Contributor: Diego Saglia
Location: Umbria, Italy
Description: This line engraving of the celebrated ‘Falls at Terni’ (the ‘Cascata delle Marmore’) in the central region of Umbria in Italy was created by John Landseer after a watercolour by Joseph William Mallord Turner. Turner produced it in 1818, as part of a series of illustrations for James Hakewill’s Picturesque Tour of Italy. It was based on Hakewill’s drawings and other impressions gathered from descriptions in travel books. The age-old fascination with the spectacle of the leaping and crashing waters of the river Velino, one of the highest falls in Europe, reached new heights in the Romantic period. As Lord Byron organized his journey from Venice to Rome in the spring of 1817, he made sure it would take in the falls. Back in Venice, on 4 June, he wrote triumphantly to his London-based publisher John Murray: ‘I visited twice the fall of Terni – which beats every thing’. He turned the experience into poetry in stanzas 69-72 of the fourth canto of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, a section that soon became one of the most widely appreciated and quoted from that extremely successful poem. Its popularity contributed to fixing and defining the experience of the falls for English-language readers, first, and then – in translation – for readers all over Europe and beyond. In Victorian times, the stanzas were reproduced in John Murray’s Handbook for Travellers in Central Italy (1843) in the section dedicated to the Cascata delle Marmore, included in Route 27: ‘Florence to Rome by Arezzo and Perugia’.
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Contributors: Diego Saglia and Francesca Sandrini
Location: Salone delle Feste, tavolo 3; Museo Glauco Lombardi, Parma.
Description: This object, a commonplace book, speaks to a number of questions: What did a European female ruler from the Romantic period read? And how did she respond to the works? And was this reading also a creative, ‘writerly’ act?
Napoleon’s second wife, Marie Louise of Austria, Duchess of Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla from the Congress of Vienna (1814/15) to her death in 1847, was a keen reader who kept several diaries, akin both to English commonplace books and the French practice of extraits et mélanges. There she transcribed longer and shorter extracts from the books she read, as well as her own observations and reflections. This commonplace book in our exhibition is the most significant and representative of them. This kind of artefact was in fact a relatively common phenomenon among women (and men) of the middle and upper classes all around Europe; yet, this specific example offers insights into a woman whose life blended public and private aspects, officialdom and intimacy, in peculiar and significant ways. Mixing reading and writing, reception and creation, Marie Louise’s commonplace book may be argued to be ultimately a vehicle for authoring both one’s own book and, in turn, one’s own Romantic self.
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Contributor: Francesca Benatti
Location: Piazza Santa Croce, Florence
Description: The Basilica of Santa Croce is a late 13th-century Gothic church in Florence, probably designed by architect Arnolfo di Cambio. Home to the Franciscan order in Florence, it contains significant artworks by, among others, Giotto, Donatello, Brunelleschi and Vasari. From the mid 15th century onwards, Santa Croce became the burial place of some of the most prominent literary, artistic and scientific figures from Tuscany and later, the rest of Italy. In the early nineteenth century, it boasted the tombs of Niccolò Machiavelli, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Galileo Galilei and Vittorio Alfieri, the latter completed by Antonio Canova in 1810. These burials attracted the attention of Romantic authors across Europe, who variously interpreted them as metaphors of the state of Italy and for the nature of artistic fame.
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