Rome, Nov 24 (AP/UNB) — So versatile were Leonardo da Vinci's talents in art and science and so boundless his visionary imagination, he is known to the world as the universal genius.
But not to Italy's nationalist-tilting government, which is livid about plans by the Louvre museum in Paris for a blockbuster exhibit next year with as many as possible Leonardo masterpieces loaned from Italian museums to mark the 500th anniversary of the Renaissance artist's death.
"It's unfair, a mistaken deal," Italian Culture Ministry Undersecretary Lucia Borgonzoni said of a 2017 agreement between a previous government and the Louvre. "Leonardo is an Italian genius," she told The Associated Press this week.
Borgonzoni is a senator from the League, the "Italians-first" sovereignty-championing party in the nearly six-month-old populist government.
She was elaborating on comments earlier this month, in Italian daily Corriere della Sera, in which she said of Leonardo: "In France, all he did was die."
Leonardo was born in 1452 in the Tuscan town of Vinci, Italy, and died in Amboise, France, in 1519.
Borgonzoni criticized how as part of the 2017 arrangement, Italy also pledged to program its own exhibits so they won't compete with the Louvre mega-show.
The Louvre declined to comment on Italy's objections, nor say which artworks it requested from Italy, noting it's nearly a year before the four-months-long exhibit opens on Oct. 24, 2019.
Exhibit curator, Vincent Delieuvin, part of the Louvre's staff, also serves on the Italian Culture Ministry's committee which evaluated proposals from museums worldwide for the celebrations. He didn't reply to an emailed request for comment.
"While respecting the autonomy of museums, national interests can't be put in second place," Borgonzoni told Corriere. "The French can't have everything."
And it appears they won't get all they want.
The Uffizi Galleries in Florence is considering loaning the Louvre several Leonardo drawings. But director Eike D. Schmidt said his museum is nixing the Louvre's request for its stellar trio of Leonardo paintings because "simply, these works are so extremely fragile. No museum in the world would ever lend them."
Last summer, when the three Leonardos were moved one flight up in the Uffizi so they would have a room all to themselves, the transfer required preparations "like it was an expedition to Mount Everest, or a space trip to the Moon," with restoration experts on hand just in case anything got damaged, Schmidt said in a phone interview.
One of the three paintings, "Adoration of the Magi," only came back to the Uffizi last year, after five years of restoration work in Florence.
In 2007, when "Annunciation," a painting on wood by a 20-year-old Leonardo depicting the Archangel Gabriel proffering a lily to the Virgin, was about to leave the Uffizi for a Tokyo exhibition, a senator from the conservative Forza Italia (Let's Go Italy) party and several Florentines chained themselves to a museum gate in a vain attempt to thwart the precious masterpiece from being flown to Japan.
The Uffizi director at the time opposed that loan, but the then-culture minister decided that the painting's transfer as good for Italy.
For the 2019 celebrations, the Uffizi will loan an early Leonardo work, "Landscape Drawing for Santa Maria Della Neve," to the Leonardiano Museum in Vinci. Depicting the countryside near Vinci, the drawing is displayed only for a few weeks every four years because of fears prolonged exposure to light will damage it.
Schmidt sounded hopeful the Louvre would understand the Uffizi's refusal.
"We fully understand why the 'Mona Lisa' cannot travel," he said, referring to the Louvre's star Leonardo painting.
But while the Louvre won't ever let the portrait of the woman with the fascinating smile leave its confines, it did send two other Leonardo paintings to Milan for an exhibition during the 2015 Expo in that northern Italian city. In all, the Louvre has five of his paintings, the most of any one museum.
Anniversary committee head Paolo Galluzzi, who directs the Galileo Museum in Florence, insisted that nationalism wasn't a factor in evaluating anniversary proposals.
"Many could claim him. He was born in Vinci, trained in Florence, and developed in Milan," Galluzzi said by telephone. "Politicians have different optics," but in the "world of culture and science we don't bother with these things."
Ultimately, he said, what is being celebrated next year is a "universal genius."
New York, Nov 24 (AP/UNB) — Behind every great book are the books which influenced it. The "micro-learning" app and platform blinkist.com has been compiling literary sources for such classics as "A Clockwork Orange," ''Oliver Twist" and "1984."Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" was inspired by each of her parents — William Godwin's "An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice" and Mary Wollstonecraft's "A Vindication of the Rights of Women."
One of the defining novels of the Civil War era, Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin," drew in part upon one of the defining memoirs, "The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave." Douglass' book, which remains standard reading in many schools, also was cited by Toni Morrison for her Pulitzer Prize winning historical novel "Beloved."
"We were noticing the attention around the 200th anniversary of 'Frankenstein' and got to thinking about the nonfiction works which help author of fiction," says Blinkist writer-editor Tom Anderson. "We think of those books as the unsung heroes."
Charles Dickens' portrait of extreme wealth and poverty in London in "Oliver Twist" was in part modeled on Edward Gibbon's "The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire." Anthony Burgess drew upon fiction and nonfiction for his terrifying "A Clockwork Orange," his sources including Aldous Huxley's futuristic classic "Brave New World" and B.F. Skinner's landmark of psychology "Science and Human Behavior."
Tolstoy's "War and Peace" reflected the author's reading of the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer, along with works about Napoleon and French history. According to Tolstoy scholar Ani Kokobobo, the author was "captivated" by Schopenhauer and his belief that "death is the only reality," a viewpoint expressed by the cerebral Prince Andrei Nikolayevich Bolkonsky in "War and Peace." Kokobobo also noted that "War and Peace" was a response in part to such French scholarship as Adolphe Thiers' "History of the Consulate and the Empire of France Under Napoleon," which Tolstoy believed exaggerated Napoleon's stature and military ideas.
"Tolstoy did not believe in this 'great man' theory, also propagated by Thomas Carlyle, and thought that victory and defeat were not determined by a sole heroic leader, but rather by the collective alignment of the will of thousands," said Kokobobo, editor of the Tolstoy Studies Journal.
George Orwell's 1984, the Dystopian political novel which has become a best-seller again during the Trump administration, reflects in part the British author's reading of two nonfiction studies: James Burnham's "The Managerial Revolution" and Halford Mackinder's "Democratic Ideals and Reality: A Study in the Politics of Reconstruction."
In a recent telephone interview, Orwell's son, Richard Blair, said his father was "the most voracious reader" who "absorbed enormous amounts of books." Orwell Society committee member Les Hurst said that "1984" shows how Orwell adapted the ideas of others to his own. He noted a passage from the Mackinder book, which came out just after World War I: "Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland; who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island; who rules the World-Island commands the world." Orwell borrowed Mackinder's framing for one of the most famous epigrams from "1984": "Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past."
"The Mackinder book sat in Orwell's mind for several years," Hurst said. "Orwell was able to translate those words, able to extend Burnham's concepts of power and power worship and to take ideals of geopolitics and perform this great imaginative leap, from geography and cast into the past and into the future. He takes something with two dimensions and turned it into something that is three dimensional."
Paris, Nov 24 (AP/UNB) — African artworks held in French museums — richly carved thrones, doors to a royal kingdom, wooden statues imbued with spiritual meaning — may be heading back home to Africa at last.
French President Emmanuel Macron, trying to turn the page on France's colonial past , received a report Friday on returning art looted from African lands.
From Senegal to Ethiopia, artists, governments and museums eagerly awaited the report by French art historian Benedicte Savoy and Senegalese economist Felwine Sarr, and commissioned by Macron himself.
It recommends that French museums give back works that were taken without consent, if African countries request them — and could increase pressure on museums elsewhere in Europe to follow suit.
The experts estimate that up to 90 percent of African art is outside the continent, including statues, thrones and manuscripts. Thousands of works are held by just one museum, the Quai Branly Museum in Paris, opened in 2006 to showcase non-European art — much of it from former French colonies. The museum wouldn't immediately comment on the report.
A wooden door of the king's palace Gele of the Dahomey kingdom, dated 19th century, today's Benin, is displayed at Quai Branly museum in Paris, France, Friday, Nov. 23, 2018.
Among disputed treasures in the Quai Branly are several works from the Dahomey kingdom, in today's West African country of Benin: the metal-and-wood throne of 19th-century King Ghezo, the doors to the palace of Kign Gele, and imposing, wooden statues.
The head of Ethiopia's Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage, Yonas Desta, said the report shows "a new era of thought" in Europe's relations with Africa.
Senegal's culture minister, Abdou Latif Coulibaly, told The Associated Press: "It's entirely logical that Africans should get back their artworks. ... These works were taken in conditions that were perhaps legitimate at the time, but illegitimate today."
The report is just a first step. Challenges ahead include enforcing the report's recommendations, especially if museums resist, and determining how objects were obtained and whom to give them to.
The report is part of broader promises by Macron to turn the page on France's troubled relationship with Africa. In a groundbreaking meeting with students in Burkina Faso last year, Macron stressed the "undeniable crimes of European colonization" and said he wants pieces of African cultural heritage to return to Africa "temporarily or definitively."
"I cannot accept that a large part of African heritage is in France," he said at the time.
The French report could have broader repercussions. In Cameroon, professor Verkijika Fanso, historian at the University of Yaounde One, said: "France is feeling the heat of what others will face. Let their decision to bring back what is ours motivate others."
Germany has worked to return art seized by the Nazis, and in May the organization that coordinates that effort, the German Lost Art Foundation, said it was starting a program to research the provenance of cultural objects collected during the country's colonial past.
Britain is also under pressure to return art taken from its former colonies. In recent months, Ethiopian officials have increased efforts to secure the return of looted artifacts and manuscripts from museums, personal collections and government institutions across Britain, including valuable items taken in the 1860s after battles in northern Ethiopia, Yonas said.
In Nigeria, a group of bronze casters over the years has strongly supported calls for the return of artifacts taken from the Palace of the Oba of Benin in 1897 when the British raided it. The group still uses their forefathers' centuries-old skills to produce bronze works in Igun Street, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Eric Osamudiamen Ogbemudia, secretary of the Igun Bronze Casters Union in Benin City, said: "It was never the intention of our fathers to give these works to the British. It is important that we get them back so as to see what our ancestors left behind."
Ogbemudia warned the new French report should not remain just a "recommendation merely to make Africans to calm down.
"Let us see the action."
Dhaka, Nov 23 (UNB) - A unique fashion show titled ‘Haute Couture’ will be held at hotel Le Meridien Dhaka on Saturday to raise funds for the underprivileged children in the country and promote new designers.
Brazilian Embassy in Dhaka, Spouses of Head of Missions (SHOM) and the Fashion Design Council of Bangladesh joined hands to host the fashion show where the spouses of heads of missions will be the models to touch the hearts of those children.
Cosmos Group, REVIVE, Bashundhara Group, Mutual Trust Bank Limited, Dhaka Page3, Bay Developments Ltd, Bangladesh Heritage Crafts Foundation and Le Meridien Dhaka are the sponsors of the event while United News of Bangladesh (UNB) is the media partner.
Before the formal beginning of the fashion show, participants will enjoy a live music at the event where an American band will perform.
“Our expectation is to help the disabled, abandoned and disadvantaged children who need us and our help. We want to raise funds and touch their hearts,” said Sandra Tabajara, wife of Brazilian Ambassador in Dhaka, ahead of the event.
Apart from raising funds for the disadvantaged children in Bangladesh, Tabajara said, they also want to promote the new and young designers of Bangladesh. “That’s why we joined hands with them (Fashion Design Council).”
About live music at the fashion show, she said, “An American band will perform. I’ve another friend -- the drummer of the band -- from the Embassy of Sweden.”
Tabajara said everything there will be in blue and white. “We’ve to wear either blue or white; or blue and white together. That’s the idea of colour code.”
She shared her idea with Maheen Khan, a well-known pioneer in the design industry of Bangladesh, and spouses of Ambassadors and High Commissioners who responded positively.
“We’ll be the models. People will really have fun seeing us as models,” she said.
Rome, Nov 20 (AP/UNB) — Archaeologists have found a fresco in an ancient Pompeii bedroom that depicts a sensual scene of the Roman god Jupiter, disguised as a swan, and a legendary queen of Sparta from Greek mythology.
The figure of Leda being impregnated by the god in swan form was a fairly common home decoration theme in Pompeii and Herculaneum, another town destroyed in A.D. 79 by the volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius near present-day Naples.
But Pompeii archaeological park director Massimo Osanna praised this fresco as exceptional since it was painted to make it appear Leda was looking at whoever saw the fresco upon entering the bedroom.
"Leda watches the spectator with a sensuality that's absolutely pronounced," Osanna told Italian news agency ANSA.
The fresco's details include a depiction of Leda protecting the swan with her cloak as the bird sits on her lap.
Osanna noted the fresco's context of the Greek "myth of love, with an explicit sensuality in a bedroom where, obviously beside sleep, there could be other activities."
The fresco, with its colors still remarkably vivid, was discovered Friday during ongoing work to consolidate the ancient city's structures after rains and wear-and-tear in past years caused some ruins to collapse, the tourist site's officials said.
The bedroom is located near a corridor by the entranceway of an upscale domus, or home, where another splendid fresco was discovered earlier this year, said the archaeological park, which is part of the Italian Culture Ministry.
Leda is an important figure in Greek mythology. She was said to have borne children fathered by the god Zeus, the Greek version of Jupiter, and by a mortal king of Sparta. According to myth, her children included the beautiful Helen of Troy and the twins Castor and Pollux.
Osanna said one hypothesis is that the home's owner was a rich merchant who wanted to give the impression he was culturally advanced by incorporating myth-inspired frescoes. It appeared the artist was inspired by a 4th century B.C. sculpture by Timotheos, he said.
Because of safety concerns, unexcavated parts of the domus will probably remain that way, ANSA said. Archaeologists are considering removing both frescos found in the home to a place where "they can be protected and shown to the public," Osanna was quoted as saying.
Pompeii's sprawling, partially excavated grounds are one of Italy's top tourist attractions.