It’s not often you pass a lute maker’s shop, but I passed by this one today while exploring the incomparably interesting streets of Naples’ historical center. It was my last day in Naples, the end of a fantastic two-week visit. Tomorrow it’s off to Ravello/Amalfi and more adventures with a Smithsonian Journeys group; a 17-day trip through northern Italy.
This is the third work I’ve found in Naples done by the graffiti artist who signs her name ‘Alice’. She’s Naples’ best mural street artist. All three pieces are portraits of women (see earlier posting) and all beautifully realized in quick strokes of colour. The characters are preternaturally alive and seem to look out of the walls into the street, and all I’ve found are tucked into intimate facets of the city’s decaying and much vandalized walls. People respect her work; nobody ever paints over an ‘Alice’.
Even if you’re a struggling Indian fellow selling cheap umbrellas in Naples’ streets it’s hard not to notice the beautiful women of the city. I took this picture on the Via Benedetto Croce, named after the famous philosopher, who died in Naples in 1952. I appreciated the man’s brief and spontaneous delight in what otherwise must be a hugely difficult life. Their lives are separated by a huge cultural and socio-economic gulf, but in this picture they share an almost intimate space, if only for a millisecond. Only later did I notice the heart that was tucked into the right hand side of the picture.
This cafeteria promises a lot, and with the winning smile of the proprietor (note that beside his head is the word ‘PERFECTO’) it just might deliver. I just took the picture. Fewer calories. This is part of my series on Neapolitan store fronts.
In the mid-fifteenth century a huge ‘Room of the Barons’ was built in the Castello Nuovo in Naples. The room is unimpressive until you look up and see this huge rib vaulted dome overhead, designed like a giant flower’s petals. Just another of the great works of architecture to be found here in Naples.
In a lot of Italian churches these days they don’t allow actual candles or flame lamps for the devoted to leave for prayers. Instead, there are little electric candles and you put a coin in and they flicker for a few hours. Somehow it doesn’t quite do the trick, though it’s much better for the air quality inside the church and better, too, for the works of art around the altars. This may be a devotional scene you won’t be able to see a few years from now. By then, there will be an app for that.
In early Christian art it was much more common to depict Christ as a young shepherd rather than the bearded, long-haired hippie we usually associate with him. In these fourth-century mosaics in the baptistery of San Giovanni delle Fonte in Naples there are four such examples of Christ the shepherd; here’s one of them. These 1600 year-old images give us a rare glimpse into the early years of the religion, just decades after the once illegal cult had become the religion of the empire.
The Commedia dell’Arte character Pulcinella crops up at lot in Naples, in souvenirs, statues, posters… Here, he overlooks the Via Tribunali, one of Naples’ best historical streets. Storms are coming again tomorrow. Hoping for them to pass quickly.
This is a picture of a detail of some sculptures in the lunette of the Palatine Chapel of the Castello Nuovo in Naples. It shows the baby Christ on Mary’s lap with singing angels on both sides. But I noticed that some cheeky bastard had at some point shot Christ in the head, either intentionally or by accident. Or maybe the head fell off once and this is where it hit the ground (note the crappy patch job). Either way, you can see the impact point on Christ’s head. Anyway, it looks like a couple of the angels are laughing at him and he’s turning around to give them a dirty look.
I took this picture today while visiting the ruins of the Roman amphitheater at Capua, just northeast of Naples. It was the second largest in the empire, second only to the more famous ‘Coliseum’ in Rome. It was here in Capua that the Thracian gladiator Spartacus fought before escaping and eventually leading a slave rebellion in the 70s BCE. Only the bones are left of this once giant structure. It was good to get here as my day was otherwise a disappointment. I’d gone to Capua to see the medieval 10th century church of Sant’Angelo in Formis, only to find it closed. Such is travel.
I took the train to Paestum today, a place I hadn’t been to in 34 years. When I first visited, in 1981, I was there with Martin Dent, who in those months I was running into with regularity as our itineraries seemed strangely synched. Later, we travelled together in Turkey and, as fate would have it, I’ve been able to keep in touch with him all these years as he lives in Santa Barbara. There are three 5th century BCE Greek temples at Paestum, the one in this picture the best preserved and one of the best preserved anywhere. It was a great day. The recent rains have fooled the plants: everywhere the grass is green and the spring flowers are blooming.