Italy

Getty Museum returns the Head of Hades to Italy

Sometime between 300-400B.C., an unknown artist in Morgantina, Italy carefully sculpted this terra-cotta replica of the famed god of the Underworld, the feared Hades.  The skull or head itself was carefully sculpted on its own, and later the curly hair and beard were individually added, one curl at a time, just before the final firing in the kiln. Afterwards, it was carefully painted, and some parts of the paint remain such as the red in his hair and the blue in his beard.  This beautiful artifact is an amazingly well-preserved momento of painstaking artistry.

The piece goes by both the name “Head of Hades” and “Bluebeard” and was illegally excavated from an Italian archaeological dig during the 1970s. Afterwards it was sold and ended up at the Getty Museum in the USA.  

According to the Getty Website, the work was initially believed to be a depiction of Hades’ brother, Zeus (known occasionally as Bluebeard).  However, examination of the nearby discovered artifacts and the knowledge that Morgantina worshipped Persephone (kidnapped wife of Hades), they now believe it is actually Hades instead.  The kidnapping of Persephone is thought to have occurred at a lake near the city.  

Long story short, because the work was illegally excavated, it technically still belongs to Italy and was stolen property, meaning the Getty had to repatriate the bust to its nation of origin.  Although the legal exchange happened a couple years ago, the official trade occurred recently when Italian officials arrived to take over possession.  

One of the interesting notes to me is the fact that the Getty has owned this work since 1985 according to their own website. It is unclear why this is only being repatriated now.  

Either way, the work is finally home as Hades returns to his royal lands, protecting the good and punishing the wicked as they pass into his deadly realm.

Resources:

  1. Getty Website
  2. Yahoo! News
Advertisements

Coming Exhibition: Ornament and Illusion ~ Carlo Crivelli of Venice

Ornament and Illusion:
Carlo Crivelli of Venice

Who:  

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

When: Oct. 22, 2015 – January 25, 2016 (Hours Vary)

Where: 

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
25 Evans Way
Boston, MA 02115

More Information: Here.

Ornament and Illusion is the first monographic exhibition dedicated to Renaissance painter Carlo Crivelli in the United States. The Gardner’s newly conserved Saint George Slaying the Dragon is the touchstone for a two-part installation. The first reunites four of six surviving panels from Crivelli’s Porto San Giorgio altarpiece, of which the Gardner painting is a fragment. The second features 20 of Crivelli’s most important works from Europe and the U.S. Together, they will introduce visitors to the artist’s repertoire of dazzling pictorial effects, and refine each encounter with his bravura illusionism.

How an illiterate woman wrote love letters to her migrant husband in 1973

“How an illiterate woman wrote love letters to her migrant husband in 1973”

by Annalisa Merelli via “Quartz

Being far from the people you love is one of the most challenging experiences in life, even with today’s cheap and easy trans-continental video-calls. So one can only imagine how hard it was for our ancestors not so long ago, when international phone calls were luxuries and the only way to keep in touch by writing letters that took days, sometimes weeks, to arrive.

And that’s assuming they could write.

In the 1970s, 5.2% of Italy’s population was illiterate. Most of those who could not read or write were women in rural areas. One, we know now, was a mother of three, likely from the area around Catania, on the eastern side of Sicily. Her story has made history, thanks to a poignant 1973 letter written entirely in pictures, discovered by the Sicilian writer Gesualdo Bufalino.

(Copyright Eredi Gesualdo Bufalino. All right reserved, managed by The Italian Literary Agency, Milan)

The letter was addressed to her husband, explains Bufalino in his bookLa Luce e il Lutto (“Light and Grief,” link in Italian), a migrant worker abroad in Germany.

To preserve the intimacy of their correspondence, she did not ask for help in composing the letter in Italian. Instead, writes Bufalino, the woman and husband developed their own secret code. Bufalino, reportsItalian online publication Il Post (link in Italian), was able to retrieve one of their letters and translate the symbols into words:

Here is his translation—rendered in English by Quartz, and republished below in the original Italian:

My dear love, my heart is tormented by your far away thought, and I stretch my arms toward you, together with the three kids. All in good health, me and the two older, unwell, but not seriously, the little one. The previous letter I sent you didn’t receive a reply, and I am sad about it. Your mother, hit by a disease, is in the hospital, where I go visit her. Do not worry that I go there empty-handed; or alone, generating gossip: our middle son comes with me, while the oldest looks after the youngest.

Our little field, I ensured that it was ploughed and sown. To the two daily workers, I gave 150,000 lire [about €500, or $560 today] . The town elections were held. I voted for the Christian Democracy, as the parish suggested. For the Hammer and Sickle, the defeat has been huge: as if they died, in a coffin. . . . .

READ MORE

“Terrified mother and child’s final moments preserved in ash after Pompeii volcano blast 1,900 years ago”

“Terrified mother and child’s final moments preserved in ash after Pompeii volcano blast 1,900 years ago”

by Kirstie McCrum via “The Mirror

A terrified mother and child’s final moments after the devastating Pompeii volcano have been unearthed for the first time in 1,900 years.

Restoration work on the bodies of those who died when the eruption of Mount Vesuvius engulfed Pompeii in Italy in AD79 have brought out some shocking finds like this scene.

One of the most catastrophic and damaging volcanic eruptions the world has ever seen, it claimed the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum and killed unknown thousands of Romans.

SplashExcavations of Pompeii
History at work: A restorer works on petrified victim with arms reaching out in the laboratory of the Pompeii excavation site

The pieces are soon to be shown at a Pompeii and Europe Exhibition at the National Archaeological Museum in Naples, Italy.

Molten rock rained down on the surrounding landscape at a rate of 1.5 million tons per second in an eruption thought to have released 100,000 times the thermal energy of the Hiroshima bombing.

In recent years, archaeologists used hollows in the volcanic ash where victims’ bodies fell and decayed. They have filled these cavities with plaster to see the outline of their final resting places.

SplashExcavations of Pompeii
Curled up: A volcanologist said that the contorted poses were “a consequence of heat shock on corpses”

There has been much excavation work of the area, with more than 1,000 casts of bodies being made in Pompeii alone.

In 2010, studies showed that a surge reached temperatures of 300°C in Pompeii.

Volcanologist Giuseppe Mastrolorenzo, who led the study said: “(It was) enough to kill hundreds of people in a fraction of a second”.

SplashExcavations of Pompeii
Looking back: After a long restoration, casts of forms of people who died 18 centuries ago will be revealed to the public

In reference as to why the bodies were frozen in suspended action, Giuseppe explained: “The contorted postures are not the effects of a long agony, but of the cadaveric spasm, a consequence of heat shock on corpses.”

The eruption was foreshadowed at the time by smaller earthquakes in the preceding days, but nothing was done by authorities.

A Roman poet Pliny the Younger, who was 17 at the time, recorded much of what happened during the eruption, but it is thought that a horrific cloud of ash, volcanic gas and stones spewed from the volcano to a height of around 21 miles. . . . .

READ MORE

Broken toilet leads to 2,000 years of history

“Broken toilet leads to 2,000 years of history “

by Sarah Griffiths via “Daily Mail

A search for a sewage pipe beneath an Italian restaurant yielded two centuries worth of history.

Lucian Faggiano bought the building in Lecce, Puglia in the south of Italy and had planned to turn it into a trattoria – but renovations were put on hold when he discovered a toilet on the site was blocked.

And while attempting to fix the toilet he dug into a Messapian tomb built 2,000 years ago, a Roman granary, a Franciscan chapel, and even etchings thought to be made by the Knights Templar.

Scroll down for 3D tour 

Lucian Faggiano's dream of opening a restaurant was scuppered when a dig to find a blocked sewage point yielded some 2,000 years of hidden history, including vast rooms and pottery (shown in this image that features Mr Faggiano left and his son)

Lucian Faggiano’s dream of opening a restaurant was scuppered when a dig to find a blocked sewage point yielded some 2,000 years of hidden history, including vast rooms and pottery (shown in this image that features Mr Faggiano left and his son)

In a bid to stop the sewage backing up, Mr Faggiano, 60, and his two sons dug a trench and instead of isolating the offending pipe found underground corridors and rooms beneath the property on 56 Via Ascanio Grandi,The New York Times reported.

Lecce, at the heel of Italy’s ‘boot’ was once a crossroads in the Mediterranean and an important trading post for the Romans.

But the first layers of the city date to the time of Homer, according to local historian Mario De Marco.

Eight years after it was meant to open as a restaurant, the building has been turned into Museum Faggiano (pictured) and a number of staircases allow visitors to travel down through time to visit the ancient underground chambers discovered by the family

Eight years after it was meant to open as a restaurant, the building has been turned into Museum Faggiano (pictured) and a number of staircases allow visitors to travel down through time to visit the ancient underground chambers discovered by the family

He imagined it would take a week to dig down and fix the plumbing beneath the building, but instead, the DIY mission led to the discovery of a Messapian tomb and a Roman granary

An ancient room beneath the modern building is shown

He imagined it would take a week to dig down and fix the plumbing beneath the building, but instead, the DIY mission led to the discovery of a Messapian tomb, a Roman granary (pictured left), a Franciscan chapel – and even etchings from the Knights Templar. An ancient room beneath the modern building is shown right

The search for the pipe (shown in this image of Mr Faggiano and his son) began at the turn of the millennium when no-one could have predicted the treasures hidden beneath the floorboards, which revealed a subterranean world dating back to before the birth of Jesus

The search for the pipe (shown in this image of Mr Faggiano and his son) began at the turn of the millennium when no-one could have predicted the treasures hidden beneath the floorboards, which revealed a subterranean world dating back to before the birth of Jesus

It is not unusual for religious relics to turn up in fields or in the middle of the city itself, which has a mixture of old architecture

For example, a century ago, a Roman amphitheatre was recently found beneath a marble column bearing the statue of Lecce’s patron saint, Orontius in the main square and recently a Roman temple was found under a car park.

‘Whenever you dig a hole, centuries of history come out,’ said Severo Martini, a member of the City Council.

Years of excavations have seen the emergence of Roman devotional bottles, ancient vases and a ring with Christian symbols as well as hidden frescoes and medieval pieces. Here, Mr Faggiano carries a piece of Roman pottery from an underground room

Years of excavations have seen the emergence of Roman devotional bottles, ancient vases and a ring with Christian symbols as well as hidden frescoes and medieval pieces. Here, Mr Faggiano carries a piece of Roman pottery from an underground room

The building yielded plenty of nooks and crannies including mysterious shafts
The building yielded plenty of nooks and crannies including mysterious shafts

The building yielded plenty of nooks and crannies including mysterious shafts (pictured left and right) which lead to older parts of the building deeper and deeper underground

Lucian Faggiano bought the seemingly standard building in Lecce, Puglia in the south of Italy, (marked on this map) but his dream of turning it into a trattoria was put on hold thanks to a broken toilet. Lecce, at the heel of Italy’s ‘boot’ was once a crossroads in the Mediterranean and a trading post for the Romans

Lucian Faggiano bought the seemingly standard building in Lecce, Puglia in the south of Italy, (marked on this map) but his dream of turning it into a trattoria was put on hold thanks to a broken toilet. Lecce, at the heel of Italy’s ‘boot’ was once a crossroads in the Mediterranean and a trading post for the Romans

THE HISTORY OF LECCE

The origins of Lecce in southern Italy are thought to be more than 2,000 years old.

It was founded by the Messapii, who are said to have been Cretans in Greek records, explaining the city’s Greek culture.

According to legend, a city called Sybar existed at the time of the Trojan War and was founded by the Messapii.

It was conquered by the Romans in the 3rd century BC, who gave it the name Lupiae, which later became Lecce.

Under the emperor Hadrian, in the second century AD, the city moved two miles (3km) northeast, got a theatre and an amphitheatre and was connected to the Hadrian Port.

Oronotius of Lecce, who is known as Sant’Oronzo is thought to have served as the city’s first Christian bishop and is now Lecce’s patron saint.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, the city was sacked by king Totila in the Gothic Wars.

After that it was conquered once again by the Byzantines in 549 and remained part of the Eastern Empire despite some small conquests.

After the Normans arrived in the 11th century, Lecce grew in commercial importance again, having been an important trading post in Roman times.

It grew rich and became one of the most important cities in southern Italy, evidenced by its many impressive Baroque monuments.

Plague broke out in the 17th century and the city was briefly home to Allied fighters fighting the Nazis in the Second World War.

Mr Faggiano asked his sons to help fix the problem with the plumbing so he could accelerate the opening of his restaurant, in a building that looked like it was modernised.

But when they dug down they hit a floor of medieval stone, beneath which was a Messapian tomb, built by people who lived in the area before the birth of Jesus.

Legend has it the city was founded by the Messapii, who are said to have been Cretans in Greek records, but then the settlement was called Sybar.

Upon further investigation, the family team also discovered a Roman room that was used to store grain, and a basement of a Franciscan convent where nuns were thought to have once prepared the bodies of the dead.

Afraid of costs and the delay in opening the restaurant, Mr Faggiano initially kept his amateur archaeology a secret from his wife, in part perhaps because he was lowering his youngest son, Davide, 12 though small gaps in the floor to aid his work.

But his wife, Anna Maria Sanò suspected the work was more complex than it appeared thanks to the amount of dirty clothes she was washing, and because of dirt and debris being taken away.

Investigators shut down the site, warning Mr Faggiano he was conducting an unofficial archaeological dig.

After a year, work continued but had to be overseen by heritage officials who witnessed the emergence of Roman devotional bottles, ancient vases and a ring with Christian symbols as well as hidden frescoes and medieval pieces.

Retired cultural heritage official, Giovanni Giangreco, who was involved with the excavation, said: ‘The Faggiano house has layers that are representative of almost all of the city’s history, from the Messapians to the Romans, from the medieval to the Byzantine time.’

Afraid of costs and the delay in opening the restaurant, Mr Faggiano initially kept his amateur archaeology a secret from his wife. Here, he sorts though pieces of glass and pottery found in one of the rooms. There are even pieces embedded in the wall

Afraid of costs and the delay in opening the restaurant, Mr Faggiano initially kept his amateur archaeology a secret from his wife. Here, he sorts though pieces of glass and pottery found in one of the rooms. There are even pieces embedded in the wall

READ MORE