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"A Chubbier Minerva", or welcome to my Substack.
“Quelli col solo ingegno, separata ogni matera, mesurano le forme delle cose. Noi, perché vogliamo le cose essere poste da vedere, per questo useremo quanto dicono una più grassa Minerva…” Leon Battista Alberti, Della Pittura.
“[Mathematicians] use only their intellect, divorced entirely from matter, to measure the form of things. We, who want things to be visible, shall rely on a chubbier Minerva…”
Welcome to my Substack! For those who don’t know me I’m a guide in Rome with twenty years experience (more info about my tours is here), and this newsletter is about all things to do with Rome. It takes its cue from the above quotation from the ultimate Renaissance man Leon Battista Alberti whose treatise on painting Della Pittura was written in 1435. Amongst Alberti’s panoply of accomplishments he was architect, mathematician, cryptographer, cartographer, and *possibly* able to jump onto a horse from a standing start.
I was first struck by this più grassa Minerva when she was brought to my attention by the excellent Dr Jim Lawson as I studied Architectural History at Edinburgh University at the tail end of the last millennium. Perhaps she made such an impression because I had recently escaped from the abstraction of a degree in Mathematics: the tangible and the material were extremely appealing as it transpired that “measur[ing] the form of things divorced from all matter” was not really my bag. Alberti speaks of her as protectress of painting but this “chubbier Minerva”—dimpled and benevolent—surely also governs architecture with its innumerable concessions to practicality and human frailties; all those chimneys and kitchens and lavatories.
This newsletter is concerned with matter, and with the infinite facets of Rome written in every atom of that matter: in her exuberant fountains, earnest delicatessens, ancient sculptures, temples and churches, grubby cobbles, and the seventies interiors of old-school coffee bars. It aims to be a sort of self-assembly guide to Rome with lots of photos which won’t be posted on Instagram or elsewhere, three written posts, and one c.15 minute podcast a month. It does not aim in any way whatsoever to be comprehensive, as they say around these parts: Roma nun basta 'na vita (a lifetime isn’t enough). I hope you like it.