Wednesday, 28 August 2013


A very brief post this morning as I'm not feeling too well. But this post has been a long time coming. Earlier this year I was given a National Art Pass from ArtFund to use and review and I have to say, it's utterly fantastic! The pass itself allows you access to hundreds of historical sites, museums and art galleries across the UK at discounted prices. Benefits of this fantastic pass include 50% off many major exhibitions, special events such as lectures and private parties, a monthly magazine as well as access to an exclusive shop. And if you buy one of these passes you are also helping Art Fund to help museums and galleries across the country buy art to go on display.

It really is a fantastic little card and one I intend to make good use of! Especially since there are many museums included in the list of sites that accept this card around my area! And when I do eventually get to one of these places I shall be doing a little review here!

I would highly recommend getting yourself one of these passes here

For more information on the National Art Pass and ArtFund please do visit their website.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

[Looking Back] An Interview With Isolda Dychauk

Looking back again today. Not long ago, the lovely Isolda Dychauk did an interview with me about her role in the second season of Borgia: Faith & Fear. Here is is again!

Isolda as Lucrezia in Borgia: Faith & Fear

First of all Isolda, thank you so much for agreeing to do to this interview for me, it’s an absolute honour to have you here. What was it that attracted you to the role of Lucrezia in Canal +’s “Borgia: Faith & Fear”? "
The are a lot of things I love about the interpretation of Lucrezia. First of all it is an incredible honor to breathe life into a character, who really existed  It also is a great challenge to create this amazing development from a little girl to a liberated, strong women."

Before you auditioned for the role, and even after you got the role and began to prepare, what were your initial thoughts on the historical character of Lucrezia Borgia?
"There are a lot of rumors about the Borgia family, especially Lucrezia. Most people think of her as the wife, which poisoned her husband or as the daughter, which slept with her father and her brother. Therefore in the beginning, I was trying to find some of the the 'good sides' of Lucrezia."

Isolda as Lucrezia and John Doman as Pope Alexander VI (screencap from Season 1)

How did you prepare to play Lucrezia? Are there any particular books that you would recommend?
"To be honest, I didn't read many books about the Borgias, partly because of all these rumors. For the first episodes my preparation has been the directions of Tom Fontana and Oliver Hirschbiegel."

There are many rumours that have come down to us about the Borgia family. The one that sticks in most people's minds is that there was a lot of incest going on between Lucrezia and the male members of her family. In the show we see these rumours taking shape - what are your thoughts on these rumours and do you think there was any truth in them?
"I certainly don't think all of them are true. The Borgia has been a powerful and successful family, with many enemies. Therefore many rumors has been created only for the sake of harming them. I believe Lucrezia and Cesare had a very close relationship, I am not sure about the incest, though." 

What particular moment of Borgia history particularly interests you?
"I don't have any particular moments which I find more interesting than others. After filming for 2 years I love more or less everything about this period of time. Even though I'm glad I don't have to struggle with the problems they had back then..."

Isolda (Lucrezia) and Mark Ryder (Cesare) - photo manipulation by me.

As I watch watching Season 1 of Borgia, I could tell just how close all of the cast were. What was it like working with such distinguished actors as Stanley Weber, Assumpta Serna and Marta Gastini?
"Working with this cast and crew has been a blessing. Each of them is wonderful in their own way. Marta and I are like sisters by now, I trust her with every thought I have, she has always the right words to help."

In history, Lucrezia was described as an innocent pawn in the politics of her family. What are your thoughts on this, and how did you bring this into your portrayal of her?
"Season 1 is focused on Lucrezia becoming a woman, therefore there was not much politics involved. In season 2, she becomes Governor of Spoleto, which is her first step into politics. It was a huge challenge for her but she trusted her intuition and made the right decisions."

If you could play any other character in history, who would you play and why?
"There are so many fascinating characters in history, I don't think I can focus on just one."

Promotional photo of Lucrezia in Season 2 of Borgia

Are there any other projects that you’re taking part in, that we can look forward to?
"There are a few films coming up, after we finish filming season 3, but it's not official yet."

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions. I can’t wait to see Season 2!
"Thanks to you, it's been a pleasure."

Season 1 of "Borgia" is available to buy on Amazon, and Season 2 is now available to purchase from (with English audio). Please do check them out!

Friday, 9 August 2013

[Looking Back] The Borgia Apartments, The Vatican

Due to a bit of writers block I thought I would share a post I did a while ago, all about my trip to the Borgia apartments at the Vatican.

The Disputation of St Catherine - Pinturicchio

After Rodrigo Borgia became Pope in 1492, he planned a whole new set of rooms for his personal use. These rooms still exist today, and in them survive a fascinating insight into the Borgia mindset. The walls are covered in frescoes of the Borgia bull, and the entire set of apartments show the Spanish roots of the new Pope - the floor tiles were imported especially from Spain, giving the rooms a completely Spanish look, and mixed in with the frescoes of the Borgia bull are are representations of the Aragonese double crown, to which they added sun rays or flames mixed in a grazing bull.

The Borgia Bull, Borgia Apartments (picture by me)

The Borgia Bull and the Aragonese Crown, Borgia Apartments (picture by me)

Spanish Tiles, Borgia Apartments (picture by me)

Borgia Coat of Arms, Borgia Apartments (picture by me)

As can be seen from the pictures above, Pope Alexander made sure the family device was everywhere - gilded Borgia bulls on the ceiling in a repeated pattern with the Aragonese arms, Spanish tiles all over the floors as well as gilded stucco frames around the frescoes. The entire space was created to reflect the pride Alexander felt in his family name, pride at their Spanish origins and the huge ambition that he had for himself and his family.

Quite possibly, the most impressive monument to the Borgia family surviving in those set of rooms hidden away in the Vatican (and used to house a contemporary art gallery, I wasn't too impressed with that!) are the frescoes that surround the walls of the main room.

The Disputation of St Catherine, Pinturicchio (Picture by me)

After his election to the Chair of St Peter in 1492, Pope Alexander hired Bernadino di Betto di Biagio (better known as Pinturicchio) to paint his new apartments. Pinturicchio was an incredibly talented artist from Sienna, and one of the most sought after artists in his day and had even assisted in the painting of the Sistine Chapel. And whilst some weren't all that impressed with his works, the Pope certainly was.

The most famous fresco is the one shown above: The Disputation of St Catherine. And it is the biggest testament to the Borgia family in the room, simply because it contains images of the Borgia family. Most are dressed in the Turkish fashion whilst St Catherine (Said to be an image of Lucrezia, and I have to say I agree wholeheartedly) argues against the Pagan emperor. 

The entire image is full of imagery - in the centre stands a triumphal arch based on the Arch of Constantine and sat atop it is the Borgia bull. The arch of Constantine is an incredible monument to Christianity - the arch itself (still standing outside the Colosseum) was built as a celebration of Constantine's victory at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge which established Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire. In essence, it's place in the painting is saying that the Borgia family are as important to Christianity as Constantine was - reinforced by the Borgia bull sat right on top of said arch. And not only are members of Alexander's family depicted (Lucrezia, Cesare, Juan, Joffre and Sancia) but also other members of the papal entourage and it is said, though I haven't yet found a source for this and will update as and when I do, that the man sat in the chair is actually a self portrait of Pinturicchio himself.

As for the imagery of the family, the main figure in the painting is St Catherine. She is portrayed as blonde, the known hair colour of Lucrezia Borgia, and this image has long been traditionally held as an image of Lucrezia although there is, of course, no certainty of this.

Detail of St Catherine showing the supposed figures of Lucrezia and Cesare (Picture by me)

The figure behind her, dressed in Turkish robes and glaring out, is said to be an image of Cesare Borgia while the figure on the left hand side (the right as we look at it) is traditionally held to be an image of Juan Borgia, second Duke of Gandia.

Detail of the figure said to be Juan Borgia in The Disputation of St Catherine

The two diminutive figures at the front of the painting are said to be of Joffre Borgia and his wife, Sancia of Aragon.

Figures said to be of Jofre Borgia and Sancia of Aragon from The Disputation of St Catherine

Pope Alexander himself is not shown in the Disputation of St Catherine. He is however shown in the fresco "Resurrection", in which he witnesses the Resurrection of Christ during a moment of prayer. He has his hands clasped in prayer, dressed in embroidered robes and his papal tiara on the floor before him. Pinturicchio also painted another portrait of Alexander above a doorway adoring a beautiful virgin who, according to Vasari was given the face of Giulia Farnese. This portrait however was destroyed when the room it was in, was destroyed for other building works.

The Resurrection by Pinturicchio

Detail of Pope Alexander VI, Pinturicchio

In all then, the Borgia apartments are a testament to the sheer self belief of the Borgia family, their belief in unbridled power and the pride that Alexander felt in his family origins. 

And one last picture from my visit last year, though this could have been carved at an point throughout the room's history - a gaming board carved into a windowsill which I found to be incredibly interesting. I have no idea how the game was played but it certainly looks interesting!

Random gaming board in the Borgia Apartments (Picture by me)

Further reading

Friday, 2 August 2013

[Review] Borgia Faith & Fear - Episode 2: Ash Wednesday

I'm going to keep today's review short and sweet, given that I'm exhausted and feeling somewhat worn down. Episode 2 of Borgia's second season is named "Ash Wednesday" and based around the symbolism of Ash Wednesday. For those not entirely sure of what Ash Wednesday actually is, it is the first day of Lent and the name itself comes from the practise of placing an ash cross shape upon the forehead of the worshipper in a gesture of moaning and repentance to God. This is shown very clearly at the beginning of the show when Cesare is taking mass. He places ash crosses upon the congregation's forehead, except on Carlotta. He places an ash 'C' upon her forehead, and states it means "Christ". Come on Cesare, we all know you are marking her as your own.

We see Cesare continue his mission to get Carlotta. Of course it fails and Cesare angrily stomps off to see the wounded Guy de Leval in his bedchambers. Cesare offers him wine, which Guy refuses to drink thinking that the wine is poisoned. Of course Cesare loses his temper and tells Guy that he isn't worthy to drink his wine, and nor is he worthy of Carlotta. We also see yet more of Cesare's instability. When Sancia is told to seduce Cesare so he will marry her and be able to take the crown of Naples she goes to his rooms. Cesare then attacks her with a fire poker, branding her forehead with the sign of the cross. This scene is particularly shocking as you see the range of emotions in Cesare's eyes only for them to disappear and be replaced with a cold indifference.

We have another character introduced in this episode: Isabella Metuzzi. She arrives as Lucrezia is approaching the time for her child to be born. Isabella is brought in to try and convince Lucrezia that the best option would be for her to give her child over to Giulia Farnese. The reasoning behind this is so that Lucrezia isn't tainted with having a bastard child, and so she can move on and get married. Isabella is actually Lucrezia's half sister who has been shunned by Rodrigo for years - she says it is because Rodrigo disliked how she was unable to bare her husband children, that she was barren. We find out that this is a lie and that she has a son, but the only reason she told Lucrezia she was barren was to win the argument. Lucrezia is convinced, and as she gives birth to her child - a boy named Giovanni (the famous Infans Romanus who will get his very own post at some point) he is taken away from her straight away, leaving her completely hysterical.

This episode also deals with the attitudes of the Roman Catholic Church towards sodomy. We see a man publicly executed for the crime of sodomy, the Pope saying that as God punished the townspeople of Sodom for their crimes, so should they as sodomy is "the most grievous of sins". The man in question is then executed with something known in the show as "The Pope's Pear". This was an actual method of torture and execution used during the Renaissance and even before, and known as the Pear of Anguish...

The Pear was inserted up the offenders anus and opened. This would rupture the lower intestine and cause a very very slow and painful death. The execution scene in this episode using this device made me shudder, and even though you don't see much, you really get the idea of what was happening. You hear the man screaming, and the last shot is of blood dripping from his body. Nasty stuff. Following this we then see the cardinals sorting out the perfect way to get rid of Gacet. Gacet is accused of sodomy in front of the Pope and a large crowd. Gacet is arrested, but Bishop Flores (the man who accuses him) ends up digging himself into a hole and admitting that actually he lied about it. Gacet is freed, and Flores placed in prison in his stead. We then find out that actually Gacet is homosexual and has been having liaisons with Della Roverre. But we then find out that Gacet believes he is homosexual due to the thoughts he has been having, and Pope Alexander is all "oh well". 

One of the final scenes of this episode involves Cesare having it out with the King of Naples over the agreed marriage between Lucrezia and Alfonso, Duke of Calabria. Cesare states that only a prince is good enough for his sister and the episode ends with the King agreeing to make his nephew a Prince, and Cesare departing for Rome as well as a shot of Giulia Farnese looking upon a distant Castel Sant Angelo, vowing that she will never stray so far from Rome again.

Another top notch episode. Amazing sets, beautiful costumes and fantastic acting from the entire cast. Standout this episode has to be Mark Ryder for the sheer fact that we are slowly starting to see him unravel to the malicious Valentino that is so well known.