By Jennifer Ann Davies
NCWQ Arts and Letters Adviser

In a place of beauty, extraordinary legacies, change, and vibrant histories, indelible ghosts hover, whisper and smile……the Arts are still highly valued, not as fluffy stuff, nonsense, flippant and unnecessary, but as essential elements of knowledge, learning, understanding, communicating and living. The Arts, here, are quintessential to the very foundation of health and wellbeing of psyche and soul – they are honoured as the quintessence of humanity, sitting in relational contexts or in symbiosis with reason and science.
Europe has changed. That is indefensible.
As one turbulent year ends and another begins, Helen FARRELL, editor-in-chief of ‘The Florentine’, writes that Dante’s famous words come to mind:

“In that book which is my memory
On the first page of the chapter that is the day when I first met you,
Appear the words, ‘Here begins a new life’.” Helen Farrell p.3 Jan 2017
Florence, you see, is seen as a place of first encounters and a hotbed of new life! Ballet, Opera, inspired Music, Concerts, Theatre, Lectures and Conferences abound!! Choices must be made. From Modigliani to Miro! – Artworks by Picasso, Kandinsky, Modigliani, Miro, Marino Marini – the impressionists and contemporary masters in Italy’s top exhibitions, are expected in 2017.
Of particular interest, in the context of HERITAGE, La Tutela Tricolore: Aula Magliabechiana will be open, free, to the public, in the Uffizi’s new temporary exhibition space.
The Comando Carabinieri per le Tutela del Patrimonio Comunale, affectionately known as the “Arts army”, is a branch of Italian military police safeguarding Italy’s cultural heritage from crimes and counterfeit. This particular exhibition spotlights a variety of artworks, from different periods, that have benefitted from the task force’s work. Works on display are either partially or fully recovered subjects of terriorist attacks, war crimes, thefts or illicit deals. The Florentine Year X111 – January 2017. 230. The English-speaking news magazine in Florence.

UFFIZI GALLERIES – Director, Eike Schmidt, is planning exhibitions to bring women artists to the forefront. Author and philanthropist, Dr Jane FORTUNE, states that this is the tenth anniversary of her quest to re-discover and restore art by women, in Florence.
Research means “to search (back) again”….
Dr Fortune has found woman artists who had successful lives, painting for the powerful and wealthy, but also conducting their own workshops and teaching other artists. Fortune also notes that a vital ingredient in reclaiming and restoring is to ‘visually’ reclaim the oeuvre. Consequently, photography is the most essential step in making invisible artists visible! Originally known were three paintings; Fortune has now uncovered NINETEEN works by Suor Plautilla Nelli; these are being restored by Rossella LARI.

“The past is a wise song,
and its music should always be playing…”
A dryly witty, wise and enchanting novel of young and old love, is ‘THE PHILOSOPHER’S HOUSE’ written by the elegant and insightful Joan MARYSMITH. Black Swan/Transworld Publishers (Australia) Limited Moorebank NSW 1999
An enjoyable read in beautifully expressed language, bridging the old and the new; the young and the old; yesterday and today; the ordinary and the extraordinary – Marysmith explores the ideas of love and happiness and whether we need to be good to be happy!

…so, as traditionalists in the Vatican are alleged to
have formed new liaisons with some of Trump’s people…
as China puts Africa on the rails!
as Obama enjoys kitesurfing in the British Virgin Islands, guest of Richard Branson…
as the world holds its collective breath waiting to assess the nature and direction of relations with Russia…
as portion of Germany’s gold reserves are returned to Frankfurt…
as people seek moral courage, not just violence…
as French voters want morality and politics to converge…
as ghosts of Dante, Donatello and Michelangelo pervade…
as Germany’s Joachim Guack, considered ‘the guardian of the national narrative’ prepares to hand over the presidency Anna Sauerbrey
Galileo sits..smiles.. “and still it turns”! – our World!

‘Bonjour!’ says my young friend, at breakfast. ‘Ici! Ici!’ – He shows me a newspaper article. PARIS. Michel ONFRAY, a best-selling French pop philosopher (oxymoron debatable!) – has produced an impressive run of his latest book, fuelling a nation’s obsession with its own failings and the fostering of a robust ‘decline’ industry. Indeed, last year, the word ‘declinisme’ or “declinism” entered France’s Larousse dictionary!! “Decadence: The Life and Death of the Judeo-Christian Tradition” sounds gloomy and worries the French – however, others, involved in socio-political, socio-economic and legal domains, argue that they do not believe in the idea of declinism. Monsieur Bavarez, author of ‘France in Free Fall’ 2003 states that the French have to diagnose denial, accept reality and find solutions. Daphne Angeles:the new York Times International Edition, Thursday, February 9, 2017,pp1-2. The French – and the world, waits…..
Michel WIEVIORKA states that the crisis in political representation is NOT specific to France, but that it has been heightened inFrance. Formerly the nation had been driven by conflicts generated by the Cold War and industrial rights and freedoms. With so many questions about corruption and poor leadership, the BIG question is whether or not transformation will come with new or renewed debates and conflicts? Michel Wieviorka, sociologist/Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, Paris. 2017


In an era of “alternative facts”
and the talk of “fact based” journalism,
the simple Truth is under siege!
Roger Cohen
Fact-based journalism is a ridiculous tautological phrase. It’s like talking about oxygen-based human life!
Fake news websites exist.
“Speed and disruption have more psychological impact than truth and science. They shape the discourse…” writes Cohen.
Concerns remain – globally.
Roger Cohen, The New York Times International Ed, Sat-Sun Feb 11-12 2017. p.1

The death of Henry-Louis de La GRANGE, devoted researcher and publisher of the life of tempestuous composer, Gustav MAHLER, was announced by the Mediatheque Musicale Mahler in Paris, and released internationally this morning, (11th February 2017). Revered musicologist and biographer, Professor de La Grange was enraptured by Mahler’s NINTH SYMPHONY in D Major, written after the death of the composer’s daughter. Leonard BERNSTEIN once stated this mercurial music was “…the greatest farewell symphony ever written by anybody…”. Sam Roberts. Fare thee well, Professor de La Grange, Dean of all Mahler biographers! Au revoir.
So much to See, Hear and Experience!!
I am now about to wander in the relatively small but historically famed ‘orto’ – Garden, at my hotel. These are the Medici Gardens of San Marco, the ‘orto’ of the Medici family, recognised as the place of the birth and development of the Renaissance.
Lorenzo de’Medici, the plaque reads, kept his collection of Ancient Roman Marbles here – on the site where workshops were established. My hotel is simple, was a bargain at winter prices, but historically grand, it seems! I am yet to discover what, REALLY, the ‘marbles’ are, via an information session at 2pm today. So, this was the school for sculptors, mastered by DONATELLO, Bertoldidi Giovanni. As for the Artist’s workshops, this is noted as the first Academy and the starting point for MICHELANGELO Buonarroti!

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