Saturday, February 28, 2009

Better late than never.

I knitted a scarf and it feels incredible.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Cenci.

I've long wanted to visit the sad town of Petrella Salto in Abruzzo, as it's the site of an infamous murder with an association to our program in Rome. Since 1960 we've been housed in Palazzetto Cenci near the Jewish Ghetto, a Renaissance building built by the wealthy Cenci family.

Perched on a wicked, rocky hill overlooking the small town is "La Rocca Cenci," the skeletal remains of a castle tower. It was here that Francesco Cenci met his gruesome demise in 1598. His family first poisoned him then bludgeoned him to death, and threw his body over a balcony, where it toppled to the foot of the hill.  The crime was discovered and the family members were tortured into confession. Among them was his 21-year-old daughter Beatrice, the most tragic of the cast of characters since she had been brutalized by her father and—along with her step-mother—held captive in the castle. "I'm taking you here to die," he told them. 

Francesco was a real creep and many believed he deserved his fate, having terrorized Rome and his own family for years. Yet the subsequent trial and execution of Beatrice, her step-mother and her brother became one of the most controversial in history as the papacy wanted to make an example of the nobles to send a message to all: no one is above the law. Their executions were attended by thousands, and it's often said that Caravaggio's reiteration of decapitations was probably stimulated by his inevitable presence there.

Reminders of Beatrice are everywhere in Rome. I often find myself coincidentally  in places which define her geography—the jailhouse in which she spent her last days, the spot at the end of Ponte St. Angelo where she was beheaded, the church on the Gianicolo where she is buried but which seems to contain no marker. There's a decent reproduction of Guido Reni's haunting portrait of her hanging in our main lecture hall: a tragic plea for clemency which has endured for hundreds of years. Students say they can sense her presence in our building with the dimming of the day. Like Reni, Hawthorne, Shelley and many others I'm moved by Beatrice as an emblem of soured justice. Her delicate beauty adds to this.

In the pictures above you can see Guido Reni's portrait of Beatrice Cenci (now in Palazzo Barberini) along with an awkward, depressing mural which welcomes you to Petrella Salto. In the third picture, La Rocca Cenci looms over the lonesome little town and then there's me, seated in front of the ruins on a rainy Saturday in the dead of winter.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

One of the coolest guys in Rome.

This accordionist is on Ponte Sisto just about every weekend morning, facing the sun, his body heaving to and fro to the music. He's completely rapt with pleasure while playing. I was finally able to get a photo of him.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Back in the studio and hitting the usual "ruin it" phase of painting. Just take a look at the dour expression on my face.