Tiddley-Bits tea

Tiddley-Bits tea

Sunday, 17 July 2011

{postcards from italy~virgins on street corners}

I take the title of this blog entry from Edward Muir's seminal article on the subject,  "The Virgin on the Street Corner: The Place of the Sacred in Italian Cities." I hardly will do justice here to Muir's rich interpretation of these images in urban life. I merely nod to his work through my title, and hope to provide a visual record of the ubiquitous presence of these ladies, even in today's urban fabric.
Interpretations of the functions of these icons are varied--primarily because they serve- and served- multiple functions. Sometimes these images were erected in places where authorities hoped to encourage more pious modes of behaviour (i.e. to prevent men from peeing in certain dark, covered areas, or worse, protecting against street crimes such as rape etc...) while at other times, they marked a miracle or important event that took place in the space.
Whatever their purpose, it is undeniable that they provide a beautiful embellishment to the urban fabric of any city, and for me, they always force me to pause & take a moment to look at the image.
I think you'll see why once you take a look:

{this one was done in some sort of chalk or white wash}

{tiled version of St. Anne &Virgin, as is typical of wall decoration in Capri}

{Not a V&Child, maybe a St. Dominic or St. Francis? in Capri}

{and, as in the case of many, this painting in Florence became a very large cult site, resulting in a building being built in its honour}
{Here we have one right outside a restaurant}

{and this Annunciation scene, above a shop}
In Italy, you can take in a lot of amazing artworks by just walking down the street--particularly the well-known glazed terracotta sculptures by the della Robbia family, often on building façades in Florence. Much of these works of art were meant to be seen in public space-experienced as part of daily life-and not in a museum space, taken out of context. Michelangelo's David is only one example, but there are many, many more. So next time you're in Italy, remember to look up & take a look around you--there are plenty to see (just remember to look down occasionally, as there is plenty of deposits left by unruly doggies on the pavement which proves unpleasant on one's new gucci shoes.)

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