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    Ludovico Magnocavallo
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Reports from the past - The Gibigianna/1

23 agosto 2003

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my grandmother is the girl in the centre of the picture

Since I’m a bit fed up with programming, but as usual the idea of going to sleep (well, actually of lying in bed with a book, currently the 7th of the 26 in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series) does not look so great, I might as well start putting on my blog my family’s ancient pictures. Ancient because that’s what came out writing in (more or less) American English on a computer, but thinking about it stuff from the early 1900 should be considered old not ancient.

Scanning all the family pictures scattered around my relatives’ homes is an old pet project of mine, one I started last year but never managed to stick to. I hope this will be an incentive towards scanning a few more pictures and letters (especially my paternal grandfather’s sometimes humorous letters from the first World War, a good number of them written to his parents by his attendant on pre-signed — by my grandfather — stationery, or so the family lore says).

I am starting this fragmented slideshow with the gibigianna. It’s a regional (the region being Lombardy, in Italy, where Milan is), pretty disused word meaning

  • a glitter of light reflected from a mirror or glass
  • humorous, for a woman who displays elegance

A beautiful word, isn’t it? It’s a special language where you have a word for a glitter of light reflected from a mirror, whose other meaning has to do with a woman’s ostentatious display of elegance (but then I suspect most languages have beautiful, very special words). Not very politically correct, but it fits perfectly my grandmother’s pictures.

In my grandmother’s case, the gibigianna was a sort of party where young people dressed in costumes and reenacted historical or literal scenes (or so my aunt tells me). My paternal grandmother was the daughter of a noblewoman (who unfortunately does not appear to have been one of the heirs to her family’s huge fortune or at least to part of it), and had relatives among some of Milan’s noble families, and so got to take part to this kind of events.

I have always found these pictures wonderful, and appalling. Imagine a few teenagers (one of the pictures has 20 people in it) that spend a day dressing up in stage-quality costumes, only to reenact historical scenes in their family’s private theater inside their villa. Not only that, but they also have silver ashtrays made for the event.

Full coverage of the Gibigianna coming soon, if I manage not to get distracted by something else, as usual. =)

update: the second and last part of this Report from the Past is now online. All the images of the Gibigianna are available in a separate directory (since getting text wrapping around multiple images in a blog page is a tedious and error prone process).