November 8, 2011

Game Over for Berlusconi (Updated)

There is not very much to be said. In his own words:

After the approval of this finance law, which has amendments for everything which Europe has asked of us and which the Eurogroup has requested, I will resign, to allow the head of state to open consultations.
In the Senate, the center-right still has a good majority. However with the defection of seven members of the ruling majority today, the government does not have the majority we thought we had and so we have to take account of this situation realistically.

Now, for the country’s sake, let’s hope that the left doesn’t come into power again.

UPDATE: November 9, 2011 - 12:05 pm

The day after

Things are becoming clearer and clearer. In an interview with newspaper La Stampa today, Silvio Berlusconi confirmed that he will resign “as soon as the (budget) law is passed.” He also said that, since he believes “there is no other majority possible,” he sees “elections being held at the beginning of February.” In other words he said No to any form of transitional or national unity government—which the opposition and many on the markets favour. As Il Foglio newspaper puts it, “the Democratic Party (PD) wanted a scalp, they will have a war, instead.”

But the even more important news is that Berlusconi won’t run again for office, as he himself told La Stampa, and that PDL party secretary and former justice minister Angelino Alfano would be the center-right’s candidate for prime minister.

Notwithstanding this, however, Italian borrowing costs soar... See also here and here.

The Devil in the Details

Fresco No.20 in a cycle of the scenes chronicling the life and death of St. Francis
Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi
We all know what teachers always say—or, er, used to say—when they explain a difficult concept to students, and, in particular, when they try to make their pupils aware about the importance of distinguishing between main points and supporting details, or between major and minor details, or what may erroneously seem such: ‘The devil is in the details’ …

Good old motto! Even in the night in which all cows are black, that is to say in our own “postmodern” age—but this is quite another story. So what? Well, all of the above is just to introduce a very interesting news item which clearly exemplifies the importance of paying attention to details:

Art restorers have discovered the figure of a devil hidden in the clouds of one of the most famous frescos by Giotto in the Basilica of St Francis in Assisi, church officials said on Saturday.
The devil was hidden in the details of clouds at the top of fresco number 20 in the cycle of the scenes in the life and death of St Francis painted by Giotto in the 13th century.
The discovery was made by Italian art historian Chiara Frugoni. It shows a profile of a figure with a hooked nose, a sly smile, and dark horns hidden among the clouds in the panel of the scene depicting the death of St Francis.
The figure is difficult to see from the floor of the basilica but emerges clearly in close-up photography. Sergio Fusetti, the chief restorer of the basilica, said Giotto probably never wanted the image of the devil to be a main part of the fresco and may have painted it in among the clouds 'to have a bit of fun'.
The master may have painted it to spite someone he knew by portraying him as a devil in the painting, Fusetti said on the convent's website.
The artwork in the basilica in the convent where St Francis is buried was last restored after it was severely damaged by an earthquake in 1997. [Reuters]

A detail of the fresco in which the profiled face of a devil is seen 
REUTERS/Basilica of St Francis in Assisi/Handout

However, apart from the pay-attention-to-details thing, there is the problem of finding out/understanding why the master may have hidden the profiled face of a devil with a hooked nose, a sly smile, and dark horns in the clouds of one of his most famous frescos in the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi. Perhaps to spite someone he knew by portraying him as a devil and “to have a bit of fun,” as Sergio Fusetti said on the convent’s website? Well, maybe so, maybe not, it’s difficult to say, and I’m no expert on the matter. But then again, as far as I know, a painter who came after generations of “mere” manufacturers of symbols, illustrations, and allegories may have wanted to leave a cryptic message. On the other hand, many medieval cathedrals included gargoyles and chimeras—used as a representation of evil—the most famous examples of which are those of Notre Dame de Paris. Such representations were intended to objectivize—and distance ourselves from—the evil. And then again, even though Giotto has been called the father of Renaissance art, he was a man of the Middle Ages.

Click to enlarge
Here (on the right) is, as an example of what I’m talking about, a picture I took some years ago at the Sacra di San Michele, in Piedmont. It shows a big-headed monster (a devil?) which dominates one of the entrances of the monastery and which is making faces at someone. At whom, exactly? At the monks, of course.

The moral of the story might be, Not every monster/devil is evil, some are just misunderstood.