Imagined Baroques offers a new account of Italian post-unification visual culture through its entanglement in the Baroque. The book argues that, by reinventing Baroque forms in their artistic and architectural practices, modern Italians confronted their fears about their nation’s past and imagined future. Although ignored by most scholarship, the Baroque was repeatedly evoked in modern Italian visual culture and intellectual history. This is so because, between the fin de siècle and the end of the Second World War, the reception, influence, and disavowal of the Baroque enabled Italians to probe the fraught experience of national unification, addressing their ambivalent relationship with modernity and tradition. The Baroque afterlives in modern Italy, and its temporal and conceptual destabilisation, allowed Italians to work through a crisis of modernity and develop a visual culture that was both distinctly Italian and modern. Imagined Baroques interrogates a diverse range of media: not only paintings, sculptures, and buildings, but also magazine illustrations, postcards, commercial posters, pageants, photographs, films, and exhibitions. The Baroque functioned in post-unification Italy as a legacy of potential annihilation but also of potential consolidation, and as a critique of modernity and a celebration of an intrinsically Italian road to modernity. Unearthing the protean and contradictory legacy of the Baroque in modern Italy shows that its revivals and appropriations were not repositories of exact facts about the seventeenth century but rather clues to how visions of modernity and tradition merged to form a distinct Italian identity.
The emergence of the Baroque in the Italian fin de siècle
Laura Moure Cecchini
of this chapter.
1889: GabrieleD’Annunzio and the recasting of the Baroque as decadent
The decades after Italy's unification were marked by the growing political influence of Italian industrialists; by Italy's diplomatic rapprochement with Germany and the former occupier of the peninsula, Austria; and by a political system based on nepotism. There were significant scientific, economic, social, and cultural changes, but also a pervasive sense of cultural decline.
Chapter 1 analyses how the Fascist regime and its intellectuals represented Britain as an imperial power and international player. Unlike in the case of Nazi Germany, the tropes public discourse used to describe Britain were far less positive and that admiration, since the earlier days of the Fascist movement, was often mixed with open dislike. Anglophobia had been present, if at times dormant, since the Great War. The chapter addresses the genesis of anti-British tropes during the Great War and their evolution during the immediate post-war years, especially during the days of tense negotiations at Versailles in 1919, and of Gabriele D’Annunzio’s Fiume Free State (1920–1924). As the following period of less troubled Anglo-Italian relations between the Corfu crisis in 1923 and the Great Depression of 1929 proceeded, a more diverse (if still within the limits allowed in an authoritarian country) range of opinions concerning Britain as an international player emerged. The chapter investigates how various criteria, among which were white supremacy, anti-communism and domestic issues, influenced the Fascist perception of the British Empire during this period. The anti-British discourse in the media was not just the artificial product of government direction, but rather responded to deeply rooted prejudices and did not always abide by the regime’s changing needs. The chapter also examines the legacy of Romanità (Roman-ness), the persistent comparison of Britain with Ancient Rome’s arch- enemy, Carthage.
, notably GabrieleD’Annunzio, had far stronger claims
to distinction. Nor did the creation of Fascism provide him with a clear platform on which his personality could be paraded unchallenged: the escalation
of squadrism from the autumn of 1920 connected a political movement that,
up until then, had been largely marginal to a popular base that was developing in an essentially spontaneous fashion around local leaders whose authority rested heavily on their own claims to charisma. Men such as Italo Balbo,
Roberto Farinacci and Dino Grandi were reluctant – as the
suspect their mother and her lover, Gilardini, of having caused their
father’s arrest. Gilardini is a lawyer who became their stepfather.
There is a clear reference in the film to classical tragedy, to
Sophocles’ Electra and Aeschylus’ Libation Bearers
in addition to other literary and cultural echoes: GabrieleD’Annunzio, Marcel Proust, Giorgio Bassani, Eugene O’Neill. The
trauma of the meeting at Villa Palagione between
of GabrieleD’Annunzio’s Fiume
Free State (1920–1924).17 As the following period of less troubled Anglo-Italian
relations between the Corfu crisis in 1923 and the Great Depression of 1929 proceeded, a more diverse (if still within the limits allowed in an authoritarian country) range of opinions concerning Britain as an international player emerged.
The chapter addresses how various criteria, among which were white supremacy,
anti-Communism and domestic issues, influenced the Fascist perception of the
British Empire during this period. Understanding the
pamphlet ‘Al di là del comunismo’ (‘Beyond Communism’; 15 August 1920) he borrowed Paul Lafargue’s argument whereby machines are a means to free humankind
from the oppression of salaried labour.26 The pamphlet may have been expedited
through the press in order to predate the radical democratic Constitution of the free
State of Fiume, or Charter of Carnaro, co-authored by GabrieleD’Annunzio and the
syndicalist Alceste De Ambris, proclaimed on 8 September 1920, which addressed
comparable political and aesthetic concerns.27
Marinetti’s pamphlet provides further evidence of
Libya’s praises included journalists such as Bevione, Giuseppe
Piazza and Luigi Barzini, and the poets Giovanni Pascoli, GabrieleD’Annunzio and Filippo Tommaso Marinetti; prose authors of the
calibre of Matilde Serao and Ada Negri, also added their voice to the
Unlike Tunisia, which had a substantial Italian
population, for Italians Libya remained
been characterised by stereotypical
images, in the realist tradition, of the founding fathers of the Risorgimento
and the royal family, visible in schools and public offices throughout the
country. This traditional style and context changed dramatically in the 1920s
under various influences: the First World War and the new cult of the
fallen and the war heroes, the influence of the personality cult of GabrieleD’Annunzio,8 and Marinetti’s focus on hyper-expressive gestures which
characterised the new Futurist mode of communication. A new accent was
thus put on