9 Dec 2015

Margherita Sarfatti. The queen of art in fascist Italy

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Where and when

9December 2015



Museo Novecento

Free admission subject to availability

Wednesday 9 December at 5.30 pm, for Pagine d’arte the art historian Rachele Ferrario will present her latest bookMargherita Sarfatti. La regina dell’arte nell’Italia fascista

Introduced by Mayor Dario Nardella and Valentina Gensini
The author will be interviewed by the journalist of Corriere della Sera Aldo Cazzullo and the art historian and critic Marco Fagioli.

The fate of Margherita Sarfatti, journalist, writer and the first female art critic in Europe, is strange. He founded the group of the twentieth century, he designed and set up exhibitions at home and abroad, he attended the avant-garde intellectuals of his time, for over twenty years has deeply influenced Italian culture and art. Yet, for a sort of damnatio memoriae, most of the audience knows her only as the «lover of the duce». His figure has long remained «flattened» on that of Mussolini. In reality he played a leading role, especially in the artistic field, but also in politics and in forging the ideology of fascism.

Cultured, elegant, refined, Margherita was born in Venice in 1880 from a rich Jewish family, the Grassini. From a young age he frequented Antonio Fogazzaro and Guglielmo Marconi, he met Queen Elena and Patriarch Sarto, future Pope Pius X. His salon in Milan, a true laboratory of the artistic thought of the time, was frequented by futurists such as Marinetti and Carrà, Russolo and Boccioni – with whom he weaves a love story -, the painters of the twentieth century (Sironi, Funi, Bucci), writers and poets such as d’Annunzio and Ada Negri, and a shabby but ambitious young man named Benito Mussolini. Passion soon burst between the two, but there was also a profitable partnership in which each of them used the other. The Duce uses the lucid intelligence, the unscrupulousness, the international presence and the world of art of Margherita; she, also thanks to her relationship with the most powerful man in Italy, manages to establish herself on the cultural scene and complete her project: an artistic avant-garde in line with the Italian classical tradition. Forced to emigrate in the imminence of racial laws, she returned home only after the fall of fascism, but remained relegated to the margins of history. 

Today the book by Rachele Ferrario, thanks to a capillary documentary research and unpublished correspondence, gives us the temperament of a free woman, able to face with courage even the extreme pain of the death of his seventeen-year-old son Roberto, Volunteered for World War I against the will of his parents. A woman who lives ahead of her time and does not like to be told no. Not even by the Duce, to whom she writes, claiming her independence: Have you taken me, have you conquered me, have you made yourself loved today? Yes? All the better, tomorrow we must start over … I am new; I am born every morning. What I did yesterday is not the determining reason for what I will do tomorrow…».

Rachele Ferrario

art historian and critic, teaches Phenomenology of Arts at the Brera Academy and History of Artistic Techniques at the IULM. Curates art archives and exhibitions. Collaborates with the Corriere della Sera. In 1998 he discovered a nucleus of 45 unpublished works by Paresce, of which he curated anthological exhibitions, directed the Archive, published the biography (The writer who painted the atom. Life of René Paresce from Palermo to Paris, Sellerio, 2005) and the general catalogue (Skira, 2012). She is the author of Giulio Paolini. Un viaggio a distanza (Nomos Editore, 2009) and, for Mondadori, Regina di quadri (2010), the first biography of Palma Bucarelli, and Le signore dell’arte (2012), portraits of Carol Rama, Carla Accardi, Giosetta Fioroni and Marisa Merz.

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