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An Italian historian's theory that Mona Lisa might be a Chinese slave and Leonardo da Vinci's mother -- making the 15th-century polymath half-Chinese -- sent online commentators into a frenzy Wednesday.

Angelo Paratico, a Hong Kong-based historian and novelist from Italy, told the South China Morning Post: "On the back of Mona Lisa, there is a Chinese landscape and even her face looks Chinese."

Chinese web users expressed astonishment and disbelief Wednesday, posting dozens of parodies of the painting, with faces from Chinese comedians to British actor Rowan Atkinson grafted over her delicate features.

Little is known about Caterina, the mother of the artist, writer, mathematician and inventor, and the identity of the sitter for the portrait hanging in Paris' Louvre museum has long been a matter of debate.

Paratico, who is finishing a book entitled Leonardo da Vinci: a Chinese scholar lost in Renaissance Italy, cited Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud's 1910 assumption that the painting was inspired by the artist's mother.

"One wealthy client of Leonardo's father had a slave called Caterina. After 1452, Leonardo's date of birth, she disappeared from the documents," he told the paper.

The evidence for a Chinese connection appears to be slight, with Paratico saying he was sure "up to a point" that da Vinci's mother was from the Orient. "To make her an oriental Chinese, we need to use a deductive method," he added.

 

 

 

Pope Francis revealed Wednesday that he had sacked a church court official who had been caught offering to facilitate marriage annulments for cash.

The shock revelation came in candid remarks to students attending a course at the Roman Rota tribunal, the equivalent of the Supreme Court for canon law, the body of Church rules.

Telling his audience that he wanted decisions on annulments to be easier, quicker and cheaper to obtain for ordinary people, the pontiff made it clear he regards the current system as deeply flawed.

"We have to be very careful that the procedure does not become a kind of business - and I am not talking about something we know nothing about," the 78-year-old pope said.

"There have been public scandals. Some time ago, I had to dismiss from a tribunal someone who was saying 'for 10,000 dollars I will do both the civil and the ecclesiastical procedure'."

Francis did not provide any further details of the episode but a Vatican spokesman told AFP he understood the pontiff to have been referring to an episode which occurred prior to him becoming pope last year.

The conditions under which a marriage can be annulled -- effectively declared to have never existed -- have been a vexed issue for the Church for centuries.

Most notably, the question triggered the 16th Century clash with King Henry VIII that led to the English reformation and the creation of the Church of England.

 

 

 

 

London was the huge champ as Leading Culture Destinations reported the champs of its inaugural yearly recompenses.

The capital was named as Best City for Culture, and the Tate Modern gathered three recompenses, Leading Culture Destination 2014, and for Exhibitions & Programming, and Digital Experience.

It was the first and final worldwide recompenses to commend the best not-for-benefit visual expressions establishments around the world.cultural foundations in urban areas as far and wide as Paris, New York, Miami, Shanghai, Oslo, Berlin and Mexico City, were among those contending to win nine grants at the occasion, held at Jumeirah Carlton Tower, London.

 

Located near the intersection of 48th Street and Baldwin Avenue is a stringed instrument repair shop that has been resurrecting damaged musical instruments and giving life to new ones for more than 40 years.

When customers enter they will likely see 74-year-old Linda London, owner and operator of London Luthier, quietly sitting behind the counter surrounded by guitars and hand tools. The front of the shop is sparse and dimly lit, but this is one of the few places to go in the Midwest that takes the time to serve the musician as well as the instrument.

London Luthier opened in 1969 and moved to its current location in 1974 when the space became available. London’s husband, Dale, who passed away in 2004, worked as a commercial electrician before he started building instruments. Linda learned to repair instruments by working alongside him.

“This place is challenging because you never know what’s going to come in the door,” she said. “Whenever somebody wanted something special, Dale could figure out how to do it and design it. He always drew out blueprints and did everything to scale.”

Dale received a ninth-grade education, earned first class in electronics in the U.S. Navy and briefly worked as a welder at Nebraska Boiler Co. before he got bored and got his license to be an electrician, she said. She was born in Ord, Nebraska, moved to Lincoln at about 13 years old and graduated from North East High School when she was 16 years old. The two were married the year after she graduated.

“I’m the one that got him started because I’m the one that tried to play classic guitar,” she said. “Of course he didn’t know anything, so he went down and got me an old archtop Harmony with steel strings and high action (the space between the strings and the fret board). I kept trying to play and my fingers would bleed. I thought it was me, and I put it away. Then picked it up again,” London said. “Finally, he started shopping and he found me a nice little nylon string guitar. Back in the ‘50s and ‘60s, there wasn’t a lot of things available music instrument-wise. So then he said, ‘Well I can build you one.’ He started researching and realized it wasn’t as easy as he thought it was going to be.”

London had been taking lessons at Thompson Music when her husband decided he was going to build a banjo.

“My guitar instructor said, ‘Well if he can build a banjo he can fix things,’” she said. “Thompson started sending all their instruments over to the house. We’d do setups on them and repair them. Next thing you know, we were over here.”

Her husband learned to build instruments by reading books and researching the principles of acoustics, vibrations of different types of wood and gluing pressures, she said.

“When he sat down to design something he had this innate sense to be able to understand how sound worked on an instrument – the vibrations through the bridge, going out through the braces on an acoustic guitar,” she said. “That’s just the way he was, he could just figure out things.”

Ryan Larsen, owner of Roots Music Shop on the corner of Q Street and North Antelope Valley Parkway, has been getting instruments repaired at London Luthier since the mid-1990s, he said.

“If you take a guitar in there, she’ll take a look at it and within a few moments she’s going to tell you a few things she can fix and make better,” he said. “My first memories of going in there, Dale was always sitting in the chair telling jokes and she was the one behind the counter doing all the work. I’m not selling him short – he did plenty.”

Dale London was considered an electronics and luthier genius, Larsen said. Dale and Linda each had their respective skill sets, but Linda hasn’t always received the credit she deserves, Larsen said.

“I got so good at it that he didn’t even touch them,” she said. “In the early days guys would come in here and they’d want Dale to work on their instrument. They didn’t really want a woman working on them. Dale would say, ‘Well, if you want it to be right, let Linda do it.’”

London’s favorite projects are working on old instruments – “things that have some history to them,” she said. One of the most recent projects was a harp guitar that was purchased brand new around 1903 and passed down through the family of the customer that brought it in.

“When you touch those things it’s like going back in time and you can almost see them be there,” she said. “To take something that’s just going to be thrown away and fix it back up – have it played and passed on – that’s what I really enjoy.”

The harp guitar had ended up in Arizona. When it came into London Luthier, the face of the guitar had buckled up, the bridge was standing on end, wood was splintered around the side of the guitar and a chunk of wood was missing.

 

 

For six days, umbrellas, yellow ribbons, cartoon takedowns of politicians and song lyrics have been festooned across a city whose streets have been cleared of traffic to make way for a new wave of political protest.

Flyovers are plastered with hundreds of multicoloured notes voicing encouragement; posters of the city's leader characterised as a zombie or vampire hang from bridges; lampposts, footbridges and signs are tied with yellow ribbon -- one of the most widespread symbols of the protest movement.

Sympathisers at home and abroad have changed their social media profile pictures to an image of the ribbon, also used by other movements as a sign representing solidarity and freedom.

 

 

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On Friday 19th September 2014, Andy Robins, Vicky Martin and Mohammed Abdul PR Ambassador for Sainsbury’s Nine Elms Temp, took two trolleys worth of refreshments to the South Lambeth Library where they met the children from the libraries after school clubs.

They were greeted by the children with a warm thank you and proceeded to show the books that they were currently reading. Telling Sainsbury’s Colleagues a bit about themselves, they then showed the colleagues their reading area and what happens at after school clubs.


The kiss was smoochy, the cake divine and the dancing nearly till dawn, but George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin were expected to make the most of their first day as a married couple with a Sunday gondola ride through Venice.

Hordes of excited tourists and media staked out their hotel, hoping to catch the first public appearance of the Hollywood heartthrob and his bride.

Clooney and Alamuddin, a Lebanese-born British lawyer, said "I do" late Saturday at a private ceremony in Venice's stunning Aman hotel palazzo, before celebrating with a star-spangled guest list in one of the most high-profile celebrity weddings in years.

There were wolf-whistles and cheers as the actor scooped Mrs. Clooney into his arms for a nuptial kiss, and his hands were shaking so much that he did a botch job on cutting the wedding cake, a source close to the hotel said.

Attendees including Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cindy Crawford and her husband Rande Gerber -- rumoured to be Clooney's best man -- reportedly boogied well into the early hours to hit tracks by Blondie, Jackson 5 and Daft Punk.

Those not sleeping off a hangover were tipped to be meeting for a lavish late lunch Sunday in the garden of the luxurious Cipriani resort, or recovering with Bloody Mary cocktails on sun loungers by the hotel's Olympic size, waterfront pool.

But rumours among paparazzi staking out the hotel in speed boats were that the Clooneys would ditch their guests for a few hours to glide through the City of Canals, with a possible stop at the historic Bridge of Sighs, where legend has it lovers secure themselves eternal bliss with a kiss.



On Saturday at sunset, a euphoric-looking Clooney, 53, swept up Venice's Grand Canal to his wedding, accompanied by some 20 boatloads of paparazzi and the screams of adoring fans.

Singing gondoliers, who had spent the day showing off the romantic candle-lit resort to snap-happy tourists, were swept aside in their wake as the world's most famous waterway erupted with excitement.

 

 

Guy Laroche designer Marcel Marongiu on Wednesday opted for modern, feminine looks at the Paris ready-to-wear shows with a "no-nonsense" collection featuring streamlined graphic shapes, plunging necklines and experimental materials.

On day two of Paris fashion week, Marongiu teamed light silk overalls with bikini tops and tuxedos with shorts for a "light, effortless" silhouette.

Experimental materials included luminous acrylic glass on strappy bain de soleil dresses and light scratched leather that gave a rough sheen to bags, shoes and details on coats.

Marongiu, artistic director at Guy Laroche since 2007, is one of a raft of designers such as Hedi Slimane at Yves Saint Laurent and Alexander Wang at Balenciaga currently working to reinvent fabled fashion names for the modern market.

Prior to his appointment the house had seen a revolving door of designers attempt to breathe new life into it including Alber Elbaz, now at Lanvin, and Herve Leroux, founder of the Herve Leger label.

The French-Swedish designer, who in the past has looked to David Bowie for inspiration, said the idea for his latest collection came from someone even closer to his heart than Bowie.

"The starting point of this is actually a picture of my mother," he told AFP ahead of the show.

"My mother had a very interesting sense of style. She mixed freely, she was (a) very independent, intellectual woman.

"She could one day have cropped jeans with my father's pea coat and the next day an embroidered little dress with a really tight waist. She played with everything. She was far from a fashion victim," he said.

Marongiu's summer 2015 collection, which came in a palette of butter yellow, eggshell, claret red, and navy, also featured dresses with laser-cut designs and tri-colour leather panels.

 

 

 

 

Flamboyant designer Jean Paul Gaultier's last ready-to-wear show will provide an emotional highlight of nine days of fashion collections due to get underway in Paris on Tuesday.

The 62-year-old showman of the catwalks is to bow out of ready-to-wear after nearly 40 years to concentrate on his couture collections.

The designer has said the decision was taken after an "in-depth assessment" of his eponymous fashion house's future with Spanish fragrance and fashion group Puig, which has a majority stake.

Gaultier's last show, which will be held on Saturday, is one of over 90 scheduled for the next week-and-a-half.

After New York, London and Milan, other highlights will be first collections by Georgia's David Koma for Mugler and France's Julie de Libran for Sonia Rykiel.

 

 

 

 

 

Gucci took an audience sprinkled with fashion royalty on a mind-expanding trip back to the early 1970s on Wednesday as the global style powerhouse unveiled its 2015 spring/summer womenswear collection.

Skirts were cut above the knee, or shorter: always an encouraging sign if you believe the old maxim about global stock markets tending to rise in tandem with hemlines.

Prints had a slight psychedelic edge to them and there was a bit of a nautical/pirate theme running through a set that included plenty of embroidery and gilt-edged, oversized buttons on short-cut jackets featuring a range of exotic materials including python and Mongolian lamb.

There was also a range of three-quarter length, flared trousers and tight-waisted trench coats in an eclectic mix the company itself dubbed "kaleidoscopic glamour".

Gucci's creative director Frida Giannini has long been a fan of the hippy era and she gave full vent to that particular enthusiasm, to the apparent approval of a front-row featuring Kate Moss, US Vogue editor Anna Wintour and glamorous Monaco royal Charlotte Casiraghi.

Casiraghi, who is a top-level showjumper, has long been an ambassador for the company's equestrian line of clothing and she has now become the face of its cosmetics collection, which was making its catwalk debut here.

Elsewhere, there was much interest in the collection presented by Angelos Bratis, the latest young designer to be taken under the fatherly wing of Giorgio Armani.

The 36-year-old Greek's mastery of dresswear is seen by some to be sufficiently impressive for him to be considered a potential successor to the 80-year-old Armani, should the dean of Italian fashion decide to hand over the creative leadership of his global style empire.

Anxious to make the most of the additional interest generated by Armani's sponsorship, Bratis restricted his show to a small selection of sensual evening dresses in featherweight textiles including crepe de Chine and silk twill.

Many of them featured bold geometric patterns and vivid splashes of colour, offsetting the generally understated palate of the materials.