Photo of the Week: Sphere Within a Sphere

Photo of the Week: Sphere Within a Sphere

While traveling in Dublin last week I walked onto the campus of Trinity College and was taken aback when I saw a very familiar sculpture sitting on raised platform in the school’s main courtyard. It was one of the well-known Sphere within a Sphere, or Sfera con Sfera, sculptures by Italian artist Arnaldo Pomodoro, considered one of the greatest contemporary Italian sculptors.
Sfera con Sfera in the Vatican Museums Sfera con Sfera in the Vatican MuseumsI had an instant flash back to the Cortile della Pigna at the Vatican where another version of this same sculpture is also on display. Though I knew other versions existed, for example, in front of the UN headquarters in New York, I had not heard of the one in Dublin. Having retuned home and done a bit more digging I’ve learned that there are in fact something like twelve other Sfera con Sfera sculptures scattered across the globe. Remarkably, almost half are in the United States. Including Dublin, the UN, and the Vatican, other versions can be found in the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C, Christian Theological Seminary, Indianapolis, Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, Ohio, de Young Museum, San Francisco, Des Moines Art Center, Des Moines, Hakone Open-Air Museum, Hakone, University of California, Berkeley, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, and Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, Tehran.
 
While the two examples I have seen personally, in the Vatican and Trinity College, appear to be very similar in design (though Trinity’s is significantly smaller), many of the spheres appear quite different. However, all of them share some common features. They are all made of bronze and they have all been treated and polished in such a way as to give the bronze a gold appearance. In each, this smooth surface gives way to a view of the interior of the sphere; a world of a very different quality than its shining exterior. Suddenly we are peering into a complicated mesh of cogs or what some describe as the inner workings of a clock, piano keys, or the intricate components of an alien machine (our Trinity guide described it as looking akin to the Death Star from Star Wars or a Zombie Pac-Man, which, one must admit, it does). It will not surprise most that before becoming a sculptor, Pomodoro studied geometry. In fact, in many of his works we are confronted with seemingly simple shapes that then yield to much more complicated worlds within.
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Novità: One of the Best Study Spots in Florence

All things new.
They may not be new to Florence, but they’re news to me.

This past month we made a big decision and a big move out of the city center. We’re really only a 15-minute bike ride from Arno so it is hardly “far,” but it feels like a whole new city. While leaving the overcrowded centro has had a slew of advantages, it has also taken some adjusting. We’re so used to the luxury of having a place close-by to go when tired of wondering the city or after a three hour Uffizi tour. My latest goal, therefore, has been to find new and wonderful places closer to the city center to spend my free hours studying, reading or just relaxing. This post is dedicated to my favorite of these recent discoveries, Caffè Letterario. As with most items in this blog series, it has been around for ages and has just taken me ages to find. And as per usual, I wish I had found it so much sooner!

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Photo of the Week: Accidental Art

Photo of the Week: Accidental Art

Staring out from a door near Piazza Santissima Annunziata is the image of what might be the face of a lion or a bear. But this is no painting or sculpture. It’s not even art at all. It is simply the ghostly remnants of an old door knocker that was removed only to reveal something so much better.
 
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Photo of the Week: Milan’s Cathedral Facade

Photo of the Week: Milan’s Cathedral Facade

Last week I took a train to Milan for the day to see some friends who were visiting. Neither had been to Milan before and while site-seeing was not their top priority, I insisted we at least see the cathedral. “It’s one of the largest cathedrals in the world and the only Gothic cathedral in Italy!” I told them. But I didn’t follow the very advice I have given students hundreds of times for countless summers. It was so nice that day that I left my shawl at my friend’s hotel and arrived at the cathedral in a skirt with nothing to cover my legs. Milan is rather strict about who enters their cathedral (a police guard checks each person’s attire before letting them in). Unlike other churches, however, they do not provide a little cape to wear (the cape or poncho of shame, as we call it). So I walked up to the door, got the look over, and that was it. I couldn’t go in. I sent my friend inside and stood outside to wait. Then a funny thing happened: I looked up at the facade. And I mean really looked, maybe for the first time.
 
While the building itself was begun at the end of the 14th century, the facade, like many church facades in Italy, was not started until much later. Though a series of attempts and design competitions were held, the final version was not begun until the 17th century and wasn’t finished until the 19th, and only then by order of Napoleon. Due to the extensive length of time it took to complete this building and its facade, there were many architectural visions involved that, at times, also clashed. For example, under the archbishop Carlo Borromeo in the 16th century, there was an attempt at a Classical Roman redesign of the gothic structure. A Baroque design for the facade was begun but quickly interrupted by the archbishop’s death. The new patron and his chosen architect opted to return it to its original Gothic splendor. As late as the 20th century, some of these less Gothic elements on the facade were replaced to make it fit more accurately within traditional Gothic style. However, in this photograph we continue to see the unusual blend of Gothic architectural details, as seen in the pointed arches and decorative elements, with figures, such as the two men supporting the base of the two piers, that are clearly Baroque. It may be this uncommon combination of styles over centuries that give the facade such an enduringly unique appearance. One that I am so glad I had the opportunity to fully take in.
 
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What is in Season: Zucchini Flowers (Fiori di Zucca)

This month I tackle: Zucchini Flowers.
Before moving to Italy I had never even heard of zucchini flowers (aka fiori di zucca), let alone seen one. Perhaps I missed them at the grocery store. Perhaps they were in a special aisle. Perhaps they were too implausible for me to comprehend. Or, more likely, I thought they were simply decorative and not edible and conveniently designed for stuffing with cheese. Had I known this, I assure you, I would have made every effort to find them. Luckily, once I moved to Italy, these decorative AND delicious treats became a reality and one that I looked forward to every late spring and summer.
These yellow and green flowers grow out of the side of the zucchini like enormous claws. When they’re in season, you can either buy the zucchinis with their flowers still intact or, at certain stores and markets, just the flowers. Since I cannot imagine getting through the quantity of zucchini required to yield the quantity of flowers I desire on a daily basis, I usually go for the pre-separated flowers. Quality-wise they are roughly the same and cost less without all the extra zucchini attached. Once you’ve found them, purchased them, and brought them home, the question is, of course, how to make these beautiful blossoms into a delicious dinner.
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