Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The frescoes that worried Mussolini

Also in today's blog

The Cardinal's Mistress
Down with focus groups?

Yesterday I mentioned a story, in the January 1994 issue of The World of Interiors, about Rome. It was headed Hotel Ambasciatori, followed by -
"In 1927 the newly unveiled frescoes at the Hotel Ambasciatori made it the most fashionable place in Rome. Mussolini, however, feared that his intimacy with one figure portrayed would be exposed; within months the frescoes were covered up."

The artist who painted the frescoes was Guido Cadorin from Venice, "using members of the city's high-life as his subjects, dressing them up and showing them on the terrace of a grand villa as if at a ritzy party. Although the traditional composition is reminiscent of Veronese's famous frescoes at Villa Maser in the Veneto, the style is straight out of the roaring Twenties: women with bobbed hairstyles smoke cigarettes on long art-deco holders or flirt with men in dinner jackets. They might have walked out of a Scott Fitzgerald novel."

Today Cadorin's frescoes can be seen in Rome's Palace Hotel.










The person responsible for the finished frescoes being hidden was
Margherita Sarfatti, an art critic and Mussolini's mistress. She insisted on being included in the frescoes.

"Cadorin was flattered and irritated in equal measure," the writer of the story, Marella Caracciolo, tells us. "He could not forget that Mrs Sarfatti had always snubbed his art…Her wish, however, was an order he had to submit to."

It wasn't until after the war that Cadorin's frescoes were uncovered. "But by then the artist's moment had passed; he was now a disillusioned middle-aged professor at the Fine Arts Academy of Venice."

I wish I had remembered The World of Interiors story about Cardorin when I was in Venice with a painting group a few years ago . There was an exhibition of his work at the recent Biennale.

The Cardinal's Mistress


Did you know that Mussolini wrote a novel called The Cardinal's Mistress?

I found details about it in the Memorial Library at the University of Wisconsin. It was translated by Hiram Motherwell and published by Albert & Charles Boni, New York, in 1928.

"Mussolini wrote this historical novel, set in sixteenth-century Trent, in 1909 when he was secretary of the Socialist trade union in that northern city, still part of the Austrian Empire. It was one of only two forays by Mussolini into the writing of fiction; the other was a short story written at about the same time, a morbid tale of suicide and betrayal."

"Born and raised in a family of modest means, his father a blacksmith, Mussolini received little formal schooling. A tattered Italian translation of Victor Hugo's Les Misérables mysteriously appeared in Mussolini's village when he was twelve years old and is credited as being a profound influence in his young life. Its mark is reflected in The Cardinal's Mistress."

Down with focus groups?


Re Min Hogg's dislike to focus groups [see yesterday's blog], there's an interesting piece about them here.

Extract: "Graphic designer Chip Kidd was horrified by a news story last year that revealed that not only were focus groups involved in the design process, but that after "two years ... and more than 50 hours of focus group feedback", the publishers got it so horribly wrong."

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