Thursday, January 29, 2015

Towers of Bologna

The now demolished Artenisi Tower and Riccadonna Tower, with in the background the famous Two Towers (1917)

During the 12th and the 13th century there were between 80 and 100 towers in Bologna I taly. The reasons for the construction of so many towers are not clear. One hypothesis is that the richest families used them for offensive/defensive purposes during the period of the Investiture Controversy.

Bologna 11th Century panorama (Angelo Finelli)

During the 13th century, many towers were taken down or demolished, and others simply collapsed. The last demolitions even took place during the 20th century, according to a restructuring plan for the city. The Artenisi Tower and the Riccadonna Tower (see first photo) were demolished in 1917.

Bologna towers Prendiparte, Asinelli and Garisenda (photo by Sca)

Fewer than twenty can still be seen today. The two most prominent ones are known as the Two Towers; the Asinelli Tower (97m) and the Garisenda Tower (48m). They are the landmark of the city.

next episode: billiard

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Broadway, 1910

New York circa 1910: Broadway with the Flatiron Building in the background

Excerpt from a photo found on

next episode: Bologna

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Game of Mayan Thrones

The ancient Maya city of Naachtun was founded around 400 BC. At its peak between 500 and 800 AD the city had a population of 20,000 people, multiple pyramids, grand public buildings, more than 40 inscribed stele and a massive palace complex spread out over four hectares.

 Calakmul and Tikal (in the center of the map)

Naachtun was the capital of the Masuul kingdom. It was located about 27 miles south of Calakmul, and 40 miles north of Tikal; the two superpowers of the Maya world. Calakmul and Tikal were locked in a frequently vicious fight for supremacy, they hated each other's guts, fought wars, and captured each other's kings.

This location gave Naachtun great strategic importance. Whether they were fighting each other or trading with allied city-states, Calakmul and Tikal had to go through Masuul, and the city profited ably. Masuul changed sides repeatedly, its uniquely formidable defenses (walls 13 feet high made out of large limestone blocks) allowed Naachtun to prosper during centuries of war.

Recent deciphered steles at Masuul tell this story: At January 16th, 378 AD. Tikal was defeated by forces from Teotihuacan. Masuul was an ally of Teotihuacan during this battle for Tikal. 

Teotihuacan, modern-day Mexico City, is almost 800 miles northwest of Tikal, but that didn’t stop general Siyah K’ak’ (Fire Is Born) from killing Tikal’s king Chak Tok Ich’aak (Great Jaguar Paw), conquering the city and installing the six-year-old king Yax Nuun Ayin (First Crocodile), son of a figure known as Spearthrower Owl who was probably the ruler of Teotihuacan. First Crocodile married a daughter of the displaced Tikal ruling family and started a new dynasty.


next episode: Broadway

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Mucha - La Dame aux Camélias

Mucha - La Dame aux Camélias (The Lady of the Camellias) (1896).

The Lady of the Camellias is a novel by Alexandre Dumas, first published in 1848, that was subsequently adapted for the stage. In the English-speaking world, The Lady of the Camellias became known as Camille, and 16 versions have been performed at Broadway theatres alone. Sarah Bernhardt starred in Paris, London, and several Broadway revivals. It has also been adapted for approximately twenty different motion pictures. An instant success, Giuseppe Verdi immediately set about to put the story to music. His work became the 1853 opera La Traviata.

next episode: Maya

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Roman City Gate

 (photos by RfA, 2006)

Inside there is a small museum about The Roman Walls:

The Museum of the Walls (Museo Delle Mura)

next episode: La Dame

Friday, January 9, 2015

Major-General James Bucknall Bucknall Estcourt

Major-General B.B. Estcourt (1802-1855), taken in the Crimea shortly before his death

Major-General James Bucknall Bucknall Estcourt was a chief staff officer during the Crimean War and died of cholera in the Crimea. He was a close friend of Lord Raglan, the commander of the British troops during the Crimean WarHe was one of the officers held by the public to be responsible for the sufferings of the British troops in the first winter in the Crimea but was strongly defended by Lord Raglan.

B.B. Estcourt

He saw action at the battles of Alma, Balaklava and Inkerman where he was severely wounded. When appointed to act as Major-General, Estcourt had been a surprise choice having seen no previous active service; indeed, he had expected to go with the Army as Judge-Advocate. Lieutenant-Colonel Anthony Sterling doubted his suitability for the appointment: 'The Adjutant-General is a very amiable man, a perfect gentleman and a good Christian, but as innocent of the meaning of discipline as a sucking baby.'

B.B. Estcourt (Royal Collection Trust)

His death was universally regretted. 'He was a man of remarkably kind and courteous disposition', and 'a man greatly loved by Lord Raglan, by all his friends at headquarters, and indeed by all who knew him'. Lord Raglan was afraid to attend the funeral, for fear of showing his grief; but the last visit he paid before his own death, was to Estcourt's tomb. It was announced that Estcourt would have been made a K.C.B. if he had survived. His widow, who had courageously spent the winter in camp, and had been by her husband's deathbed, was raised to the rank of a K.C.B.'s widow by special patent in 1856 (source: Wikipedia).

(photos by Roger Fenton, Crimea, 1855)

next episode: Rome

Monday, January 5, 2015

Italian Landscape with Umbrella Pines

Hendrik Voogd - Italian Landscape with Umbrella Pines (1807, Rijksmuseum)

Hendrik Voogd (1768-1839) was known as the ‘Dutch Claude’, after the French painter Claude Lorrain, who was famous for his history landscapes bathed in golden light. Voogd painted the gardens of the Villa Borghese in Rome in the late afternoon. The sun casts long shadows, and the trees stand out sharply against the sky. Strolling figures are enjoying the magnificent sunset. In the foreground (in the shadow) an artist is seated against a tree and drawing (source: Rijksmuseum).

next episode: Bucknall Bucknall

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year !

A happy new 1925 2015 to all my readers!

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