June Mostra 2018 / Meet the artists…Oona Grimes

As we approach the June Mostra, our third exhibition of this academic year, we will be publishing a series of blogs taking a closer look at the individual practices of our seven resident artists. Our interview is with Oona Grimes, our Bridget Riley Fellow.

 

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Photo by Antonio Palmieri 

Tell us about your journey in Rome so far and what you have experienced this term?

The story board rolls on…

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‘roman sKandals’, 75x110cm

I came to Rome with a selection of films playing in my head – from the Neorealists to late Fellini. Particular scenes and actions began to haunt me, sequences with particular relevance to the time and the place.

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Still from ‘coming soon : Stromboli’s bucket’

The Piazza Rotunda was one of my daily morning walks –  just to be in Rome – early, before the crowds, to watch the road sweepers and the shop keepers setting up. I began learning specific filmed actions, initially concentrating on the scene from Umberto D when he is reduced to begging outside The Pantheon – rehearsing and repeating his actions in order to Know them, drawing them physically, drawing myself into the film.

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Umberto D. Script (Photo: Rocco Sciaraffa)

I continued filming with Mozzarella in Carrozza, drawn from Bicycle Thieves – focusing on the excruciatingly painful scene in the restaurant Antonio and his son, Bruno can’t afford – a scene of misplaced pride, disillusion and the vivid class divide between them and the diners.

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Still from ‘coming soon’ : mozzarella in carozza [Bicycle Thieves]’ i.phone rushes : 3’07”

Now, ‘u.e u’. from Pasolini’s Uccellacci e Uccellini, filmed in Garbatella. Bird calls haunt me in the studio, their repetitive song invades my dreams.  ‘u.e u.’ is a sublime dance of miscommunication, mistranslation, absurd jumpy hands gestures referencing both gestures from paintings and everyday communication. Using 16mm film cut with iPhone clips I chased language – both the learning and losing of it – the omissions, the torn, the discontinuity, the patches, the bad repairs.

I spent a day at Cinecitta with an incredible fake Sistine Chapel and Chapel of Tears, the reality and the illusion madly muddled into un Papa in acqua pazza. A visit from the Vatican press intensified the hallucination as dog collars and papal gowns munched pizza over lunch.

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The ‘real’ Sistine Chapel (Photo: copyright free image)

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Spot the difference… the Sistine Chapel re-created at Cinecitta

Parallel Pantheon worlds… Bishops and Monsignors… drapes and folds and hand gestures, rituals and roses.

Walking, watching, hand gestures, the sign language of hands, mis-translation and mis-communication, bird language, silent language.

Drapes and folds pleats and drapes fabric fashion folds.

 

In your exploration of Italian Cinema, have you found a female character to feature in your work?

I’ve been looking at Liliana Cavani and Ketty La Rocca, Laura Betti and Silvana Mangano but the story board embraces a motley and disparate bunch of characters none of whom take starring roles – they are more the underdogs and background extras.

 

Last term you spoke about your first experiences in Rome as “a sea of visual treats…felt like a veritable tartan sea sponge, a kid who has overdosed on candy floss”. Has this also been the case this term or have you been focusing on specific themes?

The sponge gets bigger!

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‘angelo del fango’, 75 x 110cm

The six months have made an Enormous difference. Initially I was too ravenous, greedily devouring and collecting. Now it has been amazing to re-visit collections and spend time with just one work. Daily there are new discoveries and long lists for future explorations.

This term I have enjoyed watching the light change and the city fill up with visitors. The drapery, the folds, the fabric has etched itself into my brain… Folds n flocks, soft squidgy marble folds….

Stay tuned… ‘coming soon e.u e.’ …

 

Oona’s work will be exhibited alongside the six other resident artists in the June Mostra. The opening will take place on Friday 15 June 18.30-21.00. Opening hours 16.30-19.00 until Saturday 23 June 2018, closed Sundays.

Interview by Alice Marsh (Communications & Events). Photos by Oona Grimes, unless otherwise stated.

 

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June Mostra 2018 / Meet the artists…John Rainey

As we approach the June Mostra, our third exhibition of this academic year, we will be publishing a series of blogs taking a closer look at the individual practices of our seven resident artists. Today’s interview is with John Rainey, our Arts Council of Northern Ireland Fellow.

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Photo: Antonio Palmeiri

You recently participated in EVA International. Tell us more about this experience…

EVA is an international biennial that takes place in Limerick, in the west of Ireland. For this year’s EVA I was commissioned to create a new piece of outdoor sculpture – an architectural intervention onto the facade of a Georgian building called the Hunt Museum.

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John Rainey, ‘Going to ruin (you)’, 2018. EVA International installation.

The commission demanded much of my attention in the first 3 months of my BSR fellowship and was finally delivered in mid-April. There were a lot of new approaches for me with this project, including working on a much larger scale, and working with a steel fabricator in Ireland, while I was based here in Rome. This kind of remote management of the project was a challenge, but ultimately good experience.

At the end of March I returned to Ireland to do the final stage of the fabrication, and was based in a studio at the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin, where I had a short production residency. The finished work was a staging of a section of the building’s façade falling into ruin, so the development and production periods coinciding with my fellowship in Rome felt especially relevant. My time spent at ruined sites around the city, particularly thinking about fragmentation, destruction and conservation practices are still influencing my planning of new work.

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John Rainey, ‘Going to ruin (you)’, 2018. EVA International installation.

Will the work you show in the June Mostra be connected to the work you presented in Ireland?

Not directly, though it will share some of the thinking about control, destruction and imitation with the ruins project. This time I’m picking up on a dialogue with classical statuary form.

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“Variants (Addendum)” (detail), 2017. Image: Simon Mills courtesy of Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast

In visiting collections in the Museums of Rome, my existing interest in the copy has narrowed in on ideas about repetition, states of repair and provenance. Specifically copies of Polykleitos’ Doryphoros, one of which I saw recently at the National Archaeological Museum in Naples. I will be presenting a series of variations of this form on a reduced scale, developed through 3D printing and traditional casting processes.

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Doryphoros at National Archaeological Museum, Naples.

I am working with new materials in Rome, such as silicone, jesmonite and printied vinyl (as with the interior ruins piece I showed in the March Mostra), so the work in the upcoming June Mostra will feature a combination of these.

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John Rainey, ‘Going to Roman ruin (you)’, 2018. BSR March Mostra. (Photo: Roberto Apa)

 

You recently visited the excavations at Pompeii, as you were particularly interested in the plaster cast bodies. Explain how this trip affected you?

The Pompeii casts are especially interesting for me because casting in one of the main processes I use in my work. I create moulds to cast into, but at times I’m also casting from life.

More aligned with the tradition of death casting, the cavities created by the bodies in Pompeii acted as ready made moulds after the decomposition of soft tissue. The results of this natural casting process (following the intervention of Giuseppe Fiorelli who filled the spaces with plaster) are artefacts that resist classification – part artwork and part corpse.

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Pompeii plaster casts

Similarly, seeing the artefacts first-hand is not a singular experience – they’re beautiful and horrifying at the same time. This dual experience is something familiar to a lot of the corporeal work that I make.

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Pompeii plaster casts

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John Rainey, “Face Off”, 2016

There’s another significant resonance between the Pompeii bodies and my practice in terms of the use of digital scanning processes. In recent years the bodies have been subject to CT scanning which has revealed the skeletal remains and other matter that lies inside the solid forms.

Pompeii Cat scan on casts of the victims of the eruption of Vesuvius

Pompeii plaster cast, 3D scan and CT scan. (Picture by: NApress)

This information has really expanded our knowledge of the society they represent, while also correcting long-held assumptions about the victims, such as the causes of death, gender, and social status. This example of material and digital technologies rendering the human past with greater lucidity, when applied to this historical, real-world investigation, has been useful for thinking about the wider context of the processes I use.

John’s work will be exhibited alongside the six other resident artists in the June Mostra. The opening will take place on Friday 15 June 18.30-21.00. Opening hours 16.30-19.00 until Saturday 23 June 2018, closed Sundays.

Interview by Alice Marsh (Communications & Events). Photos by John Rainey.

June Mostra 2018 / Meet the artists…Murat Urlali

As we approach the March Mostra, our second exhibition of this academic year, we will be publishing a series of blogs taking a closer look at the individual practices of our seven resident artists. Our first interview is with Murat Urlali, our National Art School, Sydney, Resident

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The decorative motifs of the Cosmati mosaic floors that you saw in San Clemente have begun to appear in your work. These mosaics take inspiration from the Eastern Byzantine tradition overlapping with the Western Classical. How are ideas of cross-cultural exchange explored in your work?

The cross-cultural exchange or interculturalism is a really important for me and for my art.

The Quebec philosopher Charles Taylor says that multiculturalism encourages the Ghettos and Ghettoism in a country. But interculturalism emphasises the integration, which is exactly what I agree with. Multiculturalism requires equal rights for different cultures, but there is no requirement for them to interact with each other, except through a common spoken language in a country. But interculturalism promotes interaction, understanding and respect: integration between different cultures and different ethnic groups.  Exploring cross-cultural exchange is, I suppose, at least part of “my thing”!!!

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What is important to mention here is that I do not come from a Judea Christian background. When I decided to study art, at the National Art School, Sydney, I suddenly found myself plunged into a world of assumed knowledge of tradition and experience of a Biblical narrative – this was a real cultural shock!!  I suppose that exploring cross-cultural exchange is my way of coming to terms with this.

Before I came to Rome, much of my practice was informed by trying to connect the idealised Western imagery, which is traditional painting, with the spiritual symbolism of the Islamic world. Thereby creating a dialogue between the Western and Eastern viewers of my work. Considering the times in which we are living this dialogue is both useful, and I believe necessary.

In Rome you spend so much of your time looking up; to intricately decorated ceilings and to breath-taking sculptures in the Galleria Borghese. These little squares that I have made, inspired by the Cosmati floors, remind you to look down – to see down to what you are walking on. These mosaics are so beautiful and so much work has gone into these cut marble floors. This is what I have tried to reflect in my small squares, my tondi.

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You work on a variety of different subjects in your paintings. Tell us more about what you have been exploring while here in Rome?

As an artist who embraces the kitsch and camp, Rome provides such a rich source of inspiration. Even, if you ask me, the Vatican City and the Catholic Church — so theatrical with so many colours.

I have been using my time here sensibly to explore churches, galleries and Museums taking the opportunity to get up close and personal with works of my artistic heroes.  I have visited some galleries quite a few times. One church, Santa Maria del Popolo — I honestly can’t remember how many times I have been there — every time I head back to the BSR I pop in and look at my two favorite Caravaggio’s.

This is my first time in Rome and I am trying to look-up and embrace as much as I possibly can!

The tondi ‘Same sex intimacy’ and the ‘Medusa’, I have completed while I have been here.  I think it is clear that I have viewed Michelangelo’s and Caravaggio’s work through a rather Camp lens.  For the third tondo that I am working on now, I found inspiration at Porta Portese in Trastevere. This market is so big and the streets are so full. I was walking in the market, I saw this Venetian mask and thought, YES — this is what I have to do! I love the mask idea as it lends itself to my practice, letting me reflect on mystic and mystery as well as intimacy and ambiguity. This is why I started to focus first on the eyes of the figure.

Looking to the small works again, I have been fascinated by the patterns that you can find all over Rome. Especially interesting, to me are those that have been influenced by Eastern art, the Cosmati Mosaic floors.

Some people may view working on very precise, geometrically exact and the repetitive patternation as restrictive, but I certainly do not! I have found it quite liberating. By creating these multi textural bejeweled surfaces, that make a density and are dazzling in the light. I hope to capture a light dance and sense of liberation about them. I am trying to invite the viewers to intimately engage with the details and examine the works in detail.

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Do you think that you shall take these tondi designs back to Australia?

Certainly, indeed when I go back to Australia I am planning to use some Cosmati patterns in my work. But in Australia I shall work on a different scale 2m in height.

One thing that I know is that I shall be coming back! I don’t know how after all these years I have not been in Rome, I shall be back very soon!

Murat’s work will be exhibited alongside the six other resident artists in the June Mostra. The opening will take place on Friday 15 June 18.30-21.00. Opening hours 16.30-19.00 until Saturday 23 June 2018, closed Sundays.

Interview by Alice Marsh (Communications & Events). Photos by Murat Urlali (excepting church of San Clemente, copyright free image). 

Ashby Adventures 2018

Last week we hosted our Ashby Patrons visit to Rome. This is always a very special weekend in the BSR’s calendar when we welcome our Ashby Patrons to the BSR for an action-packed few days of adventures both inside and outside the city. This year was no exception with a full and expertly tailored programme of excursions!

Always an important part of the weekend, is the opportunity for the Patrons to speak with resident award-holders and to visit the studios of artists resident at the BSR. This year was no different. On arrival the group were treated to a visual feast (indeed, a sneak preview of what is to come in next month’s June Mostra) by three of our artists in residence – Murat Urlali (National Art School, Sydney, Resident), John Robertson (Abbey Scholar in Painting) and Oona Grimes (The Bridget Riley Fellow). After visiting the studios the group joined BSR residents and staff for dinner.

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Murat Urlali (National Art School, Sydney, Resident) in his studio

The first full day began with a visit to the Venerable English College, the Catholic seminary in Rome which trains priests from England and Wales.

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After a hearty welcome from Ryan Service, a Seminarian from the Archdiocese of Birmingham, the group had the privilege of being led around the college, current exhibition and the archives, by Archive Coordinator and BSR Research Fellow Professor Maurice Whitehead. This visit was also an opportunity to explain to the group the British School at Rome’s ambition to work in collaboration with Venerable English College to open access to their archives, facilitating the opportunity to bring UK scholars to Rome to study them.

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Sustained by a fine lunch, the group progressed to the second visit of the day, a guided tour of Palazzo Pamphilj (situated within Piazza Navona and now home to the Brazilian Embassy in Italy) led by Assistant Director Tom True.

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Within the Ashby group we were lucky to have BSR Former Chair of council Timothy Llewellyn, expert on the frescoed ceiling of Pietro da Cortona, who explained the story of Aeneas depicted on the ceiling above. We were then treated to a spectacular view from the balcony to the piazza below.

After a day of visual and gastronomic treats, those who had the strength, stomach and courage, rounded off the day with a gelato at Giolitti!

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Relaxed and refreshed, the second day saw the Ashby group venture out from Rome to Lake Bracciano, to enjoy a guided tour of Castello Odescalchi bathed in sunshine.

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After the tour the group enjoyed a delicious feast comprised of locally sourced ingredients at an agriturismo in Trevignano. Yet, this was not the end of the days programme, upon arrival back to the BSR, Marco Iuliano (member of the BSR Faculty of Archaeology, History and Letters) gave a presentation entitled ‘Notes on the Cartography of Rome’, with particular reference to special holdings from our Library, including a map by Giovani Battista Cingolani della Pergola (1704), which depicts Lake Bracciano.

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The advent of the final day revealed that some of the best treasures had been saved until last. Valerie Scott (Librarian and Deputy Director) presented the Library’s latest addition, a gift of rare books presented to the BSR earlier this year by Chair of Council Mark Getty.

To round off the trip, Director Stephen Milner brought the Ashby’s up-to-date with his vision of the future for the BSR, prompting a lively discussion. As per tradition, the weekend concluded with brunch at Caffè delle Arti with reflections on the activities and success of the weekend.

It was a delight to host the Ashby Patrons, and was a chance to say thank you for their continued support and guidance, which is wholeheartedly appreciated and valued by the whole BSR community.

Roll on next year…!

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Blog and photographs by Alice Marsh (Events and Communications Assistant) 

 

A look back at the March Mostra 2018

In March we saw the second mostra of our 2017–18 programme, in which our seven Fine Arts award-holders and resident architect put together an exhibition of works produced during the course of their residencies. Here we bring you a selection of photographs of works from the exhibition. You can read more about the practice of each artist by clicking on their name.

Josephine Baker-Heaslip (Sainsbury Scholar in Painting & Sculpture)

 

Marie-Claire Blais (Québec Resident)

 

Oona Grimes (The Bridget Riley Fellow)

 

Gabriel Hartley (Abbey Fellow in Painting)

 

John Rainey (Arts Council of Northern Ireland Fellow)

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Joseph Redpath (Scholars’ Prize in Architecture Winner)

 

John Robertson (Abbey Scholar in Painting)

 

Deborah Rundle (BSR Wallace New Zealand Residence Awardee)

 

Photos by Roberto Apa

BSR summer summary

As the summer draws to a close, we reflect on the hard work and events that have gone on at the BSR over the summer months, and look forward to the advent of a new academic year ahead.

An exciting new addition to our facilities inaugurated the summer at the BSR – we were delighted to add a new fully-facilitated flat to our residence. As a result, we were able to host three more researchers over the course of the summer. The creation of the new flat coincides with the re-organisation of our office space over the past few months: our finance, communications and administration have recently been relocated in spacious new offices, and we now have new lab facilities for our archaeologists.

A huge thank you and congratulations to our brilliant Library team, who worked tirelessly over the summer on the annual update of the Library collection. This task saw some 100,000 volumes accounted for, and our ever-growing collection was reordered, ready for the return of our Library members in September.

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The super Library team hard at work on the annual summer update

Each summer, the BSR welcomes back into its fold former Fine Arts award-holders to make use of the studio space. In addition this year we hosted three artists on the Mead Rome PhD Studio Residency (in collaboration with University of the Arts London) as well as one David & Mary Forshaw Newcastle Residency. Many of the artists opened up their studios to other residents and staff to take a peak at their work in progress.

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The first half of September saw another successful Summer School. Each year, a group of undergraduate students studying Ancient History, Archaeology and Classics join us for an intensive two-week course led by Cary Fellow Robert Coates-Stephens, and Ed Bispham (Rome Scholar Humanities 1994–5). Each day’s visits took on a different theme, preceded by an introductory lecture at the BSR, and covering various elements of the city and its surroundings. The students left Rome with a comprehensive understanding of the city under their belts, after a fantastic fortnight – not even a biblical deluge at Tivoli’s Villa Adriana could dampen their spirits! Thanks to the tireless efforts of Robert, Ed and Stefania Peterlini (Permissions Officer), the group gained privileged access to a vast range of Rome’s most fascinating sites, and many commented that the course will continue to inspire them throughout their studies.

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2017 Summer School group with Robert Coates-Stephens and Ed Bispham (photo by Antonio Palmieri)

Meanwhile in Pompeii BSR Archaeology Officer Stephen Kay and his team and colleagues from the Ilustre Colegio Oficial de Doctores y Licenciados en Letras y Ciencias de Valencia y Castellòn, Departamento de Arqueologia and the Museo de Prehistoria e Historia de La Diputación De Valencia completed the final season of excavation at Porta Nola (Pompeii) — you can find out more about the latest discoveries in our previous blog.

The summer concluded with a visit from a group of members of the Attingham Trust. The Trust offers specialised courses on historic houses, their collections and settings, and on the history and contents of English royal palaces. This year their Study Programme came to Rome for the first time and was organised by former award-holder Dr Andrew Moore (Paul Mellon Rome Fellow  2006-7) in association with the BSR. The participants — curators, architects and art collectors — have visited several palazzi and villas in Rome and Naples as part of their ‘Attingham Grand Tour’. We were  thrilled to welcome back to the BSR, as a participant of this study programme, Allison Goudie (Rome Award 2012-13) who since her BSR award has worked in various roles at the National Gallery and the National Trust.

The group were treated to a lecture by BSR Director Christopher Smith, and a tour of the Library and Archives, including some closed access material relating to the Grand Tour.

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The Attingham Study group view rare books in the Library (photo by Antonio Palmieri)

 

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The Attingham Study group (photo by Antonio Palmieri)

The evening concluded with a lively dinner, bringing the BSR dining room back to full capacity after the summer months. This special dinner was also the first in residence for incoming Director Stephen Milner, who formally steps into the position at the beginning of October — benvenuto Stephen! We look forward to the start of the new academic year and the exciting programme of events to come.

Il Palio dell’Assunta

In April, it was revealed that the winning flag – or drappellone – for the August Palio di Siena would be painted by Sinta Tantra, who was residing at the BSR at the time as our 2016—17 Bridget Riley Fellow. After months of preparation and research and many trips to Siena, the drappellone was presented at Siena’s Palazzo Pubblico, and six days later claimed by Onda (Wave), the victorious contrada (district) of the race. Here we take a look at a week in the world of Palio.

While the elements that are to be included in each drappellone — the symbols of the competing contrade, the symbols of the city and government, the image of the Madonna — are always featured, the design, colours and content of the drappellone was shrouded in secrecy. Only a small handful of people were allowed to see the flag in its various stages of development before its presentation in the Palazzo Pubblico of Siena, six days before the race. Each drappellone has a theme, and Sinta was charged with dedicating her flag to the Sienese sculptor Giovanni Duprè to commemorate the two-hundredth anniversary of his birth. The drappellone is hugely coveted by each contrada, and the victorious district which claims it as their own hangs it with pride in their own museum.

On the evening of 10 August, Sinta joined a panel of the Palio committee to present her drappellone to the press and the people of Siena. The Mayor of Siena, Bruno Valentini, was the first to introduce the drappellone. He commented,

‘In the era of Brexit, the choice of a British artist corresponds to the desire to keep the ties between our city and the United Kingdom strong, and to seal a historic and cultural link which must not weaken. I therefore thank the ambassador of the United Kingdom, Jill Morris, a great friend of Siena, for the collaboration with the artist which she presented to us’.

You can read the full text of his speech (in Italian) here.

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Mayor of Siena Bruno Valentini presents the drappellone.

The art historian Margherita Anselmi Zondadari, who acted as a mentor to Sinta throughout the process, then explained the artist’s practice, the inspirations behind the design, and the various elements of the drappellone. You can read the full text of the speech (in Italian) here.

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The ‘drappellone’ designed and painted by Sinta Tantra

The arc of painted circles at the top of the flag represent the barberi, wooden or earthenware balls, whose colours indicate the contrada to which they belong; top-centre is the Madonna dell’Assunta, to whom the August Palio is dedicated, and who takes her form from that of the Madonna in the stained-glass window above the altar in Siena’s Duomo; the architectural elements are inspired by a fresco from the Piccolomini library, and by a 1971 drappellone which also took inspiration from this fresco; below the arch are the contrasting energies and elements of the moon and the sun; the central figure depicts Saffo Abbandonata, a sculpture by Duprè, which happened to be located in the archives of the BSR’s neighbour, the Galleria Nazionale D’Arte Moderna; the symbols of the city and government are shown on the band below; the bottom section is a recreation of the paved floor of the Duomo. The drappellone combines the traditional elements of the city and the festival with Sinta’s contemporary style and the bright, bold colours that are characteristic of her work.

Sinta gave the third and final speech, in which she thanked those who had supported her throughout the process and reflected on the time she had spent in Siena and the impression the city and the Palio had made on her.

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Sinta delivers her speech to the Comune. To the right is art historian Margherita Anselmi Zondadari

Saturday marked the day on which the pool of horses put forward to run is narrowed down from around 40 to the final ten. A spell of rain meant that all those who had arrived at the piazza at 5 a.m. eager to see the first test runs were turned away disappointed, returning in the afternoon once the track was dry.

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Lining up for the first test-run

In the three days following the selection of the ten horses for the Palio, two prove (trials) take place each day, one in the morning and one in the evening. Shortly after the first prova, the Mayor conducts a lottery which assigns a horse to each contrada. The test runs of the previous day meant that the best-performing horses were highly sought-after, and each assignation was greeted with cheers or groans by the respective contrade. Once the horses are assigned, each contrada sets about trying to obtain the best possible jockey and forming alliances amongst themselves: if they cannot win, the next best result is that their rival contrada lose.

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Crowds gather for the lottery assigning a horse to each contrada

A great deal of Italian media attention is given to the Palio, and during the days in between the unveiling of the drappellone and the race, Sinta was interviewed for various media outlets. Click here to read some of the features on the drappellone from the Italian press.

On Monday, with two days to go before the race, the drappellone was carried from the Comune to the Duomo in the corteo storico, a procession through the streets of Siena of drummers, trumpeters and flag-bearers, all in traditional medieval costume. Once at the Duomo, a service took place in which each contrada and then the drappellone were blessed.

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The procession (corteo storico) which leads in the drappellone

On Tuesday evening the prova generale took place. Being the day before the Palio, the jockeys take care not to push the horses too much in this trial. This prova also features a display by the mounted carabinieri. A formal dinner in each contrada follows the prova generale, and in the competing contrade speeches are made by the priore, capitano and fantino (jockey).

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The mounted carabinieri in the prova generale. Photo by Alessia Bruchi via sienafree.it

On the morning of 16 August – Palio day – the final prova was run and the jockeys were blessed in a mass which took place outside the Palazzo Pubblico. Shortly after this, the drappellone was retrieved from the Duomo and taken to the Comune in another procession of drums and trumpets. In the meantime, each horse was taken into the church of its respective contrada to be blessed in advance of the race.

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The blessing of the horse in the church of the contrada of Selva

The grand event began in the late afternoon. For around two hours, another corteo storico featuring musicians, flag-displays from all the contrade (not just those competing) and the mounted carabinieri paraded around the piazza, with the final circuit before the horse race featuring Sinta’s drappellone pulled on a carriage by four enormous oxen.

After so much build-up and anticipation, it all came down to the horse race. Tensions rose as the starting line-up was determined by a lottery, and the excitement of the horses meant that the line-up had to be disbanded and reformed several times before they were controlled enough to start. The tenth contrada to be drawn from the lottery stands a short distance behind the other horses, and determines when the race starts. This jockey therefore aims to start at the moment that is most advantageous for their own contrada and those it is allied with.

The race, which lasts just some 70 seconds, was this time won by Onda (Wave) – an unexpected victory, and a first-time win for both the horse and jockey. Madness ensued in the piazza, with huge celebrations by Onda and the drappellone victoriously claimed and paraded through the streets, first to the Duomo and then to Onda’s church, carried by a mass of cheering, singing and crying contradaioli.

In the end it was very fitting that Onda should win, as Duprè, to whom the drappellone was dedicated, belonged to the contrada of Onda! Many who congratulated Sinta told her with delight Duprè è tornato a casa – Duprè has returned home.

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Sinta raised aloft in the celebrations in the church of Onda


Ellie Johnson (Communications & Events)