The paintings, drawings, tapestries and sketches in the most ambitious exhibition of Renaissance superstar Raphael's works are collectively insured for 4 billion euros ($4.4 billion) against theft, vandalism or other damages.
But no money can guarantee that Italy's outbreak of coronavirus, the largest in Europe, won't play havoc with the three-month run in Rome of this year's eagerly-awaited art blockbuster.
Nervousness was palpable at a preview Wednesday that the Italian government's increasingly restrictive measures aimed at containing the outbreak might prematurely shut down the "Raffaello" exhibition, which is being mounted to mark the 500th anniversary of his death.
The project brings together 120 works by Raphael, including from collections ranging from those of Queen Elizabeth II to some of the world's most prestigious museums. Entitled "Raffaello 1520-1483," the exhibition opens Thursday in the Scuderie del Quirinale, an 18th-century former stables converted into an elegant palazzo.
There was reason to be nervous. I taly closed all schools and universities Wednesday and barred fans from all sporting events for nearly the next month to try to tamp down the deadliest coronavirus outbreak outside of China. So far, over 3,000 people have been infected in Italy and 107 of them have died.
On April 6, 1520, at the height of a brilliant career as a painter and architect in Rome, Raphael succumbed, on his 37th birthday, to eight days of fever and was buried in Rome's Pantheon.
Some 40 of the paintings and sketches come from the Uffizi Galleries in Florence, whose director, Eike Schmidt, sought to tamp down apprehension about viewing the show. He stressed that the recommended one-meter (yard) distance between people in public places would be respected to reduce risks of any contagion and hand sanitizers were affixed to exhibit walls.
He was interviewed in front of one of the show's top draws, "Portrait of Pope Leone X." The painting underwent a painstaking, three-year-restoration that enhanced the rich hues of the scarlet cap and cape of the pontiff, one of Raphael's patrons, and the cardinal-red robes of two cardinals. So exquisite is Raphael's detailing that a silver bell near the pontiff's left hand looks like you could pick it up and ring it.
Pausing in front of Raphael's creations – including preparatory sketches as breathtakingly beautiful as the paintings that ensued – viewers feel caught in the gaze of the artists' subjects.
Schmidt noted that while Michelangelo was "constantly interested in the anatomy of the human body," and Leonardo da Vinci was "principally interested in the scientific analysis of the world," Raphael's interest "was really the psychology of his sitters" for portraits. Raphael was intent on exploring "how can you express a human character, a soul, through painting, which is very difficult, if not impossible."
But, Schmidt added, switching to Raphael's Italian name " if anyone came close to do it, that was Raffaello."
Drawings, with ink or red or black chalk, provide ample examples of Raphael's success in infusing human figures with emotion. Two of Raphael's celebrated portraits have inspired countless musings about the women who posed for a painter known for his lively love life.
One, informally known as "Fornarina,'' or the baker's daughter, was said to be his mistress and was painted in his last year of life. A finger on her right hand appears to point to an slim armband on her bare arm with the artist's name. Nearby is "Portrait of a woman called 'La Velata,'" or the veiled woman.
When Italy's COVID-19 outbreak surfaced last month, more than 70,000 tickets had already been sold for the "Raffaello" exhibit.
Organizers on Wednesday said "the number of visitors accessing the halls will be controlled" to dilute the risks of any visitors transmitting the new coronavirus.
But if "Raffaello" was forced to temporarily close its doors or slash entrance numbers, it's be highly unlikely that it could be extended.
While the Uffizi has so many Raphael works it could lend 40 and still keep its Raphael room open in the Florence museum, other lending institutions, among them the Prado, the Louvre, the National Gallery in London and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., would be reluctant to deprive for more weeks their own visitors of an opportunity to view their Raphael works in their own collections.
The viral outbreak has already inconvenienced art lovers in Italy.
Last week, admirers of Caravaggio, the Baroque master painter, found themselves locked out of a church in Rome, St. Louis of the French, which has three of the painter's works. A priest at the church had tested positive for the virus after passing through Italy's north, the heart of the outbreak in Europe. When the church re-opened on Wednesday, several tourists wore face masks.
Earlier in Italy's outbreak, the government ordered museums in the hard-hit northern regions temporarily closed. When Turin's renowned Egyptian Museum re-opened this week, director Christian Greco decided to extend its opening hours to better space out visitors.
"The museum is for everyone, and we're here for them,'' Greco told state radio Tuesday. The mood among his relieved staff was "happy to come back."
For his debut novel, Dave Matthews found inspiration close to home.
He was recording music in New Orleans years ago when he started imaging the story of "If We Were Giants." His twin daughters were 6.
While they played in the trees, the singer-songwriter was overwhelmed by nature and how people interact with it. So that prompted him to craft a story to share with them.
Though the story centers on a strong young woman, Matthews never set out to write a book about female empowerment. He says it just sort of happened.
"I think maybe because my daughters inspire me," he said.
Kirra, the heroine of the story, is a 14-year old girl living in a hidden community inside a volcano. But her family's secret location is discovered and destroyed. As the lone survivor, she is taken in by a group of forest dwellers. Over time, she summons the courage to confront her past and save her new family from another deadly attack.
Matthews wants the book to provide hope in a complicated world. Published by Disney-Hyperion, "If We Were Giants" is currently in bookstores.
Matthews has no problem crafting hit albums or playing to massive crowds, yet he wasn't sure he could effectively put his ideas into words, so he joined forces with award-winning writer Clete Barrett Smith to write the young adult novel.
His daughters are now 18 and Matthews talks with them and his middle school-aged son about current events, like the environment and the war in Syria.
"They do get heartbroken. Because it's their world and they're like, 'What are we inheriting?' I want them to realize that even if the door is closing, there is possibility to be kind and strong and intelligent because that's the only option," he said.
Country’s eminent photographer Nasir Ali Mamun’s 59th solo photographic exhibition titled Joy ‘Bangabandhu’ is set to begin on Friday, March 6, at 5.30 pm at the La Galerie of Alliance Française de Dhaka, Dhanmondi in the capital.
Jean-Marin Schuh, Ambassador of France to Bangladesh is set to inaugurate the exhibition as the chief guest while eminent artist Shahabuddin Ahmed will attend the inauguration as its guest of honor.
Dedicated to the freedom fighters of Bangladesh, the exhibition is being organised on the occasion of the birth centenary of the Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Mamun, known as a legendary photographer in Bangladesh, took many portraits of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in the early seventies and recorded his rare moments from close up. Dedicated to the freedom fighters of Bangladesh, this solo exhibition titled ‘Joy Bangabandhu’ will showcase previously unpublished and historic photographs of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Right after the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971, Nasir Ali Mamun’s camera defined portraiture in Bangladesh that eventually ushered in and changed the landscape of portrait photography in the country. Being ‘the poet with the camera’, Mamun has taken some of the most iconic portraits Bangladesh has ever seen. His black and white images display a beautiful yet enigmatic and equivocal coalescence of light and shadow.
After the inaugural ceremony, the exhibition will be open to all till Tuesday, 24 March 2020, only exception to March 13 and 14 when the gallery will be closed.
The exhibition is scheduled to welcome the visitors from Monday to Thursday, 3 pm to 9 pm and Friday-Saturday 9 am to 12 pm and 5 pm to 8 pm.
Bangladesh Film Development Corporation (BFDC) has published a list of primarily selected cast for the much-talked-about biopic on the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Actor Arifin Shuvoo will play the title character of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in the biopic directed by noted Indian filmmaker Shyam Benegal.
According to the list, actress Nusrat Imroz Tisha will portray the role of Bangabandhu's wife Fazilatunnesa Mujib (Renu), actress Nusrat Faria will play the role of a younger version of Sheikh Hasina and Jannatul Sumaiya will portray the role of elder Sheikh Hasina.
Eminent actress Dilara Jaman will play the role of Bangbandhu’s mother Sahera Khatun, actor Khairul Alam Sabuj will portray as Bangabandhu’s father Sheikh Lutfor Rahman, Shahidul Alam Sachchu as Sher-E-Bangla A K Fazlul Huq, Ferdous Ahmed as Tajuddin Ahmed, Tauquir Ahmed as Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardy, Tushar Khan as Tofazzal Hossain Manik Miah, Fazlur Rahman Babu as Khandakar Moshtaq Ahmed and Misha Sawdagor as Aiyub Khan, among others.
The biopic is scheduled to be released on the occasion of Bangabandhu’s birth centenary on March 17, 2021. It will be made in Bengali and Hindi sub-title will be added as it is a joint production of Bangladesh and India.
Actors from Bollywood and Tollywood will also join the casting and the shooting will begin soon.
Noted heritage and craft researcher, folk enthusiast and author Maleka Khan’s new book titled ‘Jamdani: A World Class Tradition of Bangladesh’ was nunveiled at Bangladesh National Museum on Monday.
State Minister for Cultural Affairs KM Khalid joined the launching ceremony at the Sufia Kamal auditorium as the chief guest. Former Vice Chancellor of Dhaka University AAMS Arefin Siddique and DU Political Science Professor Dr Rounaq Jahan also joined the ceremony as special guests.
Presided over by Tasmima Hossain, editor of Daily Ittefaq and publisher of fortnightly magazine ‘Ananya’, the book launching ceremony was also attended by Jamdani craftsman Abul Kashem, whom the author Maleka Khan referred to a journeyman of Dhakai Jamdani and shed light on how he passed on this tradition to a new generation for ages.
Lauding author Maleka Khan’s book, state minister KM Khalid said, “If we talk about the heritage of Bangladesh, the Jamdani weaving industry has to be named with profound respect and honor- which has brought honor for us globally. Though many of our traditional crafts such as the Muslin has been destroyed for various reasons, the water of Shitalakhya river and the creative weavers of Sonargaon are still perceiving Jamdani with love and care- and I thank Maleka for shedding the lights on the crafts and its craftsmen.”
“This is one of the most informative and complete books ever written on the Jamdani industry, similar to the author’s previous publication on ‘Nakshi kantha’- another traditional handloom of Bangladesh,” state minister Khalid added praising the author’s journey to describe the heritage of the country.
The state minister also said that the Ministry of Cultural Affairs has always been patronizing the Jamdani industry and is committed to providing necessary cooperation and patronage in the future. In addition to that, he promised the ministry will provide adequate support to promote this exclusive publication furthermore through the National Library and send it to Bangladesh missions abroad.
Featuring the history of the Jamdani, the weavers and their socio-economic status - the 240 page book contains a special 111 page photo album and important English translations.