Ancient and modern in the eternal city

Soon after returning from Rome, I logged into Facebook to find a question posed by a friend. She appealed to classicists, asking whether, when they visit Rome or Athens, they navigate using modern landmarks or ancient monuments/topography. Like others who commented on the post, this is a binary choice I find difficult to make, because in Rome the ancient and the modern are so frequently enmeshed.

The relationship between the ancient and the modern is something that all visitors to Rome confront. The many layers of the city’s past are particularly visible at certain sites in the city. At San Clemente, a twelfth-century basilica (still in use today) is built over the remains of a fourth-century church, a second-century Mithraeum (sanctuary of the god Mithras), and houses destroyed in the Neronian fire of AD 64. Piazza Augusto Imperatore today plays host to Augustus’ mausoleum, the Augustan-era Altar of Peace (moved to the square in 1938 and now housed in a glass structure built in 2006), Fascist-era buildings, and a daily-changing outdoor art installation.

The presence of the ancient alongside the modern, and an engagement with the relationship between past and present, is not a contemporary phenomenon; it has been a feature of the city since antiquity.[1] The ancient cityscape was littered with monuments from earlier periods, and writers reflected on the changes or continuities. Vitruvius describes the ancient (albeit heavily restored) hut of Romulus on the Palatine that ‘can recall to our minds and make clear the customs of antiquity’ (On Architecture II.1.5). Juvenal’s Umbricius laments the transformation of the Porta Capena (Satire 3). Perhaps most famously, the Pantheon, though rebuilt by Hadrian in the second century, carries a version of the original building inscription commemorating Agrippa’s erection of the monument a century and a half earlier.

Having time to appreciate the different phases of Rome’s history through long weekends of wandering or conversations over dinner, rather than having to dash from archive to archive on a compressed research trip, is one of the luxuries of a long-term residency at the BSR. The opportunity to consider the modern city against the ancient is especially exciting for me, since the themes of my research (multilingualism, identity, citizenship, migration) frequently invite reflection across the ancient and modern worlds. I have been thinking explicitly about how modern cities can be used to inform our understanding of ancient Rome, and vice versa. In the remainder of this blog, I therefore want to look at three sites of ‘modern’ Rome that each give a snapshot of ways that past and present (or more accurately different pasts and different presents) relate to one another.

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Foro Italico

The first site is the Fascist-era sports complex known as the Foro Italico, north of the Milvian Bridge. The complex’s decorative scheme is an expression of Romanità, a movement in post-Risorgimento and Fascist Italy that sought to revive the ideal of ancient ‘Romanness’. The site makes use of ancient Roman visual language. Larger-than-life heroic statues offered by the different provinces of Italy tower over the marble stadium. The main processional way is covered with black and white mosaics in which, disconcertingly, passably classical images of wrestlers and toga-wearing statesmen are interrupted by bobble-hatted skiers, loaded tanks and acclamations to ‘Duce’.

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Though the focus of my work is on textual rather than visual sources, seeing such active (mis)appropriation of ancient Romanness was especially interesting to me, given my research into changing conceptions of Romanness across time, and the gap between ancient and modern understandings or assignments of ‘Roman’ as a category. The term Romanità is itself an anachronism: though meant to mirror the Latin Romanitas, this term was not used before the third century AD, in the writings of the Christian author Tertullian.

The lack of in-situ commentary or explanation of the site’s use of ancient visual languages to promote one of the darker chapters of Rome’s history is surprising, all the more so given the site’s continued prominence in the city’s present. The complex is the home ground of AS Roma and Lazio, and hosts the Italian Open tennis and Six Nations rugby matches; it is therefore a site that welcomes visitors from across the world. It is a place where the encounter between ancient and modern shouldn’t go unremarked.

Jewish Quarter

A different perspective on the relationship between ancient and modern is offered in the Jewish quarter, just south of Piazza Venezia and Largo Argentina. The Jews formed a particularly interesting group in the ancient city, being more visible in the inscriptional and archaeological record than other ethnic groups.[2] They marked themselves out by the use of distinctive iconography and by their patterns of language use. In contrast to the inscriptions of the city as a whole, where Latin dominates, the majority of surviving Jewish inscriptions are in Greek, with some also in Hebrew. Language continued to be an important facet of Jewish identity into later periods. An inscribed bilingual Italian-Hebrew box for donations to orphans is still visible on the Via del Portico d’Ottavia. Modern restaurant signs and blackboards also frequently display Hebrew. As I discovered in the poignant Jewish museum, a unique Judaeo-Roman dialect of Italian survives in the streets around the synagogue today.

In other ways, however, the history of the Jews at Rome is not one of continuity. The papacy forced Jews to live in the ghetto between 1555 and 1870 (except for one short period under the Roman Republic of 1798–9). No such enforced ghettoization existed in the ancient city. Though there is literary evidence of the emperor Claudius expelling Jews from Rome (Suet. Claud. 25.4), authorities generally took a relaxed attitude towards migrant groups in the city and did not force Jews or other groups into particular areas. These differences highlight the changing role and attitudes of the state, and its consequences for the place of different ethnic groups in the city.

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The ‘English’ cemetery

The place of foreign and migrant groups in the city is also a theme of the final site I want to highlight, the Cimitero Acattolico. (In English, the site is often known as the ‘Protestant cemetery’ or the ‘English cemetery’, and is most famous as the resting place of Keats and Shelley). Despite these anglophone labels, non-Catholics from all over the world, of many different faiths, are buried here.

This site marks a break with the ancient city: in antiquity, there were no burial sites specifically reserved for foreigners. Indeed, foreigners are often surprisingly difficult to trace in the ancient evidence.[3] The presence (or, more often, absence) of different languages is one illustration of this. In the Cimitero Acattolico, there are many different languages on display (English, German, Russian, Farsi, Arabic, Ancient Greek, Latin; sometimes, but not always, accompanied by Italian). In Rome’s ancient inscriptions, comparable multilingualism is relatively rare, though it is worth noting that even in the modern cityscape the multilingualism of the cemetery is itself exceptional.

But foreigners of diverse origins were present in ancient Rome. Writing in the first century AD, Seneca described how ‘more than half’ of Rome’s population came from elsewhere (modern estimates suggest that around 20% of the ancient city were immigrants).[4] Though never concentrated as they are in the modern cemetery, and rarely as explicitly marked out, glimpses of this immigrant population do appear, for example in the Palmyrene texts assembled in the first room of the Capitoline’s Galleria Lapidaria.

The modern cemetery draws attention to the place of foreigners at Rome across time, and the ways they are made both visible and invisible to us. Like the other snapshots I have offered here, it shows how considering the ancient and modern together can enrich our understanding of the eternal city, its changing identities and populations. To answer my friend’s question with a paraphrase: when in Rome, do as the Romans, both ancient and modern.

[1] On the presence of the past in ancient Rome, see Edwards, C. (1996), Writing Rome: Textual approaches to the city, especially Chapter 1, ‘The city of memories’.

[2] On Jews as an exception to other foreign groups, see Tacoma, L. E. (2013), ‘Migrant Quarters at Rome?’, p.127–145 in de Kleijn and Benoist (eds.) Integration in Rome and the Roman world. On Jews in ancient Rome, see also Rutgers (1995), The Jews of late ancient Rome; Leon, H. J. (1995), The Jews of ancient Rome.

[3] On foreigners at Rome, see especially Noy, D. (2000), Foreigners at Rome: citizens and strangers; Tacoma, L. E. (2016), Moving Romans: migration to Rome in the principate.

[4] On migration to ancient Rome and Italy, see especially Isayev, E. (2017), Migration, mobility and place in ancient Italy; Tacoma, L. E. (2016), Moving Romans: migration to Rome in the principate.

Dr Olivia Elder (CRASSH–BSR Research Fellow, Jan–June ’19)

Being Human Festival 2019: Discoveries and Secrets

A photo essay by Assistant Directors Martina Caruso and Harriet O’Neill on the Open Academy | Open Valley walk held here in the Valle Giulia to kick off the international season of this year’s Being Human Festival.

On 11 October 2019 the British School at Rome responded to the Being Human theme ‘Discoveries and Secrets’ with a walk through the national academies which characterise the Valle Giulia. Each Academy presented a secret object which walkers then discussed together, their conversations punctuated by Andrea Ventura, Kinga Ara and Harriet O’Neill’s enlightening interventions. The walk was introduced by Sarah Churchwell, (Being Human Festival Director and Chair of Public Understanding of the Humanities at SAS, University of London) and we set off at 15.30 from the BSR heading over to the Fontane delle Tartarughe opposite the National Art Gallery.

For our first stop, our group of circa 50 walkers looks over onto the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna which was built for the 1911 International Exhibition where Andrea Ventura from AMUSE (Associazione Amici del Municipio Secondo) plays La fontana di Valle Giulia all’Alba from Ottorino Respighi’s Fountains of Rome.

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At the Academia Belgica Charles Bossu introduces us to their library designed in the 1930s by Gino Cipriani and Jean Hendrickx.IMG_6652

Asker Pelgrom from the Royal Dutch Institute KNIR making us laugh over correspondence he found in the archives from the 1930s describing the raucous behaviour of Dutch award-holders and their consequent banning from the BSR.IMG_6657

The Dutch Institute’s secret object was a beautiful statue of Rhea Silvia with her sons, Romulus and Remus by Corry Franzen-Heslenfeld, winner of the Dutch Prix de Rome in 1929. It was placed at the Royal Netherlands Institute in 1935.IMG_6659

At the Swedish Academy Fredrik Tobin illustrates the shared tools of archaeologists and looters.IMG_6666

The secret object of the Danish Academy hides behind gates, apparently impermeable to the gaze: a sculpture titled Aurora Septentrionalis in travertine marble by Danish sculptor Søren Georg Jensen which Adelaide Zocchi responded to in both a historical and personal way.IMG_6671

The leaders of the walk Harriet O’Neill, Kinga Ara and Andrea Ventura on Piazza José de San Martin where we learn about Pope Julius III’s activities in the Valle Giulia.IMG_6680

Walkers rapt by the Romanian Academy’s Director, Rudolf Dinuwith, with the Egyptian Academy in the background.IMG_6682

The Romanian Academy’s secret object was the 1930s pigeonholes recently re-used in a contemporary art experiment involving award-holders from academies across Rome writing in.IMG_6686

Moving on from the Passo dell’Arco Oscuro where we learned about bandits and the Madonna, walkers climb the steps up to our next stop…IMG_6691

On the 1930s staircase of the Austrian Historical Institute that was intended to welcome Mussolini and Hitler but was never inaugurated.IMG_6705

An unusual sunset view from the Austrian Historical Institute overlooking the Church of Sant’Eugenio.IMG_6710

Another unusual view from the Japanese Cultural Institute overlooking the Villa Giulia Museum and gardens.IMG_6712

And the secret Japanese Garden revealed from behind a sliding door made from rice paper.IMG_6719

A lantern sculpture is the hidden object set in the Japanese garden, it once offered guidance in case of a snowstorm.IMG_6720

The final stop on the steps of the BSR where dancers from the Compagnia Excursus/prod. Pindoc hint at our secret.

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Have you guessed yet?

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Culminating in the rose garden, Harriet O’Neill reveals the tome-like exhibition catalogue featuring three works by Alma Tadema which hung here during the 1911 international art exhibition and inspired the dance, from an idea by Theo Rawler.IMG_6743

Ricky Bonavita, the choreographer of the dance and founder of Compagnia Excursus/prod. Pindoc with Theo Rawler gives a final speech to describe the troupe’s vision and his site-specific response to the BSR’s neoclassical architecture with dance as a means of research and enquiry.IMG_6749

Photos by Martina Caruso.

Learning from images of the past: how the study of archives can contribute to the preservation and protection of our cultural heritage in conflict areas

What really came to the fore at this month’s international congress on the protection of cultural heritage in conflict is the importance and obligation of sharing and building networks of knowledge.

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The Prado Museum (photo by Alessandra Ciangherotti)

While the focus was on World War II, participants from prestigious European and American Museums learned that they weren’t the first to experience the necessity of protecting their collections before, during and after a conflict ­- Spanish public and private institutions had been forced to address this issue during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39).

The event marked the 80th anniversary of the end of the Spanish Civil War and, at the same time, celebrated two centuries since the foundation of the Prado Museum. Professor Arturo Colorado Castellary, and the research team at the Prado, have collated pieces of history from different sources, mostly Spanish – but they were keen to discuss this topic from various perspectives, and were eager to invite external contributors to participate in the debate.

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Carlotta Coccoli (Università di Brescia), Alessandra Giovenco (BSR Archivist), Alessandra Ciangherotti (Library Consultant) (photo courtesy of Alessandra Ciangherotti)

Our paper was part of the session panel centred on the experiences of foreign institutions such as the Louvre, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden and the National Gallery, London. Within this context we told the story of the BSR collections to a wider audience.

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US troops setting up artillery in the Valle Giulia with the British School at Rome in the background. 5 June 1944. Courtesy National Archives (NARA), photo no. SC 190223-S.

Between the summer of 1943 and the end of 1945 a special Anglo-American army division was operating in Italy with the aim to protect and salvage the Italian cultural heritage threatened by the war. The Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Sub-Commission (MFA&A S/C), which included prominent  Anglo-American museum directors, art historians, archaeologists and scholars wearing the army uniforms of their countries, was established not only to indicate the damage, loss, or survival of historic monuments and collections but also to create a complete photographic record of its activities in the field.

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Major Paul Gardner photographing the Tomb of Robert of Anjou, in the church of Santa Chiara, Naples (1943) (attributed to A. S. Pennoyer)

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Palestrina: J. B. Ward-Perkins and civilian personnel among the ruins of the Temple of the Fortuna Primigenia (photographer unknown)

 

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Ancona: Basil Marriott in storehouse for books (photo by J. B. Ward-Perkins)

A large set of photographs as well as the reports and documentation produced by the MFA&A S/C were deposited in the British School at Rome Archives thanks to the dual role played by John-Bryan Ward-Perkins as BSR Director (1945) and Director of the MFA&A S/C in Italy (July 1945). They therefore represent an outstanding source of data to inform and build current best practices with regard to cultural heritage.

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Set of publications from the BSR War Damage records (photo by Alessandra Ciangherotti)

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Letter from Forlati (Superintendent for Fine Arts, Veneto region) to J.B. Ward-Perkins, 1947 (photo by Alessandra Ciangherotti)

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Frick map from the BSR War Damage records (photo by Alessandra Ciangherotti)

These images, linked to field reports by MFA&A officers during their surveys, help to visually restore the destruction scenario and the scale of the efforts that were made to recover the cultural patrimony affected by World War II.

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Naples: Santa Chiara, immediately after the fire caused by the bombings of 4 August
1943 (photo by Istituto Luce)

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Many photographs from the War Damage Collection in the BSR Archives were taken by other officers such as Frederick Hartt, Perry Blythe Cott, Paul Gardner and Albert Sheldon Pennoyer. Through a detailed comparison of the Ward-Perkins Collection with the Albert Sheldon Pennoyer Collection from Princeton University, we were able to discover additional information, such as places or dates of significant circumstances.

In this example, we see a photograph taken in Poppiano, on 11 August 1944, showing military and civilian personnel loading a truck with crates containing artworks. The date and the description were taken from an identical photograph in the Pennoyer Collection in Princeton.

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Fondi, people dining under the doorway of Chiesa di Santa Maria. On the left, a photo by J. B.
Ward-Perkins from the War Damage Collection; on the right, a photo from the A. Sheldon
Pennoyer Collection.

Furthermore, some photographs from both collections confirm that Ward-Perkins and Pennoyer were often together during their surveys, as we can see in the shots taken in Fondi on the same day. We also managed to identify other photographs that were probably taken by Pennoyer amongst those that were still of uncertain authorship in the Ward-Perkins War Damage Collection, thirty-eight in total.

The Prado event prompted us to rethink and reconsider this incredible archival resource by opening up new pathways of research and seeking collaboration with other institutions which hold similar records.

New means of interpretation for research-based practice and practice-based research can be envisaged as will be demonstrated in the forthcoming November event organized at the BSR in collaboration with Joanne Anderson (Warburg), Mick Finch (Central Saint Martins, UAL) and Johannes von Mueller (Bilderfahrzeuge) .

 

Alessandra Giovenco (BSR Archivist)

Alessandra Ciangherotti (Library consultant)

Carlotta Coccoli (Università di Brescia)

Exploring life and death on a Roman imperial estate at Vagnari, Puglia

BSR alumna and Professor of Roman Archaeology Maureen Carroll (Sheffield), and Associate Professor of Anthropology Tracy Prowse (McMaster) update us on one of the BSR’s associated projects, the Vagnari imperial estate. This summer two teams of researchers from the University of Sheffield and McMaster University continued their archaeological research on the Roman settlement and associated cemetery at Vagnari, located about 15 km northwest of the large Iron Age settlement at Botromagno (modern Gravina in Puglia).

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Map showing location of Vagnari in south-east Italy (Puglia). Map by M. Carroll.

Since the archaeological discovery in 2000 by Alastair and Carola Small of a vast Roman estate around Vagnari, the retrieval of ceramic roof tiles stamped with the name of an imperial slave has indicated that this estate and its central settlement (vicus) were the property of the Roman emperor himself.  Thanks to the excavations by the University of Sheffield from 2012 to 2018, it is now clear that the imperial settlement was developed at the very beginning of the first century AD, perhaps by Augustus, and that it enjoyed a significant burst of activity at this time. Excavations in the last two years have pushed the chronology of the site back to the second century BC, however, by revealing a late Republican settlement that may have been one of those established by Roman aristocrats and speculators expanding into Apulia after the Roman conquest of the region in the third century AD. This private landholding at Vagnari then entered imperial possession, perhaps through inheritance, in the early first century AD. Archaeological evidence points to the period between the late first and the mid-fourth century AD as the most active and productive phase of occupation in the vicus at Vagnari, with the late fourth century witnessing the decline and abandonment of the settlement.

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Excavating a pit filled with pottery of the Augustan period in the vicus. Photo by M. Carroll.

In preparation for the final publication of the vicus, an international team of specialists on the University of Sheffield project came together in Gravina in 2019 to conduct an analysis of specific finds complexes that are particularly informative and offer new perspectives. The focus of our work this summer and in the coming months is on the networks that were established to create and develop the imperial estate and the connectivity between this region and others in and beyond Italy. Artefactual and environmental remains were studied to investigate the supply of imported ceramics and decorative marbles, the mobility of animals in transhumance patterns, cereal cultivation strategies, and on-site industrial outputs. Imperial properties have been studied primarily on the basis of historical texts and inscriptions, but the high-resolution archaeological data at Vagnari enables us to take a broader and, at the same time, more nuanced approach to studying such estates. The carefully documented sequences of occupation and diagnostic material at Vagnari allows us to explore the profound changes in social and political contexts, human and animal mobility, and economic regimes in this region of southern Italy brought about by its annexation to the Roman state and its regional exploitation by the imperial elite.

Work in the Roman cemetery at Vagnari began in 2002, and since that time excavations have uncovered over 150 burials dating between the first and fourth centuries AD. The burials in this cemetery provide an opportunity to understand what life was like on an imperial estate and how these people buried their dead. Fieldwork continued in July and August under the direction of Tracy Prowse (McMaster University, Canada), with the aim of continuing to reveal the extent of the cemetery to the West and South of previously excavated trenches.

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Plan of the cemetery with areas excavated in 2019 outlined in black. Plan F. Taccogna, courtesy of T. Prowse.

The large northern trench contained five alla cappuccina burials similar to those found in other Roman cemeteries. Four additional cappuccina burials were reinforced with hundreds of kilograms of stone and mortar surrounding the tile structure. This year we found three burials that appeared to have been intentionally disturbed in antiquity, one of which was re-used, indicated by disarticulated bones clustered at the end of the burial  and the presence of multiple individuals inside the same disturbed tomb.

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Photo of burial F352 with cluster of bones at the South end of the burial. Photo by T. Prowse.

In the smaller southern trench, we uncovered five cappuccina burials badly damaged by modern ploughing, but also found a number of young children and infants (less than a year old) who were intentionally buried adjacent to the tomb covers, bringing the total number of individuals recovered from this trench to eleven. Most of the burials in both areas of the cemetery contained a small number of modest grave goods, typically ceramic vessels, lamps, iron objects (e.g. blades, nails), and some items of personal adornment. Ongoing bioarchaeological analysis of the skeletal sample from the Vagnari cemetery is investigating diet, mobility, activity, and health of this rural Roman population.

Pottery work

Sorting and cataloguing vicus pottery (David Griffiths, Kelsey Madden, Sarah Hayes) at the Centro Operativo per l’Archeologia di Gravina in Puglia (Soprintendenza Archeologia, Belle Arti e Paessagio) in 2019. Photo by M. Carroll.

The Sheffield 2019 fieldwork was funded through research grants from the British Academy/Leverhulme Trust, the Rust Family Foundation, and the University of Sheffield. Participants included Sally Cann, Maureen Carroll, David Griffiths, Sarah Hayes, Caroline Jackson, Petrus Le Roux, Louis Olivier Lortie, Kelsey Madden, Giuseppe Montana, Jonathan Moulton, Rebecca Sgouros, Matthew Stirn, Angela Trentacoste, and David Wigg-Wolf.

The 2019 field season by McMaster University was funded, in part, through a research grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (#430-2017-00291). The 2019 excavation team included Liana Brent, Marissa Ledger, Franco Taccogna, and 22 undergraduate students from McMaster and other Canadian universities.

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Excavations in the Roman cemetery. Photo by T. Prowse.

 

Maureen Carroll (Professor of Roman Archaeology, University of Sheffield; BSR Hugh Last Fellow 2015-16; BSR Balsdon Fellow 2007-8) and Tracy Prowse (Associate Professor of Anthropology, Department of Anthropology, McMaster University; director of excavations in the cemetery at Vagnari).

Summer #ObjectOfTheWeek

Every Thursday over the summer we highlighted an #ObjectOfTheWeek from our archives and special collections on Twitter and Instagram.

We asked some of our staff to choose an object and tell us why it is important to them, and here is what they picked out.

What’s your favourite object from the BSR collections?


Peter Campbell, Assistant Director for Archaeology and Archaeological Science

@peterbcampbell

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‘This map (c.1762, dedicated to British architect Robert Adam) from our special collections shows the Campus Martius in the Roman period as imagined by Piranesi. As a maritime archaeologist I particularly enjoyed the detail of Tiber Island’

 


Harriet O’Neill, Assistant Director for the Humanities and Social Sciences

@HarrietONeill01

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‘This catalogue gives real insight into the British contribution to the 1911 International Fine Arts Exhibition. I find it amazing that paintings by Constable, Reynolds & Gainsborough once hung here in Rome and the efforts that were made to transport them. I am curious about how audiences moved around the exhibition, and what the paintings, prints and drawings on display were intended to communicate about contemporary British art’

 


Alessandra Giovenco, Archivist

@ale_jeee

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‘This stereoscope was recently acquired by our Photo Archive thanks to Tony Richards of The John Rylands Library. A common means of entertainment in the Victorian age, it was the first successful attempt to render an image in 3D form through a particular photographic layout’

 


Martina Caruso, Assistant Director for Art, Architecture and the Creative Industries

@LcarusoMartina

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‘This is not an aerial landscape but a photo by Agnes Bulwer of a C13 embroidery at Anagni near Rome, taken to help historian ‘Miss RF Pulley (Mrs HH Jewell)’ on her mission to study English embroideries that had travelled to Italy. The photo was taken in 1910. Pulley coloured two of the series of photographs which were then exhibited in the British Historical Section of the Rome Exhibition in 1911. Little is known of the Bulwer sisters. We know the younger sister Dora was born in Naples, and after the death of their mother, they moved to Rome. The BSR holds five albums of their views of Italy, France, Greece and personal travel photos bsrdigitalcollections.it/dab.aspx ‘

 


Valerie Scott, Librarian

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‘A snapshot of the Roman Campagna in 1704 by cartographer Giovanni Battista Cingolani della Pergola, engraving by Pietro Paolo Girelli, from our Libray’s Special Collections. The detail is remarkable. For example, number 184 corresponds to the information that the land was owned by Cardinal Decano. Visit www.bsrdigitalcollections.it to find out more’

 


Stephen Kay, Archaeology Officer

@stephenjohnkay

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‘This series of aerial photographs of Portus was taken by the RAF on the 30 March 1944. The photographs, now curated by the ICCD, were saved by John Ward-Perkins following World War Two. They are a major resource for archaeologists to understand the changing landscape of Italy’

 


Stephen Milner, Director
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And to round off our summer #ObjectOfTheWeek series BSR Director Stephen Milner chose our trusty moka pots used to make the coffee, or ‘black gold’, that fuels life at the BSR. Captured beautifully here by this year’s Québec Resident Dan Popa.

 

A petition to free Ezra Pound

In 1955, American poet Ezra Pound turned 70 confined in St Elizabeths Hospital in Washington for the criminally insane. He had been there for almost a decade, since pleading insanity in November 1945, to avoid facing treason charges for his activities as pro-Axis propagandist on Rome Radio during the Second World War – charges that could very likely have led to the death penalty. Many writers, such as Archibald MacLeish, Ernest Hemingway and Robert Frost, sought to mobilise public opinion, lobbying for the poet’s release. Yale Broadcasting Company recorded ‘A Tribute to Ezra Pound’, a radio programme that collected testimonials by, amongst others, W.H. Auden, Stephen Spender, Marianne Moore, William Carlos Williams and E.E. Cummings. Though some of these writers admitted to having no first-hand knowledge of Pound’s broadcasts, such was their devotion to Pound that they agreed to take part nonetheless. Their contributions were collected in Ezra Pound at Seventy, and the broadcast can be listened to here: https://library.harvard.edu/poetry/listeningbooth/poets/pound.html

Similar campaigns were also underway in Italy, where Pound had lived for over twenty years until his arrest. In 1954, his son-in-law had helped arrange a series of broadcasts on Vatican radio, with José V. de Piña Martins, professor of Portuguese at Rome University, launching an appeal to free Pound. Also in 1955, poet Giovanni Papini collected signatures for a petition addressed to the American ambassador in Rome, Clare Boothe Luce, demanding Pound’s release. Co-ordinating many of these efforts was Pound’s Italian publisher, Vanni Scheiwiller, who worked ceaselessly to enlist the support of writers, poets and intellectuals, on both sides of the political spectrum. Scheiwiller offered to act as ‘postman’ for Papini’s petition, which was signed by a long list of writers, including Alberto Moravia, Ignazio Silone, Umberto Saba and Giuseppe Ungaretti. Though poets Vittorio Sereni and Salvatore Quasimodo and translator Fernanda Pivano agreed to sign Papini’s petition, their writings and correspondence with Scheiwiller reveal their enduring reservations about Pound’s wartime activities. I wrote this poem, which revisits their writings on the subject, to reflect the ambivalence of their responses.

 

Not ideas but ties

a united front

of many factions

bind poets, critics, left & right.

 

All, perhaps, agree on compassion,

incline to ask for grace –

less so to endorse action

committed in poetry’s name,

to clear responsibility

that does exist

that needs

examination.

 

Take Lorca – his position

in the order of civilisation;

Pound’s in a limbo, slightly strange –

civilisation yes, but which?

If you write the ambassador,

you must to Franco too. Find

the lost bones a proper spot,

better than the red rag

or Santa Ana. We’ll call it

negotiation.

 

Today in my heart

I feel a tremor of stars

but my path is lost

in the soul of the mist.

 

Spoon River seized, so far

from the jargon – words

made to mean the same,

Leone Ginzburg dead

in the Queen of Heaven.

And what of the meathooks

and the bloody branches?

 

How could we sing

with hearts under

foreign foot, with the dead

that crowd the square

on ice-hard grass,

the children’s lamb-lament,

the black cry

of mother seeking son

hung on the telegraph pole?

 

A war of many wars,

some with histories

still there in the street names –

some cried out too loud

others quiet in defeat: on the

green lawns of the ward

so far from the noise,

was the first silence sown

to build and accrete?

 

On the willow fronds, by vow,

a tree amid the wood

the poets had hung their lyres

of Daphne and the laurel bough

which swung lightly in the wind.

 

Sean Mark (Rome Fellow 2018-19)

 

 

Summer and art at the BSR

Our July artists in residence from Newcastle University and those on the Meade Rome Residency from the University of the Arts London (Chelsea and London College of Communication) arrived just as the BSR façade was being completed. Together with Sainsbury Scholar Anna Brass and the three architects in residence on the Boas Award (Marco Fiorino, Fiona Cuypers-Stanienda and Aoi Phillips Yamashita), they curated a pop-up exhibition on the portico and steps on the evening of 25 July.

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Elin Karlsson, untitled, 2019 (photo: Elin Karlsson)

Elin Karlsson (LCC, UAL) unfurled three large sails which she lit against the night sky with a floodlight hidden in a tiny cluster-cave of salt dough, broken glass and candles. Karl Foster (Chelsea, UAL) filled three abandoned niches beneath Piazzale Winston Churchill with a triptych of small dead trees that he found at the bottom of the road, with their roots exposed. Karl covered some of the tips of the branches with bits of plastic and clothing as a way to heal their wounds, ineffectually.

Karl Foster photo Portico_Elin_Karlsson2019_13

Karl Foster, i vostri figli i ragazzi pairoli crea spazzatura, 2019 (photo: Elin Karlsson)

Marco Fiorino (Cambridge) exhibited architectural mappings of in-between spaces connecting gardens and public urban spaces, having spent his time to explore historical gardens in and around Rome.

Marco Fiorino photo Elin_Karlsson2019_9

Marco Fiorino, Gardens for Third Nature, 2019 (photo: Elin Karlsson)

Abigail Hampsey’s (Newcastle University) paintings contrasted the classical limestone framework with entwined fluorescent narratives and Remi Rana Allen (Chelsea, UAL) presented The Memoirs of Lady Vagina Dentata and Killer Queen, a Medusa’s head made of Indian hair extensions from Delhi placing ‘black hair and dark skin’ as protagonists within traditional Western myths.

Abighail Hampsey photo Elin_Karlsson2019

Abi Hampsey, don’t miss, 2019 (photo: Elin Karlsson)

Remi Rana Allen photo Portico_Elin_Karlsson2019_17

Remi Rana Allen, Killer Queen, 2019 (photo: Elin Karlsson)

Fiona Cuypers-Stanienda’s (Architectural Association) four photographs of people and objects occupied an off-centre area near the doorway, reflecting her self-imposed challenge to understand and represent the use of public space in Rome.

Fiona Cuypers-Stanienda photo Portico_Elin_Karlsson2019_1

Fiona Cuypers-Stanienda, untitled, 2019 (photo: Elin Karlsson)

These very different practices that somehow spoke to each other brought the façade, hidden for months behind scaffolding, to life within an expansive discourse. This was an internal event that took place in an external setting which meant that people walking by were intrigued and stopped to look at the works exhibited.

In the previous weeks Meaghan Stewart (Newcastle University) led a monoprint workshop with left-over paints from previous BSR residents, inviting anyone curious to drop into her studio, including scholars and architects. She encouraged the less expert through the steps, from how to ink the acetate or glass support, create designs for effect, and experiment with different techniques. Some of the monoprints were exhibited on a table under the portico, including work by Anna Brass, Aoi Phillips Yamashita (Architectural Association) and Meaghan. The table featured small sculptures too, creating a miniature landscape for the prints.

Anna Brass, Aoi Phillips Yamashita and Meaghan Stewart photo Portico_Elin_Karlsson2019_5

Anna Brass, Aoi Phillips Yamashita and Meaghan Stewart (photo: Elin Karlsson)

Meaghan Stewart monoprint (photo MC)

Meaghan Stewart, untitled (Fountain of Maremma), 2019 (photo: Martina Caruso)

Meaghan Stewart monoprint workshop (photo MC)

Monoprint workshop with Meaghan Stewart (photo: Martina Caruso)

 

Martina Caruso (Assistant Director for Art, Architecture and the Creative Industries)