the renaissance Boboli Gardens of Florence Italy  

The Palazzo Pitti is a large villa museum built in 1458 for a Florentine banker near the river Arno, in the heart of Florence, Tuscany, Italy, and is sumptuously laid out with antique furnishings and priceless works of Italian paintings and sculptures. It contains nearly 500 Renaissance  and baroque frescoes and masterpieces by Artemisia Gentileschi, Raphael, Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese, Fillipo Lippi, Perugino, Correggio, Peter Paul Rubens, Andrea del Sarto, Fra Bartolomeo, il Rosso, Canova, Verrochio, and Pietro da Cortona, among many many others. I am writing a piece about these incredible collections, accompanied by photographs, and the background of some of the most important and beautiful works to see if you can visit. It’s highly recommended for serious art or palazzo fans.Surveying the grand grounds and estate from a distance as visitors have admired the beauty and harmony of the Boboli Gardens for centuries. The house and land were bought by the de’Medici’s in 1549 and they filled it with their incomparable art collection, second only to their nearby famed Uffizi Gallery and residence. Napoléon even used this as his main living headquarters in Italy in the late 18th century. The exterior courtyard where horses and carriages would draw up. Paris and Helen of Troy.Themes of alchemy and the occult mingled with myths of classical antiquity in the natural caverns decorated to enhance an atmosphere of enchantment.Far away seashells and coral encrusted on water formed stalactites. Sea nymphs and faeries and aristocratic crests.The prisoners in Ovid’s Metamorphoses.The fascinatingly carved and decorators part natural, part artificial cavern the Buontalenti Grotto in the Boboli Gardens is a fascinating place, is encrusted with seashells and stalactites, housing mythical, fantastic, and allegorical elements, as well as symbols referring to esoteric subjects. The Grotta di Buontalenti (also known as Grotta Grande or the Big Grotto) was built by Bernardo Buontalenti between 1583 and 1593, and commissioned by Francesco I de’ Medici.

Winding labyrinthine hedge walkways to get lost in or sneak into for a stolen kiss.A brilliant blue heron rests in an artificial lake. Naked trees promise a boast of riches at the first bloom.Wild iris and flowers of delicate violet and pale lavender dotted among tall wild grasses of rolling meadows.Oranges a reminder of the beautiful year round climate of most of Italy.I was there on an overcast early spring day before the beauty of the garden really bloomed but shall return their in autumn to take photographs of the richer, fuller gardens. The little wildflower meadows and orange trees and statutes were lovely against the grey sky and ornate fountains (turned off in the cold) but I long to see this place teeming with color and fullness after the long hot summer, as autumn turns the leaves Amber and gold. I get that chance this early October.
Watch this highly interesting and gorgeous historical and visual tour of the Boboli Gardens by Brit and garden expert, Monty Don. Boboli Garden — Tour of Italy – Florence

Anaïs Nin’s 111th birthday

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Today, February 21, 2014 is Anaïs Nin’s 111th anniversary of her birth. She died in 1977.

She was the artist and writer who inspired me to read more books (she detailed and listed classics of literature in her literary diaries and helped in no small way to introduce me to much of the more interesting side of the western canon.

 

I found her through Henry Miller, who was recommended to me at 17 by a smug faced twenty something dishwasher at the restaurant I was a cashier girl and bartender for, the famed Harvard haunt Bartley’s in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

 

I found Anaïs searching for another Miller book to read after Crazy Cock and Tropic of Cancer, and ironically, (I would find out later), I found Anaïs and forgot about Henry for awhile , until I got to Henry & June, in which he featured.

 

I spent a lot of time as an English major and bookish girl trawling the college library shelves and the second hand bookshops of Boston and Cambridge. Nin’s childhood diary Linotte literally jumped from the shelf when I was looking for Henry and landed in front of my feet. How could I refuse a book hurling itself at me? It was a sign from the fates.

 

I picked up her beautifully written, rather innocent, girlhood journal which began as a letter to her absent father at aged 11 as she sailed across the sea to New York and the new world with her European mother and brothers. I couldn’t put the book down and when it was finished I eagerly sought out the continued series of Diaries which detail her whole life from ages 11 to seventy something. I also read her fiction, novellas, poetry and my personal favorite, her astounding literary criticism and advice on writing. D. H. Lawrence: An Unprofessional Study and In Favour of the Sensitive Man are two stand outs.

 

As I sit here and sip champagne and blood orange juice and re-read her timeless quotes, I am reminded of how radical her thinking and living was to a teenage girl who loved the lost generation and the 1920s. Anaïs not only encouraged me to travel, she encouraged me to read what I wanted and to write, to paint, to sketch, to meet people, to look for adventure, to see the magic in every day life, to risk things. To question authority and identity and ask myself the questions: is there really only one self or multiple selves? Can dreams ever be actualized? Can a woman really live more than one life? Can life be fantastic some times? What role do I want to play in the world?

 

Although, like Anaïs, I grew up with an absent father and an artist mother who had to work very hard just to feed, shelter and clothe her and her children, and who was poor growing up, I followed her lead in dreaming big and making plans to see the world and pursue art and culture because that is what mattered to me. I refused to see them as out of reach. And today I have been able to realize those dreams, step by step, of traveling and becoming intimately acquainted with Italy and other places I love. I have pursued my love of photography and writing.

 

It is not always easy to feel talented or confident about your work but I do try to search for the marvelous in every day life and seek out the fantastic and what moves me.

 

I try to engage with people who are also questioning life and their assigned roles, other artists and thinkers. I pursue passions and pleasures and try to find a balance…

 

I can be too much of an extremist, hedonist or dreamer some times in an absent minded professor way, which isn’t always great for paying the bills and attending to mundane responsibilities!

 

But I have had the attitude that we are here now, we live now, and I don’t want to wait until I am retired to see and experience the world. I also look for art and culture where I live and in creative friendships and partnerships which enrichen and enliven, as Anaïs did with some of the most creative and eclectic minds of the 20th century.

 

Nin’s dragged up relationship dramas aside, I focus on the brilliant, courageous, rebellious, mischievous, fascinating, multi-layered, artistic, open writer Anaïs Nin was and in her gorgeous, atmospheric, insightful writing, I find that constant source of clarity and inspiration I need to live fully in my dreams and in the day to day.

 

I owe such a tremendous debt to Anaïs Nin and her work.

 

You can also find me on twitter quoting her work:

http://twitter.com/anaisnin 

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I had always believed in Andre Breton’s freedom, to write as one thinks, in the order and disorder in which one feels and thinks, to follow sensations and absurd correlations of events and images, to trust to the new realms they lead one into.

“The cult of the marvelous.” Also the cult of the unconscious leadership, the cult of mystery, the evasion of false logic. The cult of the unconscious as proclaimed by Rimbaud. It is not madness. It is an effort to transcend the rigidities and the patterns made by the rational mind.

Winter, 1931-1932 The Diary of Anaïs Nin , Volume One 1931-1934

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You live like this, sheltered, in a delicate world, and you believe you are living. Then you read a book (Lady Chatterley, for instance), or you take a trip, or you talk with Richard, and you discover that you are not living, that you are hibernating. The symptoms of hibernating are easily detectable: first, restlessness. The second symptom (when hibernating becomes dangerous and might degenerate into death): absence of pleasure. That is all. It appears like an innocuous illness. Monotony, boredom, death. Millions live like this (or die like this) without knowing it. They work in offices. They drive a car. They picnic with their families. They raise children. And then some shock treatment takes place, a person, a book, a song, and it awakens them and saves them from death.
The Diary of Anaïs Nin , Volume One 1931-1934

In order to deeply read Joyce one needs an understanding of Irish politics of the 19th and 20th centuries and Catholicism in addition to an acquaintance with the classics and the canon of literature… But don’t worry, there’s help.

I find the only way to really understand Joyce in a significant way beyond the beauty of his prose is to read up on the political and religious background of Joyce’s Dublin.

There’s a terrific Annotated Joyce book which fills in the many blanks of The Dubliners and A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man. It is an academic imperative to understand some of the history behind Irish politics of the 19th century, Parnell in particular and the events surrounding the Potato Blight and English estate agents for absentee landlords and early 20th century and some of the Catholic references when reading Joyce if you want more than an impressionistic or superficial reading of these novels.

http://www.themodernword.com/joyce/joyce_works_dubliners.html

When tackling a mammoth full of beauty, whim and occasional gobbledygook such as Ulysses or Finnegan’s Wake, I suggest reading an annotated companion to the books! It’s worth the effort. There is also a fabulously entertaining and interesting free podcast by Irish writer Frank Delaney called Re:Joyce in which he dissects a page of Ulysses for each five minute show. It is often humorous and the anecdotes and history lend rich details to Joyce’s difficult book.

http://blog.frankdelaney.com/re-joyce/

A decent background skim of the Greco-Roman classics and the literary canon or the “Western Canon” is very useful as well. I like Harold Bloom’s collection of Canons from various ages and eras.

http://sonic.net/~rteeter/grtbloom.html

Obviously that is an immense amount of reading and disseminating. Therefore, I suggest reading a summary of the canon with highlights of the Hellenistic period, etcetera to follow the references and allusions to the myths and the gods in Joyce’s work.

Spark notes and cliff notes and the Cambridge Reader to Joyce are also exceedingly helpful shortcuts to peering a little closer into his work.

At the end of the day reading and learning is a gradual process which enriches our lives slowly over a whole lifetime.

I am currently embarking on a re-read of A Portrait of An Artist as a Young Man after reading it years ago as a teenager. I know I will have a different experience having read and lived much in the years between falling into the pages. And I’m going to have my study guides and annotations at hand for a heavier, more in the know experience. The prose and the spiritual approach to art and history and human psychology affected me deeply in my extreme youth and I expect some of that will still be there within me along side the more powerful notions of understanding the social, cultural, historical and religious contexts of the world of Joyce’s books.

Happy reading!

See also:
Nationalism in James Joyce’s work; http://mural.uv.es/romoma/nationalism.htm

Irish Mythology (very important to Joyce’s writing)
http://www.luminarium.org/mythology/ireland/index.html

The Myths of Stephen Dedalus http://m.voices.yahoo.com/the-myths-stephen-dedalus-james-joyces-portrait-2666810.html

Celtic and Irish Mythology and Folklore in the fiction of James Joyce http://digitalcommons.mcmaster.ca/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=4667&context=opendissertations

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Artemisa Gentileschi (en français)

An excellent little art history discussion on Artemisia Gentileschi (in french) with high quality sound and photographs. By Anne STEINBERG-VIEVILLE.

Worth a look and a listen even if you don’t speak french – the image comparisons and baroque music still make it compelling.

In honor of International Womans Day! (Which no-one seems to celebrate in America, but I always enjoy in Europe)!

And whilst I am stuck at home in another snowstorm (the house, trees, street are literally blanketed with white) I am going to light a fire, make some tea and work on more posts about Artemisia and the intense stories behind her paintings and on sunny spring time afternoons I’ve spent in Rome chasing art and architecture and the ghost of John Keats. We’ve had some very interesting conversations on the Viale delle Magnolie.