/Lorenzo Lotto Makes My Brain Hurt

Lorenzo Lotto Makes My Brain Hurt

The souvenirs at the Scuderie are as well conceived as the translations.

It’s been a while since I’ve had a good old fashioned rant here on Parla Food, but I’ve had a really overwhelming 2 days and I think I’ve earned it. To be fair, lots of things were good about Monday and Tuesday: I spent them with my mom, made rabbit ragu and lamb meatballs from gorgeous meat we bought from Carni Magini, ate 9 gelato flavors at Il Gelato di Claudio Torce’, bought buffalo ricotta and mozzarella at DOL. We even worked in a pilates session with Claudia at Studio Pilates Roma.

But on the flip-side I had an adult temper tantrum after missing a bus that just plain refused to stop for me though I had clearly signaled for it in advance. I nearly hyperventilated on the overcrowded bus that came next, and I cried for no good reason. I’m stressed out, so before I board the express train to crazy town, I would like to at least attempt to relieve my tension in the best way I know how: lashing out against things I am powerless to change. It is not productive, but it is a skill I have honed for years and it makes me feel good. Today I would like to direct my rage towards the English translations for the Lorenzo Lotto show, or as I like to call it, Google Translate on crack.

The Lorenzo Lotto exhibition opened at the Scuderie del Quirinale earlier this month and it is STUNNING. The works of art are fabulous and, not being very familiar with Lotto’s work, it was a real pleasure to view them in a well organized space with good lighting. What was not so pleasant, however, was reading the English translations. At past shows at the Scuderie the translations have been very good. But what the Lotto show gained in great lighting it lost in English literacy. An example:

    Sumptuous Rome with its concentration of artists such as Bramante, Bramant no, and Cesare Da Sesto from Lombardy, the Sienese Sodoma and Domenico Beccafumi, but also Michelangelo and above all Raphael with his pupils, Raphael at whose side the Venetian, full of talent but of a reserved and solitary nature, found himself working.

What? Who’s Bramant no? Oooooh That’s Bramantino! Obviously. Well, let’s just let paying visitors figure out that one for themselves. And while we’re at it let’s wish them luck wading through the dense and confusing sentence. This isn’t even the worst of it, but I can’t even talk about the paragraph that had two colons in the place of commas. The misuse of “emargination” when the translator meant marginalization is too much: too much! Of course I asked at the desk who I should contact to bitch communicate my constructive criticism. They kindly offered the following email address, info.sdq@palaexpo.it), informed me that I wasn’t the first person to notice the terrible English text, and said that the priority was on the lighting in this show. To be sure, the lighting was glorious, but c’mon. This is 2011 and there are PLENTY of mother tongue English speakers in Rome who could use the work. And for the love of god, exhibitions should have accurate signage in English. Why go through all the trouble and then do a bad job?

Whatever. I sent my email (if you agree with me, send yours). I know it won’t make a difference, but complaining always makes me happy. I’m feeling better already.

2016-01-09T13:34:40+00:00 March 29th, 2011|Categories: Culture, Rome & Lazio|11 Comments


  1. Petulia March 29, 2011 at 9:23 pm - Reply

    Sending my letter today..even if I haven’t seen the show yet!

  2. Katie March 29, 2011 at 11:25 pm - Reply

    petu, i KNEW i could count on you. this is unacceptable. i feel super protective of toursits in rome and hate when they dont get fair consideration. Lorenzo–and Rome’s tourists–deserve better!

  3. Zerlina March 30, 2011 at 6:28 am - Reply

    The drastic reductions of culture budgets are evidently also having an effect at the Scuderie, which used to have excellent translations.

    But it’s not only happening in Rome. You are invited to translate into English this (purportedly English) sentence from the Web site of the newly introduced Firenze Card: “With you can access to museums and means of transport also EU citizen with an age lower than 18 years”.

  4. Tom March 30, 2011 at 3:30 pm - Reply

    As a copywriter and proofreader, I think this is horrible. And unfortunately, it really does seem like they used the Google translator (or some such tool). Unacceptable. Also…

    “… I would like to at least attempt to relieve my tension in the best way I know how: lashing out against things I am powerless to change. It is not productive, but it is a skill I have honed for years and it makes me feel good.”

    I think this is a “sport” that’s just part of growing up in NJ Katie! I too have honed this skill to the point that I could professionally compete in it. 🙂

  5. Tom March 30, 2011 at 3:36 pm - Reply

    Oh, and I just noticed the caption under the picture of the car air fresheners. WTF??? Really? In the souvenir shop?

    (I was wondering why you had it posted with this entry.)

  6. Kelly March 30, 2011 at 7:27 pm - Reply

    I saw a pretty funny translation once and wrote to them about it and they never fixed it. On one of the ferry companies that goes from Naples to Lipari they had all the staff pics with little bios that included a prominent bold lettering of their astrological sign right under their names. One girls was Virgin which I would think was Virgo. I wrote to her and explained what Virgin meant and that she probably wanted Virgo and included the dates of the Virgo sign. They wrote to thank me and left it as Virgin. Hmm?!

  7. Katie March 30, 2011 at 5:43 pm - Reply

    @zerlina woah. the firenze card english is harsh. i actually heard back from the Scuderie today and their reply was VERY interesting. It seems the bad translations are not a question of budget (im not surprised, nothing in the exhibition seemed like they were cutting corners). To paraphrase their lame repl, “Two accredited translation companies and the internationally renowned curators signed off on the text. Therefore it must be adequate.” Okay…

    @tom you can take the girl outta jersey…

    i always try to edit as well as i can just in case you read a post. i dont want to disappoint the copywriter/editor in you. sometimes i mess up–its only natural–but if i have to publish something legitimately important i have someone qualified look at it. how a national museum could settle with “it’s good enough” boggles the mind.

  8. Tom March 30, 2011 at 8:15 pm - Reply

    “@tom you can take the girl outta jersey…

    …i always try to edit as well as i can just in case you read a post. i dont want to disappoint the copywriter/editor in you…”

    Katie…you’re too funny. If you ever want something proofread, let me know. I do some freelance work on the side. 😉

  9. Sienna March 31, 2011 at 9:57 am - Reply

    Ha! Well that is a great improvement that they are CONCENTRATING ON THE LIGHTING! After having to get down on my knees to see paintings in previous shows! But for them to imply that it costs a lot of money to get a good translator- that is simply ridiculous. Having seen the results of my son having gone through six years of English classes in Rome I can imagine that it is hard to find an Italian that actually can write in English (he couldn’t so we had to withdraw him to an international school), but there is something called the European Union which actually includes England and English people can work in the country legally. I am so absolutely sick of trying to wade through English translations that do not make one iota of sense so I can understand your ‘museum rage’! On the other hand, the show was great- I am working on a review of it now.

  10. Mamma Parla April 1, 2011 at 2:36 pm - Reply

    The display in the museum shop was hideous. Thought I was back in Jersey waiting for my car to go throught the auto wash! The Lotto mostra was fantastic…and the lighting was well done. However, the large tour groups did not make it easy to see the paintings without having 20 tourists stand (unyielding) smack in front of your view. A limit on the size and number of organized tour groups at an exhibit (at a given time) would be appreciated. It’s done in many museums in and around EU and USA and it doesnt seem to deter patrons from visiting the museums. Just went to an Arcimbaldo exhibit at our beloved National Gallery in DC and the lighting was awful…might be an opportuntiy for two national treasures to collaborate on how to put on a proper art exhibition together!

  11. Pat May 8, 2011 at 1:42 pm - Reply

    Does one need to purchase (timed) tickets in advance? My husband and I were at the Caravaggio show last year and were definitely glad we had done that–there was a long line, mid-May, and we walked to the front. We will be in Rome at the end of this week and would like to see this show. Also, if the posted descriptions in English are poor, is the audioguide good? Thanks!

Leave A Comment

You are currently not connected to the internet