June 22, 2009

Do you know the land where the lemon trees flower?

“See Italy and Die” (Voir l'Italie et mourir. Photographie et peinture dans l'Italie du XIXe siècle), Musée d'Orsay (Exhibition hall), Paris, April 7th through July 19th, 2009.

Images of Italy based around several recurring themes and fantasies: archaeological and antique remains, major sites of European culture and the continued presence of the ancient world among today’s population.

What the title seems to suggest is not exactly what visitors would wish for if they had three wishes, but fortunately what the title expresses is merely that everyone should see Italy at least once before dying..

From the official presentation:

The "Grand Tour" did not disappear at the end of the French Age of Enlightenment, nor with the emergence of aesthetic models other than those from Italy. Its popularity with artists and ordinary tourists was such that, even after 1850, there was a considerable boom, promoted by advances in communications and in photography.

The nostalgia inextricably linked with the land of Virgil, and the attraction of its still remaining sights encouraged many more images to be produced. The exhibition sets these out around a number of recurrent themes and fantasies which circulated from one medium to another: archaeological and ancient remains, major cultural sites of Europe and the resilience of the ancient world amongst the present day population.
It is Italy of our heart's desire, that no-one ever really leaves.

Read the rest.


  1. Perhaps there's a bit of Italy in us all. Not so much from Roman influence and their extraordinary contribution to civilise us barbarians (or commit the irreparable and allow others to do the same) but from the golden age of the Renaissance. When culture, art and architecture reached a fabulous summit of excellence and was shared and appreciated across the continent.

    For us it's hard to imagine what it was like travelling across Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries, but in those days those who so wished and were able to, obviously often did.
    Shakespeare was no exception, as his 'Merchant of Venice' and 'Romeo and Juliet'
    and 'The two Gentlement of Verona' seem to indicate, and I doubt if he needed a passport then either.

    How can one not be inspired by a certain balcony in Verona, or the magnificent marriage of architecture in la piazza San Marco of Venice? And this gasp of admiration comes from someone who hasn't even seen Florence yet! But such remissness will soon be amended.

    Italie, le berceau de civilisation. How lucky we are to have Italy a part of Europe and perhaps also a little part of us!

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