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Stendhal Syndrome in Florence

by Leticia Marie Sanchez

Visiting Florence in 1817, the French novelist Stendhal found himself overwhelmed inside Santa Croce. The proximity to Giotto frescoes and Michelangelo’s tomb drove him to a state of delicious delirium.

“I was in a sort of ecstasy…Absorbed in the contemplation of sublime beauty … I reached the point where one encounters celestial sensations … Everything spoke so vividly to my soul… I had palpitations of the heart, what in Berlin they call ‘nerves.’”

Florentine psychiatrist Dr. Graziella Magherini coined the term Stendhal Syndrome in 1989. Through her work at the Santa Maria Nuova hospital, she has recorded more than 106 cases of patients exhibiting an intense reaction to art with symptoms ranging from rapid heartbeat and dizziness to extreme cases of hallucinations.

Stendhal was not alone. Dr. Iain Bamforth claims that Marcel Proust suffered from the syndrome and Brazilian neurosurgeon Edson Amâncio postulates that Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky exhibited Stendhal Syndrome upon viewing Hans Holbein’s masterpiece, Dead Christ in a Basel museum.

Can Stendhal Syndrome also apply to a reaction towards Living Art?

Florentine Poet Dante Alighieri was overcome when contemplating his muse, Beatrice Portinari, a woman he unbelievably saw only twice in his life. The first as a child, the second time, as an adult when he approached Florence’s Santa Trinita bridge. On their second chance encounter, Beatrice spoke for the first and only time to Dante. Her simple greeting triggered Stendhal-like symptoms, as he recorded in Vita Nuova:

“As this was the first time she had ever spoken to me, I was filled with such joy that,my senses reeling, I had to withdraw from the sight of others.”

Painting Above: Dante meets Beatrice at Ponte Santa Trinità, by Henry Holiday, 1883.

The few-seconds transportive meeting on the bridge bequeathed a lifetime of inspiration for Dante. He poured the sensations that he felt from her brief salutation into a fertile decade of writing, and that moment of intensity on the bridge resulted in forty-two chapters of love poetry, La Vita Nuova.

Perhaps the sensations of Stendhal Syndrome are not that far from those of falling in love.

In any case, Italian scientists have been recently tracking the reactions of tourists to Benozzo Gozzoli’s “Journey of the Magi” in Florence’s Palazzo Medici Riccardi, taking tourists’ blood pressure and heart rate.

For more information on tests for Stendhal Syndrome at the Palazzo Medici Riccardi, please see:

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Seek and You Shall the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence

Photography and text © 2013 Leticia Marie Sanchez

Cultural Cocktail Hour® is a registered trademark

Photo, Left: Giorgio Vasari, The battle of Marciano in Val di Chiana, Palazzo Vecchio, Florence

Inside the Palazzo Vecchio, one can stroll through the Salone dei Cinquecento. This imposing hall for the five hundred members of Florence’s Grand Council can inspire Stendhal-like syndrome in those who view the daunting, dazing Vasari frescoes lining its walls. One can only imagine the moment a visiting ambassador stepped into the hall for the first time. The look in the ambassador’s eyes as he absorbed the massive, vivid scenes of Siena being conquered, of Pisa attacked by Florentine troops, bodies trampled by muscular horses. Do not cross us, the images seem to warn.  Surrounded by such immense intensity, the ambassador suddenly feels very small. Perhaps, he wishes that his boots were an inch taller, or that he worn a larger plume in his velvet cap. Looking upon the ambassador’s ashen face, Cosimo de Medici smiles. Mission Accomplished. The negotiation is over, long before it ever began.

Embedded in Vasari’s The battle of Marciano in Val di Chiana on a green flag are the words, Cerca Trova. Seek and You Shall Find. This phrase can be interpreted as Cosimo’s sarcastic dagger to the Republic of Siena, vanquished by the Duchy of Florence. Seeking independence, the Sienese rebels instead found defeat.

But those words may have a second meaning, one linked to a mysterious, missing Leonardo Da Vinci painting.

For the scoop on the missing Leonardo, please read Cultural Cocktail Hour’s report last year, revealing clues on the mystery.

Click on the grey link below:

In the news: Art detectives possibly discover lost mural by…Leonardo Da Vinci?
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St. Francis and the Cappuccino

Photography and text © 2013 Leticia Marie Sanchez

Cultural Cocktail Hour® is a registered trademark

Okay, so this photo isn’t a cappuccino. But an espresso macchiato from Badia a Coltibuono, Gaiole In Chianti (where I had the most scrumptious Aubergine Terrine on the planet, but I digress...)

After years of living as a fashionista playboy, St. Francis took a vow of poverty. Of celibacy. Of Abstinence. He even poured ashes on his food so as not to taste its flavor.

But did you know that the Franciscan saint unwittingly influenced the frothy concoction imbibed by so many coffee lovers today?

The Capuchin order of friars emerged in the 16th century as a reformist group devoted to following the original ideals of Saint Francis. The Capuchin hood, or Cappuccino, symbolized this spartan order of hermits.

Legend has it that the coffee derives its name from the rich brown color of their hoods (although some will argue that the foam itself forms a hood-like peak).  

In fact, this year, Capuchin monks in Poland decided to use the famous drink named after their order for the greater good. “Cappuccinos for Africa” raised money for children in Chad and the Central African Republic.

So next time you have a Cappuccino, raise your cup to Saint Francis.

(And please don’t tell him about that delectable eggplant terrine, thanks!)

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Assisi, Night and Day, August 2013 by Leticia Marie Sanchez

All Photography © 2013 Leticia Marie Sanchez

 Cultural Cocktail Hour® is a registered trademark

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Greetings from Umbria!

Photography and text © 2013 Leticia Marie Sanchez

Cultural Cocktail Hour® is a registered trademark

Greetings from Umbria! Artists including Cimabue, Giotto, Perugino, Fillipo Lippi, and Piero della Francesca spent time in this verdant oasis. How could they not be inspired? Even the crickets in Umbria are creative types, performing a rigorous daily and nightly symphony. Insomniacs needing a quick fix in the US actually pay to hear this chirping sound on their Sound Soothing machine. 

Leave the sound soothers at home.

The Crickets and everything else in Umbria (the divine Bufala mozzarella, for instance!) are all real. All natural. Alleluia.  

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Cultural Cocktail Hour heads to Umbria

Cultural Cocktail Hour heads this summer to Umbria, which is known as Il cuore verde d’Italia‘, “The Green Heart of Italy.”

Check back in September for photography from Umbria, including the Cathedral of Saint Francis of Assisi, seen in the photo at the left.

In the meantime, please enjoy this excerpt of a prayer attributed to Saint Francis.

“Make me an instrument of your peace

Where there is hatred, let me sow love

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

Where there is sadness, joy.”

Similarly, Cultural Cocktail Hour believes that the highest goal of art and culture is to



create joy, and

forge human understanding. 

Wishing my readers a glorious summer!

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Cultural Events LA: June 28, 29, & 30

This weekend’s Cultural Cocktail recipe includes 1 Part Architecture, A Splash of Schubert, and a Blaue Reiter Fusion!

Cultural Cocktail Hour® is a registered Trademark

Color, Line and Form: Alexei Jawlensky and the Music of His Time

Fri. June 28

7:00 – 8:00 pm

Dr. Polli Chambers-Salazar, pianist

Norton Simon Museum of Art.411 W. Colorado Boulevard Pasadena, CA 91105 626.449.6840


A New Sculpturalism: Contemporary Architecture from Southern California

The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA. 152 North Central Avenue. Los Angeles, CA, 90012

Image ©Gehry Partners, LLP National Art Museum of China (NAMOC) Proposal, West Elevation 2012

Capitol Ensemble

Sun June 30. 6 pm

Schubert: Piano Quintet in A major, D. 667, Trout.

Free, no reservations

LACMA. Bing Theater. 5905 Wilshire Blvd. Los Angeles CA 90036. 323 857-6000

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Cultural Events LA: June 14-16

This weekend’s Cultural Cocktail recipe includes 1 Oz. Jazz and a double dose of Opera! Enjoy!

Cultural Cocktail Hour® is a registered Trademark

Billy Childs Quartet

Fri. June 14th –6 pm

Free, no reservations.

BP Grand Entrance. LACMA. 5905 Wilshire Blvd. Los Angeles CA 90036. 323 857-6000

Los Angeles Dream Orchestra

Sat, June 15 7:00 pm

In celebration of the 200th birthday of Giuseppe Verdi & Richard Wagner, this Award Concert is presented by Bohemians, The Opera Association of Los Angeles, and The Dream Orchestra

La Forza del Destino Overture/Tannhauser Overture/Clarinet Concertino/ La Donna e Mobile/ O Mio Babbino Caro/ Toreador/ Au Fond du Temple Saint

Immanuel Church. 3300 Wilshire Blvd. LA, CA 90010

For information on tickets/Donation – 323. 636. 2788.

Free Community Opera Recital at Santa Monica Library

Sat June 15 3:00-4:00

Reservations Not Required

Highlights from LA Opera’s 2013/14 season, featuring soprano Lori Ann Fuller, tenor Ashley Faatoalia, and pianist Paul Floyd.

601 Santa Monica Boulevard, Santa Monica, California 90401

For more information, see:

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Cultural Events June 8th and 9th

This weekend’s Cultural Cocktail recipe includes a Splash of the Renaissance and a Dash of the heart-breaking Tosca!

Cultural Cocktail Hour® is a registered Trademark

Gardens of the Renaissance

An Illuminated Manuscript Exhibition

Getty Center.1200 Getty Center Drive. LA, CA. 90049. (310) 440-7300


LA Opera presents Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca

Sat. June 8th 7:30 P.M.

135 North Grand Ave. LA, CA 90012 (213) 972-8001   Photo: Robert Millard

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LA Cultural Events May 24th, 25th, & 26th

Memorial Day weekend’s Cultural Cocktail recipe includes 1 dose of Doheny, 2 dashes of Balanchine, and a swirl of Medici Jewels. On the Rocks!

Cultural Cocktail Hour® is a registered Trademark

Da Camera Society

Horszowski Piano Trio

May 24, 8 pm Doheny Mansion

Shostakovich Trio No. 1 in C, Op. 8; Dvorák’s Piano Trio No. 3 in f, Op. 65; Piano Trio No. 1 in F by Saint-Saëns

8 Chester Place, LA, CA, 90007. 213-477-2929

Balanchine Festival: Red

May 25, 7:30pm

Valley Performing Arts Center. 18111 Nordhoff St. Northridge, CA 91330-8448

May 26, 2pm

Alex Theatre, Glendale. 216 North Brand Blvd. Glendale, CA 91203

Gems of the Medici

Bowers Museum. 2002 N. Main Street. Santa Ana, CA, 92706. 714.567.3600


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