Gregory Hilde Brand, 1st November 2012

Raphael Cartoons are on show at the V&A Museum in London

Sistine Chapel, The creation of Adam, particular, Michelangelo Buonarroti, courtesy Wikipedia

Wandering around Italy in these days, you can be overwhelmed by the news about the celebration for the 500 years of the inauguration of the Sistine Chapel ceiling byMichelangelo.The very famous ceiling frescos, in fact, were unveiled the 31st October 1512. These images are in between the most famous in the world. Everyone has seen, at least once in his life, the image of the two fingers getting closer, a particular taken from “The creation of Adam”.

Italy is inundated with news of the Sistine Chapel celebration, also a way to enhance the low appreciation the Vatican faces in these days.

However, it is undoubtable the Sistine Chapel is a marvellous patrimony of the world, one of the primary functions of which is as a venue for the election of each successive pope in the Conclave of the College of Cardinals.

The 31st October 2012, Pope Benedict XVI presided at the celebration of Vespers in theSistine Chapel, to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the inauguration of the ceiling painted by Michelangelo between 1508 and 1512.

Pope Julius II, who entrusted the decoration of the vault (1,100 square metres) to the sculptor of the Pieta, celebrated the completion of the work with the solemn rite of Vespers on All Saints’ Day, 31st October 1512.

The story of the Sistine Chapel starts in the XV Century. The return of the pontiffs in Rome, after the period in Avignon (France), marked a reconstruction time for the capital city of the Christianity, ruined and devastated by the civil wars.

Pope Sixtus VI worked on renovating Rome and culminated in the restoration of the Palatine Chapel of the Apostolic Palaces – aka the Vatican Palaces, residence of the Pope in Rome- that took its name of Sistine Chapel (Latin: Sacellum Sixtinum) from the pope’s name.

The architectonic project of the chapel was made by Baccio Pontelli. It has been built under the supervision of Giovannino de’ Dolci, between the 1477 and 1481, and consecrated in 1483.

The Sistine Chapel is a rectangular brick building, exteriorly unadorned. The internal measurements are 40.9 metres (134 ft) long by 13.4 metres (44 ft) wide—the dimensions of the Temple of Solomon, as given in the Old Testament. The vaulted ceiling rises to 20.7 metres (68 ft).

The interior presents a screen, or transenna, in marble by Mino da Fiesole, Andrea Bregno, and Giovanni Dalmata, who also provided the

Michelangelo Buonaroti, The last judgement, complete view, Vatican Gallery, Sistine Chapel, courtesy Wikipedia

cantoria, or projecting choir gallery.

The internal walls are divided into three main tiers. The lower is decorated with frescoed wall hangings in silver and gold. The central tier of the walls has two cycles of paintings, which complement each other.

The decoration was started by Perugino, and Piermatteo D’Amelia decorated the ceiling. In the meantime Lorenzo de’ Medici, ruler of Florence, as a part of the reconciliation project between him and his enemies of the Pazzi Conspiracy (1478), offered his help for the decoration of the chapel, including sending to Rome artists who left Florence on 27th October 1480.

The group of Florentine was composed by Sandro Botticelli, Cosimo Rosselli, Domenico Ghirlandaio and their assistants Pinturicchio, Piero di Cosimo e Bartolomeo della Gatta. They joined Perugino, who was perhaps the superintendent of the whole decoration. They started to work in the Sistine Chapel in the spring of 1481. Later on, Luca Signorelli replaced Perugino.

In 1504, for soil problems the Sistine Chapel was damaged, and once restored the ceiling needed to be redecorated. Pope Julius II wanted to commission Michelangelo Buonarroti, who signed the contract in 1508.

The decoration was terminated the 31st October 2012. Michelangelo was helped by Bramante for the scaffolding. The frescoes were subject to fungus attack but an assistant of Michelangelo, Jacopo l’Indaco, created a special mix that remained in the Italian builder’s tradition.

Furthermore, Pope Clement VII commissioned to Michelangelo the decoration of the wall above the altar with The Last Judgement, 1537–1541. There was a strong dispute between Michelangelo and Cardinal Carafa, who accused the artist of immorality and obscenity because he painted naked people.

Therefore, after Michelangelo’s death Daniele da Volterra was hired to cover the genitals in Last Judgment with vestments and loincloths. This earned him the nickname “Il Braghettone” (“the breeches maker”). In 1994 restoration, they have been partially removed but only on 38 minor figures and causing many protests.

Raphael, Christ’s Charge to Peter, Cartoon, (1515) courtesy Wikipedia

And here is the connection with the UK – and this website. In 1515,Raphael was commissioned by Pope Leo X to design a series of ten tapestries to hang around the lower tier of the walls. The full-size preparatory cartoons for seven of the ten tapestries, known as theRaphael Cartoons, are on show at the V&A Museum in London.The fate of the other three cartoons is unknown.

Due to their large size, Raphael tapestries were woven in four years in the shop of Pieter van Aelst (Brussels). Their first delivery was in 1517, and seven were displayed in the Chapel for Christmas in 1519. Raphael’s tapestries were looted during the Sack of Rome in 1527 and were either burnt for their precious metal content or were scattered around Europe. In the late 20th century, a set was reassembled and displayed again in the Sistine Chapel in 1983, and used during occasional important ceremonies.

The seven Raphael Cartoons were bought from a Genoese collection in 1623 by Sir Francis Drake on behalf Charles I of England. He only paid £300 for them, probably they were considered as working designs rather than works of art. Charles I, in fact, made further tapestries from them at Mortlake but he was well aware of their artistic significance. They had been cut into long vertical strips a yard wide, as was required for use on low-warp tapestry looms, and were only permanently rejoined in the 1690s at Hampton Court. In Charles’ time they were stored in wooden boxes in the Banqueting House, Whitehall. They were one of the few items in the Royal Collection withheld from sale by Oliver Cromwell after Charles’ execution.

William III commissioned Sir Christopher Wren and William Talman to design the“Cartoon Gallery” at Hampton Court Palace in 1699, especially to contain them. In 1763, when George III moved them to the newly bought Buckingham House (now Buckingham Palace) there were protests in Parliament by John Wilkes and others, as they would no longer be accessible to the public (Hampton Court had long been open to visitors). In 1804 they were returned to Hampton Court, and in 1865 Queen Victoria decided that the cartoons should be exhibited on loan at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England, where they are still to be seen in a specially designed gallery.

The celebration of 500 years of Sistine Chapel marks that a piece of history is available to people, as every year 6 million of tourists visits the place.


Sir Nicholas Serota © Tate Archive 2003

Tate Director, Sir Nicholas Serota, ask for a school reform focused on arts subjects.

David Franchi – 4th October 2012

“It should not be regarded as an optional extra”

Tate strongly affirms arts have to stay in the curriculum. Tate is calling for arts subjects to remain within the National Curriculum for Secondary Schools and for their inclusion in the English Baccalaureate. The proposals for the new Baccalaureate certificates announced two weeks ago do not include the arts as a core subject. But studies confirm that art disciplines are of absolute use.

Sir Nicholas Serota, Director of the Tate art galleries, has recommended to the government to include the arts in the English Baccalaureate qualifications that will replace GCSEs. The new proposals, in fact, do not leave space in the school timetable for art, design, dance, drama and music.

Education Secretary, Michael Gove, announced the English Baccalaureate would be taught from 2015, and that English, maths and the sciences, will be embraced immediately, and only later it will include history or geography and a language.

Speaking at the launch of the Tate’s annual report, Sir Nicholas Serota, Director Tate, said: “There is a real risk that fewer and fewer schools will provide learning opportunities in the arts. The UK’s leading edge in creativity may be lost. We cannot deprive an entire generation of children of the cultural skills that they will need.”

Last February, Darren Henley of Classic FM, published a report for the Departments of Education and Culture, Media and Sport that gave a firm endorsement of the importance of earlier cultural learning in the curriculum. In spite of a favourable response from government, there are now concerns that Henley’s detailed proposals will not be implemented.

Cultural learning is more significant than ever. Creativity is essential in a global economy which needs a workforce that is knowledgeable, imaginative and innovative. One of the few parts of the economy in the UK which is still growing is the creative industries. Cultural education is vital for the development of individuals and of society as a whole and it should be delivered through schools as part of the curriculum to ensure both quality of opportunity and experience. It should not be regarded as an optional extra.

However, the Department of Education claimed that they are spending £15m over the next three years to ensure that every child has access to the arts. Other £3.6 million are allocated for schools to use towards visits to museums and galleries. Furthermore, the government gives more training and support for teachers to improve the quality of arts education in schools. Another support will arrive from funding Saturday art and design clubs for talented young people in the most deprived areas.

It seems that pupils at schools where the arts were integrated into the curriculum showed stronger performance in maths, English, critical thinking and verbal skills. Studied made during the past 20-30years strongly confirmed that cultural learning at school gives general benefit, and that it is not related only to art disciplines.

The arts are central to a rounded curriculum and complete education. Art studies significantly boost student achievement and schools integrating arts into their curriculum also show improved student performance in Maths, English, critical thinking and verbal skills. Students from low-income families who take part in arts activities at school are three times more likely to take a degree.

However, the government insist its reforms are in line with Mr Henley’s recommendations. The core academic subjects have been chosen and they will be the standard for the whole system.

Learning through and about the arts enables young people to make, create, learn and express themselves. This is fundamental to achieving success in school and later life. By making art a part of the national curriculum, we give the next generation of artists, designers, engineers, creators and cultural leaders the opportunity to develop the imagination and skills that are vital to our future.

Hopefully, the multimillionaires government will take these proposals into account, but there are strong doubts about it.


The British Library, London, ph. credits Wikipedia

“Journeys through Urban Britain” at the British Library.

Isabelle Koksal – 26th July 2012

“The picture they painted of British cities today … was indeed bleak”

I attended a brilliant talk at theBritish Library called “Journeys through Urban Britain”, chaired by Elaine Glaser, featuring Owen Hatherley, Laura Oldfield-Ford, and Owen Jones discussing the politics of our urban landscape. My terrible memory and my note taking on a scrap of paper doesn’t really do justice to the discussion – but I thought it might be worth throwing out some of the points that were made.

Hatherley and Oldfield-Ford both reflected on their wanderings, observations, and experiences of London and further afield, whilst Jones was on hand with statistics and a historical context with which to situate the changes in British cities. The picture they painted of British cities today, which are descriptive of the politics, was indeed bleak as more and more boundaries are erected, public space lost, and people forced out of their areas but there have been moments of hope, especially in the last couple of years. The speakers described the student movements, Occupy, and the ‘euphoria’ of the riots as examples of ways in which cities can be lived in and created differently.

Here are some interesting things that I learnt.

“There are too many people baking cupcakes” said Oldfield-Ford. Cupcakes are the apotheosis of neoliberalism right? They promote individualism with the emphasis on everyone having to have their own tiny, perfect little cake rather than people enjoying slices from a big cake. You just can’t share a cupcake as they are the size of one mouthful. Communal cake eating and enjoyment is destroyed by cupcakes as people become preoccupied with having the daintiest, fanciest cupcake they can get to outdo everyone else’s. They’re also slightly creepy as they seem to hark back to and celebrate women’s incarceration in the kitchen in the 1950s in the name of ‘retro’.

The opening song for the Shard was “fanfare for the common man”.

Owen Jones illustrated the inequality that is built into the Strata tower, in which there are separate lifts for social housing tenants at the bottom of the tower (so they don’t get the good views) and the rest of the tenants, reflects our unequal society.

The drift “an important strategy to see how flows of the city have been re-ordered – to see how we can re-configure the urban space”, said Laura Oldfield-Ford.

According to Owen Hatherley, walking around cities allows you to “see political processes at work…cracks are really obvious in British cities and that’s what my work brings out”. What do the Tories want? “It’s a project of destruction rather than construction”. Coin Street, a community trust housing development, is often held up (by the left?) as an example of how housing could be done, however, Hatherley points out that actually it’s not as pleasant as it seems. They have strict vetting process for who is allowed to enter their ‘community’.

Cities and work

Seeing cities as places other than places of work.

To do this – Owen Hatherley – need free time or a job that allows you to walk around the city.

The relationship between cities and work – ‘cities are giving us messages that we should work all the time, even when you’re relaxing having a coffee in Starbucks there’s a sign saying there is wi-fi’ – Elaine Glaser


Woolwich after the riots – there was a sign up saying ‘back to business’ as if to say “we won’t learn anything” said Owen Hatherley.

What does community mean? Laura Oldfield-Ford: “The broom brigade showed how nasty and vicious the word community can be”.

The future…?

Unison’s new building on the Euston Road has social housing around the back of it, Hatherley would like to see unions getting more involved in housing.

“I think when Westfield shopping centre is looted and burnt out, it would make a good social centre”, stated Laura Oldfield-Ford.


If these disjointed notes have piqued your interest – I reckon it would be well worth checking out their books (in Laura Oldfield-Ford ‘s talk, she showed us drawings from her book and they were fantastic!) from your local library before the government tries to close it!

Owen Hatherley is the author of the acclaimed ‘Militant Modernism, a defence of the modernist movement’, ‘A Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain’, and its follow up ‘A New Kind of Bleak: Journeys through Urban Britain’. He writes regularly on the political aesthetics of architecture, urbanism and popular culture, including Building Design,Frieze, the Guardian and the New Statesman.

Owen Jones is a writer and columnist for the Independent, who’s first book ‘Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class’ became one of the most discussed books of 2011, and has recently been updated to include the aftermath of the English riots.

Laura Oldfield Ford, artist and writer, has become well known for her politically active and poetic engagement with London. Part graphic novel, part artwork, her punk fanzine, now also in a book, ‘Savage Messiah’ records the beauty and anger at the city’s edges.

Elaine Glaser is a BBC producer and the author of Get Real: How to Tell it Like it is in a World of Illusions.

At the British Library, King’s Cross, Euston Road, London, was Journeys through Urban Britain” on Friday, 13th July 2012.

Wessex Studios, St. Augustines Church, Highbury, London – a particular

The Highbury church that made the history of rock.

David Franchi

After few days of working from home and with sunshine weather, I decided to take a walk on New Highbury Park, Islington, London. Here buildings and part of the surrounding area are from the mid- nineteenth century, built in a typical Italianate style.

Strolling around I arrive to St. Augustine church, part of the Anglican Evangelical tradition of the Church of England. Members of the parish mirror the very mixed population of Highbury, counting at least 22 different nationalities. Notably activities include the children school, the Islington Choir, groups for exploring Christianity, praying, fare trading, campaigning against poverty and climate change.

Redevelopment has started so St. Augustine is closed. This particular edifice was built in 1869, in replacement of a temporary church first established in 1864. A parish was assigned to the church in 1871, taken from the ones of Christ Church and Saint Paul’s. The structure was restored in 1982. The church seats around 1,150 people. The building is made of brick with stone dressings, designed by Habershon and Brock in the Decorated style, typical of the Gothic Revival – or Victorian Gothic – architecture, practised in England in the second half of the nineteenth century.

But the most interesting part of the building is the peculiar church hall. Built in 1881, later on it will become a piece of the history of the music, hosting the very famous “Wessex Sound Studios” a recording venue for rock legends. Now, astonishingly, it has been transformed into homes.

In the 1960s, the Thompson family converted the church hall into a recording studio. They named it ‘Wessex’ because their previous recording studio was located in Bournemouth, in the Ancient English county of Wessex.

George Martin, the legendary producer of The Beatles, bought the studios in 1965 and make of it one of the hottest rock place of the history. Wessex lasted for 40 years and in Britain it was second only to Abbey Road studios for equipment and frequentation. In 1975, Chrysalis bought the studios and George Martin became a director of the company.

The list of music personalities who have worked at the Wessex Studios is amazing. Here the Sex Pistols recorded many of their albums, including the revolutionary ‘Never Mind the Bollocks’ in 1977. The Clash recorded their celebrated – but never enough – ‘London Calling’ two years later. The Queen used the venue for ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. For ‘We will rock you’ The Queen recorded the mighty ‘boom-boom-cha boom-boom-cha’ of the song making the whole staff of the studios jump on the pavement.

Additionally, worked here Rolling Stones, The Pretenders, King Crimson, Marianne Faithfull, XTC, King, Slade, Peter Townshend, Jesus and Mary Chain, John Cougar Mellencamp, Theatre of Hate, Kylie, Talk Talk, Nick Cave, REM, Motorhead, The Moody Blues, Dido, Coldplay, Elvis Costello, Bob Geldof, The Damned, The Stone Roses, The Specials, Enya, Nik Kershaw, Erasure, Judas Priest, Tina Turner, and David Bowie. The list could probably be longer if one just had enough time to make research.

But time passes by and in 2003 the building was sold to Neptune Group and later converted into a residential development. Today the place is known as “The Recording Studio” and it contains eight apartments and a townhouse. The website of the agent declares that The Recording Studio “might not make you a rock star – “but at least you can live like one”. Ironically, for a property here in a rock’ n’ roll location you need to have a lot of cash to meet the expenses.

Wessex Studios were famous for having the newest technologies of which the celebrated mixing desk ‘40 channel SSL 4048E console’ is still alive nowadays and used in a recording studio located in Llangennech, Carmarthenshire, in South Wales.

But this is not all. Another involving site is just nearby few steps further on. At the 124 Highbury Park, it is possible to find the house of David Gestetner, an Hungarian scientists who was the inventor of the Gestetner stencil duplicator, the first piece of office equipment that allowed production of numerous copies of documents quickly and inexpensively. Or better to say the ancestor of the photocopy machine. On 15th March 2011, Gestetner received a Blue Plaque on his home at 124 Highbury New Park.

Well, it is strange to go for a relaxing walk and find out the history of music, together with the one of the office equipment. Though it is now past, it’s always worth to amble and then go back home searching for the amazing history of this place on the internet.