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Sicily: A Crucible of History, Art, and Gastronomy

Weekend All-Day Lecture/Seminar

Saturday, February 24, 2024 - 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. ET
Code: 1M2303
This online program is presented on Zoom.
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Materials for this program

Ruins of an ancient Greek theater in Taormina

At the very center of the Mediterranean Sea, lies Sicily—a steppingstone between Africa and Italy and the very different worlds of the Western and Eastern Mediterranean. Throughout its millennial history, it has been settled and colonized from all sides: by Greeks, Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs and Normans; by Spain, Catalonia, France, and mainland Italy; and fought over by Allied and Axis forces in World War II. 

All of these elements have influenced, in often profound ways, Sicily’s complex culture, language, art and architecture, its customs and its masterful cuisine, from the profusion of its Greek temples and the splendor of its Baroque palaces to the frightening reality of Mafia culture, or the ingenious origins of that most famous of Italy’s exports, gelato. 

In a richly illustrated day-long seminar, art historian Nigel McGilchrist, reconstructs and analyzes the intricate web that unites these disparate phenomena and flavors, which make Sicily, for many, the most seductive and fascinating land in Europe.

McGilchrist was based and worked in Italy for 35 years; taught at the University of Rome; worked for the Italian Ministry of Arts in the field of painting conservation; and established the Anglo-Italian Institute in Rome.

10–11:15 a.m.  A Garden of Eden: Landscape and Geology

Sicily in myth and in The Odyssey; the volcano of Etna; the transformations of the island’s ecology, from Roman deforestation to Arab irrigation; and the first arrival of the ingredients in Mediterranean cuisine.

11:30 a.m.­–12:45 p.m.  The “America” of Ancient Greece

What the spectacular remains of Greek cities, temples, and theatres in Sicily tell us of the opulence of its life in antiquity and of its eventual ruination under Rome.

12:45–1:15 p.m.  Break

1:15­–2:30 p.m.  Cultures and Cooperation: Muslims, Jews, and Christians

The sumptuous syncretism of multicultural art in the mosaics, cathedrals, and courts of Norman-Arab Palermo; new influences from the mainland: the serene talent of painter Antonello da Messina and the dark shadow of Caravaggio’s genius.

2:45­–4 p.m.  History Repeats…

Once again, it is outsiders who re-create Sicily: architecture from Spain, gastronomy from France, and the love and loves of Goethe, D.H. Lawrence, and Baron von Gloeden for the island.  Yet why, in such a paradise of the Mediterranean’s greatest art and finest food, does the serpent of the Mafia still slither?

World Art History Certificate elective: Earn 1 credit*

General Information

*Enrolled participants in the World Art History Certificate Program receive 1 elective credit. Not yet enrolled? Learn about the program, its benefits, and how to register here.