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How Islam Created the Italian Renaissance November 16, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
How Islam Created the Italian Renaissance

The Renaissance! What’s not to like: Leo flying; Micky chipping at marble; men in tights and women in bodices; the pop, snap, crackle of Kultur; and cherubs falling from the sky like hailstone. According to the textbooks fourteenth- and fifteenth-century Italians, more particularly the urban Italians of northern Italy rediscovered the Greek and Romans and […]

Hot Mermaids from Renaissance Venice! October 22, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
Hot Mermaids from Renaissance Venice!

Beach is feeling very shallow today and so he thought that he would celebrate a wonderful new book that arrived through the post: Alison Luchs, The Mermaids of Venice (Brepols 2010). Why shallow? Well, he can’t celebrate the scholarship of the good Prof Luchs because he hasn’t read any of her words yet (another post, […]

Brunelleschi’s Cruellest Practical Joke May 18, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
Brunelleschi's Cruellest Practical Joke

Beach has recently been wondering about the potential for putting together a collection of practical jokes from history. A particular favourite is the joke played by the brilliant Florentine architect, Filippo Brunelleschi (picture) and a gang of rowdies, c. 1409. It comes down to us in various versions collectively known as the Novella del Grasso […]

Post-Mortem Occult Discovery January 27, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Post-Mortem Occult Discovery

Don Giovanni dei Medici (obit 1621) was the son of the first Medici Count of Tuscany. He had, however, the very great misfortune  to be born illegitimate and though acknowledged by his father, he was never in the Medici’s inner circle. It might have been this sidelining that led Don Giovanni dei Medici to become […]

Immortal Meals 10#: Love Feast in Fifteenth-century Florence October 20, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
Immortal Meals 10#: Love Feast in Fifteenth-century Florence

If you could visit any dinner in history, where the mighty of the earth were gathered, what would you choose? One of Nero’s shindigs in ancient Rome, Giordano Bruno’s Ash Wednesday Supper, the Banquet of the Chestnuts to watch the Borgias having sex, Churchill and Stalin‘s snarl show at Tehran, Mannerheim blowing cigar smoke into […]

A Phantom Inventor: Flavio Gioia October 5, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
A Phantom Inventor: Flavio Gioia

Who invented the compass? The Chinese, of course. Sometime between 800 and 1000 that people began to use their lodestones to navigate at sea. But the compass also appears in Europe in the eleventh or twelfth centuries and do we have a case of borrowing (from the far orient, as with playing cards) or independent […]

Cellini and the Salamander May 26, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
Cellini and the Salamander

***Dedicated to Michael F who sent this in*** We last saw Benvenuto Cellini (obit 1571) imprinted on a French/Spanish/Scottish canon. Fourteen months on, here is a little doodle from Cellini’s infancy, judging by his autobiography the happiest years of his chaotic life. When I was about five years old [c. 1505] my father happened to […]

Immortal Meals #8: The Ash Wednesday Supper May 12, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
Immortal Meals #8: The Ash Wednesday Supper

Giordano Bruno (pictured badly) was a sixteenth-century philosopher with a thing about infinity. Giordano also had an infinite capacity to create irritation. Indeed, his travels around Europe have a fascinating pattern of greeting, slighting and sprinting. Typically, GB is obliged to leave his last home in a hurry because of offence caused to the church […]

Immortal Meals #7: Papal Orgies November 4, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Immortal Meals #7: Papal Orgies

It has been a while since Beachcombing visited an immortal meal, one of those dinners past where the great ate and history crackled in the air. Still suffering from the Italian Renaissance bug and given that this is, after all, the season of the chestnut he thought that he would today lift the veil on […]

Buying Up Clarice October 30, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
Buying Up Clarice

                  Beach hasn’t been able to stop thinking about the Italian Renaissance this past week: blame the genitals of the mad, bad but always interesting Caterina Sforza. And in this difficult time of renaissance obsession one source that has run around and around his head is (Lauro […]

A Look Up Caterina Sforza’s Skirt October 28, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
A Look Up Caterina Sforza's Skirt

Caterina Sforza was one of those extraordinary individuals who managed to pack five or six lifetimes into her forty odd years. Wife, alchemist, mother, warrior, seductress, torturer, hunter, general, rape victim and, don’t forget, the model for one of the three graces in Botticelli’s Primavera: she also had a lot of hot Milanese blood swilling […]

Leonardo’s Dream and the Kite July 24, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
Leonardo's Dream and the Kite

Another case study from the historic dream series. This time the only dream to be recorded from Leonardo da Vinci’s snoozes. The record appears in  a notebook dating to c. 1504 replete with sketches and considerations of flight: This writing in such a distinct manner about the kite seems to be my destiny, because in […]

San Miniato: Renaissance Vandalism September 28, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
San Miniato: Renaissance Vandalism

Beachcombing has loved the extraordinary monastery of San Miniato (Florence), his favourite continental church, since he first saw it fifteen years ago. Started in a largely undocumented generation in the eleventh century it showed from the beginning an ambition that, though wholly medieval in form, anticipated the Florentine renaissance in terms of its self-confident eccentricity. However, there […]