Italian War of Independence
A detail from Cagli's 1936 painting, The Battle of San Martino,
the final battle of the Second Italian War of Independence
Not knowing when or if he might return to Italy, Cagli became an American  citizen, even enlisting in the US Army. He went back to Europe as a soldier, taking part in the 1944 Normandy landings and seeing frontline combat fought in Belgium and Germany.

In fact, in an episode in his tour of duty that would have a profound effect on his life, he was part of a battalion that liberated Jewish prisoners from the Buchenwald concentration camp, near Weimar, in 1945. While he was there, Cagli made a series of dramatic drawings.

In 1948, Cagli finally returned to Rome to take up permanent residence again. At that time, he began to experiment in various abstract and non-figurative techniques, including metaphysical and neo-Cubist.

The recipient in 1946 of a Guggenheim award, in 1954 he was recognised with a Marzotto award, made by the Marzotto fashion company in Valdagno, in the Veneto between 1951 and 1968 to artists and thinkers who contributed to the cultural rebirth of Italy after the war.

In later life, he was the official banner painter for the Palio di Siena, the twice-yearly horse race around Siena’s Piazza del Campo, for which he had a particular fascination.

Corrado’s younger sister, Ebe, was a writer who also moved to the United States to escape Mussolini’s race laws.  She married an academic, Abraham Seidenberg, and did not return to Italy.

Cagli died in Rome in 1976.

Ancona's Cathedral of San Ciriaco, which occupies an elevated position on the site of a former acropolis
Ancona's Cathedral of San Ciriaco, which occupies an
elevated position on the site of a former acropolis
Travel tip:

Ancona, where Cagli lived until he was five years old, is a bustling port with a population of almost 102,000, situated on the Adriatic coast in the Marche region. Although the area around the port has an industrial feel, there are some notable beaches nearby of which the Passetto is the best known.  There is a good deal of history in the older part of the city,  some of it bearing witness to its Greek and Roman past, as well as the Cathedral of San Ciriaco, which has mixed Romanesque-Byzantine and Gothic elements, and stands on a hill on the site of the former acropolis of the Greek city.  The 18m-high Arch of Trajan, built in honour of the emperor who built the city’s harbour, is regarded as one of the finest Roman monuments in the Marche region. The harbour contains the Lazzaretto, a pentagonal building constructed on an artificial island in the 18th century as a quarantine station designed to protect the city from diseases carried by infected travellers.

Find accommodation in Ancona with

Siena's beautiful Piazza del Campo, where the Palio di Siena horse race is staged on tow dates every summer
Siena's beautiful Piazza del Campo, where the Palio di Siena
horse race is staged on tow dates every summer
Travel tip:

The shell-shaped Piazza del Campo, established in the 13th century as an open marketplace on a sloping site between the three communities that eventually merged to form Siena, is regarded as one of Europe's finest medieval squares, looked over by the Palazzo Pubblico and the Torre del Mangia.  The red brick paving, fanning out from the centre in nine sections, was put down in 1349.  The Palio, which features 10 horses, each representing one of Siena's 17 contrade, or wards, ridden bareback by riders wearing the colours of the contrada they represent, was first contested in 1656 and is now staged on July 2 and August 16 each year.

More reading:

28 May 2018

Caravaggio and a death in Campo Marzio

Hot-tempered artist killed man in Rome in row over a woman

Caravaggio was a brilliant painter but had a reputation for violence
Caravaggio was a brilliant painter but had
a reputation for drunken violence
The brilliant late Renaissance artist Caravaggio committed the murder that would cause him to spend the remainder of his life on the run on this day in 1606.

Renowned for his fiery temperament and history of violent acts as well as for the extraordinary qualities of his paintings, Caravaggio is said to have killed Ranuccio Tomassoni, described in some history books as a ‘wealthy scoundrel’, in the Campo Marzio district of central Rome, not far from the Piazza Monte D'Oro.

The incident led to Caravaggio being condemned to death by order of the incumbent pope, Paul V, and then fleeing the city, first to Naples, eventually landing in Malta.

It was thought that the two had a row over a game of tennis, which was gaining popularity in Italy at the time, and that the dispute escalated into a brawl, which was not unusual for Caravaggio. The story was that Tomassoni wounded the painter in some way, at which Caravaggio drew a sword and lashed out at his rival, inflicting a gash in the thigh from which he bled to death.

This was accepted by historians as a plausible story for almost 400 years until evidence emerged to challenge the theory in 2002, when papers unearthed in a search of Vatican and Rome state archives suggested a different explanation.

According to the English art historian Andrew Graham-Dixon, who revealed the findings in a BBC television documentary, Caravaggio killed Tomassoni in a botched attempt to castrate him.

Caravaggio among the narrow crowded streets of the Campo Marzio district
Caravaggio among the narrow crowded
streets of the Campo Marzio district
The evidence had been turned up by Monsignor Sandro Corradini, an Italian art historian with a particular interest in Caravaggio, who found a surgeon’s report written on the day of Tomassoni’s death.

Maurizio Marini, another historian, told Graham-Dixon in the documentary that the surgeon’s report described a fatal wound to Tomassini’s femoral artery and surmised that Caravaggio was probably trying to castrate him.

Such barbaric acts were relatively common in Rome at the time, part of a ‘code of honour’ that dictated that if a man was insulted by another man he would cut his face, but that if a man’s woman was insulted then the man delivering the insult could expect a different part of his anatomy to be under threat.

The woman at the heart of their row was said to be Fillide Melandroni, who had allegedly succumbed to Caravaggio’s charms after he was asked to paint her for an Italian nobleman. It is thought that she was a prostitute and that Tomassino was her pimp.

It is little wonder, after he had been found guilty of murder, that Caravaggio was not keen to hang around. The sentence was beheading. Worse still, from the artist’s point of view, the sentence allowed for any member of the public, on spotting Caravaggio, to carry out the sentence themselves, on the spot.

In the event, Caravaggio escaped, yet died only four years later in mysterious circumstances. Official records said that he fell victim to a fever at Porta Ercole, on the Tuscan coast, but no records exist of a funeral or a burial and it is suspected that he himself may have been murdered, either by relatives of Tomassino or representatives of the ancient order of the Knights of Malta, avenging the maiming of one of their members in another brawl involving the painter, in Malta.

Caravaggio's David with the Head of Goliath. painted shortly before he died in 1610
Caravaggio's David with the Head of Goliath.
painted shortly before he died in 1610
Shortly before he died, while lying low in Naples with the intention of returning to Rome to seek clemency, he completed his David with the Head of Goliath, in which the severed head of the giant bears his own facial features, while David is given an expression of compassion for his victim.

Born Michelangelo Merisi in Milan in 1571, Caravaggio became known by the name of the town, in the province of Bergamo, where his family settled after leaving Milan to escape an outbreak of plague.

His work became famous for his realistic observation of the physical and emotional state of human beings and for his dramatic use of light and shade, known as chiaroscuro, which gave his paintings an almost three-dimensional quality. This was a formative influence for the baroque school of painting.

Some of his major works, such as The Calling of St Matthew, The Crucifixion of St Peter and Deposition, can be found in churches in Rome, but his work is also well represented in the Uffizi gallery in Florence.

The Sanctuary of the Madonna in Caravaggio
The Sanctuary of the Madonna in Caravaggio
Travel tip:

In addition to its connection with the artist, another attraction of the town of Caravaggio is the Sanctuary of the Madonna di Caravaggio, which was built in the 16th century on the spot where the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to a local peasant woman.  The Sanctuary was later rebuilt and completed in the 18th century and is now visited by pilgrims from all over the world.  The town did have a theatre named after Caravaggio that was held in high regard but it was destroyed during the Second World War.

The Piazza del Popolo is among the highlights of Campo Marzio
The Piazza del Popolo is among the highlights of Campo Marzio
Travel tip:

Campo Marzio is Rome’s 4th rione - district - situated in the centre of Rome, comprising an area that includes Piazza di Spagna and the Scalinata di Trinità dei Monti - otherwise known as the Spanish Steps - and Piazza del Popolo, as well as the fashion district with the Via dei Condotti at its centre, overlooked by the Pincian Hill.  During the Middle Ages it was the most densely populated quarter of the city. It is bordered by the Tiber, the Quirinal hill in the north and the Capitoline Hill.

More reading:

The mysterious death of Caravaggio

Also on this day:

1987: The birth of Leandro Jayarajah, former member of the Italy national cricket team

1999: Da Vinci's The Last Supper goes back on display after 20-year restoration


23 June 2017

Claudio Capone – actor and dubber

The Italian voice of a host of stars

The dubbing professional Claudio Capone  was the Italian voice of many stars
The dubbing professional Claudio Capone
 was the Italian voice of many stars 
Italy lost one of its most famous voices on this day in 2008 with the premature death of Claudio Capone.

The Rome-born actor was working in Scotland when he suffered a stroke. He was admitted to hospital in Perth but despite the best efforts of doctors he died two days later, at the age of only 55.

Although he began his career with the ambitions of any actor to reach the top of his profession, he was offered an opportunity only a few years out of drama school to do some voice-over work and found the flow of work in dubbing to be so consistent he ultimately made it his career.

Unlike some countries, Italian cinema and TV audiences have always preferred to watch imported films and TV shows with dubbed Italian voices rather than subtitles, which meant that a talented dubbing actor was seldom unemployed.

Capone was among the best and it was down to him that many foreign stars became famous in Italy, even though many did not speak a word of Italian.

The biggest example of this was the American actor Ronn Moss, who played the part of fashion magnate Ridge Forrester in the CBS soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful.

Moss, who had enjoyed a successful pop career as a member of a band he formed with friends in Los Angeles, called Player, was by no means an outstanding actor but when in 1990 the Italian station Rai bought the rights to The Bold and the Beautiful, which they repackaged as simply Beautiful, his fame took off – in Italy, at any rate.

The American actor Ronn Moss owed his fame in Italy at least in part to Claudio Capone
The American actor Ronn Moss owed his fame
in Italy at least in part to Claudio Capone
He became a favourite with Italian TV audiences, although his appeal owed as much to Capone as his own good looks or acting ability.

Capone gave him a deep, husky voice that female viewers found irresistible. The show quickly built a following, and when it was bought by Silvio Berlusconi’s Fininvest in 1994 and broadcast on Canale 5, Capone continued in the role.

Moss became a star in Italy, yet when he was a celebrity dancer in the 2010 series of Ballando con le Stelle – the Italian equivalent of America’s Dancing with the Stars and the UK show Strictly Come Dancing – audiences were shocked that his own Italian was so limited he needed the show’s host, Milly Carlucci, to interpret for him.

There was much more to Capone’s career than simply being the voice of Ronn Moss, although he also dubbed his part in an Italian-made Romantic comedy, Christmas in Love, in which Moss appeared as himself.

Indeed, his movie credits read like a cinema who’s who, such was his versatility and ability to tailor his voice for an extraordinary range of diverse parts.

He was the voice of Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, of Brad Davis as Billy Hayes in Midnight Express, of Stephen Fry as Oscar Wilde in Wilde, of Steve Guttenberg as Carey Mahoney in the Police Academy series and of Martin Sheen as Carruthers Kit in Badlands.

Claudio Capone at work behind a microphone
Claudio Capone at work behind a microphone
Others for whom he was the Italian voice – and this list is by no means comprehensive – included John Travolta, Alan Alda, Richard Dreyfuss, Christopher Walken, Chuck Norris, Michael Douglas, Jeff Bridges, Kyle MacLachlan, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Ralph Fiennes, Willem Dafoe and Michael York.

On the small screen, he dubbed for Don Johnson in Miami Vice and Michael Newman in Baywatch, and – again showing his versatility – for John Nettles as an English detective in Midsomer Murders (shown in Italy as Inspector Barnaby), a sitcom doctor played by Alexander Armstrong in TLC and the English vet in Africa (Stephen Tompkinson) in Wild at Heart, shown as Cuore D’Africa.

In addition to his film and TV drama roles, Capone’s other outstanding success was as the Italian voice of documentaries on the Discovery Channel, and as the narrator of the hit Italian science programme Quark.

He was in Scotland to narrate a documentary programme when he was taken ill.  The older of his two sons, David, also became a voiceover specialist.

Rome's Piazza del Popolo
Rome's Piazza del Popolo
Travel tip:

Claudio Capone’s funeral in Rome attracted many of his fans to pay their respects, with hundreds gathering as his coffin was carried through Piazza del Popolo.  The name of the large square at one end of the Via del Corso, the long, straight thoroughfare stretching north from Piazza Venezia, is often taken to mean the square “of the people”. In fact, many people believe Popolo derives from the Latin populus – poplar – after the trees from which the church of Santa Maria del Popolo is named.

The church of Santa Maria del Popolo
The church of Santa Maria del Popolo
Travel tip:

The Basilica Parrocchiale Santa Maria del Popolo, which can be found on the north side of Piazza del Popolo, is a minor, parish basilica yet contains works by several famous artists, including Raphael, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Caravaggio and Donato Bramante.  There is a tradition of appointing Catholic ministers from around the world as Cardinal Priest of the church. In fact, there has not been an Italian appointment since 1886. The last six Cardinal Priests have included two Spaniards, an American, a Canadian, a Senegalese and the present incumbent, a Pole.