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There is a significant body of art work which has been acquired by foundations and banking institutions, creating a “quasi-parallel museum” as defined by Vittorio Sgarbi in the catalogue and in the video that welcomes visitors at the entrance of the exhibition at the Palazzo Baldeschi in Corso Vannucci in Perugia, which was inaugurated on the 11th April and runs until the 15th of September.

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Treasures which have been preserved in ancient stately palaces partially used as museums and are now accessible to the general public. There are 100 selected works among the approximately 13 thousand available, including paintings and sculptures, ranging ‘from Giotto to Morandi’ within the bank collections, with the objective of compensating for a lack on the part of the State in bringing together public, municipal, provincial or regional authority collections. A fundamental heritage asset that, with its variety and temporal layers, may be considered as the historical and cultural face of different Italian regions.

The exhibition, which opens this year, celebrates the 25-year anniversary of the creation of banking foundations and is being promoted by the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Perugia and organised by the Fondazione CariPerugia Arte with contributions from Unicredit. The exhibition is an incentive aimed at attracting visitors to the Umbria region following the earthquake in 1997and for this reason part of the income from the exhibition will be devoted to the restoration of historic-artistic heritage assets that were damaged at the time. Another reason to visit this “museum of museums”, which begins in the hall, is the precious tondo of St Francis of Assisi by Giotto, painted in c.1315, in the style of the frescoes of the Cappella degli Scrovegni.

It is a chronological history, leading us through seven centuries of art works through the Masters, some well-known, others less so, belonging to the main “schools”; among the many names exhibited are: Beato Angelico, Perugino, Pinturicchio, Matteo da Gualdo, Dosso Dossi, Ludovico Carracci, Giovanni Francesco Guerreri, Ferraù Fanzoni, Giovanni Lanfranco, Guercino, Guido Cagnacci, Pietro Novelli, Giovanni Domenico Cerrini, Mattia Preti, Luca Giordano. The Nineteenth century is represented by the works of Piccio, Giovanni Fattori, Giuseppe De Nittis, and Giuseppe Pelizza da Volpedo. There is a small but wonderful portrait of woman by Giovanni Boldini, sinuously wrapped in a dress made using quick brush strokes and soft colours.

Among the contemporary works, I was happy to rediscover one of the dissolved faces by Medardo Rosso, sitting next to the smooth marble of the Symbolist, Adolfo Wildt.  There are works by Vincenzo Gemito as well as a masterpiece of the Roman School by Scipione, The Octopus (The molluscs, Pierina has arrived in a big city).  What is also striking is the inevitable comparison between the shattered bottles and the quick brush strokes used in a large, dead nature landscape by Filippo de Pisis alongside the contemplative paintings by Giorgio Morandi.

The journey concludes with two splendid plasters by Quirino Ruggeri, and the monumental “Madre e figlio” (Mother and son) by Carlo Carrã in 1934, just one of the works that marks the “Return to Order” of this Master of Futurism, which we are happy has been placed near our Gerardo Dottori.

It is an exhibition that is worthwhile seeing (and not just for the beneficial intent and reduced ticket prices!) as, at times, numerous works of art are not allowed adequate space to shine; they are placed too close together or hidden in corners, while instead they deserve for their beauty to be illuminated and admired by all.

The exhibition catalogue (Italian/English), curated by Vittorio Sgarbi and Pietro Di Natale, is published by Fabrizio Fabbri Editore.

Opening hours are: from Tuesday to Friday from 15.00 to 19.30; Saturday and Sunday from 11.00 to 19.30. Closed on Mondays. Ticket prices: Full price: 6 Euros; Concessions:  4 Euros (groups of more than 10 people; over 65s; students over the age of 18). Entrance is free for students up to the age of 18. Visitors will find discounted parking rates at the Saba-Saba car parking facility on Piazza Partigiani at a discounted parking rate for the first two hours.

For more information please go to www.fondazionecariperugiaarte.it;

tel. 075. 5734760.

 

For further informations

Nicola Zabaglia, better known as Maestro Zabaglia, was born in Buda di Cascia, in Umbria, in 1664,  although  his tombstone bears the inscription «Romanus» and most of his biographers think that Tuscany was his birthplace. Thanks to the Carmelite Friars, his tombstone was placed in the Church of Santa Maria in Traspontina (Rome) and later removed.

Son of Alessandro, master mason  of the Fabbrica of  St. Peter’s, in 1686 he started working in Rome at 22 baj and ½ by the day for Antonio Valeri, land agent of the Fabbrica of St. Peter’s. In 1703, for his skills and merits he was appointed as architect supervisor at the Fabbrica of  St. Peter’s. «Without knowing how to read  and without  any teachers, he made so much progress in statics and mechanics and in the ability  to lift weights that probably he was better than anyone else in the mechanical profession»[1] and actually some of Zabaglia’s wooden models are still  kept in the  Petriano Museum, in Rome.

The French scientist, Jean Etienne Montucla, in his Histoire des mathématiques  has called him «a man of rare than of singular genius» and claimed that the collection of his inventions is «crucial to any architect in charge of major public works;» [2] this thought became widespread even after his death as evidenced by the publishing of  a second edition of his work in 1824, which also included a biography of Zabaglia, to  meet the several foreign requests. His works were very famous, although they were criticized by some of his contemporary architects such as Luigi Vanvitelli or Carlo Fontana. Perhaps they considered him as an unfair competitor because his machines were really cheap or maybe they didn’t  think highly of him because he was almost completely illiterate; that’s why he didn’t take part in the technical-artistic debate  on  the consolidation of Michelangelo’s dome, but this  didn’t keep him from constructing the  scaffolding and the iron  rims necessary to carry out the work.

 Marco Franceschini from Cascia, in one of his manuscripts describes him as a «boorish» (i.e. a rough person) who appeared before the King of France, Louis XIV «with a cap on his head and a cloth cape». When he saw him, he thought the pope made fun of him, but then «hearing that Zabaglia was ready to complete that work (turning a colossal statue) in one day only for payment of  twelve bottles of wine», whereas so many good engineers needed one month at least, he had to change his mind looking at the work that Maestro Zabaglia had been able to complete [3] «in one day to great astonishment of all Paris…[4] A street in the Testaccio district of Rome as well as a School of Arts and Crafts were named after Zabaglia».

 

 


Basic Biography 

A. Morini, Nicola Zabaglia e il suo paese di nascita, in «Latina Gens», (gen.-feb. 1941)

P. Pizzoni, Gli umbri nel campo delle scienze, Perugia, Urbani, 1955, pp. 51-52

A.M. Corbo, Nicola Zabaglia. Un geniale analfabeta, Roma, Edilazio, 1999

U.M. Milizia, Notizie sulla vita e sulle opere di Nicola Zabaglia, in http://digilander.libero.it/baraballo/umilizia/Zabaglia.html.

 


[1] These are the words used by G. Bottari in the preface to N. Zabaglia, Castelli e Ponti di maestro Nicola Zabaglia con alcune ingegnose pratiche, e con la descrizione del trasporto dell’obelisco vaticano, e di altri del cavaliere Domenico Fontana, Roma, Niccolò e Marco Pagliarini, 1743.

[2] Quotation referred to by P. Pizzoni, Gli umbri nel campo delle scienze, Perugia, Urbani, 1955, p. 52.

[3] Quotation referred to by P. Pizzoni, cit., p. 52.

[4] For a detailed list of his works see http://digilander.libero.it/baraballo/umilizia/Zabaglia.html.

 

One of the main characters of Expo 2015 was Strettura’s bread, a distinctive product of Umbria along with truffles, saffron from Cascia, spelt from Monteleone di Spoleto and the red potato of Colfiorito. In this mixture of cultures, traditions and craftsmanship called Expo, Umbria was symbolize by an overworked but genuine product: bread.
But why the one from Strettura one?

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Locus amoenus and works from the past

Strettura, unlike what the name suggests, is a beautiful valley placed about 13 km from Spoleto; his width valleys allows the cultivation of ancient cereal varieties, now set aside from the large industrial production. The golden ears cover the gentle slopes, which seem to suggest the rounded shape of the finished product and, before that, the soft texture of the dough, together with the lightness of the leavening.
It looks like an oasis, Strettura.
Spring waters, that flow from the Apennine rocks, make it a pleasant place to stroll; Spoleto is near, but far enough to leave this village in the tranquility owned by the ancient sites with genuine traditions. It seems to smell the scent of freshly baked bread, a symbol of what is familiar and good in the things of the world.

Times are changing

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But Italian habits have changed: the consume of bread, contrary to the past, seems to have diminished. According to Coldiretti, in 2016, each person has consumed 85 grams of bread a day, compared with 1,100 grams a day during the years of the Unification of Italy.

A change also evidenced by the countless idioms that concern the goodness of bread and its essential presence on the tables – “You’re as good as bread,” “To sell like bread,” “For kings, there is no tastier food than bread”, etc. Those expressions existed because of the difficulty to find any other nourishing food beside bread, but now they seem shells, emptied from any grip to reality.

It is true that we eat less bread, but when we do it, we want to try a unique experience higher than the flatness of industrial production. Today, consumers choose products based on alternative cereals -kamut wheat and spelt, also because of the increasingly amount of food allergies – but they choose also to purchase products at zero distance and high nutritional value, which can somehow raise quality of their culinary experience.

More quality and less quantity, therefore, along with the desire to consume products that are the result of love and respect for the Earth, and of the people who perpetrate them.

The bread Strettura is emblematic product of these changes in eating habits. It acts also as a link between past and present, combining a production chain that belongs to the past with the modern consumer, more aware and attentive.

«Thou shalt prove how salty is / The bread of others» D. Alighieri, Paradise - Canto XVII

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It’s true, the bread of this Umbrian village is a rare commodity: the crops are limited, peculiar of those lands brushing that side of the Apennines; they use only spring water, with unique chemical and physical properties.

The bread itself is not suitable for mass distribution, bound as it is to a slow and handicraft processing. Indeed, it’s composed of wheat flour, obtained by a milling process made by traditional methods: the oilseed and protein parts are not brutally separated from the starch, but, enriching its composition, they let the bread retain an aroma and a unique fragrance, which speak of goodness, simplicity and authenticity.

The flour is skillfully combined with the leaven of the previous processing and with little salty spring water: the bread of Strettura is indeed an unsalted bread, like other types from Umbria, Tuscany and Marche.

This loaf, marked with a cross in the center, rests all night; the next day, the mixture is cooled with the addition of other warm water and flour. It follows a strictly manual processing, which makes the dough smooth, homogeneous and with a “right” consistency, that only the bakers of Strettura could recognize.

Just a few more hours of leavening and finally the loaf can be baked. The cooking is made exclusively in a brick oven fueled by twigs from the Mediterranean forest: they give the filone acciaccato the characteristic aroma which, together with the thin crust and the solid soft part, becomes the perfect side to cured meats, cheese, vegetables and soup.