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Articles by: Joelle Grosso

  • Mourners hold a candlelight vigil for those who lost their lives
    Facts & Stories

    Berlin Attack: Suspect Killed in Milan

    It seemed to be a normal Monday night as people from all over the world came to Berlin to visit the charming Christmas market at Breitscheidplatz, marveling at the delightful little booths and getting last minute shopping done for the holiday season. It wasn’t until around 8PM that horror struck, as a semi-trailer truck plowed through the crowd leaving 12 people dead and 56 injured. Amongst those who were killed is the Polish truck driver that was shot by the perpetrator who then went on to steal the vehicle in order to execute his heinous plans. The shocking and murderous rampage then led onto a vicious manhunt by German authorities.

    Throughout the past year, Germany and other European countries have been on high alert for radical Islam terrorist activity. Just a few months ago in July, a similar attack took place in Nice, France when a cargo truck was deliberately driven down the Promenade des Anglais into huge crowds celebrating Bastille Day

    However, the search for the person who committed the Berlin Christmas market massacre turned into a Europe-wide chase when a video of a Tunisian man pledging allegiance to ISIS surfaced four days after the terrifying attack. On December 23rd, the same day the footage was released, the man in the video was killed early in the morning in the Italian city of Milan.

    His name was Anis Amri and when he was asked by Italian police for his papers, he pulled out a gun from his backpack and started firing at them. This turned into a huge shootout in the quiet Sesto San Giovanni district of Milan which resulted in the death of Amri shortly after 3AM. It turns out that the Tunisian convict has been on Germany’s threat list since January because of his strong ties to Islamic radicalism but somehow he was overlooked. Even though, Amri’s fingerprints have been found inside the truck in Berlin, it hasn’t been confirmed by authorities if he is the one guilty of the crime because the investigation is still being carried out.

    A young Italian woman who had been living in Germany, Fabrizia Di Lorenzo, was one of the victims murdered in the market terrorist attack. Since December 19th, candlelight vigils have been held at Breitscheidplatz by those mourning the loss of all the people who were affected by the tragedy. The Berlin Christmas market has recently reopened which proves to be a sign of hope and a true demonstration of German resilience.

  • Guido Cagnacci's masterpiece "The Repentant Magdalene"
    Art & Culture

    A Hidden Gem at the Frick

    Unlike Caravaggio or Bernini, Guido Cagnacci is a name scarcely heard in the Italian art world. An extraordinary painter, he was born in Santarcangelo di Romagna in the 17th century, while the Baroque art movement was in bloom. Art historian Claudio Strinati refers to Cagnacci as “the least Italian among Italian artists,” as he was not able to achieve his highest form of expression until after leaving Italy for Austria later in life. Not to mention the fact that the family name, Cagnacci, died with him, since neither he nor his siblings ever married. Having no successors and having done his best work abroad, the talented Cagnacci has largely been forgotten... until now.

    A turbulent life

    We know just snippets of Cagnacci’s mysterious and often tempestuous life, mostly thanks to his criminal record. The first we hear of him is when, then 27 years old, he fell in love with a rich aristocratic woman. In order for the two to elope, Cagnacci’s lover dressed up as a man to escape her palace. But the couple’s plot was reported to the police by none other than the painter’s own father. As a result, Cagnacci went into hiding, while the widow was arrested and wound up being forced to marry a distant cousin. Another strange fact known to us about Cagnacci is that a few years later, for no apparent reason the daughter of a stonemason left him all of her money. The painter was always surrounded by beautiful young women, but because it was illegal for single women to live with a single man, the women would cross-dress to pass themselves off as his assistants. Cagnacci himself created a pseudonym for his affairs, though he always signed his paintings with his real name.

    Religious subjects full of eroticism

    Cagnacci’s paintings were often ridiculed by other artists as the grossly unoriginal work of an incompetent artist. His work is characterized by chiaroscuro and overwhelmingly sensual subjects. The Repentant Magdalene, currently on display at the Frick Museum, depicts Magdalene’s fresh start as a Christian after leading a life of sin, a conversion recounted in Pietro Aretino’s L’umanità di Cristo (Humanity of Christ). Aretino tells the story of two sisters: Mary Magdalene, a wealthy, well-dressed court prostitute, and Martha, quite the opposite, plain and boring but morally upright. One day Martha convinces her sister to go to church to listen to Jesus. After she agrees, Mary dons one of her most expensive outfits along with tons of jewels and strings of pearls. As soon as she hears Christ speak, Mary realizes all of her wrongs and drops to her knees. When she gets home, she locks herself in her bedroom, removes all of her clothes and jewelry, and, sobbing, rejects her shameful life. The painting clearly portrays this story and includes an allegorical reference to an angel and a devil to show that virtue always triumphs over vice.

    “A unique thing”

    When deciding which masterpiece to add to the Frick collection, chief curator Xavier F. Salomon said, “I could’ve picked Rembrandt, I could’ve picked Goya, I could’ve picked Degas or Manet or lots of fantastic things they have, but I immediately decided to pick [Repentant Magdalene]. I did so for two reasons: it is Cagnacci’s absolute masterpiece and there are only four works of Cagnacci in public collections in this country. This is by far a unique thing.” Salomon hopes to introduce not only New York but also the whole country to an artist that is practically unknown here, to deliver this hidden gem to a larger public. Not a single scholarly article has been written on Cagnacci in English. Salomon felt it was his task to demonstrate just how brilliant Cagnacci was, especially in the landscape of Italian 17th century art.

    Repentant Magdalene, on loan from the Norton Simon Museum will be on display until January 22 before going back to its home in California. Another beautiful work by Cagnacci, Dying Cleopatra, can be viewed in person at the Italian Cultural Institute from December 2 until January 19. Another version of Cagnacci’s Dying Cleopatra will be showing at the Metropolitan Museum during the same period.


  • Neapolitan presepe on display at Palazzo Quirinale
    Art & Culture

    Exhibition of Large-Scale Presepe Opens in Rome

    The launch of the “Il Presepe. Religiosità e Tradizione Popolare” exhibition officially marks the arrival of the holiday season in Rome. Beginning on December 14th and going on until the 20th of January, the display will be open to the public in the Palazzina Gregoriana del Quirinale

    The show will feature a traditional Neapolitan nativity scene that has been conserved in the esteemed National Museum of Folk Arts and Traditions collection. These gorgeous handmade figurines serve as a physical representation of Italian culture and some can even be traced back to the 18th and 19th century. 

    The tradition of making presepi began with Saint Francis of Assisi back in the 13th century when he put on a live reenactment of the nativity scene for all to see. The craft however has been honed and transformed throughout the years and the creation of presepi is now an extravagantly intricate process where each and every statue is considered to be tiny a masterpiece in itself. 

    This discipline was especially popular in the southern city of Naples where master artisans would teach their apprentices various techniques on how to sculpt these complex figurines. Most of the workshops were located on Via San Gregorio Armeno, which is why it’s the best spot to marvel at presepi in Italy. However, you can currently catch a glimpse of some of these Neapolitan treasures in the Eternal City at this spectacular display.

    President Sergio Mattarella inaugurated the unique exhibition which highlights the large-scale nativity scene. It’s an extraordinary spectacle that consists of over 1,000 figurines that were assembled in 1911 by ethnologist Lamberto Loria, in order to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Italian unification. To see traditional Neapolitan presepi is to experience and appreciate fine Italian craftsmanship first-hand which is why they are held close to the hearts of Italians, especially during the wonderful holiday season.

  • A selection of the Olnick Spanu Collection at the Italian Consulate
    Art & Culture

    Dazzling Murano Glass at the Italian Consulate

    Murano is composed of a group of tiny islands linked together in the Venetian Lagoon and despite being home to just a few thousand people, it is a place that is known all around the world for their glass. Murano’s reputation as a center for glassmaking can be traced all the way back to the Venetian Republic. They are famous for the impeccable quality of their glass as well as the sophisticated techniques involved in making such fine works of artistry.

    When deciding to bring a taste of Carnegie Hall's La Serenissima city-wide festival to the Consulate, the Italian Consul General of New York Francesco Genuardi thought it was best to bring a selection of Murano glass from the Olnick Spanu Collection. This grand collection belongs to Nancy and Giorgio, a couple who fell in love with Venice and its glass by happenstance. After coming across one hourglass and finding out that it was made on the islands of Murano, their passion grew to the point where they now own over five hundred exquisite pieces.

    While Nancy was born in Manhattan and Giorgio was born in Sardinia, they both discovered their love for Murano glass together and ended up creating a living out of it. Nancy comments on this organic relationship and says that “as exciting as it was to find the pieces and put them in the collection, the most wonderful thing about this journey has definitely been the people we met along the way. Not only have they educated us about the art but many have also became friends.”

    The exhibition will be open for the next few months and features works that date back from 1914 to 1933. The selection includes earlier pieces that are reminiscent of the older style of Murano as well as more modernized pieces that demonstrate the evolution of the glassmaking process over time. The showcases were originally designed by Massimo Vignelli (1931, Milan – 2014, NewYork) who was an innovative Italian designer but also a dear friend of the couple. Vignelli had a huge influence on their life and Giorgio says that "at every chance I get, I always try to work and think in the way that Massimo taught us." Vignelli also happened to design the brochure that advertises the exhibition at the Consulate. 

    Consul Genuardi hopes that this show will strengthen the cultural bonds between Italy and New York. He also believes that this collection of Murano glass is a testimony to the idea that “Italy is and always has been a shining example of how artisanal technique and craftsmanship along with artistic creativity made up of inventiveness and fantasy can be combined.”

    Speaking of Genuardi, Giorgio adds that the Consul “perfectly understood how important it was to make contemporary Italian art known to New York.” Given all the time and effort that was put into growing this collection, Giorgio hopes that “this display serves as a way to let Americans and Italians living in New York get better acquainted with the city of Venice.”

    Come out to celebrate the marvelous city of Venice and to appreciate all the precious treasures Venetians have gifted to the world by visiting the "Murano: Glass from the Olnick Spanu Collection" at the Italian Consulate in New York. You won't regret it!

  • Events

    Dario D'Ambrosi Returns to La MaMa Theater

    During the course of his intriguing life, Dario D’Ambrosi went from being a professional soccer player to being one of Italy’s top performance artists. He has starred in several movie and television roles, the most notable works being the Italian crime series “Romanzo Criminale” as well as “The Passion of the Christ” directed by popular American actor, Mel Gibson, in 2004. However, D’Ambrosi’s greatest contribution to the art world has been the creation of a new type of theater called “pathological theater.”

    The idea for pathological theater stems from D’Ambrosi’s deep interest in mental illnesses as well as their social stigma. He is so passionate about the topic that he even lived in a mental institution for three months in order to do more in depth research for his work. His shows are characterized by the way they channel dark energies and how they push limits that some may not be comfortable with. The thin line between sanity and madness is always explored and questioned in the most personal way possible. 

    As a result of this study done at the mental institution, D’Ambrosi started up the “Integrated Theater of the Emotion” in Rome which is “a university-level degree especially designed to academically and professionally prepare people with disabilities in the field of theater arts.” In the event that will be taking place at La MaMa theater on December 12th, D’Ambrosi will be presenting the results of this unorthodox course. He says that “in many countries they put their mentally disabled in straightjackets and contention beds; we offer them a university degree, in “Theater of the Emotion.” The outcome has been remarkable and the course is already changing the lives of many even though it began just a year ago. He hopes that he has created a functional model that can now be exported all around the world. 

    December 12th will feature a full night of events including the reading of excerpts from D’Ambrosi’s play “The Buzzing of the Flies,” a screening of the documentary “An Italian Miracle,” a presentation of the “Integrated Theater of the Emotion”, a panel discussion that will present the scientific results of the course, followed by drinks and aperitivo provided by the famous Serafina restaurant. 

    D’Ambrosi is no stranger to La MaMa theater, as he has been putting on shows there for the past 25 years. A crowd favorite was the 2015 play “Medea” which combined professional actors with a chorus of 14 actors with disabilities from his theater academy. D’Ambrosi’s work introduces a new way of being on stage and he also gives his audiences a fresh experience that they do not expect but end up never forgetting. Don’t miss the opportunity to take part in this wonderful night jam-packed with inspiring stories and insightful messages.

    Too see the Program click here >>> 

  • 1972 Byzantine Studies Symposium Group Photo. In the center Arnaldo Momigliano

    The World of Renowned Historian Arnaldo Momigliano

    CIMA, the Center for Italian Modern Art along with the Centro Primo Levi New York teamed up to organize an event dedicated to one of the most distinguished intellectuals of the 20th century in the fields of ancient and modern history, Arnaldo Momigliano. CIMA was founded by Laura Mattiolo and Heather Ewing in 2013 and is a public nonprofit exhibition and research center that aims to promote the study of contemporary Italian art all over the globe. They are excited to put together this unique program that explores the work of one of Italy's most prominent historians. 

    Momigliano was born in 1908 in the region of Piedmont and later in his life, went on to work as a Professor of Roman History at the University of Turin. However, because of the Racial Laws that were put into effect after the Fascist regime took control in 1938, he was forced to leave the country since he was Jewish. He moved to England and would remain there until his death in 1987. During his long scholarly career, he taught at major academic institutions such as Oxford University, University College London, University of Chicago, and the Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa. He is well known because his studies are essential to contemporary debates regarding religion, politics, and how we understand historical events. 

    This special event at CIMA celebrates the first anniversary of the print edition of Tablet magazine, whose first issue featured a long essay on Arnaldo Momigliano by Anthony Grafton. Grafton is one of the speakers who works at the Henry Putnam University Professor of History at the prestigious Princeton University. His main focus is on the cultural history of Renaissance Europe but he is currently working on a large-scale study that traces the science of chronology in 16th and 17th century Europe. He has also written many prize-winning books on similar topics and was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1989. 

    The other guest that will be talking with Grafton is Carlo Ginzburg who is a notable Italian historian in the field of microhistory. This means he intensively examines smaller units of research such as a specific individual or town. He is best known for his book “The Cheese and the Worms” which investigates the life a man who worked as a miller in the tiny village of Montereale during the 16th century. The subject is famous for being burnt at the stake for heresy by the Inquisition in 1599. Ginzburg’s scholarly work delves into this man’s turbulent life as a way to better understand cultural history as well as the history of mentalities. 

    Together, Anthony Grafton and Carlo Ginzburg will discuss the substantial work of Arnaldo Momigliano and his overwhelming influence on issues that are still relevant today. In addition to this conversation, don't miss the chance to see the annual art installation that CIMA hosts which will be on display until June 2017. This year's installation is a joint exhibition featuring the work of Italy's most celebrated living artists, Giorgio de Chirico and Giulio Paolini

  • "Dying Cleopatra"on view at the Italian Cultural Institute
    Art & Culture

    Dying Cleopatra lands in New York

    December 2nd marked the opening night of Guido Cagnacci’s “Dying Cleopatra” at the Italian Cultural Institute on Park Avenue. The painting illustrates how the infamous Queen of Egypt died which according to legend was a suicide after forcing a highly venomous snake to bite her. The almost erotic “Dying Cleopatra” is easily characterized as one of Cagnacci’s masterpieces given that it’s a perfect example of how the artist would seamlessly combine art and sexuality. Lovers of Italian art will have the fortune of viewing this spectacular piece up close until January 19th, 2017.

    This event held at the Italian Cultural Institute was able to come to fruition thanks to the collaboration with the Pinacoteca di Brera and FIAC, the Foundation for Italian Art and Culture. FIAC is a non-profit organization established in New York City which acts as a bridge between Italy and the U.S. as well as a promoter of Italian cultural and artistic traditions abroad.


    We met FIAC's Executive Director, Olivia D'Aponte, who explained to us how the two institutions worked together to transfer Guido Cagnacci’s masterpiece “Dying Cleopatra” from the Pinacoteca di Brera to Park Avenue. The Pinacoteca is located in Milan and is, without a doubt, the biggest public gallery for Italian paintings in the city. At the opening, our very own i-Italy reporter had the opportunity to chat with the new director of the Pinacoteca, James Bradburne


    Bradburne described the “Dying Cleopatra” as a seductive and peculiar painting which contains an expression that’s tied to both pleasure and pain. He remarked that transferring this painting overseas was a tricky task, not only because it’s a masterpiece but because it’s a part of Italian heritage. He was glad that this work of art was able to travel because some paintings are way too fragile to be transported to other countries. Luckily, they were able to restore the piece and make it more stable for it’s journey to New York. Bradburne believes it’s a time for celebration because even though not many know about Cagnacci, three of his masterpieces are on display at three of New York’s most important art venues, all at the same time. 


    When asked about the reactions of Americans seeing the Italian painting for the first time, Bradburne responds beautifully by saying “Art speaks to everybody. The Cleopatra expresses universal emotions.” This simple phrase encompasses what the entire night was about at the Italian Cultural Institute. An extraordinarily talented artist, Guido Cagnacci, used his expertise to create a masterpiece that would go on to entice and intrigue people all over the world, even centuries after his death.

  • Art & Culture

    The 41st edition of “100 Presepi” in Rome

    The spectacular display of the "100 Presepi" began in Rome at the Sale del Bramante in the Piazza del Popolo on November 24th and will go on until January 8th. Children from the Giuseppe Mazzini elementary school in Rome opened the show and dedicated the presepi to those effected by the devastating earthquakes that took place in central Italy earlier this year. Italian Minister of Constitutional Reforms, Maria Elena Boschi, was also in attendance and remarked that “this show is recognized at an international level and it allows us to reflect on the importance of this tradition and on the beauty of making the presepe.”

    “Presepe” or “presepio” directly translates to “crib” which is a physical interpretation of the nativity scene and serves as a way of bringing the Bible to life. Presepi are very popular in Italy and can be found almost everywhere, even in the private homes of Italians. They are usually put up on December 8th on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and are taken down on January 6th, the day of the Epiphany. The origins of this special tradition trace all the way back to 1223 when Saint Francis performed the first nativity play and gave Mass outdoors. He even brought in animals in order to create a somewhat theatrical animated ceremony.  

    This year there will be more than 150 presepi on view from 13 regions of Italy as well as 40 foreign countries. The range of materials used is wide: from silk and crystal to pasta and chocolate. It’s an interesting tradition because it allows for plenty of innovation and modernity which is very unique. Some artisans go beyond the conventional route and include pop culture figures such as soccer players and even politicians.  

    The creation of a presepe is not only a great way to bring some Italian culture into your home but it’s also a fun experience for the whole family. The “100 Presepi” in Rome definitely provide inspiration and incentive to recreate one in the privacy of your own home!

  • "Dying Cleopatra" by Guido Cagnacci on display at the Italian Cultural Institute

    The Rediscovery of Guido Cagnacci and his Dying Cleopatra

    Guido Cagnacci was an exceptional artist who was born during the 17th century in a small town in the region of Emilia-Romagna and contributed to the Baroque artistic movement. His work can be characterized by the bold use of chiaroscuro as well as his overtly sexualized subject matter. Unfortunately, many people don’t know of Cagnacci and his name often flies under the radar because his paintings were practically ignored during his lifetime. Being ridiculed by his peers and having no children are just a couple of reasons as to why he has been a forgotten personality in Italian history. 

    However, it is a special time for Cagnacci admirers in New York because his work will be presented in some of the most prominent art venues in the city. Not only will the painting Dying Cleopatra be on view at the Italian Cultural Institute but Repentant Magdalene is currently at the Frick Museum until January 22nd and The Death of Cleopatra will be at the Metropolitan Museum starting on December 12th. This newfound recognition of Cagnacci’s talent will also introduce his paintings to a more diverse audience and to those who were completely unfamiliar with his work until now. 

    Dying Cleopatra is an oil painting done by Cagnacci which features Cleopatra, a historical figure known for being the Queen of Egypt. As always, the artist portrays her as an overwhelmingly provocative subject with a muted background so that the focus is totally on her. She is topless and slouched down in a big red chair with her head tilted back, hair is let loose, eyes slightly open and lips parted. There seems to be a somewhat erotic connotation as to how Cagnacci treats his version of Cleopatra which makes his paintings all the more intriguing. In this masterpiece, he reaches a sensibility that is way ahead of his time, often being compared by experts to more modern artists including the likes of Manet and Renoir.

    Even though Guido Cagnacci is not an internationally renowned painter, he is still considered a major player in the art world especially within the landscape of Italian 17th century art. If you’re interested in viewing his fabulous work, they will be on display all over New York in the upcoming months. 

  • Actors of "The Lehman Trilogy" play by Luca Ronconi took place in "Piccolo Teatro di Milano Teatro d'Europa"

    Getting to know the Lehman family with Stefano Massini

    The Segal Theatre at the Graduate Center of CUNY located in the heart of Manhattan will be having an in depth conversation with the Italian playwright, Stefano Massini, as he speaks about his new work as well as comment on the role of the Piccolo Teatro di Milano and the current state of contemporary theater in Europe. This intriguing event will also include a reading from Massini’s latest book entitled Something About The Lehmans (Mondadori, 2016)

    The book is based on Massini’s plays called The Lehman Trilogy which aims to trace the legacy of the infamous Lehman family. They were an extremely wealthy banking family who originally came to America from Europe with practically nothing in the mid-1800’s and ended up creating a financial empire that lasted until just about 6 years ago. Massini took a huge interest in this investment house in addition to the rise and fall of their company. 

    The Lehman Trilogy premiered at the Piccolo Teatro di Milano - Teatro d’Europa in 2015 and was the last theatrical play to be directed by the legendary Luca Ronconi. This particular setting is very significant because it is considered to be Italy’s first permanent theater. Having been founded in 1947, it serves as a symbol of excellence and holds great cultural value for both Italians and Europeans in general. Since it’s premiere in Milan, the play has been produced widely throughout the continent. The copyright of the play has been acquired by Oscar Award-winning director Sam Mendes which will be staging The Lehman Trilogy.

    After the Artist Talk and book reading which fortunately is free and open to the public, the audience will also be invited to an after party following the event. Guests will have the opportunity to get to personally know all the artists and curators involved in the Italian Playwrights Project. The celebration will also serve as a fundraiser for those who enjoy the events that these Italian organizations set up for the public and want to help them continue to do so. Please join the fun and take part in this fantastic experience!