The spin-cycle on this euro-washer is going to kill me.

Cute little low-water use euro-washers! Argh! I swear I’ve been ready to go for an HOUR but I want to hang this load of laundry out to dry.
We can’t turn in grades online until Thursday of next week – grrr. Nick and I are finished and ready to hit the submit button. The Ruths left for the Veneto about an hour ago, and wlll come back via Toscana before flying back to America in mid-May. I leave Rome Monday for the center and north – Bologna (and environs), Milano (and environs). Then back to Rome a week from tomorrow, and back to America a week from Monday!
Sometime in there I really should consider writing my paper for Kalamazoo, not just thinking about it. After all, I’ll only be in Geneva for 3 days before leaving for western Michigan! That’s barely time enough to check some references.


From Castel Sant'Angelo
The last presentation today (but not the last presentation for the semester – that’s tomorrow) was at Castel Sant’Angelo. On my way down from the parapets I DROPPED MY CAMERA. It wouldn’t turn on. My colleague Nick suggested checking the internet – and while I was messing with it something POPPED! My camera works again! WHEW.

Presentations under way!

Yesterday a group of us heard 3 presentations. Students talked about Sta Maria in Trastevere, Tiber Island, and the Sacral Area at Largo Argentina. All of them went well! Today we have a physical outlier — we will finish up at the Baths of Caracalla. For some reason it’s always a long hike BACK from there! I think I have the logistics working well, though, all in all.

The end is nigh!

Everything is accelerating to the end.
We had our last Layers of Rome class meeting today. As of this evening I have scheduled 3 sessions-full of student presentations. More on that later!
So we finished the Layers course with one of the canonical comparisons…San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane and Sant’Andrea al Quirinale, Borromini and Bernini respectively. The day started off overcast and there was even some rain spitting as we walked from Sant Andrea to San Carlino. While the students were drawing a rough plan of San Carlo, the sun came out strongly – and the whole world lit up in the form of that church. I didn’t have a camera with me (for once in my life!) and i’m not sorry. I’ll remember that bit of morning in Rome forever.

Mussolini’s Fascist Mosaics

Making a Monumental Sculpture

One of the panels from the Foro Italico showing trades or crafts (or maybe we should think of them as everyday activities in the Fascist Syndicalist state?) – this one with artists making a monumental figure like one of these.

The black and white mosaics in the Foro Italico (formerly the Foro Mussolini – and only the street signs changed) show all kinds of things — Black-shirt Squadristi rolling in trucks through Italy shouting battle cries as they battle Socialism, hard-working peasants tilling the soil, grateful Ethiopians (and lions!) giving the fascist salute, and the above. There are lots of idealized athletes doing ideal, athletic things.
I’ve mentioned that one of the things that’s going on with the style is an explicit imitation of Roman black and white mosaics. Here’s an angry looking bull from the Baths of Caracalla (circa AD 215). See? One of the major excavations prosecuted during the 1930s was extending the archeological area at Ostia Antica, where they were turning up lots of this stuff. Unfortunately, the only picture I’ve posted of athletes from Ostia is a little artistic, but if you blow up the image from the Caupona of Alexander you may see more of what I mean.
Fascism elevates violence and hypermasculinity to an unreal level. There is a weird tension, though, between the glorification of the athletic body, something clearly represented as participating in individual activities in these mosaics (I’m trying to think if there are any team sports – surely there’s soccer!) and their lack of individuation in the art. They’re all as ideally grim and unrevealing as the monumental nude sculptures surrounding the stadium next door.
We tried to explain this tension as somehow characteristic of Mussolini’s state. I think the eclecticism in architecture styles — there was never a decision on a single Official Fascist Style in Italy the way there was in Stalin’s Soviet Union or Hitler’s Germany — is as good a way to see that as any, but this works, too.


We’re headed – striking unions willing – to Orvieto tomorrow as a group. There’s a nationwide transit strike, but in Italy strikes are ORGANIZED. No strikes during rush hour. Railroad strikes affect only some regional lines. According to the Trenitalia website we should be o.k. But I’m going to have to walk to and from Termini, it looks like. For Orvieto and my students, it’s worth it!

Forlì – what the Hell?

Forli – what the Hell?

Originally uploaded by Michael Tinkler.

All the statues (50-odd) are hypermasculinized males. Most are nude (but check out Ice Hockey further downstream for an exception). Most do something either connected with a modern sport or a classical sport. Forlì, Mussolini’s home province, is neither nude nor doing something athletic. Forlì wears shorts and WHAT THE HELL IS HE CARRYING IN HIS RIGHT HAND?

Click on the picture to go to the photostream of weird fascist nudes – and learn in passing that manscaping is not a 21st century concept. The Stadio dei Marmi is as good an example as you’re going to find of the idea that early-20th-Century-Totalitarian-Movements fetishized the hypermasculine. Please note that I am too lazy to provide links and too lazy to sort out the superficial differences between the visual culture of National Socialism, Socialist Realism, Fascism, and the WPA . . . they all run together for me. But then, I’m a medievalist. This exaltation of the male physical body to the exclusion of the female body and the spirit makes me suspicious.

Enrico del Debbio, one of Mussolini’s favorite architects, built the Stadio dei Marmi as part of the complex for celebrating the Deccenale, or 10 Year Anniversary of the Fascist Era (1932, dated from October 22, 1922, the March on Rome). The complex is still used today by the Italian Olympic Committee and other athletic organizations. One of the great wonders of the Italian Republic is that it never purged Mussolini as thoroughly as Germany removed Hitler from public visibility.

For a modern political reuse of the Fascist monument, see this political poster from 2008. They’re still arguing about the degree to which they ought to preserve, conserve, and restore this site, given its political past.

The whole HWS group came up here today to launch our unit on Fascist Architecture and City Planning, though my photos are from 2 separate visits. Click to see the sunny blue Hercules, too.

9 down, 5 to go!

I’m giving midterms in Layers this week, and I’m most of the way finished.
I assigned them a neighborhood (Forum Boarium / Velabro area) about 10 days ago. They’ve had that time to visit and study and read. This week we started meeting — about 30 minutes per student — for a one-on-one conversation about things. I let them pick the first building to talk about. Then we switch to a building or site of my choice. If there’s time, we talk about a 2nd choice of theirs. So, if they choose a church, I switch them to a Roman temple — or vice versa. We always talk about the neighborhood, mythology, and topography — why the area is associated with Hercules and why it was a good place for a cattle market.
Most of the talks end with a huge sigh of relief and a “That wasn’t so bad!” Then I ask if they’ve chosen their building yet for the final! They will each choose a single building, site, piazza, or some such, and take the whole class on a detailed, scholarly tour.
I figured out this assignment in 2008 and decided to use it again. There’s enough variety in the neighborhood that I don’t get bored while doing this, and the exercise is very good practice for their final presentation.

Ready for May 1, 2011

Ready for May 1, 2011

Originally uploaded by Michael Tinkler.

That’s the date set for the beatification of John Paul II – and the church of Sta Maria del Popolo has already taken delivery of its painting!

I was there last Friday looking at the Cerasi Chapel again and saw something leaning against the wall in the chapel of St Rita of Cascia. I walked over to find this. The late pope is floating a little bit with the piazza of St Peter’s below him in the background. Hmm.

House of the Vestals

Friday, for the first time ever, I got to go into the House of the Vestals (click to see a picture on my flickr stream of me standing in front of the courtyard). They opened the House AFTER I took my class to the Forum! I think I have to take them back . . . .

Really, it was a splendid day in the Forum and on the Palantine. A friend is visiting from Rochester, and his enthusiasm helped me get over the tiredness generated by the cold I’m fighting and go go go.

There was another first at the Forum – I’ll post that soon!