Why Tsiriza wants to kill the so-called ‘Troika’

Syriza wants to kill the so-called ‘troika’ not because the troika is nasty and evil and has tormented the Greek people (it has saved the Greek people, after the country went bankrupt) and not simply because Syriza does not want to follow the terms of the bailout agreement and reform Greece so that it becomes a properly-functioning modern European country (although Syriza opposes that too).

In an email to Bloomberg prime minister Alexis Tsipras, trying to appear oh so reliable and trustworthy, promised that Greece will repay its debts to the IMF and ECB.

The IMF and the ECB. A duo, not a troika. As Michal Sapin, the French finance minister, very subtly and diplomatically pointed out in his press conference with his Greek counterpart Yiannis Baroufakis today, the word ‘troika’ has negative connotations in the minds of Greeks but there are still three institutions involved.

What about the European Commission and the eurozone governments, whose taxpayers have been keeping Greece alive through the bailout? Doesn’t Tsipras also want to pay them back too?

No. That’s not his intention at all. Syriza want to kill the troika so that they do not have to pay back what Greece has borrowed to all three of its constituent parts. Trying to play such tricks with the IMF and ECB would – even Syriza realise – have been much more complicated, so they decided to steal only from European taxpayers. After all, haven’t the Europeans thrown billions of euros at Greece over the past 30+ years, in the form of structural funds and operational programmes and so much more else, much of which just ended up disappearing who knows where? Surely those daft Europeans, who have allowed us to get used to a never-ending stream of money, will relent and just write off a couple of hundred more billion?

The troika format was in any case coming to its natural end on 28 February, when the bailout programme is due to end (it had already been extended by two months), so what is the great anxiety about flogging to death something that soon won’t even exist anymore? Of course, the ‘troika’, as in the creditors, were still willing to help Greece with further financial assistance while the country got back on its feet even after the bailout programme  is due to end.

But, the real reason Syriza want to kill the troika is because, with the troika, their plan of having the eurozone governments write off Greece’s debt would not work. If there’s a ‘troika’ then you have to pay all three back. If you split it up and say you’ll only pay two of its parts (the IMF and ECB), then your aim is to not pay the other third: the European Commission and the loans made by the governments of the eurozone.

Syriza don’t want to pay this money back. Not because Greece’s debts are impossible to service – they are with a primary surplus, a sensible budget (which Syriza’s current spending plans are not), the ever elusive collection of tax, those crucial reforms that have never been fully implemented, and perhaps with an extension of the repayment period as some eurozone governments are proposing.

Syriza don’t want to hear such proposals, so exaggerate about the true difficulties of the situation in Greece because what they seek is to impose is a another kind of programme all together – a programme they claim they will need months to prepare and are so far unwilling to reveal any of its content, but which is based on the demand that Greece’s debts to the eurozone will be written off.

This is why Syriza want to kill the troika – because that way, they believe, they will not have to pay back to the taxpayers of the eurozone what they owe them. This is why they say they don’t want anymore loans, and Baroufakis has been loudly shouting ‘we don’t want the 7 billion’ and ‘the next loan tranche to Greece is like a drug dose, we need to go cold turkey’. Not because Syriza want Greece to become accustomed to living within its means: they don’t want to accept anymore loans because they just want to be given the hundreds of billions of euros as a gift instead.

N.B. Syriza are trying to circulate the false claim that Jeroen Dijsselbloem, head of the eurogroup, apparently muttered ‘you just killed troika’ into the undoubtedly waxy ear of Yiannis Baroufakis at the end of their stormy press conference on Friday. This is a lie, of course – as is to be expected from Syriza. The eurogroup, and everyone outside of Greece, is not obsessed with the troika as Greeks are, and EU officials don’t even call it the ‘troika’. Syriza just want to make you think that the troika is officially dead, as supposedly officially stated in the words of a top EU politician.

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Mangas Style!

No bourgeois ties for the new Greek government. These guys are cool dudes, who greet visiting foreign dignitaries with shirts hanging out and wry smiles on their faces, hands in pockets or lounging back in their comfy armchairs, legs splayed.*

We’ve decided to call the style of the new Greek government Mangas Style. Not after the Japanese anime but after the Greek manges of the urban centres of interwar Greece – something like the Gangnam style of Seoul, but with a very different demographic. Manges were ‘wide boys’ who rejected such bourgeois sartorial accessories as ties, or cravats, or whatever it was then, which restricted their freedom. These guys would stalk the streets and seedy bars of the working-class neighbourhoods with an arrogant swagger, always looking to pick a fight and cruising for a bruising – just like our new Greek government. Well, not exactly like them, since very few members of Syriza are working-class. And while Greece’s pre-war manges at least produced some good rembetika music, every sound made by anyone from Syriza wipes billions off the value of Greek shares.

Original manges

Original manges

Original manages with neckties and narghiles.

Original manges with neckties and narghiles.

As we were doing research for this article (i.e. looking up some pictures online) we made an  interesting discovery: many pre-war manges did indeed wear ties. Perhaps because for working-class men at that time – unlike Syriza’s middle-class rebels today – it was important for their sense of pride that they made the effort to look good. The stereotype of the mangas who preferred not to do up his top button seems to be a later one, from the 1960s, when the manges had long dwindled away and were starting to crystallise into a quaint image of the collective memory.

Romanticised mangas, from the 1968 film Gorgones kai Manges.

Romanticised mangas, from the 1968 film Gorgones kai Manges.

It’s no surprise that the Syriza style is closer to that of the inaccurate later stereotype of the mangas than of the true proletarian mangas of early 20th-century Greece.

Arch-mangas Alexis Tsipras lounging back in his new favourite armchair.

Arch-mangas Alexis Tsipras lounging back in his new favourite armchair.

Jeroen Dijsselbloem, head of the Eurogroup, tries to escape from Yiannis Varoufakis, the mangas Syriza Finance Minister, Athens, 30 January 2015.

Jeroen Dijsselbloem, head of the Eurogroup, trying to escape from Greek finance mangas Yiannis Varoufakis at their very first meeting, Athens, 30 January 2015.

Our favourite Syriza mangas, Panagiotis Lafazanis, minister for Productive Reconstruction, Environment and Energy, whatever that means, the only left-wing minister anywhere in the world who is trying to expel Chinese huge state investments that will be of benefit to everyone from his country.

Our favourite Syriza mangas, Panagiotis Lafazanis, minister for Productive Reconstruction, Environment and Energy, whatever that means, the only left-wing minister anywhere in the world who is actively trying to expel from his country huge Chinese state investments which will be of benefit to everyone.

Deputy prime minister Giorgos Dragasakis, with crumpled tie, now that he has a proper job, but still with a killer mangas facial expression.

Deputy prime minister Giorgos Dragasakis, with crumpled jacket and tie, now that he has a proper job, but still with a killer mangas facial expression.

One of the three  "alternate" manges Syriza  ministers for education, in addition to the actual minister, Tasos Kourakis, leaning back in his seat in the Hellenic parliament.

One of the three “alternate” Syriza ministers for education, in addition to the actual minister, Tasos Kourakis, leaning back mangas-style in his seat in the Hellenic parliament.

Nikos Kotzias, the Syriza mangas Eurasianist foreign minister at an emergency meeting, trying to convince other EU foreign ministers not to condemn the war crime committed by Russia separatists on innocent civilians in Mariupol, Brussels 29 January 2015. Knowing he'd need to "convince", Kotzias dragged out a 35-year-old tie from the back of his wardrobe.

Nikos Kotzias, the Eurasianist foreign minister at an emergency meeting in Brussels, trying to convince other EU foreign ministers, through his mangia, not to condemn the war crime committed by Russian separatists on innocent civilians in Mariupol. Knowing he’d need to “convince”, Kotzias dragged out a 35-year-old tie from the back of the wardrobe.

Nikos Pappas, Minister of State (i.e. old friend of Alexis Tsipras' from back in the day. who wanted to reward him with a cabinet position but even in Tsipras's eyes he's too useless to be given a proper ministry) enjoying being a mangas in front of the TV cameras that now follow him.

Nikos Pappas, Minister of State (i.e. old friend of Alexis Tsipras’ from back in the day. who wanted to reward him with a cabinet position but even in Tsipras’ eyes he’s too useless to be given a proper ministry so they made up a job for him) enjoying being a mangas in front of the TV cameras that now follow him.

Government spokesman, mangas Gavriil Sakellaridis.

Trainee mangas, government spokesman Gavriil Sakellaridis.

*The hard-left side of the government, that is, not their hard-right coalition partners ANEL, whose most distinguishing physical feature is their great fatness – if you want to know where all Greece’s money went, check out their tummies.

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Happy Birthday, Madonna!

We love you, Madge!

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Madonna in Athens

Madonna sure has an enthusiastic fan with a spray can in downtown Athens. Mamugnà is a huge fan too, so we thought it’s important to grab this street art for posterity (not that there’s any chance of the local municipality cleaning anything up soon).

Yeah, Athens looks stinky, but that’s nothing to do with the so-called crisis – this part of prime Athenian real estate has been a mess for years. Old, crumbling, delapidated buildings which should have been pulled down decades ago are left mouldering away because that’s what the “laws” prescribe. It’s a system set up for decline and stagnation, and that’s what the results have been.

Still, stinky buildings need graffiti. Strike a pose, as they say.

DSCN5915

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Ranjbaran by Niu

As I was writing the previous entry I discovered and was listening to this.

It’s amazing!

 

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Hörrohre

The composer Ludwig van Beethoven.

The composer Ludwig van Beethoven

 

It is well known that the composer Ludwig van Beethoven suffered from deafness, an affliction that appears to have begun at a relatively early age, in around 1797, when he was twenty-seven. Beethoven himself gave a vivid account of the problems his condition was causing him in this early period in a letter to his friend Franz Gerhard Wegeler, dated 29 June 1801.[1] Beethoven complained to Wegeler of a buzzing and ringing in his ears (perhaps tinnitus) and of difficulties hearing. Such was the medical knowledge of the day, that he attributed this to a bad digestive system:

my hearing during the last three years has become gradually worse. The chief cause of this infirmity proceeds from the state of my digestive organs, which, as you know, were formerly bad enough, but have latterly become much worse, and being constantly afflicted with diarrhoea, has brought on extreme weakness.

Beethoven gave a poignant description, for a musician and composer, of how his hearing loss was impacting on his daily life and work:

To give you some idea of my extraordinary deafness, I must tell you that in the theatre I am obliged to lean close up against the orchestra in order to understand the actors, and when a little way off I hear none of the high notes of instruments or singers.

In conversation, however, he could get away with not hearing what people were saying to him by affecting absent-mindedness. Even at the relatively tender age of thirty his aura was that of a genius with his head in the clouds and so mere mortals could hardly expect that he would pay them his full attention:

It is most astonishing that in conversation some people never seem to observe this; being subject to fits of absence, they attribute it to that cause. I often can scarcely hear a person if speaking low; I can distinguish the tones, but not the words, and yet I feel it intolerable if any one shouts to me.

But, the ditsy genius act had its limits. As he confided to Wegeler, his condition was causing him great distress and had forced him to ostracise himself from society:

I can with truth say that my life is very wretched; for nearly two years past I have avoided all society, because I find it impossible to say to people, I am deaf! In any other profession this might be more tolerable, but in mine such a condition is truly frightful.

Fortunately, Beethoven somehow managed to come to terms with his deafness and in the following decade his hearing appears to have improved, or fluctuated, or at least been mostly functional. In 1812 he met the Vienna court mechanician, Johann Nepomuk Mälzel, who was something of a technical whizz, having invented the panharmonicon, the first orchestrion or automatic music-playing machine, and the metronome. Continue reading

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A dream of Paula

Last night Mamugnà had a dream about writing a blog entry about our teenage crush, Paula Yates, who was just sooooooooooo cute on The Tube. We can’t quite remember what this fuzzy dream was about but it seemed so real that we woke up thinking we were writing a blog about Paula and became slightly panicked because we weren’t sure why we were writing it. Something about how now her girls are in the news it seems a good time to honour her. This all seemed to be set in a wooden church hall.

Trouble is, The Tube was on during barely video recorder days and the Paula clips available on something like YouTube are mere snippets and don’t necessarily show her in her full glory.

This is a good one though, showing Paula at a very sad moment, the last minute of one of TV’s greatest shows, The Tube. Thankfully, Jools is still alive and kicking. We love Muriel too.

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Military life in Greece, Part I

Military life in Greece (Ἤ  στρατιωτική ζωὴ ἐν Ἑλλάδι) was published in 1870 by the Greek printing house of Charilaos Dimopoulos in Brăila, Romania, which at the time had a significant Greek population comprised primarily of merchant families who had settled there in the early nineteenth century (it was later the birthplace of the composer Iannis Xenakis and the author Andreas Embirikos).

The book narrates the story of a young man, aged eighteen, from Constantinople who, in around 1856 or 1857, runs off to Athens to volunteer in the Greek army. He never reveals his real name, either to us or his superiors in the army, but instead uses the pseudonym Errikos Skradis (Ἑρρῖκος Σκράδης). Henry, as the English equivalent of his name would be, has big dreams of the glories of the Greek motherland and its amazing warriors, yet the daily reality of the place quickly dawns on him, revealing all the dysfunctions and neuroses of the newly independent Greek state. Military life in Greece appears to be biographical – as underlined by its anonymous publication – although its author is such a skilled writer that we shouldn’t exclude the possibility that he added some of his own literary flourishes. Nonetheless, it’s essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the confused mess that is the modern Greek state today.

…….

I was still very small when I heard talk of the army of Greece; and the first word I heard about it was at the school in my country. The Greek teachers of Turkey, whether they came from a free or from an enslaved country, talked often to their students about today’s Greece. Our one had a weakness for talking very often, perhaps because he saw we were captivated and paid more attention when he described to us how the officers greet the king in Athens than when he read to us from the history of Goldsmith or the geography of Kokkonis.

The Bavarian Hellene king of Greece wearing a fes but not tsarouchia.

The Bavarian Hellene king of Greece wearing a fes but not tsarouchia.

A Hellene king with red tsarouchia shoes, a king with a fes on his head, Greek governors and police, talking and writing in Greek; and then, a Greek army, artillery firing on a Greek command, and a cavalry galloping and shaking Greek spears; all this wielded an indescribable power over the imaginations of the little Greek children of Turkey.(1)

…….

Continue reading

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Mamugnà’s home town

Some pictures from Mamugnà’s home town todayish.

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Meet Mamugnà

The Prague of Habsburg emperor Rudolf II is cloaked in legends. It teemed, so the popular image has it, with scholars and astronomers, astrologers and antiquarians, alchemists and artists, and all sorts of other mystical, magical types. Born in Vienna in 1522, Rudolf, aka the Holy Roman Emperor, decided in 1583 to move his residence to the city on the Vlatva (or Moldau, as he more likely called it), capital of Bohemia, of which he was also king.

Rudolf II by Giuseppe Arcimboldo

Rudolf II by Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1590-91)

He set about turning his Prague into a centre for the sciences and the arts, acting as a patron to scholars and artists from all over Europe. An air of esotericism and mystery permeates Rudolfine Prague, particularly thanks to men Rudolf himself invited or welcomed to his court, such as the astronomers and Court Mathematicians Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler, the mystic and mathematician John Dee and his colleague the occultist and crook Edward Kelley, both of whom attempted to converse with angels and indulged in alchemy. Another famed alchemist who plied his trade in Prague was the charlatan Marco Bragadino.

To all this we can add tales such as that of the golem, the creature made from clay by Rabbi Loew, and Prague in the reign of Rudolf II was a veritable, seething hotbed of magic and mysticism. There is even Golden Lane (Goldenes Gässchen, Zlatá ulička), the street with the quaint little multi-coloured houses within the walls of the Hrad (Prague Castle); in the old days it may have been the home of goldsmiths and other craftsmen and castle workers, but is now associated with the alchemists Rudolf is supposed to have welcomed to his court. In the 19th century, if not earlier, its German name (German being widely used in Prague at that time) was Alchemistengasse – Alchemists Lane – perhaps in an attempt to attract tourists. (Alchemistengasse acquired even more of a sense of mysticism when Franz Kafka’s sister Ottla lived there; Franz would go and stay as he found it a conducive environment for writing his strange little stories.)

Into all this, or so the mythographers of Rudolfine Prague like to tell us, came Marco Bragadino, also known as Mamugnà. Bragadino the alchemist lived (where else?) on Golden Lane. He would walk through the streets of Prague dressed all in black and with two huge black dogs alongside him, scaring the locals. He dazzled all with his pieces of gold and had a big falling out with his rival Edward Kelley, causing him to flee from the city.

It is worth quoting in full Angelo Maria Ripellino’s account of Mamugnà, in his Magic Prague, as it conveys so much of the popular, mythical stereotype of the city, steamrolling the centuries and the “demonic” visitors into one.

My account cannot ignore the Greek Mamugna of Famagosta, who arrived in the city on the Vltava with two black mastiffs, indeed black devils (much as in Tichy’s canvases the satanic Paganini arrives in Prague in a rickety pitch-black coach wearing a scaly stove-pipe hat). Mamugna passed himself off as the son of the Venetian Marco Antonio Bragadin, who had been captured and skinned alive by the Turks during the fall of Famagusta. He had himself addressed as conte serenissimo and gave opulent soirées with the gold he extracted from his Prague patrons. Kelley’s enmity placed limits on his success, however, so Mamugna fled. He met his end in 1591 on a gilt gallows in Munich and landed in a pauper’s grave together with the carcasses of his demon mastiffs.[1]

Ripellino used as his sources Czech writers from the late 19th/first half of the 20th century, although they tend not to bother with things like citing  sources. But, we can nonetheless see their efforts in this period to construct a mystical, magical view of Prague, alchemists and all. Josef Svátek, in his Obrazy z kulturních dejin ceských (1891), mostly gives the usual story, of how Bragadino and his two black dogs went for a brief period to Prague, the ‘El Dorado of alchemists’. Bragadno and Kelley, then at the full height of his glory, attempted to secure access to the emperor Rudolf, but in this they were unsuccessful. The chronology Svátek gives for Bragadino is that he went to Venice in 1578, where he remained for ten years, after which he took himself to Vienna and then Prague.[2]

Paganini by František Tichý (1947)

Paganini by František Tichý (1947)

Karel Pejml, in Dějiny české alchymie (1933), claims that the ‘calculating and ruthless Greek’ went first to Greece, although follows Svátek’s chronology in every other detail. Pejml has an obvious distaste for Mamugnà, whom he keeps dismissing as a ‘boaster’, describing the black mastiffs, his constant companions, as ‘demons’. So far this is a standard account, but Pejml then inserts a number of extraordinary innovations into his life of Bragadino, which do not make an appearance elsewhere.

Our Mamugnà, he says, worked in the service of Jan Zbyňek Zajíc, a real-life Bohemian nobleman with a fascination for alchemy. Bragadino in fact worked for Zajíc in his castle in Újezd, which housed an alchemical library, presumably beavering away in an effort to concoct gold. Poor Zajíc was eventually cheated out of lots of money by Bragadino. Pejml also tells us the same story about Bragadino and Kelley and their falied attempts to win the favour of Rudolf II.[3]

Bragadino was born in Famagusta on the island of Cyprus, the most easterly outpost of the Venetian empire, in around 1545-1550. His family name was Mamugnà, although no other instances of such a name are known. It is said that he claimed to be the son of Marcantonio Bragadino, the Captain-General of Famagusta. The Mamugnà family may simply have been under the patronage of Marcantonio Bragadino; nevertheless, Marco adopted his name and dropped the Mamugnà. In August 1571 the Ottoman Turks succeeded in their efforts to conquer Cyprus and, so the story goes, had Marcantonio Bragadino tied to a post in the main square and his skin peeled off. Mamugnà was among the many refugees who fled the island and headed west.

Marco_Bragadino

Marco Bragadino, by Dominicus Custos or Hans von Aachen.

Bragadino reappears in Italy, flitting between Venice and various small towns in Lombardy, with a sojourn in Florence and excursions to France. He piled up heavy debts and took monastic orders in order to escape his financial obligations. Bragadino wasn’t, however, the type to spend his days in endless prayer and contemplation, and eventually absconded from his monastery. By late 1589, however, he was to be found residing in Brescia now a rich man, entertaining nobles and spending lavishly. Bragadino’s explanation for his sudden and inexplicable wealth was that he had the power to turn quicksilver into gold. He now began to attract the wealthy and powerful, such as the Duke of Mantua, who paid Bragadino handsomely for his alchemical services, although he doesn’t seem to have got much in return. Word of his activities reached the authorities in Venice, who now began to keep an eye on Bragadino.[4] He tricked the highly respected Venetian count, Marcantonio Martinengo into believing he had produced gold in his presence, which inspired the Venetian Senate to invite Bragadino to live in Venice at the city’s expense and in return produce gold for it.

Once ensconced in Venice he embarked upon a sumptuous lifestyle, not neglecting also to cultivate a mysterious demeanour through his choice of black clothes and the accompaniment of his two huge black dogs. As Grete de Francesco, who wrote her biographical sketch of Bragadino using the archival material gathered by Ivo Striedinger, remarks: ‘Between these two monsters the sumptuously clad adventurer, whose piercing dark eyes looked out from under heavy dark brows, made an almost demoniacal impression.’[5] A demon, as Ripellino said.

Bragadino would, on occasion, conjure up small amounts of gold, through trickery and deceit – enough to maintain an all-important group of influential supporters – and it was even reported in the Fuggerzeitung newspaper of the day that he “changed a pound of quicksilver into gold some days ago”.[6] But, aside from the odd nugget, he wasn’t producing the quantities of gold that Venice had hoped for. Muttering was heard and doubts publicly aired. Bragadino then came up with a ruse: he would place the magic substance with which he turned quicksilver into gold into the public mint, but it would take at least seven years for it to produce a significant amount; in the meantime, he would continue to live off the Venetian public purse.

Discontent against him grew. Ditties were being sung against him and his big black dogs:

L’ha do cani che se belli
Et alcuni vuol che quelli
siano tutti indemonia:
O che sorte ha sta Citta;

(He has two dogs which are handsome, and many say they are bewitched. O what luck this City has!)[7]

Bragadino sniffed the wind, saw which way it was blowing, got out of Venice and removed to Padua. Here, he received a letter from the heavily indebted Wilhelm V, Duke of Bavaria who invited him to Munich to make gold. To get there from Padua he had to cross the Alps and pass through the Habsburg lands. Bragadino is said to have made appearances in Innsbruck and Vienna; if he went to Prague as well, this would have been the time for it.

The execution of Marco Bragadino by Jan Luyken, 1699.

The execution of Marco Bragadino by Jan Luyken, 1699.

He arrived in Munich in August 1590 and soon began the same trickery as in Venice. The Duke’s ministers were suspicious of Bragadino but Wilhelm himself was still in awe of him. Bragadino performed a magic trick in the presence of the Duke: boiling mercury, mumbling a spell, throwing in some potions and (without being seen) sprinkling some gold powder: a layer of gold was found to have lined the cauldron.[8] Beyond this, Bragadino could make no more but he was not to escape so easily this time as from Venice: on 4 March 1591, his enemies at court had him arrested and detained at Grunwald castle, where he was condemned to death. On 26 April 1591, his head was chopped off. His two black dogs were killed with him, and dumped in the grave alongside their master.

When we first came across Mamugnà’s story in John Banville’s Prague Pictures (2008), we were intrigued by his tale and decided to track him down in Prague for ourselves. But, alas, this was to no avail. The Praguean storybooks take particular delight in such piquant and esoteric characters, but they gave little detail by which we could find the remains of Mamugnà in 21st-century Prague. In the Klementinum, we consulted his biography and compendium of all the voluminous source material on Bragadino, put together by Ivo Striedinger.[9] Although written in tongues we do not excel at, it is quite clear from Striedinger’s book that Bragadino never set foot in Prague. We consulted other sources and found that works that are about Bragadino do not mention him as having ever being to Prague, even if they do discuss almost everywhere else he went. In contrast, works on magical, mystical Prague, tend to retell the tale of the alchemist Bragadino as one of the curiosities of 16th-century Prague. Striedinger’s book is packed with contemporary accounts of Bragadino, in versions of Italian and German. There is no mention in it, however, of his having been in Prague. Bragadino’s escapades in Venice and Munch were notorious and reported on weekly in the Fuggerzeitungen, yet the Fuggers never found him in Prague.

Prague, 21st century

RJW Evans, in his scholarly (i.e. consulting sources as opposed to retelling stories) account of Rudolf’s Prague hedges his bets and say Bragadino ‘perhaps visited Prague’, noting in a footnote that: ‘There is no evidence that the ‘count’ [for Bragadino may also have declared himself a count] ever visited Bohemia, though his portrait was certainly painted by the later Imperial artist Hans von Aachen’.[10] Evans seems to forget that von Aachen was court painter in Munich at the time Bragadino was there but by the time he went to Prague Bragadino was dead. But, there is only one known portrait of Bragadino  and this was by the printer and engraver Dominicus Custos, who worked for Rudolph in Prague. Although, Custos, who was born in Antwerp, settled in Augsburg, not that far from Munich, while this portrait allegedly by von Aachen is inscribed ‘Dominicus Custodis Antwerp’.

The conclusion, therefore, is that Bragadino never was at Prague. Rather, his story was transplanted to the city as part of the construction of the myth of ‘magic, esoteric Rudolfine Prague’. He was certainly a contemporary of Rudolf II, and this meant that it was necessary to take the most famous alchemist of the day on a detour and have him visit Prague too, if this image of Prague is to be historically validated. The elements of the Bragadino story that we know from his time in Venice and Munich are transplanted to Prague – his black dress, his two black dogs, his sneering, arrogant style. Bragadino and Kelley were set up as rivals to add spice to the stories of alchemists in Prague. Like the ‘satanic’ Paganini, he is another of the many mad geniuses to have burst into Prague. And, here again, Ripellino did not mean only the 19th-century Paganini, but the 20th-century one of František Tichý’s sketches too.

Who better than the Famagostian charlatan Mamugnà to be our spiritual guide in the journeys to be undertaken here?

[1] Angelo Maria Ripellino, Magic Prague, 1994 (Italian original 1973), p. 103.

[2] Josef Svàtek, Obrazy z kulturních dejin ceských, 1891, p. 48-49.

[3] Karel Pejml, in Dějiny české alchymie, 1933, p. 64.

[4] Horatio F. Brown, Studies in the history of Venice, vol. 2, 1907, p. 188.

[5] Grete de Francesco, The power of the Charlatan, 1939 (German original 1937), p. 53.

[6] Cited in Tara Nummedal, Alchemy and authority in the Holy Roman Empire, 2007, p. 16.

[7] De Francesco, The power of the Charlatan, p. 58.

[8] Birgit Magiera, ‘23. August 1590. Goldmacher Marco Bragadino freut sich’, published 23 August 2012.

[9] Ivo Striedinger, Der Goldmacher Marco Bragadino, 1928.

[10] RJW Evans, Rudolf II and his world, 1973/1984, pp. 202-203, n. 6.

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