Saturday, June 27, 2009

Danke, Dante (Grazie, Dante)

Dante Alighieri in the twelfth century was pretty much the original neoclassical guy. He was a big fan of the writer Virgil (Publius Vergilius Maro) who lived 70 - 19BC. One example of homage to the classical writer was his treatment of the mythical three headed dog called Cerberus who guarded the underworld. Virgil in the Aeneid had the dog(s) distracted by honey cakes while Aeneas and Sibyl passed. Dante's version in the Divine Comedy portrayed Cerberus with a much less refined palate, because thrown mud did the trick. I think I'm going to find those PETA people again...

Here is a wonderful image of Cerberus as a pup. I cannot recommend highly enough GHenry's blog because of the rich frothy blend of humor, knowledge and insight.

Anyway, Dante was one of the first young whippersnappers of the known Western world to publish writings in something other than Latin. It was an archaic mix of Latin and dialects from Tuscany that he called 'Italian'. It's strange that his language choices were binding Italy together way before the 1870 unification.

The 'Divine Comedy' is of course Dante's 'Godfather II', that is to say, much better than some of the other earlier dreck and 'La Vita Nuova' where he was all writing poetry to Beatrice Portinari. I mean sure, she was hot and all, but do we really have to read all of that? Maybe it would be better if it was a film with interpretive dance, juggling, or 1970's orange Dodge Chargers with rebel flags painted on them jumping creeks as the poetry was read.

Here is the poet Dante's grave, in Ravenna, where my mosaic class will be later this year by the way (haha, no, not in the actual tomb, you weirdos). Dante is so highly revered in Italian culture that during WWII, they moved his grave to a protected mound for worry of bombing destruction.

I absolutely love and adore Ravenna, Venice and pretty much everything in between. Ravenna was the Capitol city of Rome towards the end of the empire, and there are several artifacts from the earliest Christian churches here.

Here are some random photos I took of mosaics in Ravenna. The class I'm taking will be with the workshop of Luciana Notturni, one of the best in the world to learn technique from. Not to say the stuff I do now is bad, but I'd like to learn some of the byzantine techniques and use some glass in portraits. Check out the gold / crystal glass used as tessarae in the ones below. I have some of that in case anyone needs a proper 'Pimp Cup', haha.

Sono felice di tornare in Italia questo autunno per la scuola di mosaico. Inoltre, avrò visitare Venezia e Como. Forse dico salve a Dante... Ciaooo!!!


  1. Wait, you're going to Italy?

    Sono molto geloso!

    (I am very jealous!)

  2. How do you say "take me with you" in Italian?

    Have fun!

  3. I guess it's true that creativity, including art and poetry, feed voraciously on unrequited love.
    I wonder if Beatrice was aware of Dante's deep feelings for her. Thank god he was born in the 12th century because a guy like Dante would be regarded as a stalker or creepy obsessed man today.

    His 'love story' kind of reminds me of the book 'love in the time of cholera'. But I don't think he was as promiscuous as Florentino :)

  4. I am looking forward to your posts about Italy.

    And that is a spectacular tomb. I like old cemeteries a lot, always have.

  5. AnonymousJune 27, 2009

    Erudite and funny, as always. Enjoy Italy. And thanks for the name check! I am humbled.

  6. AnonymousJune 27, 2009

    Damn you for bringing up Virgil - I had to translate a shitload (I believe this is a correct metric measure for "a lot") of Virgil into English for my high school Latin final. I had since blocked the trauma.

  7. The 'Divine Comedy' is of course Dante's 'Godfather II', that is to say, much better than some of the other earlier dreck...

    Good to know, should I ever feel the need to pick up some Dante! As always, I feel accidentally smarter for having read this blog :)

  8. I think I should get college credit for reading your posts. You have the perfect balance of information, entertainment, and humor. I agree with the girl, I always feel enlightened after reading your blog.

  9. Soda - Dovrebbe venire con me! ;)

    Pru - Thanks, I think it will be fun.
    ps - Voglio andare con te...

    Dutch Donut Girl- I agree on the literary points, and you never fail to impress me with your breadth of knowledge. I completely agree that the greatest creativity does spring from love and such emotions sometimes.

    Lidian - I'm looking forward to your comments on the postings, as well as more of your excellent retro posts that I always enjoy reading. Old cemeteries are neat, I have an interest in the ones before today's modern sea of granite headstones. Sure, granite lasts longer, but carved marble is so much more artistically expressive.

    Goldfishbroth - Thanks, I'll learn a bit and be able to work on my Italian language skills a bit more. Maybe I can arrange to stay if it turns out ok, is the USA under Schengen agreement yet? :)
    BTW - you are welcome, your blog posts are always well thought out and I always look forward to your new posts.

    Vegetable Assassin - Hahhaa! I got you back (sort of) for the scary liquor links you posted in one of the comments a while back. I've never known the metric conversion for that until now. Come on, was Latin all that bad? :)

    the girl - Dante is not as daunting as some think, lol. Thanks for the compliment!

    Chaka - Thanks! It wouldn't be the same without all you great commenters. I'll give you guys all an honorary degree in classical humor... haha

  10. How awesome is it that you are going to take classes IN Italy? Much less going again...that's pretty amazing. I can't wait to see your mosaics!

  11. The problem alot of people make with the Divine Comedy is trying to read it in big chunks. which makes it daunting. If read in small, nibble-sized pieces it's actually quite enjoyable.

    I agree they should make a film of it though, they could make a trilogy of it like LOTR :P

  12. Nutella gelato. Nuff said.

    Those mosaics are amazing. How they do the shading and wrinkles on the faces blows me away. What an amazing experience for you.

  13. Lopez, thanks, yeah their class is one of the best so it makes sense. Julie Richey recommended that shop (Julie is a SAMA former board member and inspiration for some of the mosaic stuff I do).

    Girl Interrupted, that's a good point. I've woken up with it on my nose on more than one occasion when I read multiple 'cantos' / chapters. Yes, a film would be good if they could put some of the allegorical cultural references in terms of today's events I think
    (and as long as Sean Astin isn't in it it would fly).

    Nikki, amen to that. Nothing like the pistachio for me though when wandering through San Marco in Venezia...
    Thanks, I think it will be fun to go back, maybe some day I'll just stay :)

  14. All this is a bit out of my league (an illiterate uneducated guy) but I WANT THAT CAR!

  15. Talking about Dante, Cerberus, Dukes of Hazzard and Pimp Cups all in one post. I mean, wow.

  16. Mo, good to see you back compadre... It would be fun to have one of those, wouldn't it? I'd be too motivated to drive it crazy and crash though.

    Heather, I try to please everyone. I hope I hit on a topic you enjoyed with my 'throw in the kitchen sink' approach. :)

  17. I'm reading about Ravenna in John Julius Norwich's book on the early days of Byzantium. I'd love to visit there, your trip to Italy will be a great read.

  18. Lulu, thanks for the book reference. I'm fascinated by the time period between classical antiquity and the early middle ages.
    I'll be writing all about the trip / class of course, surely there will be some humorous things to write about too!

  19. é possibile portare il mio marito?

  20. Certo, più siamo meglio stiamo... ;)

  21. That's a lot of gold decoration.

    Make sure you don't get a gilt complex.

  22. Please to put me in your suitcase... I promise not to embarrass you in Italia!

  23. The Jules, it is... I'd better 'leaf' the 'sizing' of my complex a bit smaller than originally planned.

    LiLu, ok, but if I do that, who will write your TMI Thursday column?

  24. Cerberus as a pup is great.

  25. WendyB, lol, yes GHenry is tha man!