Italy aficionados visit Beinecke

The prevailing mood at the Beinecke is often a quiet one. But in recent days, the once muted cavern has transformed into a bustling circus, as many visitors have flocked to the library’s Italian Festivals exhibition, on display through Jan. 9.

It isn’t difficult to see the appeal of such an exhibition to non-Italianists; the items on display range from the Feriale Duranum, which describes festivals in the third century B.C., to the full color depiction of the Corpus Christi celebrations organized by Pope Gregory in 1838.

An illustration of Pope Gregory XVI’s procession in St. Peter’s Square for the feast of Corpus Christi is featured within a new Beinecke exhibition.
An illustration of Pope Gregory XVI’s procession in St. Peter’s Square for the feast of Corpus Christi is featured within a new Beinecke exhibition.

Even on a Monday afternoon, not a likely time for visitors, Alexandre Jenn ’09 was perusing the exhibits.

“Italy has always been a source of fascination for me due to my European heritage,” Jenn said. “Some of these pictures really speak to me; they make the festival seem alive.”

Diana Mellon ’09 remarked on the rapport with modern-day Italy, as these festivals survive today through Italian soccer festivities.

The exhibits are laid out corresponding to which part of Italy they come from (such as Sicily or Lombardy), which gives the viewer a perspective on the evolution of festivals all over Italy. The public is also greeted with flags from the different Italian regions on the walls.

The exhibition states it is interested in how often theatrical and operatic performances become part of traditional Italian celebrations. There are many vivid and bright depictions of Italian festivals, as well as more artistic depictions of major events such as when the Bishop of Brescia was made a cardinal in 1762, which focuses more on the opulence of the location of the event.

Public Relations Coordinator Rebecca Martz said the books included in the exhibit provide “a rare and up-close look at the Italian festival book tradition.” Some of the best known examples in this collection include a book that depicts the wedding ceremony of the Duke of Tuscany, one of the first printed on color plates, and the depictions of the Santa Rozalia festivities in 1690, 1694 and 1704, one of the first illustrated books printed in Sicily.

“The Santa Rozalia set of pictures really interested me because of the story behind it,” Hind Katkhuda ’11 said, referring to the deliverance of the people of Palermo from the plague in 1690 and the earthquake of 1694 and the subsequent parade of nations in 1704.

The exhibition has its curios: there is an account written by a papal legate arriving in London on May 19, 1514, telling its readers that “It was marvellous to see the throngs and crowds of people packed in the city to see the sacred gift.” Such an insight into history is rarely given. Also included is the miniscule edition of the Book of Hours, a 15th century list of festival days and the printed reports of the Queen of Sweden’s travels in 1656 that also contain the flyer that celebrated her entry into Rome.

Phillip Costopoulos ’09 was so impressed by the colors and the feeling of festivity in the exhibition that he plans to use several of the depictions for parties he plans to throw at Yale.

“Some of the parties they had then – they were crazy. We should do something like this at Yale,” he said, pointing to a depiction of sultans in bright oriental dress at a Naples carnival for which the theme was “Splendours of the East.”

The exhibition is officially scheduled to open Wed., Oct. 3 at 5:15 p.m., when professors Angela Capodivacca of Yale and Sarah Knight of the University of Leicester will open the exhibition with a talk on Italian festivals.

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