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Author Archive: Eamonn Fitzgerald

Ex-pat Irishman keeping an eye on the world from the Bavarian side of the Alps.

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Notre-Dame: La pietà en marbre de Nicolas Coustou

Tuesday, 16 April, 2019

One of Notre-Dame’s centrepieces is the marble pietà by Nicolas Coustou (1658 – 1733) on the cathedral’s high altar. Initial photographs following yesterday evening’s fire showed that the sculpture was mostly unharmed, but its condition has not been confirmed.

Descente de croix has been compared with the art of Michelangelo and the comparison is valid because in 1681 Coustou won the Colbert Prize (the Prix de Rome), which entitled him to four years of education at the French Academy at Rome. There, the 23-year-old was immediately influenced by the sculpture of Michelangelo and Algardi and he tried to combine the characteristics of each in his later work.

Situated at the far end of Notre-Dame’s nave, Coustou’s pietà was backed by three major and several minor stained-glass windows. It was something of a miracle that it was never overwhelmed by its magnificent surroundings and it will require a real miracle now to restore those settings to their former glory.

Notre-Dame


Bermejo: Rebel pietà genius

Monday, 15 April, 2019

Bartolomé Bermejo (c. 1440 – c.1501) was a Spanish artist whose painting was very much influenced by the Flemish style of the day. Born in Cordoba, he worked in the Kingdom of Aragon, including what is now Catalonia, and the Kingdom of Valencia. His real name was Bartolomé de Cárdenas and his nickname, Bermejo, which means auburn in Spanish, may have been inspired by the colour of his hair.

At a time when painting was a serious business, there is evidence to suggest that Bermejo was somewhat unreliable. One contract contained a clause providing for his excommunication in the event of an unsatisfactory result. Still, his talent was such that patrons willing to take the risk of hiring him. Bermejo’s final years were spent in Barcelona, where he worked on the altar of the convent church of Santa Anna, the surviving panels of which were destroyed in 1936 during the Terror Rojo (Red Terror) waged by the Republican forces. However, Bermejo’s masterpiece, the Pietà, which he completed around 1490 for Canon Lluís Desplà i Oms’ private chapel, has survived.

Pietà

Bermejo. El geni rebel del segle XV” continues until 19 May at the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, which is located in the Palau Nacional in Montjuïc. It will resume in a somewhat different format on 12 June at the National Gallery in London as “Bartolomé Bermejo: Master of the Spanish Renaissance.”


Terms of Sale

Sunday, 14 April, 2019

Haisam Hussein has produced a very entertaining map for Lapham’s Quarterly charting the flow of merchants, merchandise and words along the ancient global trade routes. As exotic goods made their way across new regions, their names mutated along the thoroughfares, goes the theory. Take tea, for example. It was transported from Mandarin-speaking Northern China via the Silk Road, with the result much of Asia has similar sounding words for tea. So, chá evolved into the chai widely consumed in India and neighbouring areas. The other major trade route for tea was through Min-speaking Southern China and this led to the spread of the pronunciation that became the standard in Europe. Think of the similarities between tea (English), thé (French), thee (Dutch), (Spanish), tee (German) and (Italian).

Terms of Sale


The violent passion of a learned mistress

Saturday, 13 April, 2019

The Irish writer Frank O’Connor (1903 – 1966) is best known for his short stories. Neil Jordan’s award-winning film The Crying Game was inspired in part by O’Connor’s short story, “Guests of the Nation”, which is set during the Irish War of Independence and recounts the doomed friendship between members of an IRA unit and the two British Army hostages they are holding.

O’Connor’s work as a teacher of the Irish language provided the linguistic basis for his many translations into English of Irish poetry, including his initially banned translation of Brian Merriman’s Cúirt an Mheán Oíche (The Midnight Court). A Learned Mistress is the work of an anonymous Irish poet from the 17th century and it’s filled with the murderous passion expressed by the spokeswoman of a ménage à trois.

A Learned Mistress

Tell him it’s all a lie;
I love him as much as my life;
He needn’t be jealous of me –
I love him and loathe his wife.

If he kills me through jealously now
His wife will perish of spite,
He’ll die of grief for his wife –
Three of us dead in a night.

All blessings from heaven to earth
On the head of the woman I hate,
And the man I love as my life,
Sudden death be his fate.

(Translated from the Irish by Frank O’Connor)


Narcissist of The Week: Julian Assange

Friday, 12 April, 2019

In Westminster Magistrates’ Court yesterday, district justice Michael Snow summed up Julian Assange perfectly: “His assertion that he has not had a fair hearing is laughable. And his behaviour is that of a narcissist who cannot get beyond his own selfish interests.” Supporters of Assange are now claiming that he’s either a journalist or a publisher, as if this were an excuse for his actions. The fact is that Wikileaks’ role in the illegal transfers of information and its links to the Russian government make it more like a foreign intelligence operation than a journalist or a publisher.

Back in 2010, Tunku Varadarajan captured the essence of this ghastly man in a Daily Beast piece titled “WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange Is a Fraud.” Snippet: “Assange looks every inch the amoral, uber-nerd villain, icily detached from the real world of moral choices in which the rest of us saps live. Call him the Unaleaker, with apologies to the victims of Ted Kaczynski.”

Julian Assange is a criminal who evaded charges of sexual violence and then skipped bail. Regardless of whether Wikileaks was started with noble intentions, it ended up doing Putin’s dirty work. Example: In 2016, Assange declined to publish 68 gigabytes worth of leaked Russian documents that could have helped expose Moscow’s evil activities in Ukraine. For this, and more, Julian Assange should be sent down.

Wikileaks for Putin


Paolo Di Paolo’s unseen images

Thursday, 11 April, 2019

Writing in the British Journal of Photography, Marigold Warner says: “Around 20 years ago, while rooting through her father’s cellar in search for a pair of skis, Silvia Di Paolo found a trunk containing 250,000 negatives, prints and slides. Aged 20 at the time, she had no idea that her father, Paolo Di Paolo, had been a photographer — let alone the top contributor to Il Mondo, one of Italy’s most popular current affairs magazines.”

The exhibition Di Paolo. Mondo Perduto will run at the MAXXI National Museum of 21st Century Arts in Rome, from 17 April to 30 June. It is curated by Giovanna Calvenzi.

Paolo Di Paolo took some memorable photos of the stars of his day: Oriana Fallaci, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Charlotte Rampling, Sofia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni, for example. This one of the actress Gina Lollogrigida and the artist Giorgio De Chirico is a classic.

Gina Lollogrigida Giorgio De Chirico


Zoho Mail

Wednesday, 10 April, 2019

Those who mail Rainy Day, and some people do, are guaranteed delivery (99.9% uptime). This is thanks to Zoho Mail, an excellent service provided by a company that was founded in 1996 by Sridhar Vembu and Tony Thomas in Pleasanton, California. Today, Zoho has its global headquarters in Chennai, formerly Madras, in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Along with mail, the Zoho product range includes a web-based office suite containing word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, databases, wikis, customer relationship management and project management applications.


Welcome to the protocol era

Tuesday, 9 April, 2019

The “protocol era”, in case you were wondering, is “where rapidly surfacing ideological battles over the future of A.I. protocols, centralised and decentralised internet protocols, and personal and political protocols compel us to ask ourselves who are we, what are we, what do we stand for, and what are we heading towards?” So says Holly Herndon, an American singer, who “operates at the nexus of technological evolution and musical euphoria,” as she says herself. The song Eternal is from her third album PROTO, which will be released on 10 May.


Word play

Monday, 8 April, 2019

“‘Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play
And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate” — Taylor Swift

Heater


TEDMED has forgotten Elizabeth Holmes

Sunday, 7 April, 2019

They say the internet never forgets and the maxim has proved costly to lots of people who thought those old tweets or videos had been cobwebbed forever. TEDMED seems to be an exception to the rule, though. It has forgotten Elizabeth Holmes. Let’s back up here for a moment. TEDMED is “the independent health and medicine edition of the world-famous TED conference, dedicated to “ideas worth spreading.”

And Elizabeth Holmes? She’s the Silicon Valley scam artist who founded a company, Theranos, at the age of 19, dropping out of Stanford University and raising hundreds of millions of VC dollars to create a device she claimed would change health care with a fingerprick of blood. From bedrooms to battlefields to laboratories, it would make medical information more affordable. In her brief career, Holmes became a feminist icon, rejoicing in her own triumph over the bro-dominated world of tech. She once ended a Theranos film by declaring, “I always say that next to every glass ceiling there’s an iron lady.” Inevitably, the media elevated her a superwoman fighting for human rights, and the huge wealth she temporarily generated was celebrated as a deserved byproduct of her brilliant mind.

Search the TEDMED site today and you’ll find no mention of Elizabeth Holmes, though. She’s been erased from its history. Still, YouTube has a clip of the talk she delivered at TEDMED in 2014. “I believe. The individual. Is the answer. To the challenges of healthcare.” No wonder TEDMED deleted it.


Sky News distorts the news in favour of the IRA

Saturday, 6 April, 2019

No, it wasn’t a “botched IRA warning call” that killed 21 people in Birmingham in 1974, it was two IRA bombs that brutally ended their lives. That Sky News would put such a fake headline on a story of mass murder is beyond belief. Or is it?

Sky News