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Welcome to our January eNewsletter!

Friday 22nd January 2016

Welcome to our January eNewsletter! It is always a joy to come across a book that is both intellectually stimulating and visually attractive, particularly so when one of the principal authors forms part of one’s past! Stephen Campbell was a few years behind me at Trinity College, Dublin and we both profited from the stimulating teaching we received from our Professor, Anne Crookshank, a devotee of the Italian renaissance. Stephen is now a Professor at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland and has become one of the very best art historians writing about the Italian renaissance. This has led him down many a stimulating byway of rediscovery, none more so than the exhibition he has helped devise and curate at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. Ornament & Illusion, Carlo Crivelli of Venice is currently on show until the end of this month and while you might not get to it before it closes, you might find the catalogue that accompanies the exhibition well worth investigating. It has the same title as the exhibition and the ISBN number is 978 1 907372 86 5. A paperback published by Paul Holberton Publishing of London, it costs £35, and the National Gallery Bookshop (Trafalgar Square) has plenty of copies available. The book is both an independent work of original scholarship and a catalogue of the twenty-five works of art on display. Campbell is the presiding organiser of the exhibition and one of the major contributors to the catalogue. It certainly made me look again at Crivelli, an artist often ignored in the general surveys of renaissance painting. He spent most of his working life in the Marches, away from his native Venice, consequently he does not figure in standard histories of Venetian art. Equally, as his work is often seen as “eccentric”, that is, it does not fit into the usual straight jacket of renaissance art history with its over emphasis of the primacy of Florence, he is often relegated to the footnotes as an eccentric “outsider”. If you have ever stood in the London National Gallery and looked at Crivelli’s paintings (where you will find a remarkable selection on display) I hope you will have been struck by his combination of intense emotion, bravura technical ability and a remarkable decorative sense? If not, please do go and look him up! He is worth a visit – indeed, you might like to come and see him at work on his home territory? By happy coincidence, I shall lead a visit to the Italian Marches this May (22 - 28 May) and our schedule will combine a few days (over three nights) in Urbino, discovering the sophistication of one of the great courts of Italy, that of the Montefeltro and della Rovere Dukes of Urbino, followed by a few days in the southern Marches where we shall discover the work of Crivelli in such lovely towns as Fermo and above all, Ascoli Piceno, our base for three nights. If this part of Italy is unknown to you, do not put it on a list for future consideration. Instead, carpe diem - seize the moment and come along this Spring! Read More> Another friend who has recently published a ground-breaking book is Christopher Smith, Professor of Ancient History at St Andrews, currently Director of the British School at Rome, one of the most distinguished institutions involved in archaeological research into the antiquities of Italy. His book is The Etruscans: A Very Short Introduction, published by Oxford University Press, in paperback at £7.99 and the ISBN number is 978 0 99547 91 3. It is part of OUP’s remarkable “Very Short Introduction” series, books that offer the intelligent layman an insight into important ideas, cultures and issues. As Lisa Jardine put it they are “a thoroughly good idea. Snappy, small-format…perfect to pop into your pocket for spare moments”. Christopher’s book is no exception. From about 900 to 400 BC the Etruscans were the innovative, powerful, wealthy and sophisticated elite of Italy. Their archaeological record is both substantial and fascinating, including tomb paintings, sculpture, jewellery and art. It is all there waiting to be discovered and who better to introduce it than our author, Christopher Smith, who has agreed to lead a visit themed round Etruscan culture for us this April (5-10 April) – it is sure to be a memorable six days. Read More> As I come to the end of this first newsletter for 2016, a real blast of Winter has arrived in south Northamptonshire. Unsurprisingly, I too am thinking of warmer times and visits to come, some of which I shall lead, others led by my friends. One of those is our annual Spring visit to the Italian Lakes, 30 April - 6 May. I have often said it before but if I were to fall asleep and dream of Paradise, for me it would be a combination of Villa Balbianello on Lake Como, magically set on those still, alpine fed waters and the horticultural treasures of Villa Taranto on Lake Maggiore. If you too have dreamt of Paradise, but have yet to visit, why not test the waters, so to speak, and come with us in May on our annual visit to this most picturesque and civilised part of Italy? Read More> Finally, our annual December newsletter was despatched some weeks ago and I hope you received your copy? If not, let us know and we will send you another copy. If you have received it, I hope you found it of interest? Indeed, thank you to all who have been in touch to book places for tours this year and to register interest for the 2017 visit programme announced in the mailing. With every good wish from all of us for the coming year! Tom

Welcome to our December eNewsletter!

Monday 4th January 2016

Welcome to our December eNewsletter! For those with an interest in the theatre, indeed in our wider cultural history, next year will be dominated by one anniversary above all, that of William Shakespeare’s death in 1616. What one critic (Germaine Greer) has memorably described as “the blizzard of commentary that surrounds the meagre facts of Shakespeare’s life” has started off with a very loud bang. James Shapiro’s 1606: William Shakespeare and the Year of Lear (Faber & Faber, £20, ISBN 978 0 571 23578 0) was published a few months ago. Prof Shapiro has a track record in that his earlier book 1599: A Year in the Life of Shakespeare, published in 2005 (Faber & Faber, £25, ISBN 978 0 571 21480 8 in hardback; a paperback edition is also available) was widely acclaimed as a remarkable combination of literary history and period insight. This time, Shapiro concentrates on a part of Shakespeare’s life that is less well supported by firm facts! His focus is on the short period during which three of his finest late plays, King Lear, Macbeth and Antony and Cleopatra were written. It is a tour-de-force, of sorts: cultural context is mixed with political history (this is the period just after the Gunpowder Plot), all used to provide a contemporary context for the manner in which Shakespeare’s plays were written, not to mention some highly speculative literary analysis from Shapiro along the way. Not all the recent reviews have been as favourable as those which praised his earlier book. Germaine Greer’s review appeared in a recent issue of The New Statesman and it is a typically pungent appraisal. Three short excerpts will give you a sense of her views: “The project is daring, perhaps even foolhardy, because Shakespeare’s 42nd year is one of the most mysterious in his mysterious life… For any writer of an extended narrative the temptation to abandon the conditional for the indicative is almost irresistible and Shapiro has not resisted it… It is not easy for readers of 1606: William Shakespeare and the Year of Lear to determine when assumption becomes assertion, not least because Shapiro has chosen to provide rather congested endnotes instead of footnotes…” Ouch! If you would like to read this review in full, put the following into your search engine and it should pop up in your browser: Germaine Greer, Shakespeare review, New Statesman, October 6, 2015. CICERONI Travel will also participate in next year’s celebrations, though none of us plan to publish a book! Instead, we shall offer three visits in the 2016 visit schedule, two in England and one in Italy, all three of which will feature James Hunt, a former member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, who has led several well received Shakespeare themed visits for us in recent years. Here are some forward indications from James of what each of these visits will mean for the coming celebrations: This winter Shakespeare\'s Globe are performing four of the Bard\'s late plays in the indoor setting of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. For the first time audiences will be able to discover how Shakespeare crafted these plays for an intimate and educated audience, including his patron, King James I. Our Shakespeare by Candlelight weekend (11-14 February) will include two visits to the playhouse to watch The Winters Tale and a virtuoso performance by Dame Eileen Atkins as Ellen Terry, one of the great female Shakespearean actresses. We will combine these performances with a wider exploration of the plays and theatres of \"The King\'s Men\" including a visit and lunch at the wonderful Elizabethan Middle Temple Hall. Read more> There is also another opportunity to Discover Shakespeare\'s Way (6-11 May) - a five night journey from London\'s Globe Theatre to the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford upon Avon, combining theatre visits and tours, a private viewing of Shakespeare\'s Birthplace, and an exclusive day at Compton Verney, including lunch in the stunning Naples Gallery. The performance schedule for London’s Globe Theatre next May will be available in a few weeks; the included performance at Stratford will be Cymbeline. This visit should be the perfect way to mark the 400th Anniversary commemorations. Read more> Finally, Verdi & Shakespeare in Verona (10-15 July) will see us undertake our most exciting Shakespearean journey so far - a tour into the heart of Shakespeare\'s Italy. We will explore the history and inspirations behind some of the Bard\'s most romantic characters - including the young lovers in \'Romeo & Juliet\' and the Dark Lady of the Sonnets. And what better way to admire his creations than with a private performance of Romeo and Juliet in a luxurious Veronese villa? Complemented by visits to the famous Verona Opera, including performances of Verdi’s Aida and La Traviata, together with Bizet’s Carmen, with some of the most glorious gardens and villas in the region, this trip will be a multi-cultural feast! Read more> I do hope you will be able to join me on one or more of these exciting tours, and I wish you a very happy festive period – James Hunt. Well, as you have just read, we shall indeed do our bit for Shakespeare in the coming year and I hope you can join James on one of these offerings? The Ciceroni office will close on Friday, 18 December and will reopen on Monday, 4 January, 2016. During this closed period you should receive our usual New Year mailing which will contain an update of visits and study days for next year, together with the list of visits planned for 2017. Finally, our office team has now been joined by Chloe Pepper and we very much look forward to working with her in the future. We all send you our very best wishes for the coming festive season and for 2016. Tom, Stephen, Emma & Chloe

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