The Wandering Archaeologist

by Letizia Triches



This story began a very long time ago at a sun-drenched sea-bathed Cuma, today a small town in the Phlegrean Fields, but once the most important city to be founded in Campania by the colonists from Chalcedon. In an even more remote epoch, one of the poets wrote that at the end of his flight Daedalus had landed on the citadel of Cuma to erect thereon a temple sacred to Apollo. On the gilded gates of the temple there remained engraved the effigy of Daedalus grieving for the fall of Icarus who had disappeared as a huge purple-coloured angel into the waves of a dark sea.


Most ancient landing-place of Aegean navigators, Cuma as early as the eighth century before Christ had given welcome to the Chalcedonians from the island of Euboea, who transformed it into the farthest outpost of the Greek colonies in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Then the Samnites swept over the Chalcedonians, who although being annihilated, still managed to hand down the invaluable signs of their alphabet, together with their advanced civilised life-style.


Last century there arrived on the scene some clandestine diggers, who despite considerable adversity managed to overcome the terror of the place, which at that time was no more than a desolate swampy land exuding fumes of malarial fever.


Gold objects, bronzes and painted vases were all within easy reach under a thin covering of earth, treasures waiting to be slipped among their greedy fingers.

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The Icon as Iconography

by Barbara Rose

And now was acknowledged the presence of the Red Death. He had come like a thief in the night. And one by one dropped the revelers in the blood bedewed halls of their revel, and died each in the despairing posture of his fall. And the life of the ebony clock went out with that of the gay. And the flames of the tripods expired. And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all.

Edgar Allan Poe, The Masque of the Red Death

9Ferdinando Ambrosino began as a painter of landscapes, only to become a painter of icons. How and why did such a radical transformation, which suggests more than ordinary stylistic evolution, take place? Such a dramatic change of subject, content and form suggests an event of major significance,a psychological awakening brought on by nothing less than a spiritual epiphany or an emotional trauma.
In Ambrosino’s case, his decision to abandon a pleasing style of cheerful, abstract landscapes based on Impressionist precedent appears to have been triggered by the sudden vision of the meaning of the catastrophic events of our century.

Already in the early years of the twentieth century, the Spanish philosopher Miguel prophetically defined modem historical consciousness as “el sentimiento tragico de la vida.”
This existential tragic sense of life is common to those who think and feel deeply in any given time, but the events of our own epoch have heightened our degree of consciousness to a new and painful awareness, which eventually became the content of Ambrosino’s paintings. In this connection it is significant that Ambrosino was born on the eve of World War II in Bacoli outside of Naples and that he was trained as a geologist. His knowledge of geology surely sensitized him to the idea of the metaphor of strata of experience, layers of buried history, to be excavated for their meaning.

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