I enrolled this morning in another Italian language class, after too long a hiatus. I've been focused in the last few years on improving my French, mostly through intensive, full-time summer classes. Now, I need a change and I need to do something to brighten up a dreary winter.
Now, I doubt my continuing education class is going to look anything like this photo! I suspect it will instead be a group of people more like me, ordinary folks who want to travel in Italy and understand the country a bit better. Or perhaps people who have married into an Italian family and want to better understand their in-laws!
The top photo is, of course, a "sacra conversazione" -- a sacred conversation. This is a very popular theme in Italian art, often involving Mary, the Christ child, assorted saints and hangers-on (such as the family that commissioned the work.)
This particular work is Giovanni Bellini's Madonna and Child with Two Saints, painted in 1490 and now hanging in Venice's Gallerie dell'Accademia. Apparently there is another, autograph version at the Prado in Madrid. The two saints are traditionally identified as Sts Catherine and Magdalene, but it is more likely that these are two noble Venetian ladies who commissioned the painting.
Here is another kind of conversation I enjoy: in Letizia's kitchen at Alla Madonna del Piatto near Assisi. I took this photo during a recent cooking class in September.
This is another Sacred Conversation from Venice's Gallerie dell'Accademia.This work is dated 1525 and is by the artist Jacopo Negretti, known as Palma il Vecchio.
I've taken only two previous Italian language classes and neither group looked anything like this! I've also been listening to Italian-language CDs and watching every Italian film I can get (reading the subtitles but also trying to hear the language.)
But, as any language student can tell you, the hardest part of learning is summoning up the courage to actually practice, to engage others in their native tongue. Here's hoping another class will help me practice, so I can put the lessons to good use next time I'm in Italy!