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Articles by: Cristina Esmiol

  • Facts & Stories

    Restoration in Time for Rome’s Birthday Commemoration

    The Temple of Peace was built around 75 AD by Emperor Vespasian with the riches gained following the Jewish War. The Temple housed many treasures brought back from Jerusalem following the Romans' triumph in the Jewish War, in addition to the works of Greek artists.

    Emperor Vespasian (original name, Titus Flavius Vespasianus) reigned as Roman emperor from 69-79 AD. Vespasian helped rebuild Rome following a civil war. He raised taxes and reclaimed public land, which provided Rome with the funding they needed to fulfill Vespasian’s ambitious building plan. His plan included temples, a theater, and the beginnings of what would be known as the Colosseum. All of these were built under Emperor Vespasian’s rule. He is credited with helping to rebuild and stabilize Rome following the war.

    Last week, it was confirmed by a cultural heritage official that the Temple of Peace would be restored in time for Rome’s birthday on April 20. The Temple of Peace is a part of the Imperial Fora. The Imperial Fora (which includes the Forum of Caesar, Augustus, Trajan, Nerva, in addition to the Temple of Peace) were built to supplement the Roman Forum, as the Roman population increased and more Fora were needed. However, now many of these Imperial Fora are in ruins from centuries of manipulation. For instance, during the Middle Ages the old stones of the Foras were re-used in order for new buildings to be built, therefore leading to the deterioration of the structure. What remains of the Temple is currently in the Roman Forum located near Largo Corrado Ricci. Fortunately, two units of the original quadrangle are still in place, aiding in reconstructing efforts.

    According to Claudio Parisi Presicce, the municipal Superintendent of Cultural Heritage, “The goal is to replace the five marble colums of the Egyptian portico that surrounded the temple, where they were at the time of Vespasian.” This restoration could prove to make the Temple of Peace more commonly known, since currently much of its ruins are underground and could offer visitors a new piece of history to experience upon visiting the city.

    Parisi Presicce said the excavation of the Temple of Peace began in the 1930s under Mussolini’s Fascist government. During his rule, Mussolini created the current Via Fori Imperiali that split through the Imperial Fora separating the fora of Augustus, Nerva and Trajan from the Forum of Caesar and the Roman Forum.

    On April 21, which is recognized as the founding date of the Roman Empire (in 753 BC), the restoration will be celebrated with large-scale illuminations. In just about two months the newly restored Temple of Peace will offer visitors another piece of Roman history that has not been fully seen in centuries.

  • Facts & Stories

    Mattarella to Open Presidential Palace Doors Daily

    Sergio Mattarella, the first Sicilian president, with political views that described as center-left, was elected to Parliament in 1983. On January 31 he became the twelfth Italian president.

    Simply a few weeks in office, he announced that “shortly” the historic palace would be open
    every day to visitors. This change is a great expansion of its current visiting hours. Currently, it is only open to the public on Sunday mornings and sometimes for a special exhibit.

    Previously, for visitors not able to visit the palace during their restrictive viewing hours, they would have to settle for a virtual tour offered on the palace website. The new, expanded hours will afford a vastly larger crowd of visitors to view this historic Italian monument throughout the week.

    The Quirinal Palace, situated atop its namesake hill, has a rich history of important residents. Prior to housing the twelve Italian presidents, it was home to thirty popes and four kings of Italy.

    Formerly, the presidential palace was considered the papal palace. The Quirinal Palace is an astonishing 20 times the size of the White House and a third of the size of Buckingham Palace with a grand total of 1.200 rooms. It was built in the 16th century to function as Pope Gregory's summer residence.

    In addition to be being the current residence of the Italian president, the palace houses many collections of art, such as paintings, statues, furniture and tapestries.

    Upon sharing his decision to make visiting Quirinal Palace more accessible, Mattarella called the palace a “symbol of the culture of history of the Italians”.

    Social media has been abuzz with those expressing their delight of the news. However, while it seems there would be few critics to Mattarella’s decision, many have raised concerns about the economic impact of greatly expanding visiting hours. Having the palace opened for a greatly increased number of hours each week would certainly cost Italy more money, which could prove to be challenging for a country with struggling finances. 

    Mattarella appears to be creating an image for himself as the “people’s president”. Not only does he want to open the doors to his residence for more to see, but shortly before he made this announcement, he rejected taking the traditional presidential plane in lieu of a commercial Alitalia flight back to his hometown of Palermo, Sicily. This incident was the first time in years an Italian president has opted for a commercial plane over a presidential one.

    The new Italian president seems to have already made a positive impression on the Italian people. Even Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has praise for the newly-elected president, “Between this [opening up his presidential residence] and the aeroplane, the real revolutionary is Mattarella.”

  • Art & Culture

    Once Lost Leonardo da Vinci Work, Now Found Prior to Being Sold

    According to Italian art police, Leonardo da Vinci’s 61cm by 46.5 cm portrait of Mantua Marchesa Isabella d'Este dating back to the early 16th century, has been recovered from a Swiss bank vault recently (located in Lugano near the Italian-Swiss border), after what they called a “long and complex” investigation.

    Top Italian art expert, Carlo Pedretti, inspected the piece in 2013, by means of fluorescent
    analysis, determining it’s authenticity. Though not all experts are convinced of its legitimacy and further tests will be done to confirm it is truly the work of da Vinci.

    One of those unconvinced is one of the world’s chief art experts, Martin Kemp, who has doubts of the oil painting’s authenticity.

    However, after Italian and Swiss police were informed of the “advanced stage” negotiations to sell the masterpiece for about 120 million euros, they finally seized the painting.

    Unnamed suspects are being questioned under accusations from police from Nucleo di Ancona of illegally exporting artworks as well as for insurance fraud. 

    Born April 15, 1452 just outside of Florence, two of da Vinci’s more renowned works include “The Last Supper” and “Mona Lisa”. Da Vinci was born to unmarried parents, but growing up with his father he was treated as a “legitimate” son.

    Around the age of 15, da Vinci took an apprenticeship under the distinguished sculptor and painter Andrea del Verrocchio and remained with Verrocchio until he began to work independently in 1478.

    “The Last Supper” was painted while da Vinci was in Milan from about 1495 to 1498. The painting is an illustration of the Passover supper with Jesus Christ and his Apostles when Jesus predicted one of his followers would betray him. This “Last Supper” is also when the first Eucharist took place.

    The “Mona Lisa”, possibly the most well-known painting in the world, was a privately commissioned project that da Vinci painted between 1505 and 1507. Today the masterpiece can be found, surrounded by bulletproof glass, in the Louvre in Paris. After a life as one of the most acclaimed Renaissance artists, da Vinci died in Cloux, France on May 2, 1519.

    The focus of da Vinci’s recently-seized portrait, D’Este, was not only a patron of the arts, but had an admired sense of fashion that was sought after not only by Italian women, but also the French nobility.

    D’Este was an influential woman of her time, considered by Diplomat Niccolò da Correggio to be “The First Lady of the World”. An original sketch of this oil painting is currently located in the Louvre Museum in Paris. Now that the D’Este painting has be found, efforts will likely continue to pursue yet another lost da Vinci masterpiece, “The Battle of Anghiari”.