Saturday, December 24, 2011

 

Vatican Porn, "Holiday" scorn, and Opera Boston forlorn

Good morning and a very Happy Christmas to all of my wonderful readers and blog friends.  I say this every year, but it always remains true: you have enriched my life, given joy, widened my perspective; and many of you have become dear and valued friends which is the greatest gift of all!

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It's pretty well known that for much of the medieval period and for all of the Renaissance the Vatican was an openly corrupt place -- thus the Protestant Reformation and break from Rome led by Martin Luther.  I recently came across an article on the Slate site about a remnant of that decadence in the form of a small bathroom that survives in the Vatican to this day.

Above is an artist's rendering of Cardinal Bibbiena's bathroom.  He was a member of the internationally influential Bibbiena Family of theater artists and architects who knew a thing or three about art, spectacle, illusion and self indulgence.  Here are excerpts from Slate's article:

Inside the Vatican’s pornographic bathroom.

By Tony Perrottet | Posted Friday, Dec. 9, 2011, at 7:06 AM ET

"Rumors that the Vatican is filled with perverse artworks are as old as the palace itself. Most of the stories are fabrications. But one is not: In 1516, the Renaissance master Raphael decorated a bathroom within the Papal Apartments with erotic frescos. Today, the wicked gallery is called the Stufetta della Bibbiena, the “small heated room of Cardinal Bibbiena,” after the worldly official who commissioned the work. It was, of course, a different era, when Bibbiena, like most papal officials, was a patron of the arts more than a servant of God. He was also the author of risqué plays and an erudite man-about-town. Like his peers, Bibbiena was entranced by the ribald pagan imagery that was being unearthed in Imperial Roman ruins. He asked his friend Raphael to decorate his lodgings in the fashionable classical style, complete with naked nymphs being spied upon by lusting satyrs, with no anatomical detail hidden.

"Subsequent residents of the Vatican Palace were unimpressed. The Stufetta has been defaced, whitewashed over, and even turned into a kitchen before a Catholic art expert rediscovered it in the mid-19th century. But access remained limited, to say the least—largely because, after 1870, this section of the palace was turned into the pope’s own residence, and Cardinal Bibbiena’s ancient bedroom was used for official diplomatic meetings with visiting heads of state. Stories of the restored bathroom filtered out amongst the cognoscenti, but only the rarest visitor was permitted a viewing."

[There follows a lengthy account of the complicated, contradictory, frustrating, and infuriating process of getting permission to view the Stufetta]

"But then we were inside. That tight, vaulted room—twice as high as its 8-foot width—was covered with cavorting naked deities. Raphael had designed his frescoed panels like a graphic novel, recounting the adventures of Venus, the goddess of love, and Cupid, the god of erotic desire, for Cardinal Bibbiena to admire as he lounged in his hot tub. At knee level, the original silver faucet was crafted into the face of a leering satyr. One panel showed the naked goddess stepping daintily stepped into her foam-fringed shell. In others, she admires herself in a mirror, lounges between Adonis’ legs and swims in sensual abandon. A couple of the frames, even more risqué, had been destroyed. One, recorded by an early visitor, showed Vulcan attempting to rape Minerva.

"Embarrassingly, I had to ask the monsignor to stand aside, so I could get a proper view of the most notorious image, of the randy goat-god Pan leaping from the bushes with a monstrous erection. I was shocked to see that the image had been vandalized. Someone had etched out Pan’s manhood and filled in the gap with white paint. This, of course, made the object even larger and more noticeable—another parable about the futility of censorship."

The Stufetta is part of a suite of rooms, Bibbiena's private apartments, now used for official functions and off limits to the general public.  The almost never approved visit (Perrottet's journalistic colleagues and he speculated for hours afterwords on the motives for his being allowed in), sadly without photography allowed, were a quick peek at the work of one of the greatest Renaissance painters in subject matter he probably would not have dared portray in public.


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The Religious Right, Christian Republicans and their many camp followers, have mounted their annual attack on referring to "the Holidays," or use of Xmas instead of Christmas when referring to December 25.  In the case the latter, they show their ignorance, because the X in Xmas is the Greek letter Chi and is the initial for Christ.  Use of Xmas began in the early Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches and unquestionably has the same meaning as Christmas -- in point of fact, it IS Christmas.  The nuns in grammar school were always saying "when you say Xmas, you're crossing Christ out of Christmas" and weren't always too happy when I told them the actual situation.  (In fact they weren't always too happy with me in general.  :-)

So I got a laugh out of the invitation, below, for the big Republican National Committee Chris . . . er . . . Holiday party. 


And here's the Official message from Texas Governor Rick Perry in 2003.  The governor, now presidential candidate, makes campaign advertisements trumpeting his Christian faith, saying he isn't afraid to call himself a Christian, but his seasonal messages at least through 2010 wished the people of Texas Happy Holidays.


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Yet another litmus test thrown down before Republican candidates for office to gain the support of the most virulent Right Wing organization.  This one is from Phyllis Schlafly's PAC, and for a document created by a woman it's more than moderately anti-woman.  Anti a lot of people, actually.


1. Will you vote to protect the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)?
2. Will you vote for federal school appropriations to require informed, written parental consent for curricula, surveys, classes or books that may be privacy-invading or offensive to religion or conscience?
3. Will you support legislation for Congress to use its Article III power vote to deny jurisdiction to the federal courts over areas where we don’t trust them, namely, the definition of marriage, the Pledge of Allegiance, the Ten Commandments, the Cross on veterans’ memorials, and the Boy Scouts?
4. Will you vote to prohibit the federal courts from hearing challenges to the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) or similar state laws respecting the definition of marriage?
5. Will you oppose federal hate crimes laws?
6. Will you vote against any legislation to help Puerto Rico to become a state?
7. Will you vote against any legislation to pretend that the District of Columbia is a state or entitled to a state’s representation in Congress?
8. Will you vote to end federal funding of so-called bilingual education (teaching immigrant children in their native languages) which the voters of CA, AZ, and MA have rejected?
9. Will you vote to revoke the citizenship of naturalized citizens who betray their oath of U.S. citizenship by claiming “dual citizenship” with their native country?
10. Will you support federal funding for abstinence-until-marriage education instead of for explicit sex education programs, school-based clinics, and the distribution of contraceptives in schools?

The above are just some highlights.  The three-page Questionnaire also calls for candidates to work against the National Endowment for the Arts, The Violence Against Women Act, the repeal of DADT, the UN's treaty The Rights of the Child, the revival of the Equal Right Amendment, any control of education on the National level, and any Discrimination Against Women laws.  And even that is just a sampling of the bile from the Questionnaire that would have the US return to the era of Jim Crow laws in the South, the second class condition of women, and would move to destroy the Separation of Powers by putting the Judicial Branch of the government under the control of the Legislative Branch, something also advocated by Newt Gingrich.

And does everyone notice that these people are always screaming for States' Rights, except when THEY want something -- then they want Federal laws to ban certain things nationwide?  On one blog where this had been posted, there was a comment asking what Schlafly could have against DC and Puerto Rico becoming states.  I replied "Because DC is full of black people and Puerto Rico is full of hispanic people and she doesn't want "them" getting any more traction in the House and Senate than they already have."  He commented back "They really do hate everybody, don't they?"

Yes.


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Opera Boston closes down

From the Boston Globe Arts Desk  23 December. 2011
"Opera Boston is closing down. The city’s second-largest opera company issued this statement this morning:
Board Chair Winifred P. Gray and Board President Gregory E. Bulger announced today that the Company, facing an insurmountable budget deficit, is closing its doors on Jan. 1, 2012. They cited lackluster fundraising in a tough economic climate as the chief reason for the closure. According to Gray, “The Board realizes that this development will come as a shock to the Boston arts community, and it is not a decision we made lightly. The Company has had many artistic triumphs in its recent history, and has many fans. However, as the end of the year approaches, we find ourselves in a financially untenable situation, and the responsible thing is to work with our creditors and cease operations.” The staff was notified on Thursday, Dec. 22."

The decision was made and announced to the press so precipitously that the artists engaged for the February production of Michael Tippett's The Midsummer Marriage learned that they were out of work in the newspapers before OB's management had a chance to inform them personally.

New England has now lost three major regional opera companies: The Connecticut Opera, The Granite State Opera, and Opera Boston, while Opera North (also a New Hampshire company) is working hard to survive the catastrophic loss of its entire scenery, costume and props storage in the severe flood brought on by Hurricane Irene last summer.  The closing of these companies means a significant loss to the cultural life of their respective communities and to the states which they served.
 

Comments:
Merry Christmas Wil and Fritz! Stay happy and warm. xoxoxo
 
Feliz Xlidays... or something! Wishing you the best . I'm drinking a toast to Susan B. Anthony. She got that one right (or is it left)...
 
Despite opera not being my thing, I lament the loss of any opera company. The loss of any major institution of art is a loss for us all, in a John Donne kind of way.

Now, about that Rick Perry photo--I can't stand Rick Perry, but that strapping (or he appears to be--hard to be sure from the limits of that shot) young man next to him... is that his son? I would be willing to strike back at homophobic Rick Perry by making that young man call out the lord's name. You know, after I get him out of that tux! ;)
 
Merry Yaksmas to you both! Hugs from Arkansas.
 
It is ironic the money used to build St. Peter's in Rome was the indulgence money that spurred the Reformation.
 
Erik, I have issued a challenge to your creativity this (Christmas) morning. Have fun with it!

Michael, I so love a man with a sense of history! Hugs to you and someone.
 
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