Thursday, 22 September 2011
We were tossed back on our striped deckchairs on the grass the other day looking up at the sky. It was a Tiepolo sky - streaky pale blue, skeins of cloud floss, liquid lightness - which one can tilt up and see across the ceilings of certain villas and churches in this area, all the way to Venice where the painter was born. Anyone who has seen Tiepolo's work will have seen how he captures the gauzy fluidity of bright summer light, making it warm and enticing, providing a background for the flight of cheeky ladies in cascaded skirts, dainty ankles revealed, stockinged calves.
We were quiet in thought after a big meal, good wine. These are the last late days of summer, just as Tiepolo painted in the last season of the vast and decadent Venetian Republic, in the mid-1700s when Baroque art exploded into sizzling Rococco forms. But what Tiepolo gave us most of all - I think - was this colour, this almost-transparent blue that begs us to look upward.
This month as summer wanes our Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has given us much to think about. Tapped phone conversations - how vulgar - leading to greater vulgarities still. Young prostitutes whom he did or not pay for sex. Women in a line outside of his chamber, women seeking fame on his tits-and-arse TV stations from a lover who boasts: 'I govern this country in my spare time.'
Though perhaps I shouldn't have watched 'Spartacus' the other night or 'The Borgias', I wonder whether Italy in her worst moments has always had such feisty immoral leadership and a proclaimed appetite for women and delights. I think back to her debauched popes and feuding ducal families, her virgins and sinners, her pomp and hyperpole.
I am beginning to see Berlusconi in a toga, Italy burning to a crisp behind him.