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Know Thyself: Ingrid Rossellini and Her Legendary Family’s Passion for History

In the last “Tutti A Casa!” episode, Stefano Albertini interviewed the scholar and teacher to discuss her latest book and her father, Roberto Rossellini

by Paola Vacirca

In Italiano

On April 8th, 2020, the NYU Casa Italiana Zerilli Marimò hosted Ingrid Rossellini during one of the episodes of “Tutti A Casa!”. Interviewed by Stefano Albertini, Rossellini discussed her latest book, and the influences of her father Roberto Rossellini, who would have celebrated his 114th birthday on the same day. 

“Know Thyself: Western Identity from Classical Greece to the Renaissance” is the title of her latest book, and she explains that it was written following an interdisciplinary approach – looking at Western identity through the lenses of philosophy, history, and art. 

During the interview, Albertini asked Rossellini to name one work of art that encapsulates and explains each period, following the interdisciplinary process that she used while writing her book. Rossellini then discussed how, for example, the “Doriforus” of Policletus embodies the strength and the nobility of human nature in ancient Greece; how the bust of Augusto Prima Porta reminds us of the concept of “primus inter pares” during the early imperial years in ancient Rome; or the San Clemente imagery of the Middle Ages represents men in the service of God; or of how the David by Michelangelo, for the Renaissance, reminds us of Greek heroes, and yet, it is a biblical figure. Rossellini is able to tie different subjects together in a seamless and organized way, conveying information and feeling at the same time. 

Rossellini’s passion for history and teaching finds  its roots in her family: her father Roberto was a famous cinema director, but also a passionate historian. In fact, in the last twenty years of his career, he produced many movies that could be seen as precursors of productions of the History Channel, such as about Pascal, Sant’Agostino, and many others. Rossellini also mentions her paternal aunt as a source of inspiration, Zia Marcella, who was a painter and a sculptor, but also an amazing researcher who helped Roberto in the production of most of his historical films. 

The recording of the entire interview is available on the NYU Casa Italiana Zerilli Marimò website

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