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The British side of Bologna

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Attracted by the antique charm, the English have come to Italy since the crusades. Bologna, a university and music town, continued to have visitors even during the XVIth century, after the split between the Catholic and the Anglican church. In the XVIIIth and XIXth century every middle-class gentleman travelling throughout Italy is fascinated by the artistic and natural beauties and by the cuisine of the city.

David Tremlett - Palazzo Re Enzo, Piazza Nettuno 1

David Tremlett - Palazzo Re Enzo, Piazza Nettuno 1

The chapel of Santa Maria dei Carcerati  (Chapel of Saint Mary of Prisoners) was built in 1371 as a spiritual shelter for prisoners sentenced to death. Inside the chapel a big wall drawing was made in 2003 by the English artist (1945), who became world-famous thanks to this particular expressive medium: the pastel wall drawing technique enables to cover huge surfaces through pigments, applied by hand. Thanks to coloured powders it is possible to paint large spaces with small quantities. The artist, fascinated by the bare simplicity of the place and by its history, decided to respect the feeling of silence, preserving the suspended atmosphere of the chapel, that clashes with the clamour of the square.

Reynolds and Gainsborough, Music Museum- Strada Maggiore, 34

Reynolds and Gainsborough, Music Museum- Strada Maggiore, 34

The collection of paintings of Father Giovanni Battista Martini includes the portrait of Charles Burney attributed to Sir Joshua Reynolds, a copy of the version of the National Gallery of London. The English musicologist meets Father Martini in Bologna in 1770, when he was in Europe to write his four-volume work: A General History of Music (1777-1789). Thomas Gainsborough portrays Johann Christian Bach (1776), son of the famous German composer Johann Sebastian.Pietro Benvenuti painted the Portrait of Lord John Fane Burghersh (1784 – 1859), count of Westmoreland, a soldier and diplomat.

Wedgwood vases  - Davia Bargellini Museum –Strada Maggiore, 44

Wedgwood vases - Davia Bargellini Museum –Strada Maggiore, 44

Founded in 1924, this industrial art museum has a couple of Wedgwood vases (Hall 6) made of English ceramic, from the end of the XVIIIth century. The Staffordshire, rich in coal and clay, was the birthplace of the entrepreneurial genius of Josiah Wedgwood, the founder of a factory of ceramics that starts a new era in the industrial production of applied arts, launching on the market an alternative to the expensive porcelain and to majolica. The vases exhibited, from the collection of marquis Rusconi, are characterized by the typical stoneware created by the English factory; inspired by the biscuit of Sevrès, it was available in many different shades of colour, in this case light blue, called by Wedgwood “jasper”.

Thomas Becket, San Salvatore Church - Via Volto Santo, 1

Thomas Becket, San Salvatore Church - Via Volto Santo, 1

The church still has the ruins of the old chapel dedicated to the English students of the University of Bologna, who had settled near the chapel around the XIIth century, among them Thomas Becket, the future archbishop of Canterbury. After his brutal killing in 1171, the saint was elected patron of the English nation in Bologna and Cardinal Hildebrand dedicated the altar of San Salvatore to him. In the polyptych Coronation of the Virgin (1353), one of the masterpieces of Vitale da Bologna, Saint Thomas Becket is portrayed in an episcopal dress while he invokes the protection on a monk at his feet.

photo by Hugues-Olivier Brillouin

James III Stuart, Palazzo Belloni - Via de’Gombruti, 13

James III Stuart, Palazzo Belloni - Via de’Gombruti, 13

James III Stuart was the only English king who repeatedly chose Bologna as seat of his court. He was the guest of the marquis Belloni. In his house a staircase, built according to a project of Giuseppe Antonio Torri, was decorated with statues and frescoes on the occasion of the stay in Bologna of James III Stuart, the pretender to the throne of England, in 1717. The sandstone statues of Hercules and Orpheus are by Andrea Ferreri. James Stuart often praised the beauty of the palace, spreading its fame also in his home country.

Lord Byron - Via Ugo Bassi, 7

Lord Byron - Via Ugo Bassi, 7

The Pellegrino hotel, which no longer exists, was one of the most famous ones between the XVIIIth and the XIXth century, and in particular it was popular among English tourists. Among its guests were heads of state, rich people and scholars. It became famous mainly thanks to Lord Byron (1788-1824) who stayed there. In 1817, after he had left his wife and his country, he came to Italy, where he wrote Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, a half-serious work in verse on the life of a young rich man. The owner decided to commemorate the English poet with a memorial stone and a text by Giosuè Carducci.

Anglo-Saxon ring, Medieval Museum - Via Manzoni, 4

Anglo-Saxon ring, Medieval Museum - Via Manzoni, 4

Inside the museum there is an Anglo-Saxon ring (Hall 5), found near the Reno river, near the Bologna city gates, probably dating back to the IXth century, a unique example of Longobardic goldsmith’s art. Its dark colour is due to the working technique, the “niello”: metal was engraved and filled each time with copper, silver, lead and sulphur, when it had cooled it was polished in order to highlight the design obtained, black, dark or grey. In Hall 7 an English cope from the first half of the XIVth century is one of the rare examples in Italy of opus anglicanum, a type of embroidery made of silk and gold, produced in England since the XIIIth century.

Charlie Chaplin, Film Library of Bologna - Via Riva di Reno, 72

Charlie Chaplin, Film Library of Bologna - Via Riva di Reno, 72

Since 1999 the Cineteca has worked at the restoration and diffusion of the work of Charlie Chaplin. This meticulous work, commissioned by Charlie Chaplin’s heirs, consists in the complex restoration of his cinema work and in the digitalization and cataloguing of the paper archive. The official site of the on-line catalogue Charlie Chaplin Archive describes the whole artistic and film-maker career of the unforgettable English artist.

Tony Cragg, MAMbo - Via Don Minzoni, 14

Tony Cragg, MAMbo - Via Don Minzoni, 14

Considered one of the most significant sculptors of his generation, in the past few years Tony Cragg (Liverpool, 1949) has focused on transparency, using glass, bronze, wax, wood and coloured stone. Eroded Landscape, in the Morandi area, shows the idea of ephemeral physicality. Another important artist of the MAMbo collections, that are exhibited in rotation, is Jesse Ash, from London (London, 1977).

Anglican cloister, Certosa of Bologna - Via della Certosa, 18

Anglican cloister, Certosa of Bologna - Via della Certosa, 18

The portico in front of the entrance leads to the Anglican cloister with tombs from the early XIXth century, with an arcane symbolism: the classical sarcophagus, Mercury’s caduceus, the Ouroboros (a snake eating its own tail) and the door of Hades. The monument to Baron Strick is a dramatic background to the cloister. The monument by Ercole Gasparini (1810), is made of painted scagliola, and looks like a catafalque with two figures on top: a mourning woman and a young man, dressed in an old style. There is an inscription at the centre of the gravestone: Those who believe in Christ will pass from death to life.