Dracula in Naples?

VladTepes1485Southern Italy is full of surprises for me, and here is the latest: reported evidence that the 15th century Eastern European prince known as Vlad Dracula is buried in Naples! I knew that the royal family of Naples in this period had ties to several Eastern European kingdoms and principalities, but I had never heard the story related in this article from Hurriyet Daily News. And his daughter married a Neapolitan nobleman? As a novelist with a lifelong fascination with all things medieval, I want to know her story! Better yet, write her story.

Earliest known image of Vlad Dracula, published in Germany in 1488, is in the Public Domain, and found at Wikimedia Commons.

Do you find the claims in the article convincing? Intriguing? Preposterous?

 

Capodimonte porcelain–a royal tradition from Naples

In the early 1700s, porcelain produced at Meissen became all the rage in Europe. The King of Naples and Sicily, Charles VII, married Maria Amalia, whose grandfather Augustus II of Poland had founded the Meissen factory, the first hard-paste porcelain factory in Europe.

18th c. Capodimonte porcelain examples from the National Gallery of Victoria (Australia). Photo: by Sailko, from Wikimedia Commons.

18th c. Capodimonte porcelain examples from the National Gallery of Victoria (Australia). Photo: by Sailko, from Wikimedia Commons.

Pursuing his interest in the art, Charles VII founded the Capodimonte (top of the mountain) Porcelain factory in Naples in 1743. Production was well under way when Charles’ father, the King of Spain, died in 1759 and Charles took the Spanish throne and left the throne of Naples to his son Ferdinand. Before he left, however, he ordered the porcelain works demolished, and took the molds with him to Spain to found another factory there.

Ferdinand IV wasn’t so easily dissuaded–he had come to appreciate the porcelain art himself, and re-established the Capodimonte factory in 1772.  The detailed history (some found here) is more complex and involved a lot of experimentation with the porcelain “recipe”, hiring of various artists, chemists, directors, and so forth, and the establishment in Naples of an art academy.

Elaborate bisque figures, "The Triumph of Bacchus" from the Capodimonte Museum in Naples. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Elaborate bisque figures, “The Triumph of Bacchus” from the Capodimonte Museum in Naples. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Ferdinand was soon embroiled in Napoleon’s schemes for Italy, (I’ve posted about that before) and production of the royal sponsored Capodimonte porcelain ceased around 1818. The factory was purchased by Claudio Guillard and Giovanni Tourne, who continued to used the same mark as the royal factory. In 1834 the company was purchased by a Florentine, and about 1896 they combined interests with the Societa Ceramica Richard of Milan. They continue to produce porcelain in the Capodimonte style, and the style is widely copied today.

The Judgement of Paris, now in the Capitoline Museum in Rome. Colorful and elaborate figures typically linked with Capodimonte style. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

The Judgement of Paris, now in the Capitoline Museum in Rome. Colorful and elaborate figures typically linked with Capodimonte style. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Most of the 18th century products are in museums or collections of the wealthy today. Are you interested in buying some later pieces? Here are some listing from Ebay.com. Some claim to be 19th century pieces, and others are newer.

QUESTION: What is your favorite art or craft from southern Italy? Please comment!

Preparing to celebrate the New Year

While you still have the weekend to prepare, I’m allowing you enough time to enjoy New Year celebrations with some Italian flair.

First, you’ll need to dress for success. Prosperity, happiness, and virility in the coming year depend on wearing red undies. red undies Who knew?? So whether it’s Victoria’s Secret or Jockey, get some red ones–even if no one else knows you’re wearing them.

Food is a mainstay of all kinds of human celebration, and Italians have their own specialties associated with New Year’s Eve. Namely, lentils. Because they look (remotely, I’ll admit) like little coins, they are said to bring wealth in the coming year. And just for more financial success, eat those lentils with sausages that are sliced up into larger “coins”. How about a salad of dollar bills on the side? Just kidding!! Here’s a tasty recipe for your lentils and sausage. One tradition says to eat the lentils at midnight, one spoonful for eat tolling of the midnight bell. There is no midnight bell in my town, so I’ll just have to take my chances with the timing.

You’ve probably heard the expression “Out with the old, in with the new.” Traditionally in southern Italy, they’ve taken it to heart, and anything old and worn out was thrown out the window on New Year’s Eve. It has mostly died out now, but if you are walking around Naples that night, watch your head!

And while you are eating your lentils, wearing you red undies, you’ll likely be watching fireworks. Naples has one of the biggest fireworks displays, but they are popular throughout the country. Be careful, though. Illegal fireworks have been a problem (police seized more than 650,000 last year in late December) and injuries are not uncommon. Some cities have banned fireworks for various public safety reasons. You won’t have any trouble finding them in Naples, though. They’ll be welcoming 2013 with a bang, in fine Italian style.

"Fireworks in Naples", oil painting by Oswald Achenbach, 1875

“Fireworks in Naples”, oil painting by Oswald Achenbach, 1875