lo Sguardo di Dante/Dante’s Gaze


BBC Future: The people who want to send smells through your TV

We can see, hear and even feel the action as it happens on screen, but odour is still missing from the list of senses that are stimulated for entertainment.F

Frederik Duerinck isn’t a jeweller, but his next project is a necklace. This piece, though, doesn’t feature a precious stone as a pendant, but rather a small box. Right now, it measures a slightly unwieldy 5cm by 5cm (2in x 2in), but Duerinck is determined to shrink it down to the size of a die. It is no simple ornament either.

Inside the cube is a battery and scenting system designed to deliver a puff of fragrance on demand that Duerinck describes as a “scent bubble”. The Netherlands-based entrepreneur is the co-founder of startup Scentronix, which already operates a perfume printing machine. That device uses an algorithm to build a bespoke scent based on a customer’s answers in a questionnaire. But now Deurinck wants to deploy the same technology in miniature so that digital scenting can be mobile.

Wear one to the movies, for example, and you could use an app on your phone to program it to play along, dispensing discreet scents at key moments. The ultimate device is nowhere near ready, Duerinck acknowledges – its current size and battery life are hurdles, as is the quality of the scent and the projection. But he remains optimistic. “We have proof of concept with our prototype, and there’s nothing out there right now which works that way, so we’re applying for a patent.” The next step, he hopes, is to finesse it enough to win over investors and secure funding for further development on a wearable version.

Story continues belowSmellovision aimed to combine odours with onscreen action but failed to find commercial success (Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Smellovision aimed to combine odours with onscreen action but failed to find commercial success (Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Duerinck, of course, isn’t the first to try to deliver scents on demand to people’s noses in an attempt to create a more immersive sensory experience. He’s also aware that it’s an Ahabian quest that’s bested many entrepreneurs before him.

Even the Ancient Greeks are thought to have tried it. One ancient poem recounts how doves’ wings were doused in fragranced oils to spread scents among guests during a feast. As the birds flapped their wings, the aroma spread over the assembled crowd. Perfumes and incense have also long played an important role in religious rituals and ceremonies.

In the movie era, attempts to add scent began as early as 1916, when one cinema owner accented a showing of the annual Rose Bowl American Football game with rose oil.

Then came Smellovision (or, as it was initially called, Scentovision). Unveiled at the World’s Fair in New York in 1939, it was little more than a series of pipes attached to viewers’ chairs through which a projectionist could deliver smell in sync with the images they were showing. The technology only gained popular attention in 1960 when it was revived in slightly simplified form for the release of Scent of Mystery.

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A thriller starring an uncredited Elizabeth Taylor, key plot points were accented with scents piped into the auditorium at large, such as when the assassin smoked a pipe. The film, and Smellovision itself, was a flop, largely because the scent technology worked so poorly – a hiccup in timing could cause problems, and the scents were too diffuse to give a satisfactory experience. Clearing an odour in a timely fashion for the next to waft freely was also troublesome.

A rival system, known as Aromarama, displayed similar shortcomings.

As the world of entertainment has become more high-tech, odour remains the one element that is elusive and hard to replicate

The filmmaker John Waters tried scratch and sniff cards to accompany his movie Polyester in the early 1980sbut no other filmmaker copied his gimmick. In the 1990s, an Oakland, California-based startup, DigiScents, launched its iSmell concept, raising $20m (£12.5m) in funding for an at-home device it said would work by plugging into a computer’s USB port. The smell would be generated from a replaceable cartridge, much like an inkjet printer. This dongle, though, would use 128 primary odors to mix into every smell imaginable.

The problem was that it didn’t work very well – smells commingled as it was hard to clear them thoroughly, the same problem that had bedeviled Smellovision. And by the end of 2001, as the world roiled in a post-9/11 economic crisis, the company ran out of money, barely two years after it launched its prototype.Odours are often complex combinations of molecules that can trigger more than one olfactory receptor at once (Credit: Eric Feferberg/Getty Images)

Odours are often complex combinations of molecules that can trigger more than one olfactory receptor at once (Credit: Eric Feferberg/Getty Images)

Even now, though, as the world of entertainment has become more high-tech, and immersive with virtual reality headsets and promenade theatre, odour remains the one element that is elusive and hard to replicate. But while Duerinck is determined his efforts won’t stumble as others have done, he’ll need to overcome four major challenges that have meant we’re still not able to experience the acrid trace of gunpowder during an on-screen shoot-out, the intoxicating perfume of a femme fatale or the honest whiff of a sweaty action hero.

Perhaps the most fundamental problem is that we don’t yet fully understand how our sense of smell functions. It was only in 1991 that two scientists at Columbia University in New York published work that finally revealed that our sense of smell relies upon some 1,000 different genes – about 3% of our total genome – that code for receptors that occupy a small area of tissue that lines the upper part of our nasal cavities. Each cell in this olfactory tissue expresses just one type of receptor, but together they allow us to detect around 10,000 smells when different odour molecules land on them, triggering nerve pulses to our brains.

The two scientists – Linda Buck and Richard Axel – were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2004 for their work, but exactly how an odour activates our olfactory receptors to send signals is still debated by scientists.

Scent isn’t like colour, where we can do the RGB or CMYK and replicate whatever we want – Saskia Wilson-Brown

Saskia Wilson-Brown, founder of the non-profit Institute for Art and Olfaction in Los Angeles, California, explains that there are two competing theories as to how our noses work. The first suggests that when a molecule passes our olfactory receptors, weak electrostatic forces between the atoms trigger a vibrational energy.  These vibrational frequencies are translated into electrical signals, by which data on the smell can be delivered to the brain and so processed. 

The second, and more widely supported theory, is that scent molecules may act more like a key in a lock, and so instructs the nerve signals to the brain in this way. Wilson-Brown says developing an artificial scenting device is akin to asking a Medieval artist to reproduce a true-to-life painting before they have grasped the basic tenets of perspective.

“Scent isn’t like colour, where we can do the RGB or CMYK and replicate whatever we want,” says Wilson-Brown. “Every smell has its own components.”

While some odours are triggered by single molecules, most are caused by multiple odorant molecules and each of these will often trigger multiple receptors. And although certain chemical groups found in odourants seem to play a greater role in smells than others, it is difficult to predict what smell a molecule will produce from its chemical formula alone. A good example of this can be found in three chemically similar molecules known as lactones. Although they are closely related with similar chemical structures, one has a minty odour, the other a buttery character and the third has a camphorous smell.Virtual reality has made entertainment even more immersive by replicating the sight, sound and feel of real worlds (Credit: Josep Lago/Getty Images)

Virtual reality has made entertainment even more immersive by replicating the sight, sound and feel of real worlds (Credit: Josep Lago/Getty Images)

This all makes predicting and recreating smells artificially on demand extremely difficult, particularly as much of the work on artificial odourants is closely guarded by secretive multinationals.

“We don’t have databases to reference, or help us understand it,” says scent strategist Olivia Jezler, founder of the Future of Smell, a consultancy that develops scents for brands including the World Economic Forum, Victoria’s Secret and Dior. Instead, she and her colleagues must largely rely on trial and error. “All the really good fragrance research is housed in the labs of five companies in the world.”

The second hurdle is more cultural than biological: smell has an image problem. Smells are considered a little infra dig, a legacy of philosophers like Plato who deemed the body inferior to the ideal. “Scent is the ultimate in realism, something that even if you cannot see, it has to physically penetrate your nose,” says perfumer Nadjib Achaibou, who works for the fragrance producer Symrise.

Jezler agrees. She herself has worked in the lab at the University of Sussex, mapping scent and the other senses, but says such academic rigour is rarely applied. “Smell is considered to be the lowest [grade] of the senses, and it’s one of the least studied as a result,” she adds. “But it’s the only sense where the stimuli has a direct connection to our brain – molecules travel up the naval passageway and directly bind to the olfactory receptors and transmitted to our amygdala,” she continues.

The odours we find repulsive are often highly individual and dependent on tiny differences in our genes, making it tricky to find the right amount of an odourant to release without some people finding it overpowering

She also theorises that this year’s pandemic might inadvertently help bolster the perceived importance of scent. “People have realised that, since losing your sense of smell is a way of diagnosing Covid-19, just how important it is to us.”

There’s an additional issue of ickiness. We also tend to be more sensitive to smells we find disgusting, but the odours we find repulsive are often highly individual and dependent on tiny differences in our genes, making it tricky to find the right amount of an odourant to release without some people finding it overpowering.

Filmmaker Grace Boyle has worked extensively with artificial scent, including on the 360-degree movie Mundukuru. She says that smell is often regarded as being of lower importance than other senses, which may also be holding back progress in the field. She runs The Feelies, an immersive video production company named after and inspired by a similar setup in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.

Boyle says that odour is often relegated to an afterthought in the creative process, which results in it being gimmicky. For scent to work as a component in entertainment, she adds, it must be considered from the outset, baked into a script.The Scentee device used refillable cartridges that could dispense a range of smells through a mobile phone app (Credit: Piero Cruciatti/Alamy)

The Scentee device used refillable cartridges that could dispense a range of smells through a mobile phone app (Credit: Piero Cruciatti/Alamy)

“You don’t write a piece for the clarinet and bash it out on the piano, and expect it to be just as effective,” Boyle says. “All three stages – writing, shooting and delivery – need to be truly multisensory.”

Boyle instead suggests using scent in more subtle ways in a production. Rather than wafting the smell of bread into a headset while a scene takes place in a bakery, for example, it might be better to use the killer’s cologne to signal to the audience that he’s broken into a room where the protagonist remains unaware of his presence. It would be the olfactory equivalent of the music that builds tension in a scene.

A third issue with delivering scent as entertainment is money. Costs certainly inhibited the success of Aromarama and rivals – retrofitting movie theaters to install scenting systems alongside the projector was expensive, reportedly costing around $30,000 at the time, or just over $250,000 (£183,500) per screen, today when adjusted for inflation. Even now, as the focus shifts to more personal scenting devices like the Scentronix, price remains a barrier.

We also found that people couldn’t be bothered to refill the cartridges – and so it was like an inkjet printer that was always running out of a specific ink – Adrian Cheok

Jacki Morie, a virtual reality expert who spent a decade at the Institute for Creative Technologies at the University of Southern California before founding her own spin-out company, has been working in the artificial scenting field since the 1980s. She has trialed various devices over the decades – her latest is a collar, where scent is delivered on a filter paper rather than via spray. This makes it easier to rotate through smells quickly, as so few molecules are actually released, she explains. “We have been stymied by the fact that people don’t want to invest because – well, Smellovision,” she says. “If I had seed funding – say around $100,000 (£73,400) – I’d have dozens of these devices out for developers to test by the end of the year. But investor after investor wants big return on investment. They want something scalable, and ask ‘how will you sell 500 million units within five years?’ There’s just not a market for that now.”

Her cause hasn’t been helped by the slow consumer uptake of virtual reality headsets, which have not yet gained the momentum expected. But others worry there’s a final, simpler reason: lack of interest in digital scenting.

David Edwards is a bioengineer at Harvard University and inventor of a “digital scent speaker” he called Cyrano. Launched in 2016, it was a cartridge-based system that could generate around 10 or so different smells, with each unit costing $49 (£36).

“We generally found that consumers just didn’t get it,” he recalls. Most Cyranos devices ended up gathering dust on desks and the device was soon discontinued.There are some movie scenes that filmgoers might prefer not to be enhanced with realistic odours (Credit: Channel Four Films/Alamy)

There are some movie scenes that filmgoers might prefer not to be enhanced with realistic odours (Credit: Channel Four Films/Alamy)

Much the same fate awaited the Scentee, another cartridge-powered gizmo based on research by engineer Adrian Cheok, the founder of Malaysia’s Imagineering Institute who also teaches at i-University in Tokyo. A local entrepreneur repurposed his research on smell to developing a pocket-sized toy. It cost $30 (£22) when it went on sale in 2013, but was quickly discontinued.

Most of the devices, Cheok says, ended up bought in pairs by young couples who used them to send the smell of chocolates or roses to each other remotely. “It was fun for them for a while, but how many times do you want to do that?” he says. “We also found that people couldn’t be bothered to refill the cartridges – and so it was like an inkjet printer that was always running out of a specific ink.” The narrow range of smells, and so repetitive nature of the product, also proved a key drawback and the built-in inconvenience – that cartridge could be empty at a crucial moment – and poor usability doomed it, too.

Nonetheless, the failure of the Scentee prompted Cheok to shift his focus and he’s currently working on a new scent-delivering device which operates in an entirely different way. It directly stimulates the olfactory receptors in the nose via electrodes that are inserted through the nostril. It might solve the problem of replacing the scents with expensive cartridges and he’s seen promising results from lab tests, but recognises this equipment faces problems all its own.

“Will people sit in their living room and stick electrodes in their noses?” he asks. “Even in normal times, probably not, but in the age of coronavirus, it’s the worst possible research you can do. I’ve not worked on it this year at all.”

SEE ALL BLOG POSTSFebruary 17, 2015


Posted by E.H. Kern

In this week’s How-To Tuesday we are going medieval. We are making our own black ink using a recipe from thirteenth-century France.

Looking at the golden inlays and the red and blue ink of a medieval manuscript, it is easy to understand why these books were so expensive to make. But most of the text was written using black ink, which at first glance doesn’t seem to be very expensive. However, the black ink was exclusive as well. It took time to make and the ingredients had to be imported from far away.

The black ink that was used in medieval Europe is called iron-gall ink. There are hundreds of recipes for making iron-gall ink, but they have a few things in common. These things are gallnuts, iron vitriol (a. k. a. copperas), and gum arabic. Many recipes also use rainwater and wine.

A gallnut is the swelling of the bark on a tree after an insect has laid its eggs inside the bark. To make iron-gall ink, the gallnut from the gall wasp is used. The wasp lays an egg in the bud of an oak tree. Around the larva a round sphere—the gallnut—begins to form. When the larva is a fully developed wasp, it bores a hole in the gallnut and flies away. With the wasp gone, the gallnut is harvested for making ink. The finest gallnuts came from Aleppo in present-day Syria.

Iron vitriol is made from ferrous sulfate, a mineral that today is mostly used to treat iron deficiency and anemia. The go-to place for this ingredient was Spain.

Gum arabic is the harvested and dried sap from the acacia tree. During the Middle Ages, gum arabic was imported from Asia Minor in present-day Turkey or Egypt.

When all of these ingredients are mixed together the tannic acids of the gallnuts react with the iron vitriol and the concoction turns to black. Not only that, the acids from the gallnuts make the ink sink into the writing surface and stick. Gum arabic is added as an adhesive to make the ink stay on the quill.

At the British Library, there are several manuscripts with recipes for making iron-gall ink. This particular recipe is from the thirteenth century and has been translated from the medieval French.

Okay, let’s make some ink!


Preparation time: Approximately three days.

1. Take a jar and fill it with eight pounds of rainwater.

2. Add half a pound of small gallnuts and crush them.

3. Put the jar on the fire and boil until the water with the gallnuts is reduced by half.

4. Take three ounces of gum arabic and grind it.

5. Add the gum to the mixture.

6. Boil until reduced by half again and remove the jar from the fire.

7. In a separate jar, take four ounces of vitriol and one pound of warm wine and mix them.

8. Add the mixture little by little to the ink while stirring.

9. Leave to rest for two days.

10. After the two days, stir the ink everyday four times with a stick.

Enjoy… or just go out and buy a ballpoint pen.

Reeds growing in saltmarsh in the estuary of the River Tay.Dr Duncan Pepper
Reeds, Reeds, Reeds. Nothing is more characteristic of the North bank of the river Tay than reeds, here at Port Allen they can be savoured in all their glorious abundance.

What they are made of and how they are made

Picture Arundo Donax

The reeds are made of a reed grass that originally grows in the Mediterranean, called Arundo Donax. Arundo Donax is quite similar in appearance to Bamboo but not as hard. The plant grows to its full size within a year. You leave it as it is for some months before it is harvested. After storing it in a dry place for approximately 2 years (to dry) it becomes as yellow and almost as hard as bamboo.

Pic: Cut through reed under microscope

In the inside the reed is made of long, hollow, very elastic fibers lying in parallel. The fibers are glued together densely by lignin. This results in the elastic qualities of the and its high strength. Reed grass can withstand the strongest storms that will bend but not break the living reed. The structure can be seen under the microscope – the picture on the left shows the crosscut.

PURGATORIO, CANTO I. The reed for a girdle and also got musical sound. Reed instruments date back to 2700 years BCE in Egypt.


All round about the base of this little island,

There where the waves are always beating on it,

Are rushes growing over the soft mud;


No other plant which puts out leaves and hardens

Itself, would ever live in such a place,

Because it would not give to the buffetings.

The Guardian: Italy begins year of Dante anniversary events with virtual Uffizi exhibition

Gallery puts seldom-seen Divine Comedy sketches on display online to mark 700 years since poet’s death

Eighty-eight rarely seen drawings of Dante’s The Divine Comedy have been put on virtual display as Italy begins a year-long calendar of events to mark the 700th anniversary of the poet’s death.

The drawings, by the 16th-century Renaissance artist Federico Zuccari, are being exhibited online, for free, by the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

“Until now these beautiful drawings have only been seen by a few scholars and displayed to the public only twice, and only in part,” said Eike Schmidt, the Uffizi’s director. “Now they are published in full, alongside a didactic-scientific comment, where from [Friday] they will be freely available.”

Lucifer in a drawing by Zuccari.
Lucifer in a drawing by Zuccari. Photograph: Roberto Palermo/AP

Dante Alighieri, known as the father of the Italian language, was born in Florence in 1265 and died and was buried in Ravenna in 1321. His epic poem, The Divine Comedy, is split into three parts and traces a pilgrim’s journey through hell, purgatory and heaven.

The sketches were completed by Zuccari during a stay in Spain between 1586 and 1588. Of the 88 illustrations, 28 are depictions of hell, 49 of purgatory and 11 of heaven. After Zuccari’s death in 1609, the drawings were held by the noble Orsini family, for whom the artist had worked, and later by the Medici family before becoming part of the Uffizi collection in 1738.Advertisement

Owing to their fragility, only a selection of the pencil-and-ink drawings have been exhibited publicly in the past. The first time was in Florence in 1865 to mark the 600th anniversary of Dante’s birth as well as the Italian unification, and the second time was for an exhibition in Abruzzo in 1993.

The forest of suicides from The Divine Comedy in a sketch by Zuccari.
The forest of suicides from The Divine Comedy in a sketch by Zuccari. Photograph: Roberto Palermo/AP

“The Uffizi Gallery is really proud to open the anniversary of the great poet’s death by making this extraordinary collection of graphic art available to all,” said Schmidt. He added that the works were “valuable material” not only for researchers but also for those passionate about Dante and interested in his pursuit of “knowledge and virtue”.

Events commemorating the anniversary of Dante’s death are expected to take place throughout the year in Florence, Ravenna and 70 other towns and villages connected to the poet.


Il Danteum, monumento all’opera di Dante, fu progettato nel 1938 da Terragni e Lingeri, con la collaborazione del pittore e scultore Mario Sironi, nelle celebrazioni del ventennio fascista a Roma. Anche questo progetto fa riferimento alla parentesi romana che vide l’architetto Terragni coinvolto in diversi progetti.
Il Danteum doveva sorgere lungo la via dei Fori Imperiali (sede del precedente concorso per il Palazzo Littorio), ma non venne mai realizzato a causa della sconfitta di Mussolini nella Seconda Guerra Mondiale. Si trattava di un memoriale architettonico in omaggio a Dante, che evocava i luoghi principali della Divina Commedia attraverso grandi spazi che, tramite materiali e leggi architettoniche, dovevano esprimerne il significato; del progetto rimangono solo alcuni disegni, un modello e due relazioni descrittive della sua configurazione che probabilmente, a differenza di altri progetti Terragni, non modificava il Danteum con ulteriori ipotesi di costruzione spaziale (Ciucci, Triennale di Milano, Centro studi G. Terragni, 565; Coppa, 102).
Terragni definisce il progetto un blocco chiuso, un recinto rettangolare diviso al suo interno da una crociera nei suoi assi mediani, “non Museo, non Palazzo, non Teatro, ma Tempio”. Solo un terzo della superficie raccoglie delle funzioni, quali il centro studi e la biblioteca posta nel seminterrato (unico locale con porte e finestre), mentre lo spazio rimanente ha un sola ragione: “L’osservatore è condotto dall’architettura a cogliere i rapporti semplici ma dinamici tra gli elementi primari dello spazio architettonico per comprendere le relazioni tra testo poetico e costruzione” (Ciucci, Triennale di Milano, Centro studi G. Terragni, 565; Coppa, 102).
Bruno Zevi, nella sua pubblicazione riporta la descrizione che lo stesso Terragni avanza rispetto all’imponente opera mai realizzata: ” ‘Tre spazi rettangolari dichiarano in modo netto la partitura del rettangolo… rimane un quarto spazio, escluso: una corte chiusa… e si potrà parlare di un riferimento alla vita di Dante fino al trentacinquesimo anno e quindi «perduta»… così si dirà di tutte le «coincidenze»: ecco infatti la selva delle 100 colonne. Allo schema distributivo planimetrico a croce che determina la partizione in uno (corte aperta) e tre (grandi sale a carattere templare destinate alla rappresentazione delle tre Cantiche) si sovrappone uno schema altimetrico a tre (le tre sale sono situate a tre livelli). Questi due schemi fondamentali sono entrambi intersecati da un terzo schema formato dalla «spina longitudinale» che è a sua volta costituita da tre muri (alternativamente pieni e traforati)…’ ‘Particolare importanza assume anche la legge e il rapporto stabiliti dai numeri 1 e 3; 1, 3 e 7; 1, 3, 7 e 10…’. Il ricorso alla geometria e al numero serve a non ‘cadere nel retorico, nel simbolico, nel convenzionale…(dalla relazione di Giuseppe Terragni sul Danteum pubblicata in Omaggio a Terragni – L’architettura. Cronache e storia, n°153 del 1968)” (Zevi, 156; Novati, Pezzola, 188; Marcianò, 217). Gli ambienti, posti in serie, erano collegati da un percorso elicoidale ascensionale, segnati da un uso plastico della luce, che passa dall’ombra alla luce vitale a simbolizzare il percorso della coscienza dall’abisso infernale alla contemplazione paradisiaca (Coppa, 102).
E anche Fosso e Mantero affermano: “[…] Nel Danteum come già nella tomba Mambretti il modo dei morti è visto come spazio metafisico indicibile, ma poeticamente sperimentabile nell’allegoria dantesca […] Si tratta di una spazialità plastica internamente percorribile secondo un itinerario che dà senso compiuto alla stessa composizione delle parti” (Fosso, Mantero, 136).
” ‹Il cammin di nostra vita» presuppone un percorso, un viaggio attraverso una serie di spazialità: un viaggio fantastico come in un sogno, tra luce e materia. Ritorna sicuramente il tema del ‘Palazzo magico’ dove, lungo il percorso, si è continuamente catturati dalla successione delle spazialità. Il percorso si muove a spirale, dal basso verso l’alto e verso l’esterno, mettendo così a tu per tu il Danteum con la Basilica di Massenzio, con il Colosseo, lungo la via dell’Impero, fino a piazza Venezia. Si entra in basso con una certa facilità, nell’inferno, da dove bisogna uscire attraverso la selva oscura, la foresta dalle cento colonne. Si intraprende poi un viaggio ascensionale per arrivare in uno spazio in cui il soffitto è ritagliato da diversi quadrati disposti a spirale, da dove è possibile vedere il cielo: siamo in Purgatorio a ‘salire alle stelle’. Si giunge poi, seguendo il perimetro della parete interna del Purgatorio al salone dell’impero, posto sullo stesso livello del Paradiso. Qui cosa ci si poteva aspettare da Terragni e Sironi, se non una restituzione architettonica poetica del Paradiso con le sue trentatré colonne di vetro?” (Novati, Pezzola, 190).
“Lungo questa ‘promenade meditativa’ il visitatore è restato escluso dall’ambiente esterno di cui ha percepito, attraverso una graduazione di aperture sulle coperture degli ambienti, solo la progressiva irruzione dall’alto della luce e della visione del cielo. Questo motivo luminoso ‘in crescendo’ è il protagonista dei tre spazi principali che ripropongono la suddivisione tripartita della Commedia e costituisce il loro legame sino dalla selva, in cui tutte le colonne sono indipendenti e coronate da fessure vetrate. La luce è l’unica vera struttura del poema che trova svolgimento nell’architettura del Danteum, ineccepibile come scelta, poiché la stessa progressione luminosa accompagna il viaggio di Dante, la luce è probabilmente l’unica possibilità di sintesi architettonica dell’immenso poema, qui raggiunta con forza e immediatezza inventiva” (Ciucci, Triennale di Milano, Centro studi G. Terragni, 566-567).
Secondo Ciucci, sono tre gli aggettivi che posso descrivere l’opera del Danteum: pieno, vuoto e trasparenza; non si percepisce nessun dialogo o scambio tra interno ed esterno, tutto è introverso, come la possibilità di avere uno spazio silenzioso, fuori da qualsiasi luogo e tempo (Ciucci, Triennale di Milano, Centro studi G. Terragni, 567).

Scritto redatto sulla base di:

  • BAGLIONE, C., SUSANI, E. (a cura di), Pietro Lingeri 1894-1968, con scritti di Avon Annalisa et. al., Milano: Electa, 2004
  • CIUCCI, Giorgio (a cura di), Giuseppe Terragni: opera completa, (con Triennale di Milano, Centro studi G. Terragni, Centro internazionale di studi di architettura Andrea Palladio), Milano: Electa, 1996
  • COPPA, Alessandra, TERRAGNI, Attilio per l’Archivio Terragni; fotografie di ROSSELLI Paolo, Giuseppe Terragni, Pero: 24 ore cultura, 2013 (pubblicato anche in inglese con lo stesso titolo)
  • FOSSO, Mario, MANTERO, Enrico, Giuseppe Terragni 1904-1943, Como: Cesare Nani, 1982
  • MARCIANÒ, Ada Francesca, Giuseppe Terragni opera completa 1925-1943, Roma: Officina, 1987
  • NOVATI, Alberto, PEZZOLA, Aurelio, Il mutevole permanere dell’antico: Giuseppe Terragni e gli architetti del Razionalismo Comasco, con testi di TORRICELLI Angelo et al., cura dei testi e bibliografia MONTORFANO Giancarlo, prefazione di PONTIGGIA Elena, Boves: Araba Fenice, 2012
  • ZEVI, Bruno (a cura di), Giuseppe Terragni, Bologna: Zanichelli, 1980
  • Pietro Lingeri, 1894-1968: la figura e l’opera: atti della Giornata di studio: Triennale di Milano, lunedì 28 novembre 1994, Milano: Arti grafiche G.M.C., 2005     


Shadow Casting Panels (SCP) is a novel technique for storing and presenting multiple images using one physical object, so that separate images become visible under varying illumination. It was invented by Drzach in 2004 (patent pending), and then developed further by Drzach & Suchy. Below a brief introduction to the technique is given, for more details please see the original thesis [pdf].

The images to be stored in a panel are first rasterized and converted to a black-and-white format, and then jointly encoded into the panel. More precisely, the images are considered in a pixel-by-pixel manner, and for each pixel of the an appropriate building block is placed at the corresponding place in the panel. The type of the block depends on the colors of the particular pixel in the images to be encoded. The actual blocks can have various geometries, yielding a variety of possible designs and perceptions.

The main observation underlying the concept of SCP is that the shadow cast by a physical object depends on the shape of the object and the direction of the illumination. This enables the control of the shadow by appropriate design of an object for specific lighting conditions. In particular, it is possible to design objects (building blocks) which depending on the illumination, either cast a uniform shadow, partial shadow, or (almost) no shadow at all. Such objects can be directly used to represent pixels of rasterized images, and by arranging the blocks into panels (arrays) entire images can be represented. Moreover, by using transparent, colored materials, blocks for representing colorful pixels can be obtained.



The Jupiter-Saturn conjunction, through medieval and Renaissance eyes
The rendezvous of the double planets was often grafted onto apocalyptic prophecies, says University of Rochester historian Laura Ackerman Smoller.
Astronomers and amateur star gazers alike are training their telescopes on the evening sky for a heavenly spectacle when the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn is more visible from earth than it’s been in nearly 800 years.

The celestial event will play out on Monday—this year’s winter solstice—when our solar system’s two largest planets appear side by side above the horizon soon after sunset.

It’s been nearly eight centuries since the pair of planets appeared in conjunction this close to Earth. In 1623, a similar conjunction of the planets occurred, but on the same side of the sky as the sun, which meant it wasn’t visible from the Blue Planet. Monday’s conjunction will be the first visible occurrence since before the time of Marco Polo.

Fire resistant Suits, 1000 degree Aluminum Foil Heat resistant Fireproof Clothing, suits. Suitable for entering hellish environments.

The ‘floating cities’ we might lose forever


From floating castles to phantom ships, the optical illusion known as Fata Morgana has given origin to many myths and legends. The so-called superior mirage is the result of thermal inversion, an acute temperature difference between the water and the air above it. It is most common in polar regions, where the water is coldest.


Video by Anna Pazos

Toscana Chianti News: VENERDÌ 14 DICEMBRE 2007

Miraggio dantesco

Monteriggioni, in antichità Montereggioni (da Mons Regionis), è uno splendido castello che sorge sulle colline senesi reso celebre da Dante Alighieri.

Era in quei paraggi quando gli giunse notizia di essere stato esiliato dal tribunale di Firenze per concussione e opposizione al Papa e a Carlo di Valois.

Il sommo poeta si rese conto subito di non poter mai più tornare nella sua terra e non poter più contemplare le maestose mura di Monteriggioni.

Certo è che gli restarono nel cuore e nella fantasia tanto da dedicargli alcuni versi della Divina Commedia.

L’immagine di Monteriggioni è evocata nel XXXI canto dell’Inferno.

Ricordiamo la scena. Scendendo verso il nono cerchio, Dante ode il suono fortissimo di un corno: volge la testa, crede di scorgere da lontano, in quell’aria oscura, le sagome di “molte alte torri”.
Virgilio gli spiegherà che è solo un’illusione visiva e lo esorta a procedere più avanti verso quell’impressionante visione:

Poi caramente mi prese la mano,
e disse: “Pria che noi siam più avanti,
acciò che ‘l fatto men ti paia strano,
sappi che non son torri, ma giganti,
e son nel pozzo intorno alla ripa
dall’umbilico in giuso tutti quanti”.
Come quando la nebbia si dissipa,
lo sguardo a poco a poco raffigura
ciò che cela il vapor che l’aere stipa,
così forando l’aura grossa e scura,
più e più appressando ver la sponda,
fuggìemi errore e crescìemi paura:
però che come sulla cerchia tonda
Monteriggion di torri si corona,
così (‘n) la proda che ‘l pozzo circonda
torreggiavan di mezza la persona
li orribili giganti, cui minaccia
Giove dal cielo ancora quando tona.
E io scorgeva già d’alcun la faccia,
le spalle e ‘l petto e del ventre gran parte,
e per le coste giù ambo le braccia.

In seguito vengono anche indicati con fantasiosi paragoni gli aspetti e le dimensioni dei giganti e del pozzo dal quale gli stessi emergono a mezzo busto dalla lettura dantesca.

Un illusione visiva, un miraggio che può apparire davanti a chiunque capiti di trovarsi nella campagna circostante Monteriggioni qualche ora dopo il sorgere del sole.

Si può ammirare uno spettacolo bellissimo: le torri appaiono infatti con un singolare effetto di controluce che cancella il paese lasciando visibile, sullo sfondo chiaro del cielo, solo il profilo delle mura turrite.

Monteriggioni è un simbolo e non solo dantesco. E’ in parte magia e in parte realtà di un tempo straordinario. Ne è conferma quel miraggio mattutino che incantò Dante e che incanterà sicuramente anche voi.

How the Soviets accidentally discovered the ‘Gates of Hell’


Located in Turkmenistan’s Karakum desert, the Darvaza crater is a massive man-made sinkhole that has been burning methane gas for decades.

It has been said that it was intentionally set alight by Soviet authorities, hoping it would burn off in a matter of weeks. However, nearly 50 years later, the crater is still alight and its true origins are still shrouded in mystery.

Video by Adrian Hartrick and Dominika Ozynska

Questo progetto inizia esaminando un oggetto specifico, uno specchio, nella Divina Commedia usata da Dante Alighieri, per comprendere i mondi fisici e metafisici che lui e Virgilio stavano attraversando. Per Dante, lo specchio diventa uno strumento di scoperta per indagare sull’ordine razionale e sulla presenza divina. Durante tutta la Divina Commedia, Dante dimostra un’accurata conoscenza della scienza dei suoi tempi. Il progetto Lo Sguardo di Dante viaggerà attraverso lo spazio e il tempo, per riflettere sul significato dello specchio come un modo per riconoscere la verità più profonda di noi stessi e del nostro ambiente.

The Comitato Nazionale DANTE 2021 established by the Italian Ministero dei Beni Culturali for the 700 year celebration of Dante, has officially selected “Dante’s Gaze,” to be part of a next year’s commemoration. The project is promoted by the Istituto Centrale per il Catalogo e la Documentazione della fotografia, (ICCD) and by the Istituto Centrale per Beni Sonori ed Audiovisivi (MiBACT). Developed and curated by Peter Lang, Dante’s Gaze will present an interactive website, multi-media exhibition, (Fall 2021) and book catalogue.

The exhibition Dante’s Gaze examines the properties of light and dark, of reflected and refracted images, reverse and negative imprints, and the enigmatic chiaroscuro halftone qualities of dense and distant atmospheres. Dante’s wanderings between physical and metaphysical landscapes that constitute his Divine universe are depicted with almost photographic accuracy for future generations of fellow-travellers to see precisely what Dante sees.  One of the greatest poems from the Italian Middle Ages, the Divine Comedy could also be understood as one of the most incredible visual documents of its time.

Throughout the Comedy, there are references to optical illusions, specular reflections and other ocular and audio phenomena that underscore Dante’s deep knowledge of the early Greek, Latin and Arabic sciences. Dante’s Gaze is an examination of  Dante’s visual world, and how his portrayals of Inferno, Purgatorio and Inferno inspired future generation of artists, painters and photographers to reproduce and also re-invent their own visual worlds. The project is split into 3 components: the Convivi Transcripts, now due to Covid video-rendered onto a singular web platform, featuring three distinct discussions. These are 1., about Dante and medieval natural sciences, 2., about multi-media art and light, and 3., about the significance of visual culture over time and space. The second component is the multi-media exhibition, built according to an allegorical architecture inspired by the Italian architect Giuseppe Terragni (1904-1943), the Novo Danteum. The third and final component is the book publication, that will bring together the Convivi transcripts with the Novo Danteum, to produce a singular document on Dante and the imaginative universe.

Dante’s Gaze.  



  • Simon Gilson, “Medieval Science in Dante’s Commedia: Past Approaches and Future Direction,” RMS.
  • Patrick Boyde, Perception and passion in Dante’s Comedy. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1993.
  • Serverino Boezio De Institutione musica 500-507 AD.
  • James L. Miller Three Mirrors of Dante’s Paradiso Published Online: March 05, 2013
  • Simon A. Gilson Light Reflection, Mirror Metaphors,And Optical Framing In Dante’s Comedy: Precedents And Transformations PDF. Departent of Italian Studies Leeds
  • David C. Lindberg, ed., Science in the Middle Ages, Chicago, Univ. Of Chicago Press, 1978.


  • Dante Alighieri La Divina Commedia, a cura di G. Petrocchi, commentata Suisse book editions, Crescere Edizioni 2018
  • Dante The Divine Comedy, Oxford World Classics, ed. David H. Higgens, 1993
  • Dante Alighieri, Convivio (the Banquet) A. S. Kline, 2008,


  • Laura Pasquini Università di Bologna, autrice, “Pigliare occhi, per aver la mente” Dante, la Commedia e le arti figurative. Carocci, 2020
  • Alberto Casadei, Professore Letteratura italiana Università di Pisa, autore di Dante: Storia avventurosa della Divina Commedia dalla selva oscura alla realtà aumentata. Il Saggiatore, 2020.
  • Ian Thomson scrittore, London. “Dante’s Divine Comedy: A Journey Without End, Apollo Book, 2018
  • Massimo Campanini, Dante e l’Islam: L’empireo delle luci, Roma, Edizioni Studium, 2019.
  • Giulio Ferroni, L’Italia di Dante: Viaggio nel paese della Commedia, Milano, La Nave di Tesco, 2019.
  • Justin Steinberg a cura con Roberto Rea “Dante” Milano, Carocci 2020.
  • Andrea Mazzucchi, “Il Convivio: “alta, bella, sottile e grandissimo opera” a cura Justin Steinberg con Roberto Rea “Dante” Milano, Carocci 2020. Pp 55.
  • Elisa Brilli, “Dante, Firenze, e l’esilio,” a cura Justin Steinberg con Roberto Rea “Dante” Milano, Carocci 2020. Pp 199
  • Pasquale Porro, “Dante e la tradizione filosofica” a cura Justin Steinberg con Roberto Rea “Dante” Milano, Carocci 2020. Pp 309


  • Giorgio Brizio/ Ester de Miro/ Vittorio Fagone/..Giornate Internazionali di Cinema d’artista, Cine Qua Non, Vallecchi, 1979
  • Sven-Olov Wallenstein, Professor Philosopher, Södertön university. Daniel Birnbaum, Sven-Olov Wallenstein, Spacing philosophy: Lyotard and the Idea of the Exhibition, Berlin, Sternberg Press, 2019
  • Thordis Arrhenius, Mari Lending, Wallis Miller, Jérémie Michael McGowan, ed.s, Exhibiting Architecture: Place and Displacement, Zurich, Lars Müller, 2014
  • Serena Cangiano, Davide Fornari, Azalea Seratoni, ed.s, Arte ri-programmata, un manifesto aperto. Johan and Levi editions, 2015


  • Peter Greenaway, Tom Phillips, directors A TV Dante, 1990 mini series with Jophn Gieldgud, Bob Peck, Joanne Whalley-Kilmer
  • Stan Brakhage, director, the Dante Quartet, 1987. 8min.
  • Vittorio Cottafavi, registra, Vita di Dante, tre puntate, RAI 1965. With Giorgio Albertazzi, Loreetta Goggi,  

By petertlang

working to make things better if still possible

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