01 June 2008

Madrigals of Love

Wandering along the Via Due Marcello about a week ago, Mia, Jessica, and I discovered a tunnel. Within the tunnel were at least three graffiti artists, industriously at work. THe smell of spray paint tickled our noses as we peered around the corner. These artists were not simply tagging. They had plastic laid on the floor, ladders in place, and colors and colors of paint set out. These were spray paint artists preparing an installation. I noted the location, and we agreed we should return in a few days to see the completed work.

Earlier this week, we wandered that way again. When I discovered we were in the general vicinity, I suggested we check out the graffiti tunnel. The work is complete, and it is lovely.

One of the murals fits my themes, love in Rome. Although this is not a “Ti Amo,” it presents the Madrigals of Love (Madrigale di Amore), in intricate fantasy art. The Madrigals could refer to Monteverdi's Madrigals of Love and War, to Rodrigo's madrigals (several of which are termed "madrigals of love"), or simply to madrigals more broadly. Below are three photos of the mural.

It is large enough that a single photograph could not capture it. The title is in the upper-left-hand corner of the mural. The two feature figures for this madrigal are in the center, the woman about to eat an apple (Biblical references, anyone?) and peeping behind her.

The second figure is androgynous in facial features, with long hair sporting a red flower. This figure appears to be male, given the codpiece, boots, and trousers. His androgyny suggests he might be a castrato. He swoons and looks longingly toward the female’s figure. Some of the most key themes of madrigals (both Baroque and earlier) appear here--love and longing.

War and death are also themes that help to define the genre, which is partially illustrated in the third image. This couple is followed by a skeletal jester, playing on a violin held before him like a fiddle and with a bow shaped more like an archery bow than a violin bow.


The background has five lines, with some shapes vaguely akin to the bass clef symbol. This is clearly a scene set on a sheet of music.

It is poetic. Love is the pain of longing for the other, the temptation not realized, and the dark accompaniment of the possibility of its death. Much like the sweeping sighs of a madrigal, the mural captures the pain and longing of love.

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Works Cited

Fiona Wild, ed. Eyewitness Travel Rome (London: Dorling Kindersley Limited, 1993), 2007 edition.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Marble Faun. New York: Penguin Books, 1990/1860.

James, Henry. Daisy Miller. New York: Penguin Books, 2005/1878.

Powers, Alice Leccese. Italy in Mind: An Anthology. Toronto: Vintage Books, 1997.

Steves, Rick. Rick Steves' Italy 2007. New York: Avalon Travel Publishing, 2006.