Articles by: Chiara Basso

  • The Vessel at Hudson Yards (Photo Credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
    Art & Culture

    The Vessel, Beautiful Stairway to Nowhere

    There are no offices, or shops, not even a restroom in "temporary known as" Vessel. It is the choreographic centerpiece of the Hudson Yards, the newest neighborhood of New York City and, according to the New York Times, “the biggest real estate projects in the country in recent years, and one of the biggest in New York since Rockefeller Center was completed 80 years ago.”

    After all, even the Eiffel Tower is just a decorative landmark in Paris, so we shouldn't be too scandalized by the total uselessness of this structure that will easily become a new landmark in New York City.

    The Vessel was created by the British designer Thomas Heatherwick, but we are very proud to write that its 75 pre-fabricated pieces were manufactured by an Italian company, Cimolai S.p.A. of Monfalcone. This company is involved in other projects of the Hudson Yards and is known worldwide for its ability in creating complex steel structures. As a matter of fact, Cimolai, founded in Italy in 1949, also fabricated the Oculus, the ribbed structure over the World Trade Center Transportation Hub in New York designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. 

    The Vessel's bronzed-steel and concrete pieces arrived in New York in six separate shipments after traveling for 15 days at sea and were assembled on site.

    A detail that reminds us of another New York landmark, the Statue of Liberty, which in 1885 arrived in 350 individual pieces from France and reassembled on what is now known as Liberty Island in the New York Harbor. 

    Just remember, before you go, that there is only an elevator in the Vessel, but it is strictly for disabled people and has only one stop, almost at the top. But the experience is exactly in the joy (and effort) of climbing all its steps!


    Here a time-lapse video of the  Hudson Yards' construction  (>>)


  • Chiara Izzi
    Art & Culture

    Chiara Izzi, Jazz Singer With A Mediterranean Voice

    When she entered on the stage at Birdland Jazz Club, Chiara Izzi was visibly nervous but soon let her voice and pianist Kevin Hays guide her. After having broken the ice with the first song, she started feeling at ease and, before any song, she explained to the audience the story and the feelings hidden behind each tune in her album, “Across the Sea” (Jando), released on February 22.

    Izzi, who also debuted yesterday at Birdland, worked on the album with Hays, an internationally acclaimed pianist and vocalist whom she describes as one of her mentors and whom she was always looking at during the concert.

    An Across The Sea project

    With Hays at the piano and Izzi dominating the stage, the duo yesterday played all the 10 multilingual pieces of the album, which comprises original pieces and lyrics by each protagonist and highly personalized interpretations of songs from composers and songwriters who both artists love and admire (James Taylor, Pat Metheny, Henri Mancini to name of few).

    They were joined on stage by two special guests, Grégoire Maret (harmonica) and Nir Felder (guitar), along with Rob Jost on bass and Greg Joseph on drums.

    Yet, Izzi doesn’t want to describe this album, her debut at Birdland, and probably a tour, as a dream came true. “I would rather say that this is a dream in progress. It is the realization of a wonderful project that gave me the opportunity of working with stellar musicians like bassist and French hornist Rob Jost and drummer Greg Joseph, in the company of very special guests, Chris Potter on saxophone, Grégoire Maret on harmonica, Omer Avital on oud, Nir Felder on guitar and Rogério Boccato on percussion.” But of course, she envisions much more to come.

    Leveraging her Italianness

    Enzo Capua, the album’s producer, is also confident in Izzi’s talent and thinks that much more can be achieved. “Among Italian female jazz singers, Chiara is the only one to have being able to create an album with such important American collaborations besides Roberta Gambarini, one of the finest jazz singers in the world and very well known in the States too.”

    Capua recalls that he was first introduced to the talent of Chiara Izzi at a festival in Rome, around seven years ago. Although thinking that she had a lot of potential, he had never imagined that he would have collaborated with her years later in New York City. “When I met her in New York, she had grown incredibly from a professional point of view,” he says.

    To differentiate herself from other jazz singers and turned her italianness, as well as her warm, Mediterranean voice, in an advantage rather than a limit, Capua believes that it was crucial for Izzi to sing and include Italian songs in her album, like “Viaggio Elegiaco” where Izzi contributed to Hays’ music with Italian songwriting. But also when writing in English, she gives a glimpse of her Italian background, like in “Circles Of The Mind.”

    An elegiac journey

    Talking about “Viaggio Elegiaco,” Izzi explained that it is “an example of different musical worlds that meet and build something new. Also, we explored together which language could fit better each song, we sang together on songs switching languages to listen and see how things could work in different ways and make the music sound more effective and meaningful." 

    "For example, we were working on let’s say an American song, and he would tell, ‘Ok, why don’t we think about telling a story in Italian?’ about this song... This kind of exchange and experimenting was interesting. And in fact for several songs from the album we wound up having two different versions of lyrics in two different languages for the same song and sometimes we couldn’t decide which one to keep because we liked both.”

    How Izzi and Hays met

    Recorded in August 2017, “Across The Sea” is the result of the special connection that Izzi and Hays established since their initial encounter. “We share an open-minded approach, with a similar appreciation and love for artists belonging to different genres,” Izzi says. “Our collaboration is an example of different musical worlds that meet and build something new.”

    She had first met Hays in Italy in 2006, while he was playing in Campobasso, her hometown. After the concert, Izzi, then a university student majoring in communications and media who was beginning her career as a professional musician, asked him to sign her copy of the his CD, “For Heaven’s Sake.”

    Later the Italian singer became a bandleader based in Rome and made her international debut at the 2011 Montreux International Jazz Festival Vocal Competition, where Quincy Jones awarded her first prize. With the award came the 2012 recording session that generated her debut album, “Motifs” (Dot-Time), an 11-track program that includes lyrics in English, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese.

    But Izzi’s final goal was New York City. Izzi made the move in August 2014. Not long thereafter, she was playing with Hays at a midtown Manhattan club. It was the beginning of a fruitful collaboration. “I thought she had something special,” Hays says. “There was a sense of sincerity and honesty — a lack of artifice. She has an inner strength that I think is rare. I said, ‘We should work on some music.’”


  • Maria Sophocles and her family at the Como Lake
    Life & People

    What Happens When You Leave Italy To Move Back To The US

    Michelle Damiani: moving with a husband, three kids and two cats


    It took a long time for Michelle Damiani, author of a memoir and two books about Italy, to find her dimension back in the US after one year in Italy. “In 2012, my husband and I moved to Italy with our three children—then aged 5, 10, and 14—and two cats” she says “In the year that we lived in Spello, the children attended Italian public schools and the cats took turns getting lost on the rooftops.”


    They had saved money for five years before moving. In Italy Michelle’s husband worked remotely as a self-employed graphic designer, while she wrote a blog that she later turned into a memoir, Il Bel Centro, about their year abroad and how it transformed them individually and as a family. “Travel changes us. Fitting back in our old routines is complicated in a way I never imagined. I was asked during an interview a year after our return, ‘How long did it take to reacclimatize?’ My answer was, ‘Any day now.’ When I opened my eyes on our first morning back in the United States, I wondered if I’d hallucinated our entire Italian year. Which shouldn't have been surprising. It's called reverse culture shock for a reason. Not reverse culture gradual acclimation. I just hadn't anticipated that the previous year would feel like it never happened.”

    “Over the course of that first week, I shoved down my creeping panic at the blaring stimulation all around me—Five Guys felt like a circus and I was overwhelmed by the movie theater’s textured walls and multimedia menu. All the while, I vacillated between feeling like I was walking through a dream and feeling like my Spello life was a fantasy concocted by my fevered-for-Europe brain. It was unsettling, I felt empty.”


    “For the most part, five years later, I have gotten used to being back. It helped to return to Spello two years after our departure and feel so instantly at home. Spello doesn’t seem as far away when I know I can slide back in. I also know that this Charlottesville phase is just that. A phase. We are currently planning our next adventure, an around-the-world trip heavily skewed towards Italy, slated for 2020.”


    Maria Eleni Sophocles, from doctor to tennis instructor and back


    Maria Eleni Sophocles’ “reacclimatization” in the US was hard because after four years in Italy her medical license had expired and she had “to start all over again.” “It was also hard to getting to use a car again because in Como I was using just my bicycle or we were taking the kids to school by boat. We were using the car only for long trips whereas in the US we use it every day” she says.

    Originally from Pennsylvania, Maria lives now in Princeton, New Jersey, where life is very different from the one she had in Italy, where she moved in 2001 with her four kids to follow her husband’s job. “We chose lake Como because it is beautiful and my husband could easily commute to Milan from there. Unfortunately I couldn’t work because the Italian government didn't recognize my credential, so I couldn’t practice medicine. So I reinvented myself. I was playing a lot of tennis and the owner of the club and I decided to organize tennis lessons and English lessons together for Italian children. I also got a job working for the travel company Fodors and I wrote their Italy guide for 2004. They didn’t pay me much but it was a lot of fun to travel all over Italy evaluating restaurants, hotel, and agriturismi.”


    Maria’s husband spoke a little of Italian from college while she didn’t speak any when they moved to Italy, but she could learn the language there without problems: “The Italian government organizes a wonderful program whereby if you had a residency card you could have free classes. I learned a lot of Italian there. At first, my kids went to an international school but then I realized that they were not learning Italian very well, so I took them out and put them into a Montessori school where everything was in Italian.” With all the family able to speak Italian: “We mixed very easily with Italians.”


    Overall, Maria found that living in Italy as an expat was very easy because it was easy to learn a language, Italians were very welcoming and very encouraging in terms of helping her to try to progress with language skills: “I didn’t really miss much from the US. Maybe, what I really missed was the creamy peanut butter and maple syrup!”

    What she loved in particular in Italy was “the concept of Ferragosto whereby Italians take an entire month off and by having that they can really enjoy quality time with family and friends or travel. I think that in America we take one week vacation and I don’t think this is really the same in terms of getting to really relax and being together.”


    She was also impressed by the healthcare: “We were given a credit card with a microchip and if we needed to go to a hospital we just handed the card at the checkin and our entire medical history was in the chip. Medical appointments were very easy to get and was very easy to choose a doctor. Our pediatrician did our visits at home. So wonderful and convenient for my daughter who was just three weeks old when we moved to Italy. I would encourage anybody to move if they get an opportunity. We came to love the Italian way of life and everything about it.”

  • Kacey Musgraves
    Arte e Cultura

    Cattivo gusto e prevedibilità agli Oscar 2019


    Non ho sentito nessuno parlare dell'assoluta mancanza di stile ed eleganza sul red carpet. Io, una passerella di abiti così brutti, non l'avevo ancora vista. Hanno trionfato coprispalle che sembravano tabarrine della nonna (Sarah Paulson)’ addirittura in versione mantella cardinalizia in latex (Rachel Weisz) - abiti-bomboniera da prima comunione (Kacey Musgraves) e fiocchi enormi mono-spalla che manco negli anni Ottanta si sarebbero visti (Angela Bassett). Nella migliore delle ipotesi, le divine sul palco indossavano abiti "just ok", senza infamia e senza lode, banalità allo stato puro (Julia Roberts=. Tra gli uomini andava molto il total black del tuxedo, compresa la camicia, nera,... bah, noioso. Meglio Spike Lee con il suo completo viola coordinato con gli occhiali, grande esempio di "lo stile lo faccio io" e gli è venuta bene.


    La scenografia non era da meno. Orrenda. Un enorme utero con reminiscenze anni Settanta.



    Dopo le edizioni contro la presenza imperante della Hollywood bianca (#OscarSoWhite) e quella pro #metoo, è andato in scena uno show molto conservatore, con premi "storici" che talvolta sembrano contentini per categorie che ovviamente non si possono più ignorare. Cerchiamo di essere positivi e interpretiamolo come un passo verso la giusta direzione, ma non venitemi a parlare di "edizione storica".



     A parte Spike Lee, l'unico a fare un vero discorso con valore politico, per lo più tutti si sono limitati a ringraziare la moglie, la mamma, la nonna... guardandosi bene dal menzionare argomenti scottanti. Anche l'intervento in spagnolo di Javier Bardem non ha avuto chissà che impatto (freddi applausi, forse nessuno lo ha capito).



    In una serata di Oscar molto politically correct non poteva che vincere un film di buoni sentimenti e intenzioni come "Green Book". L'ho visto e mi e' piaciuto, ma non è un capolavoro. E' molto prevedibile e pieno di cliché nella narrazione. A renderlo speciale sono le interpretazioni magistrali dei due protagonisti, non solo Mahershala Ali che ha vinto il suo secondo Oscar ma anche Viggo Mortensen, incredibile nel ruolo dell’italo-americano Tony Vallelonga (ma ahimè nessun Oscar per lui).

    Faccio notare agli italiani che benché Rami Malek, vincitore come Miglior Attore, abbia entrambi i genitori egiziani, qui nessuno ha detto che ha vinto un egiziano.

    Ho apprezzato il fatto che nel suo pirotecnico intervento, uno dei rari momenti vivaci della serata, Olivia Colman abbia riconosciuto il valore di Glenn Close che purtroppo ha mancato il settimo Oscar della sua carriera. E lei è una che se lo merita.



    Rendiamo grazie alla superba Lady Gaga che dopo aver vinto il premio per la Miglior Canzone si è messa al piano con Bradley Cooper risvegliandomi per un attimo dal torpore della serata.

  • Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper (Photo Credit: ABC)
    Art & Culture

    Italian American Highlights From the 2019 Oscars

    In an evening of politically-correct acceptance speeches, besides Spike Lee’s, historic victories for African Americans, although they unfortunately missed out on some of the biggest prizes (like Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman”), and questionable fashion choices on the red carpet, we have to thank Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper for warming our hearts with their intimate performance at the 91st Academy Awards ceremony. Also, regardless of the controversy, “Green Book,” the story of a black classical musician and his Italian American driver in the 1960s (co-written by Nick Vallelonga), was the only surprise in an otherwise very predictable evening.




    Before “Green Book” surprised the audience with its unexpected and controversial Best Picture victory, Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper had us fantasizing about a possibly real romance between this amazing pair of genuine Italian Americans from the East Coast.


    The chemistry between Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, aka Lady Gaga, and Cooper, whose maternal grandparents were born and raised in Italy and whose mother, Gloria Campano, is the daughter of a policeman from Naples,could conceivably come from their common roots.


    The connection between them was palpable during their earlier press conference at the Venice Film Festival, as Vanity Fair wrote. At that time, Cooper admitted that, even before he knew that Lady Gaga was Italian American, they were already sharing homemade food that she had cooked after only 10 minutes together. The actor recalled: “It was actually a huge bond that we both came from East Coast Italian-American families. So we had a real synchronicity on that level from our upbringing.” Cooper also said that he immediately “fell in love with her face and eyes.”


    Well, that alchemy was even more obvious last night when the duo sang “Shallow,” awarded as Best Original Song. It is the main tune in “A Star Is Born,” a movie that was produced, written, and directed by Cooper who also stars in it. Some people speculate, or hope, that the romance between the two artists might be real. Mel B, the ex Spice Girls singer, even said that their performance made her feel uncomfortable the whole time on behalf
    of Cooper’s girlfriend, Irina Shayk.


    But Shayk, mother to Cooper’s 1½-year-old daughter, sat all night between the two stars reminding us that, despite rumors, the two actors chemistry stops at their Italian American origins and fictional characters.




    “Green Book” won three Oscars in total, including Best Picture, which had been expected to go to Netflix's “Roma.” This surprise victory sparked even more controversy for a movie that, even before its Academy Awards nominations, had been subject to broad criticism, from being backward to being a movie made by white people for white people. But, at least, it gave media outlets something to write about last night gala.

    “Green Book” was also criticized for presenting the usual stereotypes about Italian Americans. Yet, it was co-written by Nick Vallelonga, the main character’s real son, who, together with Brian Hayes Currie and Peter Farrelly, won best original screenplay for this movie. We will leave the final judgment to our readers.

    We think that although “Green Book” might indeed be a predictable and cliched, the superb acting both of Mahershala Ali, who won his second Oscar as Best Supporting Actor, and Viggo Mortensen is for sure worth the price of the theater ticket.

    Overall, we were impressed by Mortensen’s interpretation of Tony Vallelonga. Despite not having a single drop of Italian blood, the actor bravely took on the role of this Italian American bouncer from the Bronx.

    Mortensen confessed that at first he refused that role because there are already great, real Italian American actors out there, and he was reluctant to play a stereotyped character.

    Then, he met the Vallelonga family, heard recordings with Tony’s voice and little by little felt comfortable with that role. Indeed, we think that Mortensen gave a super interpretation and it is a shame he missed out on winning the Best Actor Oscar.


    It might not have been in the spotlight last night, but “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” became one of the few non-Disney movies to claim the Best Animated Feature title in the history of the Academy Awards. Behind this success there are an Italian American director, Bob Persichetti, and an Italian comic artist, Sara Pichelli.

    Bob Persichetti co-directed a cartoon that was able to tell and show the story of a very popular superhero in a totally different and original way. We do not have a bio of Persichetti, so we can only guess his Italian origins based on his his last name.

    Instead, we know for sure that Sara Pichelli is Italian. She was born in Porto Sant’Elpidio, Le Marche region, in 1983, and illustrated the cartoon's main character, Miles Morales.

    It must not have been an easy task for her. Pichelli was discovered by Marvel in an international talent search, and she had to create an Afro-Latino teenager from Brooklyn, a character that couldn’t be more different from her.

    Yet, just as Danish American Viggo Mortensen could successfully embody the role of Tony Vallelonga, Pichelli, a young Italian artist, was able to give life to a unique, new Spiderman who became an inspiring model for many teenagers who share the superhero's ethnic background.

  • Valentina Imbeni with a young learner
    Facts & Stories

    Every Child Loves La Scuola

    Teachers at La Scuola International School believe that the world can be changed through education. For this reason, the school mission is “To Inspire Brave Learners to Shape the Future.”


    Although La Scuola is an “Italian immersion” school, many parents from all over the world enroll their kids here. Not only because they are in love with Italy and Italian culture, but also because it is the First International Baccalaureate (IB) K8 World School in San Francisco and it is inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach, a constructivist educational philosophy first developed after World War II by pedagogist Loris Malaguzzi and parents in the villages around Reggio Emilia, Italy.


    It’s almost unbelievable that it started out as a playgroup in 2002 to evolve into a recreational program and then a fully licensed preschool, La Piccola Scuola Italiana (The Little Italian School). Next year they will inaugurate their 8th grade and move to a new campus. Valentina Imbeni, director of La Scuola since 2007, is part of this great success.


    Mrs. Imbeni, how did you get involved with La Scuola?

    I first moved to the Bay Area in 2000 to work as a researcher in biomedical engineering for the University of Berkeley. But after the birth of my two sons, Stefano and Matteo, I discovered my passion for children and early childhood education. So, in 2006 I got involved with what was at that time just a small cooperative of Italian-American and Italian families.


    How could La Scuola go from that first, amatorial playgroup to a school with over 260 children?

    Actually, we will have 320 children enrolled next year! I joined the group with my first child, but after only six months the school went through a moment of crisis. We had lost our Italian teacher with a license and had to change location. The board asked me to help them rebuild the school. I was in maternity leave expecting my second child, and it was a particular moment in my life as I had just lost my father, so I decided to step in. It would have been such a shame to lose this group. Further, there was no real Italian school west of New York, we needed to do something. I found a new place, we enrolled with the Reggio Emilia method - I am from Modena and knew that approach very well - and created something more structured. We engaged with the community and started to fundraise. We also engaged with an architect who helped us to create a school according to the architectural principles of the Reggio Emilia method. We soon became a model of education and were approached by parents from other communities and countries. We have now over 31 languages spoken in the school. We like to think that we offer high-quality education, we are not only an Italian school.


    From next year, you will be offering a 8th grade class. Are you planning of going beyond this grade?

    We have been growing a grade a year and people are already asking for a high school program, but for now, we will stop at the middle school level. This year we also became a “scuola paritaria.” It means that we have been recognized by the Italian government and we are the second school in the US to receive this title. It’s a great result as there are only 43 “scuole paritarie” around the world, very few compared to the French system that has 55 recognized schools only in the US.


    Are all your teachers Italians?

    No, but they all have native-like fluency in Italian. In pre-school Italian is spoken approximately 90%, but then less and less over the years to give students the possibility to be proficient in other schools while being bilingual. From grade 6-8 they will speak 70% English and 30% Italian.


    Where do you find funds?

    Mainly from parents, but not all of them. We also offer generous financing programs. About 30% of our students receive a form of help that can be from $2000 to $28,000 a year, which is almost the total cost of one year. We raise money every year to support people who cannot pay full tuition. We can reach even half a million dollars in donations. Our most successful event is the Dolce Vita gala where we auction gifts from our donors.


    Can you explain your approach? Isn’t the Reggio Emilia method only for kindergarten children?

    It started as an early childhood program but later became very famous in the US thanks to an article in Newsweek published in 1981 about the best schools in the world. Ever since, it has been applied in different grades successfully. It’s an inquiry-based type of learning. It is cross-cultural and focuses more on the learning part than the teaching promoting critical thinking.


    Are there any kids of celebrities attending?

    There are but I am not allowed to share their names.


  • Boccadasse, a former fishermen’s village now part of Genoa, Liguria.
    Life & People

    When Finding Your Italian Roots Becomes a Business

    “My first clients were my Ricci cousins, fifteen of them, whom I took to meet our Ricci relatives in Campania. I was the only one who had ever visited them,” says Marilyn Ricci.

    After that experience she founded “Take Me Home Italy,” a travel company that assists others like her to find their Italian relatives: “I am not a professional genealogist but can work with what they know of their history and help them. If I cannot find the answers, I have connections with other professionals who assist them."

    Marilyn believes that one reason why many people never visit their home of origin is that "they are not on the train system or they just cannot figure out how to get there. They want to experience Italy and take a tour but that never gets close to most of the small towns."

    "I can help them even if they DO take a generic tour. I can supply transportation, interpreters, set up meetings with living relatives, help them find gravesites, etc. I do it because I believe this experience will change the lives of the travelers for the better.”

    She also helps non-Italian-Americans to find a piece of their Italian soul through customizing a unique experience for them as they travel in Italy: “I also want to show off my new country to Non-Italians who are fascinated by Italy.”

    But why did Marilyn decide to say in the Bel Paese? There are at least four reasons why she is so in love with this country: “I was proud to have this heritage but, until I visited Italy, I never really understood what being Italian really entailed and how it differed from our upbringing."

    "I wanted to experience some of what my grandparents had known growing up in their provinces. I wanted to live more simply than I had been living in the USA. Secondly, I love art and architecture. With half the world's art in the small country of Italy, it is the perfect place for me to explore." 


    "Third, food and wine are multi-layered and fabulous all over the country. I would like to experience it all. Fourth, I became a dual Italian and American Citizen.”

    “How Italy changed me”

    Marilyn admits that Italy changed her a lot: “While living and working in the US, you would have considered me a type A personality, pushing for more, juggling many balls in the air and getting things done."

    "I worked 50-60 hours per week and was always exhausted. Now, living in Italy by the sea, I slow down. I can spend hours sitting by the sea photographing the waves, people watching." 

    "I travel to old favorites and new, with growing appreciation for every place I visit. I meet people in every province and find them as varied as their cuisines.”

    Living in North Italy

    Unlike many expats who chose big cities with a large international population, Marilyn opeted for a small town in Northern Italy, Chiavari, Liguria.

    “I picked this town because they had few tourists and few expats. I wanted to meet locals. I have found the locals to be reserved on the first meeting until I tell them why I want to live here, how I got my dual citizenship and how I want to learn how they live and to be more Italian, and less Italian-American."

    "One of my new Italian friends told me it is not that Northern people are cold, it is that they want to see what your intentions are before they consider inviting you into a friendship. I have found them all to be so kind and helpful.”

    Marilyn’s first piece of advice for wannabe expats: “Accept the fact that Italy is NOT your home country. They think differently, do things differently and at their own pace. It can be frustrating. It is frustrating until you SURRENDER." 

    Last but not the least, "relax. Relax. Go slow. Breathe. Plan four times more time to accomplish a task than you would have done at home. That still may not be enough. So next time, make it six times."

    The other parts of the series:

    Part I: It Is Never Too Late For a New, Italian Life

    Part II: Can You Still Be in Love With Italy After 20 or More Years?

    Part III: Moving To Italy For Love, The Stories of Three Male Expats

  • Giovanni Battista Moroni, Portrait of a Young Woman, ca. 1575. Photo: Michael Bodycomb
    Art & Culture

    Moroni, #nofilter Renaissance Painter At The Frick

    Giovanni Gerolamo Grumelli, called The Man in Pink and dated 1560, has a very contemporary face and expression. It were not for his sumptuous outfit of brocaded silk with silver wire, he might look just like an average Italian young gentleman posing for a social media shooting. It is one of the nearly two dozen portraits by Giovanni Battista Moroni displayed at the exhibit “Moroni: The Riches of Renaissance Portraiture” (February 21 through June 2).


    The contemporary power of his portraits

    This exhibition is a unique opportunity to view the spectacular works that attest to Moroni’s mastery of portraits and naturalism in depicting his subjects that, to our modern eyes, might look as real as Instagram selfies. The sitters are not idealized and often their facial expressions reveal their personality and psychological complexity.


    Critics have, at times, disapproved the artist’s faithfulness to reality dismissing him as an uninventive portraitist who was forgoing selection, editing and respect of aesthetic ideals. This notion together with the fact that the artist spent his entire career in and around his native Bergamo, in the Northern region Lombardy, compromised his fame.


    Moroni never became famous as other contemporaries who worked in major artistic centers, including Titian in Venice and Bronzino in Florence, yet he innovated the genre of portraiture in a remarkable way.


    Redefining portraiture


    He invented the so-called sacred portrait, created the earliest independent full-length portrait of a standing woman of the Italian Renaissance and, with his famous Tailor  (ca. 1570), anticipated the narrative portraiture for which Rembrandt became known.


    Moroni’s imitation of life applied as well to the sitters’ clothing and attributes. For this reason, the curators, Frick’s Associate Curator Aimee Ng with Simone Facchinetti (Curator, Museo Adriano Bernareggi, Bergamo) and Arturo Galansino (Director, Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Florence) decided to display the paintings alongside Renaissance jewelry, armor, and other luxury goods.

    Both paintings and objects are borrowed from international private and public collections including the National Gallery in London, the Accademia Carrara in Bergamo, and the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.


    A reevaluated reputation

    Curators Galansino and Facchinetti had already contributed to Moroni’s reevaluated reputation with an exhibition at the National Gallery in London in 2014. “It was a great success and the reason why we have been contacted by the Frick Collection,” says Facchinetti.


    “We expect similar success in the US too.” Talking about Moroni’s regional career, Facchinetti says that “it might have prevented him from achieving widespread fame during his lifetime, but it also allowed him relative freedom to experiment and to approach portraiture in new ways.”


    Moroni’s clientele included local nobility and aristocracy as well as members of literary, mercantile, and clerical circles. Nearly one hundred twenty-five of his portraits survive.


    The Frick Collection

    1 East 70th Street
    New York, NY 10021
    Phone: 212-288-0700


    10 am to 6 pm Tuesday through Saturday;

    11 am to 5 pm Sundays.

    Closed Mondays and holidays.

  • Sandro Botticelli (Italian, 1444 or 1445-1510), The Story of Lucretia, 1499-1500. Credit: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston
    Art & Culture

    Botticelli Unexpected: Violent Storyteller in New Exhibit in Boston

    “It is the first time that these paintings get loaned. Usually, this type of large-scale works on wooden panels, which are much more fragile and difficult to transport than canvas, never travel - especially, if they are Botticelli works. It is a very complicated and risky process so we had to take incredible, special measures to transport them. The Primavera and The Birth of Venus never leave the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, for instance. It took us over three years to organize this exchange,” explains Nathaniel Silver, the Gardner’s William and Lia Poorvu curator of the collection.


    Silver first thought about this incredible reunion after having seen “Virginia” in the early summer of 2015 in Bergamo. “ ‘Lucretia’ is one of the most important pieces of the Gardner collection but no exhibition has ever been organized around it. Presenting it with ‘Virginia’ seemed to us the perfect opportunity. It was possible only thanks to our colleagues in Bergamo who were open to the reunion.”


    Indeed, these two paintings were originally purchased together in 1500 by the Vespucci family and were supposed to be hung in the same room. They are both "spalliere" — a new kind of painting for the mid-1400s, of horizontal, rectangular format and mythological or allegorical subject, hanging on a shoulder level and made for the homes of wealthy or noble patrons ("Spalla" means shoulder in Italian).


    “They were supposed to teach moral and political lessons. All the eight pieces of this exhibition are spalliere coming from different museums” says the curator. The exhibition also reunites three of four panels from another spalliera depicting the story of the early Christian saint Zenobius, celebrated in Florence as the city’s first native bishop.


    They come from the National Gallery in London, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Also, in display, Botticelli’s unfinished Adoration of the Magi, on loan from the Gallerie degli Uffizi, in Florence.


    In the spalliera paintings, Botticelli reinvented ancient Roman and early Christian heroines and heroes as role models, transforming their stories of lust, betrayal, and violence into parables for a new era of political and religious turmoil.


    Thus, Silver underlines that in this exhibition visitors will find “an unexpected Botticelli, not the painter of beautiful Venuses and Madonnas, but the storyteller of complicated and violent stories that had resonance in the Renaissance. To help our audience to better understand how to read these stories we asked a contemporary artist, the New Yorker magazine catoonist Karl Stevens, to retell the stories of Virginia and Lucretia through cartoons that appear alongside the two paintings.”


    As Botticelli, like a modern graphic novelist, envisioned episodic stories with multiple scenes featuring the same protagonist, so Stevens created up-to-date interpretations of the painter’s Renaissance masterworks.


    A special section of the exhibition explores the acquisition of The Story of Lucretia with never-before-exhibited photographs, books, and letters from the Gardner Museum archives. When Isabella Stewart Gardner brought this masterpiece to Boston in 1894, it was the first Botticelli in America and the first major Renaissance painting in her collection.

  • (Photo credit: Gruppo Italiano)
    Facts & Stories

    Only 10 Percent of Americans Love to Cook... Oh My!

    Food for thoughts: only 10 percent of Americans love to cook, 45 percent absolutely hate it, while another 45 percent are indifferent. Author of "Superconsumers" and growth strategist Eddie Yoon served this undigestible data yesterday night in front of the Gotha of Italian specialty food in New York: Lou DiPalo, owner of the Italian Grocery store DiPalo, Louis Coluccio, owner of A.L.C Italian Grocery in Brooklyn, Joe Gurrera, owner of the Citarella markets, and Danielle Oteri, historian, writer and founder of Arthur Avenue Food Tours. They were the panelists of the Italian Table Talks’ fourth chapter entitled "Consumer Behavior and the Evolution of Italian Food Retail." The event was organized at the NYU Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò by Gruppo Italiano and moderated by chef and media personality Michael Colameco.


    The evening started with positive numbers regarding the export of Italian food and products, shared by Maurizio Forte, director of the Italian Trade Agency (ICE). But then the President of Gruppo Italiano Gianfranco Sorrentino introduced the special guest Eddie Yoon who wrote the article “The Grocery Industry Confronts a New Problem: Only 10% of Americans Love Cooking,” published in 2017 in the Harvard Business Review.


    Yoon depicted a world where younger generations want to cook less and less, in 20 years they won’t probably even drive to a restaurant but they will prefer to have their meals delivered at home, and they want to be fed as quickly as possible without waiting or staying in line. Yoon’s prediction: the only way for the food industry to survive this big wave of change (he did show the picture with an enormous wave is about to swamp a few surfers in Hawaii) is by embracing these new trends and being nimble in answering the consumers’ new needs.

    We don’t know how much Yoon knows about Italian food culture nor if he even heard about a movement called Slow Food, which obviously was created in Italy. He might be right and there is for sure a lot to learn from the data and predictions he shared, however, it is licit to ask: are we all going to survive with frozen and delivered food? What about the newly discovered interest of people for cooking shows? Do they just prefer to watch cooking while eating already made meals?


    The other guests seemed shocked, but they couldn’t even give their immediate feedback to Mr. Yoon because he had to catch a flight back to Chicago. Also, it is unfortunate that another crucial guest couldn’t be there. Dino Borri, Eataly’s VP of Global Brand Partnership, got stuck with his flight in Pittsburg because of the snowstorm in New York. It would have been nice to hear the impressions of somebody who works for the new empire of Italian food that keeps opening new locations in the US.


    At first, all the panelists agreed to disagree with what Yoon said. DiPalo has customers who don’t mind to wait their turn in the store “because they know then when we serve them, it is like they are the only one there,” Oteri swore that her tours in Arthur Avenue, in the Little Eataly of the Bronx, are more like pilgrimages of people coming from the suburbs to fill their empty bags with real Italian food to prepare, and Gurrera affirmed that his customers don’t mind paying extra money for superb quality of raw products like meat and cheese.


    Little by little, though, other nuances color the panel discussions. DiPalo acknowledges that now more and more customers prefer to buy already made pasta sauces or lasagnas rather than preparing and cooking them at home. The same thing happens in the Citarella markets, pioneers in Italian already made specialties, and Coluccio sadly admits that it is hard nowadays to find employees who really shared a real passion for food, the same him and his family had for generations.


    There are not “already made” answers to the topics touched yesterday night. For sure it would have been interesting to have an open discussion between futurologists à la Yoon and defenders of the Italian food tradition.