Letter B…… be better (part 2)


The second letter B. I have always thought that second is a really great. When  you are runner coming second proves to the world that you can do it to a high level but it doesn’t single you out. Nobody is going to hate you for coming second. Nobody is going to knock themselves out to topple you from second place. Today, I am happy to share my stops on the second letter B.dsc02811Pablo Picasso once said ” If only we could  pull out our brain and use only our eyes” we would be amazed at the world around us. In the way, not all of us seen all Rome details it is time, yes to see takes time. We haven’t the time, some of  us have been given a gift the ability to see -but we don’t take  the time to do more than glance around. For the one, the marvellous lesson I learn on in Rome is that when your heart and eyes are open to see, you’re able to recognise all details, no matter how short is your day.

First my stop on Rome white marble.

Nowadays marble is a common construction and ornamental material like in Rome.



Marble is often perceived as a being a cold and aseptic material to use tends to be confined to environment functions connected with these properties. This is particularly true. When you touch a marble object, it will remove heat from your hand.  Why? The marble can absorb heat up to almost 10 times quicker than wood, and it feels cold under your bare hand or feet because it is quickly absorbing the heat from your body and this also means that it can cool down quicker as well what is very helpful in Italy during the hottest months. Its earliest times Romans initially relied on the marbles used by the Greeks, but they found in the mountains near the town of Luni (which gave the stone the name of Lunense Marmor) which is today Carrara.


The news on the first extraction of marble from Carrara in the area date back to the first century.dsc03137BC during the Roman domination, particularly during the Imperial age, marble was the noble materials par excellence in architecture and the sculpture arts. It was the white marble of Carrara that converted Rome from a city of brick huts to one of marble palaces. Written records dated to 177 BC describe Romans who were sent to the colony of Luni with a full complement of slaves to extract the marble and ship it back to Rome for use in palaces and monuments – all engraved with A.U.PH. (ad usum phori – for use in the Forums) to avoid taxes. It was the white marble of Carrara that converted Rome from a city of brick huts to one of marble palaces. The emperor Augustus started the quarrying in the first century BCE, because he wanted that the Patrician villas and public monuments – including a part of the Parthenon in Rome – be covered in what was considered at the time the whitest marble; in some of the quarries the signs of the extraction by slaves are still visible.

Now is the time to science understanding of the term marble that is that of a rock whose structure is based on calcium carbonate and that has undergone metamorphism of varying degree; the definition is also extended to include rocks containing a mixture of calcium and magnesium carbonate (dolomite marbles) alone or together with simple calcium carbonate(calcite). I was lucky enough to seen in Rome a few of the famous buildings and statues built of Carrara marble.dsc02428Piramide di Caio Cestio was the first Roman monument covered with Lunense marble (Carrara Marble).2This etching which Giuseppe Vasi included in his 1747 first book of views of ancient and modern Rome is indicative of the dual “market” he was targeting. The ancient gate and even more the pyramid were subjects which appealed to travellers who visited Rome to admire Piramide di Caio Cestio.s0197086Another example is the Column of Trajan.  The column itself is made from fine-grained Luna marble and stands to a height of 38.4 meters (c. 98 feet) atop a tall pedestal. The shaft of the column is composed of 29 drums of marble measuring c. 3.7 meters (11 feet) in diameter, weighing a total of c. 1,110 tons. The topmost drum weighs some 53 tons. A spiral staircase of 185 steps leads to the viewing platform atop the column. The helical sculptural frieze measures 190 meters in length (c. 625 feet) and wraps around the column 23 times. A total of 2,662 figures appear in the 155 scenes of the frieze, with Trajan himself featured in 58 scenes.The construction of the Column of Trajan was a complex exercise of architectural design and engineering. Materials had to be acquired and transported to Rome, some across long distances.column-2The iconography scheme of the column illustrates Trajan’s wars in Dacia. The lower half of the column corresponds to the first Dacian War (c. 101-102 C.E.), while the top half depicts the second Dacian War (c. 105-106 C.E.). The first narrative event shows Roman soldiers marching off to Dacia, while the final sequence of events portrays the suicide of the enemy leader, Decebalus, and the mopping up of Dacian prisoners by the Romans. Carved into the structure are 2,662 figures in 155 scenes. Trajan appears in 58 of them.column-4Viewers were meant to follow the story from bottom to top standing in one place rather than circling the column 23 times, as the frieze does. This triumphal column inspired by that of Trajan were also created in honour of more recent victories.

The column honouring Admiral Horatio Nelson in London’s Trafalgar Square (c. 1843) draws on the Roman tradition that included the Column of Trajan along with earlier, Republican monuments like the columna rostrata of Caius Duilius. The column dedicated to Napoleon I erected in the Place Vendôme in Paris (c. 1810) and the Washington Monument of Baltimore, Maryland (1829) both were directly inspired by the Column of Trajan.

Marble ‘the wedding cake’ stop and Vittoriano

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The Vittoriano is the huge white monument which mars most panoramic views of Rome. Romans don’t really much admire the Vittoriano; they refer to it as ‘the wedding cake’.dsc00212It was built between 1885 and 1911 to celebrate the uniting of Italy as a nation, and dedicated to the first King of all Italy, Vittorio Emanuele II. Of course, the monarchy only lasted another thirty years after the completion of the Vittoriano, and most Italians would still scoff at the idea of unity, but the monument remains and is still important for those Italians with thoughts of nationhood. Guarded by soldiers, a flame burns on the front terrace of the monument to mark the grave of an unknown soldier; this is the Altar of the Fatherland, the Altare della Patria. However, the tourists from other parts of Italy make a beeline for the Vittoriano, but it is worth visiting even if you feel no such patriotic awe or affection. From the upper levels there are great views over Rome, and in 2007 a glass lift (elevator) was installed to take paying visitors up to the very top of the monument, on the roof between the two crowning statuary groups. It’s a good place to begin your sightseeing in Rome, since it gives you an unmatchable overview of the city, the city I fell in love.

Stop with Bernini

Wow, my Gian Lorenzo Bernini, and Apollo and Daphne 1622-25 and Carrara marble. This sculpture stood out more to me than the others because of the expression and drama it shows, very captivating and beautiful. The way their body is positioned, reminds me of wind and water in a physical form, free flowing with intense emotions.dsc02660The story behind the sculpture starts off about Eros (Cupid) who had two arrows, one of gold to incite love and one of lead to incite hate, Eros shoots the gold arrow to Apollo and shoots the lead arrow to Daphne long story short , Apollo falls in love with Daphne and she runs away from him while calling to her father Peneus (river god) to change her form and she turns into a bay laurel tree , yet Apollo still loving her , he vowed to tend to her as his tree and makes her leaves to be decorated on heads of leaders as crowns. This beautiful piece of sculpture will always be breath taking and with the story it goes hand in hand which makes it more beautiful.

In contrast to Bernini stop with marble busts of distinguished Ancient Romans in the Vatican Museum, the Romans preferred a realistic portrayal of the human form.

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The Romans learned everything they knew about stonework and about carving statues from the Greeks and the main difference was that the Romans used the hand drill more and they had more realism in the art.


Stop I am on my knees

dsc01304I just love the St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and their harmony. It’s not all about size and it’s also not about splendour and riches. But it’s about the symbolism, the composition of elements, and the atmosphere that you can grasp once inside that makes St Peter’s Basilica.The statues, dozens of them, standing tall in niches high above the stream of visitors. Saints and founders of orders, popes and virtues, carved in white stone and simply stunning in their lifelike appearance. St Peter’s is known for a number of masterpieces by some of the best artists in the world, most notably the Pietà by Michelangelo.dsc01317Michelangelo claimed that the block of Carrara marble he used to work on this was the most “perfect” block he ever used, and he would go on to polish and refine this work more than any other statue he created. The scene of the Pieta shows the Virgin Mary holding the dead body of Christ after his crucifixion, death, and removal from the cross, but before he was placed in the tomb.  This is one of the key events from the life of the Virgin, known as the Seven Sorrows of Mary, which were the subject of Catholic devotional prayers.  The subject matter was one which would have probably been known by many people, but in the late fifteenth century it was depicted in artworks more commonly in France and Germany than in Italy. This was a special work of art even in the Renaissance because at the time, multi-figured sculptures were rare.  These two figures are carved so as to appear in a unified composition which forms the shape of a pyramid, something that other Renaissance artists (e.g. Leonardo) also favoured. The restored Michelangelo's Pieta is seen in this undated photo released by Musei Vaticani at the Vatican

When The Virgin Mary holding Christ in Michelangelo’s Pieta Around the time the work was finished, there was a complaint against Michelangelo because of the way he depicted the Virgin.  She appears rather young – so young, in fact, that she could scarcely be the mother of a thirty-three-year-old son.  Michelangelo’s answer to this criticism was simply that women who are chaste retain their beauty longer, which meant that the Virgin would not have aged like other women usually do. Another noteworthy incident after the carving was complete involves the inscription on the diagonal band running over the Virgin’s torso. Vasari tells us about the reason for this inscription in one of his passages about the life of Michelangelo: “Here is perfect sweetness in the expression of the head, harmony in the joints and attachments of the arms, legs, and trunk, and the pulses and veins so wrought, that in truth Wonder herself must marvel that the hand of a craftsman should have been able to execute so divinely and so perfectly, in so short a time, a work so admirable; and it is certainly a miracle that a stone without any shape at the beginning should ever have been reduced to such perfection as Nature is scarcely able to create in the flesh. Such were Michelagnolo’s love and zeal together in this work, that he left his name a thing that he never did again in any other work written across a girdle that encircles the bosom of Our Lady. And the reason was that one day Michelagnolo, entering the place where it was set up, found there a great number of strangers from Lombardy, who were praising it highly, and one of them asked one of the others who had done it, and he answered, “Our Gobbo from Milan.” Michelagnolo stood silent, but thought it something strange that his labours should be attributed to another; and one night he shut himself in there, and, having brought a little light and his chisels, carved his name upon it.” (Vasari’s Lives of the Artists) A detail of the restored Michelangelo's Pieta is seen in this undated photo released by Musei Vaticani at the Vatican

This is the only work of Michelangelo to which he signed his name.

Not many of us remember May 1972, on May 21 1972, when the Hungarian-born geologist Laszlo Toth damaged the Pieta with a hammer. It was on a Sunday at the high moment of the mess he set upon the Pity of Michelangelo and with a hammer broke the mouth, the eyes and the arm. He said that he broke the eyes because it was a pity that could not see, the mouth because it could not speak and the arm because it did not act.

He was never charged with a criminal offence. On 29 January of the following year he was declared by a Rome court to be a socially dangerous person and was ordered confined to a mental hospital for at least two years. On 9 February 1975, the Hungarian-born, Australian geologist was released from the hospital and deported from Italy as an undesirable alien. He was sent back to Australia, where he was not detained by the authorities. The penalty for damaging the Pity was three months, foreigners who were guilty of a crime with a penalty less than four moths should been put out of the country (law of the 1972).


At that time, he put three advertisements in the Roman daily papers, in one of them he put also his photo. The text of his ads was…”My name is Lazlo Toth, I am a geologist and have been working in the Australian desert where I came in contact with beings from other space dimension. The beings from the sky told me the content of Fatima’s secrets and told me to go to Rome and tell the Pope that the church had to open the contents of those secrets to the people of the world. But the Pope did not want speak to him. Lazlo invited whoever wanted to know those secrets to go to him. But very probably nobody was curious enough. The 2000 people who were in the church to purify their souls jumped on him and wanted to kill him – right there inside God’s temple – but the police managed to save him from the mob. What happened to Lazlo after the electroshocks? He is disappeared. Is he living as a zombie in Australia? Is he dead? Who knows… with such a story everything may be possible. He had a wife and two or more children, everything I have been writing about Lazlo Toth can to be found in the Italian/Roman newspapers of the time. He is about 70-72 now and has four children and nine grandchildren. He never speaks to the neighbours and virtually had no social life ever since he settled there in late 70’s.

Stop on coloured marbles


Marble is a fascinating material that has been put to many uses in the ancient world; from masonry to art it has been highly utilized. Most of use only think of the plain white marble used in ancient art, but think about how it was truly meant to be seen, full of bright colours and in all of its glory. Modern transportation has begun to permanently damage some of the finest examples of ancient art, but perhaps with awareness some of this art can be further preserved throughout time so that maybe 2,000 years from now it will still be around for mankind to marvel at. img_0608Verde (Giallo/Bigio) Antico (ancient (yellow/grey) green) is the generic term used in the XVIIth century to indicate the coloured marbles recovered from the ancient buildings and mainly used in the decoration of chapels. The grand Roman Pantheon has been keeping a secret of the coloured marbles. dsc00813-jpg-1Pantheon means “all of the gods” and the building’s roof represented the dome of the sky, where Romans believed the gods resided. The imposing temple in Rome, completed in AD 128, is one of the most impressive buildings that survives from antiquity. It consists of a cylindrical chamber topped by a domed roof with an oculus in the top which lets through a dramatic shaft of sunlight. It boasts a colonnaded courtyard at the front. The Pantheon may have been more than just a temple. During the six months of winter, the light of the noon sun traces a path across the inside of the domed roof. During summer, with the sun higher in the sky, the shaft shines onto the lower walls and floor. At the two equinoxes, in March and September, the sunlight coming in through the hole strikes the junction between the roof and wall, above the Pantheon’s grand northern doorway. A grille above the door allows a sliver of light through to the front courtyard – the only moment in the year that it sees sunlight if its main doors are closed. dsc00833-1The architect of the Pantheon would certainly have been aware of the symbolic connections between the cosmos and the empire, and between the sun and the emperor.  While the massive structure may impress you from the outside, it is the interior that will leave you breathless. The walls are covered in various shades of coloured marble, and when you tilt your head you will find the concrete dome decorated with coffered squares. In the centre is an open oculus (a large circular hole, in this case nearly 9 meter in diameter). The oculus acts as the only source of natural light and is never covered. After rain, any water which entered through the oculus is removed by sporadically placed drains in the floor. Yes, the rain is the one of the most damaging weathering effects on marble has only come along with this modern era is acid rain. Acid rain is the infamous result of modern transportation and can cause the darkening of marble that is outdoors.  Acid rain is formed when water absorbs one of two types of sulphurous compounds, SO2 or SO3, these two chemicals result from the burning of gasoline. Clouds contaminated with these compounds can rain down on the surface of marble sculptures and a chemical reaction can ensue. This reaction actually eats away some of the marble and permanently destroying the marble surface.

Faux painting (faux finishing) stop

Romans used decorative painting as a tool to boast their ego. Walls of wealthy Romans were decorated with the house owners’ portraits. This was the time when mural painting saw its first great development. All this came to an end, with the fall of Roman Empire. The Roman middle class started disappearing, and so did the art of decorative painting. In the second half of the XVIIIth century and chiefly in the XIXth century the lack of resources put a severe limit to the use of marble. So in some churches the initial impression of a lavish decoration turns out to be wrong when one gets closer to it.

Column in Temple of Romulus made  my stop on porphyry stone

Porphyry is a hard igneous rock of which the most famous type is deep red. And has been known and used since ancient times.  Because of its similarity to purple in Roman times the red porphyry, so called for its purple-red colour (in Latin “porphyra”). The Romans exploited intensely the quarries, using thousands of workers: the large number of works extended all over the Empire. This stone has always had a great symbolic value: the emperors, personifying divinity, lived surrounded by porphyry, they were born in rooms cladded with porphyry (which existed only in the palaces of power) and many Roman emperors were even buried in sarcophagi of porphyry.

 Stop on Basalt

Basalt is a dark and hard igneous rock used for sculpture by the ancient Egyptians. In Rome basalt is limited to Egyptian statues. A basaltic lava was used by the Romans for paving their roads.

Stop on blue

Lapis lazuli ciborium in S. Caterina da Siena a Magnanapoli and lapis lazuli columns in il Gesù. 7f1760494a380ba9c4728881759b9682

Lapis lazuli is a semi-precious blue silicate, most often used in association with gold in small objects. Because of its scarceness the lapis lazuli coated columns of the altar-tomb of St. Ignatius in il Gesù, were considered the unsurpassed limit of luxury and sumptuousness.


Lapis Lazuli is not a single mineral. It is a combination of lazurite, calcite, and pyrite, with small amounts of other minerals.  Contrary to common belief, it does not contain lazulite. Lapis Lazuli literally means “blue stone” from Latin and Persian or Arabic. Lapis Howlite or blue howlite may look like Lapis Lazuli at a glance, but are not the same stone. Denim Lapis is a lighter Lapis Lazuli with more white from calcite. Lapis Lazuli is traditionally a stone of royalty. When ever I think of it, the Lapiz Lazuli around the eyes of King Tut’s mask comes to mind. Truly royal! Lapis Lazuli is said to help create and maintain a connection between the physical and celestial planes, creating a strong spiritual connection. This may be related to its property of assisting in contact with guardian spirits. Intuitive and psychic awareness are energies Lapis Lazuli enhances and brings to the fore.

As it is also a stone that helps with writing, it can also be used for automatic writing. It is a stone of communication that can bring truthfulness, openness, and mental clarity. It is used to help you say just the right thing, as if by magic.



Now, really look around at your world,

your family, your home, your friends,


the strangers on the street.

Smile at everyone you meet because you can see them.

Never forget that the gift of vision is so important.




About conservationwithella

Hello, I'm Ella, Art on Paper Conservator & Preservation Manager at Glasgow University Archives and Special Collections. This blog is a walk through my daily life, work, arts & crafts history, my discovery that everything in my life is enough to be a continuous source of reflection. I started blogging to entertain myself but I hope you enjoy it too. I'm sure you agree, that Life without art is nothing. :)

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