Jason Charming the Dragon (1665 - 1670) - Salvator Rosa
Posts tagged italy.
May 6, 1895: Rudolph Valentino is born.
Born in Italy, Rudolph Valentino was one of the most popular actors of the last years of the silent movie era - his most notable films, including The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, The Sheik, Blood and Sand, The Eagle, and The Son of the Sheik, were released between 1921 and 1926, the year of his death. Unlike swaggering swashbucklers like Douglas Fairbanks and masculine leading men like John Gilbert, Valentino was loved and criticized for his “femininity” and his un-American, exotic looks, which caused him to be typecast in roles like that of the titular character in The Sheik. One editorial in the Chicago Tribune was scathing in its criticism of Valentino and his destructive (in the opinion of the editorial’s author) attack on American masculinity:
A powder vending machine! In a men’s washroom! Homo Americanus! Why didn’t someone quietly drown Rudolph Guglielmo [sic], alias Valentino, years ago?… Do women like the type of “man” who pats pink powder on his face in a public washroom and arranges his coiffure in a public elevator?
Valentino’s popularity as a romantic lead and sex symbol was unrivaled at the time (and few from that era have left legacies as enduring), and when he died of pleuritis at the early age of thirty-one, it was reported that several of his fans had attempted suicide and that riots had broken out at his funeral. His untimely death only further cemented his status as a cultural icon.
April 27, 1945: Benito Mussolini is captured.
On this day in 1945, Italy’s former father of fascism, who had adopted the title Il Duce and a dictatorship over his country from the late 1920s until 1943, was captured by Italian communist partisans, along with his mistress Clara Petacci.
In mid-1943, Mussolini was ousted by the Grand Council of Fascism during the eventually successful Allied invasion of Sicily, but he remained in power through the intervention of his German allies, who rescued him and set up under his name a new puppet regime headquartered in Salò, in northern Italy. By this time, Mussolini, his health in a poor state and his characteristic confidence blighted by constant failure, was no longer the bombastic leader who had once marched on Rome, by his own admittance - in an early 1945 interview, he said most uncharacteristically:
I have no fight left in me. I work and I try, yet know that all is but a farce … I await the end of the tragedy and – strangely detached from everything – I do not feel any more an actor. I feel I am the last of spectators.
Allied forces liberated Rome in July 1944, while partisan resistance fought Axis forces from within the country. Amidst this fighting and German retreat, Mussolini, his mistress, and officials of his puppet government made an escape attempt to Switzerland, and then to Spain, but were stopped by communist partisans and then executed the next day in a village in northern Italy. Their bodies were brought to Milan and dumped in the Piazzale Loreto, where civilians hung them upside down on meathooks - and stoned them, shot at them, and spat on them.
Other links: mutilated corpses of Mussolini and Petacci (graphic)
Medusa burgonet, Italy, 1543 (Filippo Negroli)
September 29, 1571: Caravaggio is born.
There was art before him and art after him, and they were not the same.
September 13, 1501: Michelangelo begins work on David.
Michelangelo was commissioned in August of 1501 by the Operai of the Florence Cathedral to complete his great masterpiece. Several artists, including Agostino de Duccio and Antonio Rossellini, had worked on the large marble block (for entirely different projects, in fact) before it came into Michelanelo’s possession. It took him a little over two years to complete his sculpture, whereupon there was some debate as to where it should be placed. A small portion of the Florentine believed that David should be placed outside the cathedral - either on it or near it, but it was finally settled that the sculpture would be placed near the entrance of the town hall of Florence, the Palazzo Vecchio; it stayed there until 1873, when it was moved to the Academia Gallery, its current home.
David was not an uncommon subject of Italian Renaissance sculptors - Donatello created two, one in the early 1400s, and another in the 1440s, and Verrochio sculpted his own in the 1470s. Neither, however, ever achieved the level of recognition Michelangelo’s version now enjoys. Michelangelo’s version, perhaps departing from the mainstream portrayal, depicts David as an apprehensive youth, probably moments before his confrontation with Goliath; Michelangelo’s David also impresses on account of its sheer size alone - Donatello’s sculpture was life-size, but Michelangelo’s measured over five meters tall (around 17 feet) and weighed six tons.