Postcards from Naples, Italy: Palazzo adapted to showcase contemporary art

Mimmo Paladino, 2006 rooftop installation at MADRE

The 19th-century Palazzo Donnaregina, referred to as “an example of historical stratification,” was purchased in 2005 by the Campania Regional Government for rehabilitation as a contemporary art museum. Much of the work was completed under the guidance of Alvaro Siza Veira, a Portuguese architect. By 2006, two floors of MADRE – Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Donnaregina – opened to the public. Daniel Buren’s brightly colored and illuminated installation in the entryway of MADRE sets the tone for the contemporary contents.

When we were there this past fall, there was an impressive exhibition of work, “Whisper Only To You,” by a South Korean artist, Yeesookyung. During her residency in Naples, she incorporated pieces of Capodimonte porcelain into the design of her large shapely vessels.

The master potter was trying to create the perfect piece each time, and he would discard even the ones with the slightest flaw. So I chose to create new forms from them, because perhaps, I don’t believe completely in that kind of perfection. To me, a piece of broken ceramic finds another piece, and they come to rely on one another. The cracks between them symbolise the wound.

Yeesookyung, interviewed in The Business Times, 2013

Postcard from Sevilla, Spain: The celebrated potters of Triana

“Saints Justa and Rufina” (detail above) by Francisco de Goya hangs in the Cathedral of Seville.

The most revered potters of Seville made their living in the area known as Triana in the third century – Santa Justa and Santa Rufina. During a festival, the sisters purportedly refused to sell any of their wares for use in pagan celebrations. In anger, those who had been refused service broke all of the pair’s ceramics. And, in the spirit of an eye for an eye, the sisters retaliated by smashing a statue of Venus.

The city’s prefect imprisoned the sisters and demanded they renounce their Christian beliefs. They refused, so their deprivation of food and water and various stages of torture began. Barefoot marches, the rack, hooks. Their faith remained steadfast.

Justa finally starved to death, and still Rufina refused to surrender to the prefect’s demands. Rufina was cast into the public amphitheater with a lion, but the fierce lion supposedly demurred attacking and purred at her instead. The frustrated prefect finally resorted to beheading, a method that proved effective at ending Rufina’s life.

With clay from nearby Isla de Cartuja, the Triana neighborhood on the left bank of the river remained Seville’s center for ceramics and azulejos for centuries. In 2014, the former Ceramica Santa Ana factory reopened as the Centro Ceramica Triana. The museum traces the regional history of tiles from the earliest known examples through the 20th-century.

 

Postcard from Budapest, Hungary: Elevated artistry for heating a home

Tile stoves were favored for home heating in Hungary since medieval times, with the radiant heat stored by fired clay capable of keeping things surprisingly toasty.

Aristocrats commissioned fancier tilework than the common folk. Most of the tiles featured here are from the Budapest History Museum, also known as the Castle Museum, and originally were used in the royal palace itself.

The 15th-century stove with jousting knights was reconstructed from surviving pieces. The fish-helmeted knight above appears poised to be speared.

The blue tile stove housed in the Hungarian National Museum dates from the 17th century.

While not as aristocratic as the palace’s tile stoves, we once had a handsome, upright Godin stove we employed to warm up our home in the Monte Vista Historic District years ago. One small load of wood would last all day in the efficient parlor stove. The outer walls grew fiery hot, and we used it on cold days until about 29 years ago when our Niña suddenly darted straight toward it and placed both hands flat against it.

After the return from the emergency room, the Godin was retired from service.