Naples culture is rich but not always positive.

Naples culture is rich but not always positive.

My Brilliant Friend.
The HBO mini-series that’s getting tons of airspace.
raised it in another post.

Got the book from the library.
HBO closely follows the book.

Reading the book is akin to reading my own biography.
The Italian immigrants who came from that part of the world came from a world of violence and ignorance.
Many were anti-education, “I didn’t go to school. Are you better than me?” A seven-year-old had a hard time answering that without being insulting.
All were driven by a drive to find a job, any job.
Few supported girls need for an education. My sisters, for example, never even mentioned going to college. Disparagement of women’s advances were part and parcel of growing up in the 1950s and 60s North End of Boston, an intensely Italian-American ghetto.

Of course, in America, exposed even to the limited degree we were exposed, to mainstream American society, we began to consider that there might be a better way to live our lives, here, in the new country.
We at least had some chance of breaking the cycle of parochialism, of despair.

But it was difficult.
To separate from family.
From boyhood friends.
And even when we succeeded, when we got an education, we were culturally handicapped.
When I read ‘Winnie the Pooh” to my children, it was the first time I’d ever read those books, they, iconic as a child’s introduction to literature.

This one of the important reasons that I have embraced this blog.
It gives me the opportunity to further my education.
Four years of college, three of law school. and now daily research into a variety of topics.
I am blessed.
 

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Tagging Today
Sunday, December 2, 2018
My 234th consecutive posting.
Time is 12.01am.
Boston’s temperature will reach a high of 51*.
Early morning rain will taper off to cloudy skies.

Dinner is Lobster Fra Diavolo with cousin Lauren.

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Question of the Day:
What about Michelangelos’s first sculpture?

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Love your notes.
Contact me @ domcapossela@hotmail.com

This from Sally:

RE: sneezes: 
Reportedly, the velocity of a sneeze can exceed 100 mph.

I have a friend who broke a rib as a result of violent sneezing. 

In addition to your urging to keep oneself healthy, I'd like to add high-dose Vitamin C (among other beneficial vitamins and minerals), which strengthens our cells' walls to keep infectious bodies from penetration and invasion. 
I can't remember the last time I had a cold - five, six, more-? years ago? 
A hint once in a while, which is discouraged with extra dosages for a few days. 
Zinc also helps Vitamin C to do its job.

To your health, Dom! 
In support of the words of one of your other fans, may you brighten our lives for many years to come!

Sally

Web Meister responds:
I’ve signed on to this blog for 5,000 issues.
At one a day, we’re looking at ten years of me, all I can anticipate.

And thanks for your health tips. Five years cold-free is enviable.
Congratulations.

While the piece justified some criticism, Lorenzo was more than pleased with his fifteen-year-old-protege’s first effort. He gave Michelangelo a sack of gold florins which Michelangelo happily handed over to his grasping, ungrateful father.

While the piece justified some criticism, Lorenzo was more than pleased with his fifteen-year-old-protege’s first effort.
He gave Michelangelo a sack of gold florins which Michelangelo happily handed over to his grasping, ungrateful father.

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Answer to Question:
What about the Madonna of the Stairs?
Note that words with an asterisk, *, are defined after the text.

Lorenzo de' Medici (1 January 1449 – 8 April 1492)[1] was an Italian statesman, de facto ruler of the Florentine Republic and the most powerful and enthusiastic patron of Renaissance culture in Italy. Also known as Lorenzo the Magnificent (Lorenzo il Magnifico) by contemporary Florentines, he was a magnate, diplomat, politician and patron of scholars, artists and poets.  As a patron, he is best known for his sponsorship of artists such as Botticelli and Michelangelo.  He held the balance of power within the Italic League, an alliance of states that stabilized political conditions on the Italian peninsula for decades, and his life coincided with the mature phase of the Italian Renaissance and the Golden Age of Florence. The Peace of Lodi of 1454 that he helped maintain among the various Italian states collapsed with his death.  He is buried in the Medici Chapel in Florence.

Lorenzo de' Medici (1 January 1449 – 8 April 1492)[1] was an Italian statesman, de facto ruler of the Florentine Republic and the most powerful and enthusiastic patron of Renaissance culture in Italy.
Also known as Lorenzo the Magnificent (Lorenzo il Magnifico) by contemporary Florentines, he was a magnate, diplomat, politician and patron of scholars, artists and poets.
As a patron, he is best known for his sponsorship of artists such as Botticelli and Michelangelo.
He held the balance of power within the Italic League, an alliance of states that stabilized political conditions on the Italian peninsula for decades, and his life coincided with the mature phase of the Italian Renaissance and the Golden Age of Florence.
The Peace of Lodi of 1454 that he helped maintain among the various Italian states collapsed with his death.
He is buried in the Medici Chapel in Florence.

As one of his most promising student-sculptors, Lorenzo de Medici brings Michelangelo to live in the de Medici Palace.
Michelangelo and Lorenzo de Medici spend a lot of time together.
Michelangelo and Lorenzo’s daughter, named Contessa, become great friends, the laws of decorum keeping them physically apart.
She often accompanies Michelangelo when he’s copying the great works the de Medici’s have accumulated.
Michelangelo is fifteen years old when he decides to carve his first marble, a low-relief sculpture, and discusses the theme possibilities with Lorenzo.
He tells Lorenzo he wants to do something he knows: the love between a son and his mother.
So he’ll do Mary and her child.

After months of drawing from the master compositions hanging in the Palace, Michelangelo decides to go out to the streets and countryside to draw original material.
Draws any scene showing a moment in motherhood, from nursing to dressing child.
Then he spent time with his fellow student-sculptors visiting the sites in Florence that held works with a Mary theme.
While he copied them, he found flaws he would avoid.

He had yet to decide on the moment in Mary’s life that he’ll use for a theme.
Something brand new.

The Annunciation was a favorite theme.
But Mary was always either surprised or accepting of God’s will.
Michelangelo reasoned that God couldn’t demand that Mary be the Mother of God.
Too much anguish was attached to that honor to lay on anyone without her consent.

But that consent had never been represented before.
At what point would she give her consent?
Michelangelo decided her decision would be at a most tender moment: nursing.

And since this was Mary’s moment, she would dominate the relief.
Which led Michelangelo to a second tradition-shaking decision.
He would carve the baby with his back to the viewer to force focus on Mary.

Then quickly followed decisions to have Mary sitting on a bench, include a very young John the Baptist, and include other children playing nearby.

Now breaking with the mechanics tradition, Michelangelo decided to buy the marble block before  he finished his drawings.
He reasoned that the marble block, with its size limitations and its soul  would help define the piece.

It was his first effort and he took a lot of time and care in finding the block that suited him.
Some of his parameters:

Modest size. The finished plaque would measure 13” x 18”.
Pure white.
Flawless. To this end, he subjected any piece that caught his attention to tests.
He poured water over it to test for cracks.
Struck the ends with a hammer listening for telltale sounds.
Looked closely for bubbles or stains.
And when he found the one, he slept nearby and woke to catch the first rays of the sun as they struck the block.
His chosen block showed as he hoped, translucent, crystals flickering brilliantly on its surface.

Proudly, he carted his first marble block through Florence and into the de Medici garden.
He found a good work place away from the other students.
His most dear friend, Torrigiani, took umbrage at the way Michelangelo pulled away from him.
Torrigiani’s jealousy would soon lead him to seriously break Michelangelo’s nose, leaving him with permanent injury. Torrigiani fled and got away, out of Florence.

Michelangelo kept the block for months without touching it while he created drawings.
Michelangelo reviewed carving techniques with his teacher, Bertholdo di Giovanni: to pick up hammer and chisel at the same time; to close his eyes the moment his hammer struck, to be very careful when carving in low-relief.

He started on the marble and made adjustments while he worked.
Mary is sitting on a bench to the right of the bottom of heavy stone steps, the bottom of the staircase’s balustrade hidden by baby and mother.
Michelangelo felt this might contribute to a feeling of instability. So he opened Mary’s strong right hand to hold it in place.
Symbolically, Michelangelo saw her helping with the cross.

Contessina de' Medici, daughter of Lorenzo "il Magnifico" de' Medici   Her very affectionate father, Lorenzo il Magnifico de' Medici, wrote the following letter to her, when she was 10 years old: "Dear little Contessina, I am writing to tell you that, thank God, I am very well and have been getting better ever since I left.  These regular baths are doing me a lot of good ... Be nice to Alfonsina [the wife of Contessina's eldest brother Piero] and keep her company; tell her from me to take great care of the baby [Cosimo], I hear that Monsignore [Contessina's brother Giovanni] and the other children have gone away.  It is naughty of them to leave you alone, but I shall be back soon and stay with you and they can stay at the villa as long as they like.  Spedaletto, July 31st, 1489." (in: Lacy Collison-Morley: The early Medici. London 1935, pp. 189-190)

Contessina de' Medici, daughter of Lorenzo "il Magnifico" de' Medici

Her very affectionate father, Lorenzo il Magnifico de' Medici, wrote the following letter to her, when she was 10 years old: "Dear little Contessina, I am writing to tell you that, thank God, I am very well and have been getting better ever since I left.
These regular baths are doing me a lot of good ... Be nice to Alfonsina [the wife of Contessina's eldest brother Piero] and keep her company; tell her from me to take great care of the baby [Cosimo], I hear that Monsignore [Contessina's brother Giovanni] and the other children have gone away.
It is naughty of them to leave you alone, but I shall be back soon and stay with you and they can stay at the villa as long as they like.
Spedaletto, July 31st, 1489." (in: Lacy Collison-Morley: The early Medici. London 1935, pp. 189-190)

To stabilize the picture horizontally he created a crossbeam by throwing John’s plump right arm across the balustrade at a right angle.

So Michelangelo exposed the crisis.
The intense internal emotional turmoil reflected on Mary’s face.
Jesus tugging at her breast and the weight of the cross in her hand.
Her son’s peace sacrificed to the will of God.
No contest.

Then the carving was over and the piece had to be polished.
Michelangelo had no experience polishing so Bertholdo watched him carefully.
The rasp* came first, for the roughest surfaces, after which he washed the plaque.
The washing revealed holes where the chisel penetrated too deeply.
Using a light hand, he smoothed those away with a fine-grained emery* stone and water.
Finally, he used a pumice* stone to refine the surface, exposing new crystals and producing a silky feeling.
Then another wash and dry.
Followed by another, shorter round of emery and pumice.

Michelangelo presented the plaque to Lorenzo who loved it and presented it to his intellectual Sunday night gathering, Platonists, all.
They loved it, noting the vitality, tranquility, his treatment of perspective, his breaking with tradition by showing only Christ’s back. Reservations expressed included too much drapery, a too muscular Christ, Mary’s face over-stylized, John oversized, and Christ’s arm and hand awkward.
Overriding all was Michelangelo’s brilliant concept in the moment he portrayed.
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These thoughts on the “Madonna of the Stairs” from Wikipedia.

The Madonna of the Stairs (or Madonna of the Steps) is a relief sculpture by Michelangelo in the Casa Buonarroti, Florence.
It was sculpted around 1491, when Michelangelo was about seventeen.
This and the Battle of the Centaurs were Michelangelo's first two sculptures.
The first reference to the Madonna of the Stairs as a work by Michelangelo was in the 1568 edition of Giorgio Vasari's Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects.

The work is an obvious homage to stiacciato* of Donatello, as Vasari also noted, both in technique and sizes plans with millimeter thickness variations, both in iconography, starting from the scale pattern with pronounced steps and handrails foreshortened, visible for example in the Feast of Herod in Lille, smashing spatially opening a path of dramatic vanishing.

The figure of the Madonna, sitting on a square stone, and in profile while looking away, occupies the entire height of the relief, from edge to edge, with a severity and monumentality reminiscent of the classic rods.
Very original is the composition of the sacred group, at the same time blocked and dynamic, with the Virgin and upright and keep him away gaze, in a prophetic attitude, as she lifts her dress to feed or protect the child asleep, and generates a movement spiral thanks to the arrangement in opposite limb: Jesus has indeed let go of his arm behind his back and Maria comes to weave his feet, showing the right plant and breaking the stillness of the smooth surface of the bas-relief.
The right hand of the Child turned out was later used more than once by the artist to symbolize the abandonment of the body in sleep or in death, as in the portrait of Lorenzo de 'Medici, Duke of Urbino or the Bandini Pietà and refers to ' Farnese Hercules (since by Michelangelo man is seen as Hercules).

Pronounced is the muscle of the Child and the taking of Mary, especially with large hands, thanks to the different treatment of the surfaces, make it appear vigorous simple, everyday gesture.
Virtuoso is finally the fall of the drapery, especially on Cubic's seat, which follows form with great realism.

On the left, on the scale that gives its name to the survey, there are two putti just blanks in attitude dance or fight and another who, leaning on the handrail, tents, along with a fourth figure placed behind the Virgin, a drape. It is difficult to determine the significance of this background scene, perhaps a simple exercise in style or a tribute to dancing putti Donatello.

*Glossary:
A rasp is coarse form of file used for coarsely shaping wood or other material.
Typically a hand tool, it consists of a generally tapered rectangular, round, or half-round sectioned bar of case-hardened steel with distinct, individually cut teeth.
A narrow, pointed tang is common at one end, to which a handle may be fitted.

Emery (or corundite) is a dark granular rock used to make abrasive powder.
Because it can be a mixture of minerals, no definite Mohs hardness can be assigned: the hardness of corundum is 9 and that of some spinel-group minerals is near 8, but the hardness of others such as magnetite is near 6.
Crushed or naturally eroded emery (known as black sand) is used as an abrasive — for example, on an emery board and emery cloth, as a traction enhancer in asphalt and tarmac mixtures.
Turkey and Greece are the main suppliers of the world's emery.

Pumice is a volcanic rock that consists of highly vesicular* rough textured volcanic glass, which may or may not contain crystals.
It is typically light colored.

Vesicular texture is a volcanic rock texture characterized by a rock being pitted with many cavities (known as vesicles) at its surface and inside.
This texture is common in aphanitic, or glassy, igneous rocks that have come to the surface of the earth, a process known as extrusion.
As magma rises to the surface the pressure on it decreases.
When this happens gasses dissolved in the magma are able to come out of solution, forming gas bubbles (the cavities) inside it.
When the magma finally reaches the surface as lava and cools, the rock solidifies around the gas bubbles and traps them inside, preserving them as holes filled with gas called vesicles. Rock types that display a vesicular texture include pumice and scoria.

Stiacciato or Schiacciato is a technique which allows a sculptor to create a recessed or relief sculpture with carving only millimetres deep.[1] To give the illusion of greater depth, the thickness gradually decreases from the foreground to the background. In some ways it is more similar to a 2D image than a 3D sculpture and so the relief can use perspective. Vasari writes of the technique:

“The third types are called bas- and schiacciati-relief, which have nothing in them but drawing the figure with dents and schiacciato relief.
They are very difficult if there is a large amount of drawing and invention involved, because it is hard to give these things grace thanks to the mode's love of contours.
And Donato [ie Donatello] worked best of all sculptors in this genre, with art, drawing and invention.
We see many of this kind of sculpture in the form of] highly-figured ancient Aretine vases, masks and other ancient works; and similarly in ancient cameos and in bronze-stamping cones for medals and coins.

”The technique was mainly used in the 15th and 16th centuries, begun and dominated by Donatello.
The earliest surviving example is his St George Freeing the Princess (1416-1417) and his other works in the genre include the Pazzi Madonna (1430), The Assumption of the Virgin (Sant'Angelo a Nilo, Naples, 1426-1428) and Herod's Banquet (Siena Baptistery, 1423-1427)

I’ve got Naples-style protection in here. Don’t fuss with me.

I’ve got Naples-style protection in here.
Don’t fuss with me.

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Good morning on this Sunday, December 2, Christmas now 23 days away.
We talked about the personally biographical aspects of “My Brilliant Friend,” the book. And we entered a detail of Michelangelo’s fist sculpture, a low-relief plaque called the Madonna of the Stairs.

Che vuoi? Le pocketbook?

See you soon.

Love

Dom