Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Provenance Network

I know many of you following my blog are interested in art crimes and issues relating to cultural heritage, so I urge you to join this online group that will email you updates on news of the like.

The Provenance Network is an independent service that gathers news and information relating to provenance in the realms of art and cultural heritage, disseminating it to museums, cultural heritage professionals, private collectors, law enforcement agencies, archaeologists, scholars and journalists.

This group is run by Tom Flynn, one of our fantastic professors I had the pleasure of learning from in the ARCA program. Please pass the word along of this wonderful new network that has been made available to us!

Here you may see a sample of what The Provenance Network has to offer.

The Provenance Network

You can either sign up to receive emails or simply check in from time to time and read the latest news about cultural heritage online! Enjoy. :-)

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Narni article, in supplement to my previous blog

This gives some more information on Narni and the sotterranea. I typed it up from a picture I took of the article. :-) Enjoy.

Chronicles of Narni

Silvia Marchetti goes underground for a fascinating tour

Narni, an easy hour’s drive north from Rome along the breathtaking Via Faminia, is a fascinating town for a day trip from the capital. Dating back to pre-Roman times, it is perched on top of a rocky cliff surrounded by green valleys. CS Lewis, the creator of the Chronicles of Narnia, is believed to have visited, and to have been inspired by its stone bridge and fortress. But the real legends here lie deep underground.

Beneath a 14th century Dominican church, called Santa Maria Maggiore, is an extraordinary site—the best-preserved of the Catholic church’s Holy Inquisition secret courts in Italy. Discovered by chance in 1979, the warren of underground rooms is now restored and open to the public as Narni Underground.

It was unearthed one night, when a local student, Roberto Nini, with some friends, decided to explore an open crock in the wall of a neighbor’s house [side note: this is different than the information the tour guide provided]. Below, they saw the eyes of an angel surrounded by a star-blue sky, staring at them in the torchlight. They had discovered the ruins of a medieval chapel frescoed with angels. Built to worship St. Michael the Archangel, the colors are still bright and the images stunningly clear. Then they found a more sinister part of the site—the Inquisition chambers.

The discover began a lifetime’s work for Nini. In his bid to recover and reconstruct the history of this court, and its victims, he has been inside the Vatican’s secret rooms (where he found the original map of the Narni prison, dating from 1714). At Dublin’s Trinity College he found other bits of the puzzle: documents written by escaped and recaptured convicts such as Domenico Ciabocchi, who was accused of bigamy in 1726.

In April 2005, days before the death of Pope John Paul II, Nini wrote to Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict) when he was still head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the former Holy Inquisition Office, asking permission to visit the Congregation’s secret archives. After a month the new Pope granted him a special pass. Here he found a list of victims’ names.

Nini, now 50, is an archaeologist and still in charge of the tours to the Inquisitions rooms, the frescoed chapel and a Roman aqueduct. The money from these tours helps preserve the site, but there’s a lot of work to be done and Narni hold other “hidden treasures” still to be unearthed.

The tours through the spooky halls, torture rooms (racks, ropes and other instruments are displayed) and cells are an evocative reminder of a terrifying past. These cells were used for more than 200 years (1650 to 1860) and thousands were held and tried here, accused of polygamy, blasphemy and other “crimes”—such as eating meat on forbidden days. Women were accused of witchcraft and adultery. The church considered them all heretics, and friends of the devil.

The pain endured by the detainees in the “Room of Torments” is almost tangible. One of the cells is covered in esoteric codes, prayers alchemic formulae, religious and Masonic symbols, signed in 1759 by Sir Andrea Giuseppe Lombardini, a guardian of Spoleto’s Inquisition jails who was accused of freeing another prisoner. He carved suns, moons, triangles, ladders to paradise, Jesuit and cabalistic images and the word “innocent”—later erased by his jailers. In one corner, the bed bears the imprint of a body’s head and sweat. In this cell, I felt a man’s personal drama, unwavering spiritual faith and desire to communicate his innocence to future generations. Lombardini, however, was lucky—condemned to the pillory in 1763 he begged forgiveness and was freed.

Every town and even small villages in Italy had an Inquisition court and jail, most still waiting to be brought to light. Narni’s cells are a tiny reminder of the bloody, hidden history that lies beneath Italy’s lovely towns.

For more information and to book visits by email: www.narnisotterranea.it. Narni Underground is open until October 31.

Chronicles of Narni

On Tuesday we took a class field trip to Narni, a nearby pre-Roman town (previously called Narnia) that inspired CS Lewis to write the Chronicles of Narnia because the beautiful landscapes and medieval structures create a fairytale-like setting. I had been there before where I purchased my amazing and outrageously expensive jeans with Isa, but this time I got to see less stores and more history.

I think it is most effective to describe my trip to Narni with pictures and descriptions, some of which I have kidnapped from Narni Sotterranea's (Narni Underground) website, that you can go to for extra information and many more beautiful photographs.


Google translation in English:


In the town square. We started our trip with a little tour around the town to see all of the beautiful medieval structures.

Other side of the main square. That restaurant with the columns is so cute!

A medieval fresco in an old church. They are in desperate need of conservation, but are still very beautiful

We were fortunate enough to get a tour of the Teatro Comunale which still has many shows and operas performed there. The inside is absolutely beautiful.

These chandeliers in the Teatro were marvelous! I want one for my own!

Inside the Teatro

We were able to go into the Duomo and pretty much have free reign. Nothing was roped off really and we were able to explore many beautiful pieces of artwork, relics, and crypts. We were even able to go down into that area you see here where the relics are. This reminded me of St. Peter's, but on a smaller scale and with free access. :-)

I love this statue.

Doesn't this look like the wardrobe into Narnia?! I'm small but there I am on the left, emerging into a fairytale!

Relics in the Duomo

Down into what I called "the relic pit."

One crypt was open for people to come and look inside...creepy...

After we went to the Duomo, we were able to go to the Narni Museum, which was surprisingly high tech with absolutely fabulous displays from a curatorial perspective. This is one of them, where a bronze cup from 1303 is featured in its own room with an explanatory video (unfortunately in Italian) and this dramatic display with lights.

The picture at the top of this blog with me by the lion (Aslan!!) was taken at the entrance of the museum and is a testament to Narni's embrace of pop culture and the relationship to the Chronicles of Narnia, much like how Forks, WA has embraced the Twilight series and flourished.

One of the most important pieces in the museum's collection is Ghirlandaio's Coronation of the Virgin (1486) which is in immaculate condition and has never been restored, only cleaned. One whole room is dedicated to explaining the piece, with a large video screen with a fascinating video (in Italian, of course!) and this lit panel, seen here, that breaks down the lower half of the painting by which Saint is where, and what symbolism is used to identify them. Amazing!

Here is the Coronation of the Virgin. It was breathtaking! It was displayed singularly in a dark, climate controlled room with special spotlights and a box with different switches that highlighted different areas at a time while providing information about specific parts. Without the spotlights, it was easy to get lost in such a busy composition. This is probably one of the coolest ways to display an important piece!

We had a museum guide explain to us about the various parts of the piece, all while a track of modern music played in the background by a group who was inspired by this piece and played a song using only the instruments depicted here. Very cool!

Here you see the spotlight in action, highlighting the triangular composition which is the most stable visual arrangement and also represents the Holy Trinity.

Here is St. Anthony, who is my hero!

Some of our group heading off to lunch! We ate the most fabulous food in a tiny restaurant run by one woman and perhaps her son, where none of the tables or chairs matched and the menu was hand written on a paper towel. Everything I tried was absolute heaven. It was like home cooking!! We all passed around different kinds of pastas and meat and desserts. It was one of my favorite restaurants so far!

A beautiful view of the lake and the castle!

One thing we did was visit Narni Sotterranea, or Narni Underground, where the convent of San Domenico had a secret underground premises including a church with beautiful frescoes and a prison complete with torture chambers for those accused of crimes like blasphemy or eating meat on Friday during the Inquisition. It was discovered in 1979 by boys who were digging in a garden looking for "treasure" per request of an old man. You can now take tours and go into all of these places, which is SUPER awesome. Here are some of the robes in the beginning of the tour. Scary dudes!

On the front desk was this article (in English! yay!) that is so incredibly interesting, I'm actually going to type it out for you in another blog so you can read it. It's amazing!

Since we weren't allowed to take pictures on our guided tour, I borrowed some from the website listed above in this blog. This is the church with the angel frescoes. They've added a dude there, which makes it more creepy!

This is the torture chamber, where they have these torture devices set up! That pyramid thing on the left was new to me. You tie a rope around a prisoner's waist and haul him up to the ceiling, then drop him on the pyramid. It doesn't matter where it hits him...it will just abuse you however fate decides it. Yikes!

On the left of the torture chamber was this tiny cell where the prisoners were kept. It was so cool because there is TONS of grafitti made by scratching chains or broken terra cotta plates that the food was served on. There is tons of symbolism in these pictures, and you can follow the story of some people by following the series of symbols and pictures they left in the cell. One story is from a man whose name I can't remember but he was an officer of the Inquisition who was caught trying to free some early prisoners in I think 1759. His pictures show incredible religious faith as well as symbolisms that suggest he may have been a free mason, and statements against his imprisoners including doves chained to a tree that is actually the church with recognizable towers as a real location. He also kept a calendar of how long he was in the cell. For more pictures of this fascinating place, visit:


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I was quoted in the New York Times!

Check it out here!


Even though the parts pulled from my interview sort of make me sound even more like an idiot, I still got quoted! And you can KIND OF see me in the back of the picture included. :-) Kind of cool, no?

Roman Holiday

Last week we began a short 3 day class on Transnational (or Organized) Crime. The biggest thing I learned from that class was that those who don't believe art theft is a victimless crime are gravely mistaken. Funds from stolen art goes directly to support other major crime syndicates like drug, human, and arms trafficking, and terrorism, to name a few. Art crimes also rob us of knowledge that is crucial in understanding our history and providing information and technology that can be practically applied today. Just some things to think about...

On Wednesday I headed to the airport in Rome to pick up Todd who was kind enough to come visit me for a week! :-) We got a hotel room at the Hotel Champagne Palace, a 4 star establishment near Termini Station with tiny bathrooms decorated with a repulsive amount of red marble and free breakfast consisting of the most generic pastries, cereals, and "juices" you can imagine. But hey, it's complimentary, right?

Here you see what we dubbed as the "Generi-berry Croissant," a croissant stuffed with the most generic red fruity-ish filling imaginable. But to be fully honest, they sometimes had a chocolate equivelant that was rather delicious.

The temperature in Rome was in the upper 90s, so we pansied out for some of the day trips we had originally wanted to go on and opted for spending the afternoons in our air conditioned hotel room watching movies (and Rome the TV series...how appropriate!) on the computer and catching up on the sleep missed for waking up early and beating the heat to the tourist attractions.

Probably my favorite part of the trip was the FOOD!! Oh my, did I eat some excellent food last week, with the exception of the first night (Weds). We were dying of hunger and went to the first restaurant that looked decent after being turned away from a sold out showing of the new Harry Potter and found ourselves in the Bar Washington eating tortellini that tasted like it was made by Chef Boyardee himself, all for a whopping 10 euors a plate. To compensate, we attempted to try some gelato but were severely disappointed by the low quality in the gelateria we chose. Not a great start to a Roman Holiday, that's for sure.

Thursday was VERY hot and we spent the early morning visiting the Galleria Borghese (2nd time for me, 1st time for him). I wanted to spend more time with a personal favorite painting of mine that I had more or less been hurried past during my first visit, Raphael's La Fornarina. That is one amazing painting, and reproductions do not do it justice in any way. It is supposedly a painting of Raphael's mistress--one he uses as a model for many of his Madonnas. If you are interested in historical fiction, the book The Ruby Ring by Diane Haeger is an interesting read.

La Fornarina by Raphael, 1518-20

The afternoon was spent away from the sun, but in the evening we managed to get tickets to the once daily English showing of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. The movie theater was sold out again and there was no air conditioning. Sitting for 3 hours in a room packed with as many people as humanly possible who are all sweating and fanning themselves compulsively, just to see the new Harry Potter movie? You bet!

The highlight of Friday's excursions included an originally disappointing attempt at a fancy date night. We had read in a guide book of a nice restaurant near the Vatican that we decided to try out. It was near my favorite gelato place, which was a plus! So we got dressed up and took a shady taxi (one of those ones that's really just some guy with a car who hustles you on the street and ends up being cheaper than a legitimate taxi but could also drive you into the middle of nowhere and harvest your organs for sale on the black market) and were dropped off at the correct address only to find it had recently been converted into a cheap Mexican restaurant instead. Overdressed and not in the mood for an Italian's attempt at enchiladas, we wandered (in heels, mind you) to find another restaurant and stumbled upon my gelato place...which was already closed. An excellent evening quickly turned into a miserable disaster.

After a change into the flip flops I brilliantly brought along and a few stops on the Metro, we made our way to the area around the Fontana di Trevi and picked a random restaurant whose menu looked good. And suddenly the night became a fantastic success! We decided to splurge on the chateaubriand for two garnished with vegetables and potatoes, with red wine to follow the complimentary champagne and some of the most delicious bread ever! Too stuffed for dessert, we ended with the complimentary limoncello and decided to walk back to our hotel and enjoy the night air and stumble on random monuments along the way. This was one of my favorite nights in Rome!

Yummiest dinner ever!

Outside of our restaurant, Il Vineto

Bernini fountains are the coolest!

Amore at the Trevi Fountain :-) Probably the greatest picture ever taken!

Stumbling upon monuments while trying to find our way to our Home in Rome: Trajan's Column

Saturday there was a nice breeze so it wasn't as horribly hot outside, which was wonderful because we managed to dominate the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill before 2:00! Todd had already been to these places but they were new to me, and you know how I love to take pictures! So we have plenty of those to keep us busy and to share with anyone who wants to see them all! I've included a few in this blog, but anyone who wants to see more can look in my facebook album, and I have even more just on my computer.

In the Colosseum. I have like 5 million of these pictures, but I'm just putting up one.

Being my usual feisty self

The Arch of Constantine

Palatine Hill

The Roman Forum. I had to wait like 10 minutes to get to the place to take a good picture!

Taking a break from all of my walking on a lovely Corinthian capital

After our day of being avid tourists we decided to continue the trend and check out an attraction that was advertised in one of the maps our hotel gave us. The advertisement claimed that the Time Elevator was an incredible 5-D experience (what on earth is 5-D?!) where you learn about the entire history of Rome in only 45 minutes of adventure! So why the heck not? We were in the area, and decided to see what on earth 5-D was and take this Time Elevator.

Good heavens! What a silly thing it ended up being! This "experience" was much like a low budget attempt at the Star Tours ride at Disneyland, only focusing on Rome's history. We were secured in the same kind of moving seats, only there were 3 screens and they weren't large enough or convincing enough to create the illusion that we were actually flying over Rome or fighting gladiators. It instead created a very real motion sickness in many of the tourists. The movements also were not necessarily in sync with the screen, and I think this whole 5-D claim had something to do with the wind and rain and rats attacking our feets (fans, water from the ceiling, and air shooting at our ankles) and I'm sure would have been more effective if they had been timed correctly. Some were very delayed to the point of not making any sense because you forgot what they were supposed to represent. But overall it was a cute idea and young children would probably really like it.

After our interesting adventure on the Time Elevator, Todd and I decided we had to make up for it with as giant of a gelato as we could find! We found an excellent and crowded gelateria that definitely overcharged significantly, but oh man, was it delicious! And fancily presented as well! I thought it sort of looked like a unicorn, with the colors and the cones, etc.

Sunday we met up with Lauren who had been in Rome as well with her dog Tulip and we headed back to Amelia. I had to show Todd our favorite restaurant in Amelia, Porcelli, and of course Tropicana which I can now safely say has the best gelato I have found in all of my Italian travels. And I have eaten a LOT of gelato. Usually at least once a day! :-) I was thinking I should maybe write a book rating all of the gelatos and recommending flavors and venues.

Monday was a lazy day and I took Todd to little Amelian sites, like the Duomo, the park, and to see the view from the top of the hill, and told him a little about the history of Amelia and its walls. My Italian sister Emilia came home from her own trip to Rome that night and made us a fantastic homecooked dinner that I will definitely be recreating on my return to the states. And she had Todd try some of Isa's homemade limoncello, which is by FAR the best limoncello in existence.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and Todd left on the 6:25 bus this morning to catch his flight in Rome and head home to San Francisco. I didn't have too much time to be sad though because my class headed out for a day trip to Narni in the morning. We had much fun touring the town and seeing some of the more famous sites, and I will be writing a whole new blog about those adventures very soon! Keep an eye out, but for now, ciao from Amelia!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

ARCA Annual Conference

Last Saturday was the ARCA Annual Conference on the Study of Art Crime. It was a bigger deal than I expected, with all sorts of body guards for the important guests, the tv news crews (we were apparently all over Italian television, but I had no idea), and even reporters from the New York Times. I was actually interviewed for a good 10-15 minutes by one of these reporters, and they have been coming back to interview more people and take some photographs during class this week. Expect an exciting article soon. :-)

Lauren and I look like waitresses in our matching outfits haha

We had many honored guest speakers and even handed out some ARCA awards for research and dedication to protecting the arts and cultural heritage, and for helping to stop or reduce art crimes. Award winners included:

Vernon Rapley- Director of Scotland Yard's Arts and Antiquities Unit
Norman Palmer- Professor of Art and Law, King's College, London (unable to attend)
Francesco Rutelli- Former Italian Minister of Culture and Mayor of Rome
Colonnello Luigi Cortellesca- Representative of the Carabinieri Division for the Protection of Cultural Heritage

Vernon Rapley was a charming and fun man that I actual had the pleasure of having over to my house for lunch on Sunday. :-) He gave me his card and told me I could contact him at any time with questions, advice, or to set up any kind of introductions I might need. He was wonderful.

Rutelli was outrageously handsome and charming...the kind of leader who must have been very effective politically because he's so smooth and makes everyone fall all over themselves in his precense. He gave a wonderful speech in excellent English!

Rutelli giving his speech

Colonnello Cortellesca was absolutely hilarious! He didn't speak English, so he had a translator (who used random hand gestures with every word she spoke, whether or not it related to what she was saying, and who apparently left out a lot of the very funny things the Colonnello added). He had everyone laughing and smiling though, and he extended an offer for us to come and see some of the art that had been recovered in the Carabinieri office. An amazing opportunity!! I even stole his hat at the gala afterwards, and started a trend of having everyone get his picture taken with him while wearing the hat! Did you know Armani designs the Carabinieri uniforms? Classy!

We had some other speakers including our teacher Derek Fincham, Arthur Tompkins (a hilarious judge from New Zealand), Bernadine Benson (former component head for Cultural Heritage crimes at the Endangered Species Protection Unit in South Africa), and Virginia Curry (former FBI Art Squad agent).

Panel questions after the presentations
From left to right, Tompkins, Benson, Curry, Rapley, Fincham

For the most part, the presentations were very interesting...however, one of these people was completely disappointing and had to be spoken to about being too negative and abrasive towards the students. I will try to not say too many mean things, but if you have seen the new Disney movie Up, you will understand when I say that I feel just like the old man did when he met his hero and the hero turned out to be a major jerk. It definitely put a damper on my weekend.

The conference was generally a good time though other than that, and I got to dress up and play Vanna White and help hand out the awards to the winners while Noah spoke about each one. The gala was delicious, with a fabulous meal in a fancy restaurant with big glass panels on the floor that enable you to see the remains of original Roman roads beneath the floor! I felt like I was going to fall in the whole time! After dinner, Gavino and Gabriella (two friends of Isa and Antonio, my Italian parents) threw a huge party with live music and neverending cocktails and cakes, etc, at their palacial home in Amelia.

The party raged on well into the early morning and I slept for the majority of Sunday, waking up to be lazy with Khoe and Emilia and to head out to a concert by Emilia's friends' band! They are sooo good!!! We sang and danced and had another late night of fun. It's interesting to notice American dancing involves a lot of booty shaking, and Italian dancing is much more jumping and bouncing and frolicking. It was a great time!

Emilia's friends' band performing in the park, with Em and her mom Isa dancing!

Me, Dr. Derek (Fincham, our teacher), and Lauren...oh, and Antonio back there

Last night I went out again with Emilia and her friends from the band. One of the guys (the one we call "Creepy Guy" because he is 34 and hangs out with 17-20 year olds) makes balloon animals, so we spent the evening trying to figure out how to make balloon crocodiles and elephants and "snake-dogs."

Marco e Marco singing the song they made up, Fantasma Formaggio (The Cheesy Ghost)

My awesome balloon hat

Tomorrow I will leave for Rome at 7:00 AM and will meet Todd at the airport! :-D We have a mini vacation planned in which we will stay in Rome and do all sorts of touristy things like visit the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, Pompeii, and some museums. It sounds like it will be a good time! We will return to Amelia on Sunday and classes were cancelled on Monday, so we will stay in the area and maybe take a short day trip to Orvieto! Expect a lot of excellent pictures and good stories from that!