16 Jun 2022

Work and Freedom

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Where and when







Museo Novecento

Free admission subject to availability


Sergio Risaliti

Giovanni Bonaiuti

Professor of History of political doctrines

Giovanni Mari

Full Professor of History of Philosophy

Stefano Musso

Associate Professor with full qualification in Contemporary History

Giulia Zazzera

Associate Professor in Contemporary History

Roberto Ciccarelli

Philosopher and journalist

Cristina Morini

Journalist, essayist, independent researcher

Annalisa Tonarelli

Researcher in Economic and Labor Sociology

Free admission

On the occasion of the exhibition of the Il Quarto Stato di Pellizza da Volpedo in Palazzo Vecchio, one of the most famous pictorial works created between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, exceptionally on loan from the Museo del Novecento in Milan and exhibited in the Salone dei Cinquecento until 30 June 2022, the Museo Novecento is pleased to present Work and Freedom, a series of meetings around the masterpiece of Pellizza da Volpedo, with the patronage of the DSPS – Department of Political and Social Sciences of the University of Florence.

The double appointment, scheduled for 16 and 23 June at the Cinema Hall of the Museo Novecento, will host a round table introduced by the Director Sergio Risaliti and mediated by Professor Gianluca Bonaiuti. The protagonists of the meetings will be university professors and scholars who with their research contribute to fueling the debate on the issues of work, society and art in the panorama of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

The first meeting, scheduled for June 16 at 5:00pm, includes a round table that will have as protagonists Giovanni Mari, philosopher, former professor of History of Philosophy at the University of Florence; Stefano Musso, historian of the University of Turin; Gilda Zazzara, historian of the Ca ‘Foscari University of Venice.
The second meeting, scheduled for June 23 at 5:00pm and also introduced by the Director Sergio Risaliti and in the presence of Gianluca Bonaiuti, will see guests Roberto Ciccarelli, philosopher and journalist; Cristina Morini, journalist, essayist and independent researcher; Annalisa Tonarelli, sociologist at the University of Florence.

The meetings aim to deepen from the historical, philosophical and social point of view the weight of the message of art in relation to the themes of work and workers’ rights, starting from the monumental work currently housed in Palazzo Vecchio, Il Quarto Stato by Pellizza da Volpedo. The thought expressed by Max Nordau during the famous conference on the social function of art, which inspired Pellizza for the creation of the work, held in Turin in December 1896, that is, that “Art should persuade the people that it is better to be people what else. Better to be workers and forerunners of progress than rich and backward “becomes the foundation for this cycle of meetings as well.

In the deployment of this ‘crowd’ of workers an unprecedented self-awareness is highlighted, which translates into a determination that, in the painter’s intentions, wants to become class awareness,” says Gianluca Bonaiuti. The work adds a declared desire to build an image that knows how to animate the awareness and conscience of those who, as workers, history has so far condemned to a position of supporting actors and victims, if not of invisible servants.

Starting from the work itself, which presents itself as a diagnosis of a condition and as an instance of emancipation for the subjects represented, we arrive at a more general approach to the figure of the worker, the role of work and their development over the years. Work as an essential and meta-historical element of human identity, at the time of Pellizza, also thanks to the development of ideological-political currents oriented to the purpose and to demands of claims often suppressed with bloody means, passes from indicating a servile condition, devoted to submission to the imperatives of nature and to the command of the masters, on a condition that implies in itself a promise of liberation. The worker should be able to observe the improved image of his role and understand, at the same time, the role he can play in universal history as the protagonist of a progress that awaits him alone. Up to questioning about work today, which elements, in terms of alienation or self-creation, determine it. And finally: which figures would make up that deployed mass today? Is it legitimate to imagine an analogous alignment in view of an emancipation that is intended to be collective and not individual? What aesthetic, as well as political resources could those who wish to repeat the gesture draw on? These and others are the questions that will feed the meetings scheduled at the Museo Novecento.

Discover the exhibition

Event Area

Jacopo Manara


Costanza Savelloni


Giulia Spissu