Arts and Entertainment Rome sweet Rome: Tony Servillo in 'The Great Beauty'

From its delirious opening montage of disco divas, ageing socialites and strippers at play – one imagines Berlusconi's bunga bunga in a nutshell – Paolo Sorrentino's Roman satire has its sights fixed on epic greatness. There's a touch of La Dolce Vita in its fluid portrait of the city as carnival, with its parade of nuns, tourists, freaks, hangers-on, performance artists and other jokers. It is overseen by the dapper, disenchanted Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo), a journalist who once wrote a great novel but is now more famous for his roof-terrace parties and languid cynicism. The haute bourgeoisie circles Jep moves in turn a blind eye and a Botoxed pout to the depressed, debased society around them, preferring to dance themselves dizzy and drink themselves silly. (Sample dialogue: "What job do you do?" "Me? I'm rich". "Great job"). Nor is there any recourse to religion when Vatican prelates offer not spiritual succour but top cooking tips.

Chardin, Jean-Baptiste Siméon: Glass of Water and Coffee Pot (1760)

Bertolt Brecht wrote a poem against brand-newness. It begins (in Michael Hamburger's translation): "Of all works I prefer/ Those used and worn/ Copper vessels with dents and flattened rims/ Knives and forks whose wooden handles/ Many hands have grooved: such shapes/ Seem the noblest to me..."

And the poem goes on to praise breakage, dilapidation, ruin. It is not intact perfection, but the incessant attrition of human usage that dignifies the world. Brecht likes the lived-in look.

Rosa, Salvator: Desolate Landscape with Two Figures (1660)

In Flann O'Brien's novel, The Third Policeman, we're introduced " mainly in the footnotes " to the ideas of a fictional mad scientist called De Selby. De Selby propounded several untenable theories, for example, that the world was not round but shaped liked a sausage. Most memorably, he 'held that darkness was simply an accretion of 'black air', ie, a staining of the atmosphere due to volcanic eruptions too fine to be seen with the naked eye, and also to certain 'regrettable' industrial activities involving coal-tar by-products and vegetable dyes'.

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Gentileschi, Artemisia: Judith and Her Maidservant (1612-3)

It's a scene from many films. A character is in danger " in danger of being detected or captured or killed. Some other character is out to get them. The potential victim may not know that they're under this threat, but we know it, and we expect that the menace will strike at any moment. And so when we see the vulnerable character performing some innocent business, washing up, locking up, whatever, something about the camera angle may suggest this shot isn't just a bit of narrative. (Maybe the character is viewed through a lighted window, from the darkness outside their house.) No, we suspect that in this shot we're seeing them through their predator's eyes. The danger is already at hand!

Keith Sciberras: The island crucible of an inflammatory genius

From a lecture on Caravaggio by the teacher at the University of Malta, given at the National Gallery

After 450 years, Michelangelo's last works are set to shine again

The last works painted by Michelangelo, when he was in his seventies, are to be restored if the Holy See can find sponsors to put up the estimated €3m (£2m) cost. They are the twin frescoes in the Vatican's Pauline Chapel illustrating the conversion of Saul (later St Paul) and the crucifixion of St Peter.

A 500-year birthday celebration for David

The city of Florence is throwing a birthday party today for its most popular son, Michelangelo's giant nude statue of David.

Gallery moves from master to pupil, via patron

Shows on Caravaggio, Rubens and Stubbs are the highlights of exhibitions planned by the National Gallery for next year, it announced yesterday.

Michelangelo's 'David' emerges from the bath

Last summer a row erupted in Florence over the right way to clean Michelangelo's David, possibly the most famous sculpture in the world.

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Workaholic Michelangelo was a martyr to gout, say scientists

the knee gives it away. It is enlarged, deformed and covered in hard lumps. The Renaissance genius who painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel almost certainly had gout.
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