Arte Liberata. 1937 - 1947. Capolavori Salvati dalla Guerra. Rome, Scuderie del Quirinale.
In a time when “Getting out of the Comfort Zone” is so fashionable, art and its universe give us a new lesson. In this case we are talking about the exhibition held at Le Scuderie del Quirinale in Rome until April 10, titled Arte Liberata, 1937 – 1947. Capolavori saved from the war.
The exhibition curated by Luigi Galio and Raffaella Marselli in collaboration with the National Gallery of Marche, l’Istituto Centrale per il Catalogo e la Documentazione and l’Archivio Luce Cinecittà makes available to the general public a selection of works from the Capolavori italiani saved during the Second World War, in addition to a rich documentary, photographic and audiovisual apparatus contemporary to the events that are exposed.
According to the organization, the exhibition is presented as a tribute to the women and men who, in the dramatic contingency of beauty, have interpreted their profession in the common interest, aware of the universality of the heritage to be saved.
At Arte Liberata se cumple el proverbio de que reality surpasses fiction, the enormous amount of Old Masters saved by professionals from the Art world who worked tirelessly to protect thousands of Italian Heritage Assets at risk of being bombed, deliberately destroyed by German troops and plundered by Adolf Hitler, Herman Göring and their henchmen.
It is a tribute to the Resistenza dell’Arte, fought from knowledge, preparation, study, intellectual passion and tenacity at the time of preparing all the material for the protection and transfer of the works, as well as the physical and moral strength to withstand the stress suffered.
It was those resisters who saved jewels like The Tempest by Giorgione (currently at the Galleria dell’Accademia di Venezia), the Caravaggio of the Church of St. Louis of the French in Rome or Mantegna’s dead Christ (currently at Brera in Milan).
Arte Liberata, 1937 – 1947. Capolavori saved from the waris the testimony of the journey lived by those who risked their careers and their lives for the salvage of the Italian artistic heritage: an anomalous eroism, an anti-eroism for the absolute normality of the lives of those protagonists, of their lifestyle, of their work, even when they have to take courageous and extremely risky decisions.
As if it were a dystopian reality, already in the first room, the viewer finds a photographic testimony of great impact: Adolf Hitler contemplating the Discobolo Lancelloti. With this removal, Hitler emulated Napoleon’s actions in 1798 when he plundered the work through the Treaty of Tolentino.
The sacrilege continues with the image of the dictator along with Göring and the bronze fawn of Herculaneum, stolen from the archaeological museum of Naples, looted and placed in the gardens of his villa called Carinhall, about fifty kilometers from Berlin, reducing it to a simple ornament.
The desecration was repeated with examples such as Danae of Tiziano (preserved in the National Museum of Capodimonte di Napoli) which, in 1944 was found in Göring’s own bedroom, in addition to many other examples from Capodimonte, Herculaneum, Pompeii or Spoleto, selected to enrich the personal collection of Hitler’s Marshal.
Göring’s megalomania had the support of the Florentine antiquarian Eugenio Ventura, with whom he exchanged works by Renoir, Manet, Van Gogh and Cezanne among other impressionist masters, stolen from the Reichsleiter Rosenberg Command of occupied France, for sixteen Italian works of great value. artistic, historical and economic such as, for example, two trunks painted by the Quattrocento master, Giovanni di Ser Giovanni, called Lo Scheggia (like the one preserved in the Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze).
Art historians, conservators and restorers worked in unison to prevent the macro project of the Führermuseum in Linz from being enriched with Italian Heritage. The obsession with this work, which should have been inaugurated in 1950, accompanied Hitler until the last days of his life, stating in his private will dated April 29, 1945, that he donated it to the German people.
Professionals such as Giulio Carlo Argan, Pasquale Rotondi, Bruno Molajoli, Emilio Lavagnino, Palma Bucarello, Fernanda Wittgens or Aldo Rinaldis, are just some of the names of the many people who played a decisive role in this whole heritage salvage effort.
The chronicles show how surprised the society of the time was by the atmosphere of great cordiality and willingness to collaborate that was evident when Argan (mayor of Rome for the Italian Communist Party) attended, the month of November 1943, on an official visit to the Vatican to meet with the future Cardinal Montini. Only until the month of In July 1944, 900 boxes full of works of art arrived at the Vatican for conservation and protection. Mostly coming from Rome, but also from the rest of Italy: from Santa Maria del Popolo, San Luigi dei Francesi, the Aldobrandini and Chigi collection in Rome, to the Brera Academy in Milan and the Accademia Gallery in Venice.
It was Pasquale Rotondi, disciple of Adolfo Venturi and Pietro Toesca, and superintendent of the Galleria de las Marcas, who monitored and saved approximately ten thousand works of art, and as reflected in his diary on September 18, 1939, mi sono incontrato con Argan al Ministero. Egli has informed me that the General Directorate has decided to establish in Urbino […] a great wealth of works of art collected from every part of the national territory.
Rotondi developed strategies of great cunning and intelligence. One of the funniest happened at his Tortorina estate, where he kept in his bedroom pieces that had arrived from the Galleria dell’Accademia in Venezia, such as The Tempest by Giorgione or Saint George by Mantegna. Knowing that I Tedeschi were at the doors of his house to examine what works had arrived to take to Germany, Rotondi counted on the complicity of his wife. At the risk of her life, she locked herself in her room, pretending to be ill, to avoid the entrance of the inspection and control troops to the chamber where the most valuable specimens had been deposited.
Following in Rotondi’s footsteps, Bruno Molajoli, in Campania, managed the salvage of more than 5,900 works, including the Ecstasy of St. Cecilia of Cavallino and the figure of Hermes resting, from Pompeii.
His testimony is clear Pur di sottrarre al sempre maggior pericolo quante più opere d’arte[—]; to give just one example, how we have to transport to Liveri, on a truck, the ten large TVs of Mattia Preti, taken from the church of St. Peter in Majella and now restored. Pietro a Majella and now restored: the exceptional height of the vertical carriage, while provoking continuous sbandamenti and the difficulty of seeing the excessively slender carriage with its precious carriage, above all, it found its place in the branches of the houses that stretched along the road, so much to build long distances to cross them and, perhaps, to receive them, in order to free the passage. [—].
The exhibition continues with Emilio Lavagnino, Rotondi’s collaborator in organizing the transport of the works to the Vatican City. In his work he made more than eighteen trips to and from Rome, searching for fuel on the black market in order to fuel the van with which he made his salvage expeditions. During his percorso to recover the works scattered in museums and churches throughout Lazio, he gave clear instructions to the parish priests and administration staff on how to save the works in the various buildings at risk of collapse or spoliation.
Lavagnino worked with Palma Bucarelli, inspector of the Borghese Gallery who, at the age of twenty-three, was the driving force behind the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna. Following Lavagnino’s convoys leaving for Rome, Bucarelli drove a Fiat Topolino van at night to Caprarola to retrieve the works from the Galleria d’Arte Moderna deposited in the Palazzo Farnese. Thanks to his determination, among many other works, the paintings of the Laughing Girl or the Portrait of Henri Rouart by Medardo Rosso (now in the Galleria d’Arte Moderna di Milano) were saved.
In his diaries, he left the following testimony: First as “friends” and then as “allies”, the tedeschi were not able to hide their cupidiglia, and under the protection of diplomatic immunity, under the protection of diplomatic immunity, at the expense of our export offices or by means of discreet interventions that annulled the dividends, many works of art were already on their way, during the last years, to constitute the Museum of Linz, Hitler’s homeland, and to close the private gallery of Göring.
Bucarelli’s strength was also reflected in Jole Bovi Marconi, archaeologist, director of the Museo Nazionale di Palermo and Superintendent of Palermo and Trapani. With a great sense of state, he managed to transport the april 3, 1943, from the Museo Nazionale towards the Abbey of San Martino delle Scale, the metopes of Selinunte, the Roman mosaics of Palermo and the friezes with the gutters figured with lion heads from the Temple of Victory in Himera. Only two days later, an Allied bombardment damaged part of the museum, but Marconi remained at his post, preventing the looting of the works and their total loss, and arranged for their transfer to the museum so that they could be intervened and made safe.
Between 1939 and 1943, always in collaboration with The Monuments Men, he organized the transport from Palermo of 220 crates containing numerous goods and 135 cages with paintings.
Lombardy did not present a better situation. In the city of Milan, Fernanda Wittgens coordinated the shipments of works from the Pinacoteca di Brera to central Italy. In 1944 she was arrested for her relationship with the Hebrew cultural world. Thanks to their perseverance, they were able to securely store the Dead Christ, the Madonna of the Cherubs and the polyptych of St. Luke by Mantegna, the betrothal of the Virgin by Raffaello, Jesus tied to the column by Bramante (in the Brera di Milano), or the supper at Emmaus’ house by Caravaggio among many others.
In Genoa and Liguria, Antonio Morassi and Orlando Grosso managed to salvage 1,071 boxes full of treasures in a total of 295 voyages.
For the bibliographic heritage, the operation was coordinated by Luigi de Gregori, who saved nearly half a million volumes. Among the looted assets, there were approximately twenty thousand volumes that were property of the Hebrew community and the Collegio rabbinico di Roma, who saw their assets disappear between the months of October and December 1943, while the deportations of the Jews were carried out. Death camps.
Of the boxes that were plundered from the warehouses in Rome, the trace was lost, but as it appears on one of the panels of the exhibition, the Roman Jewish Community has never lost hope of bringing it back, maintaining continuous contacts with the European Jewish Communities, including the area of the former Soviet Union, therefore also Ukraine itself and the Russian Federation.
As a In the midst of this terrible process for Europe and half of the Western world, a rara avis appeared. Aldo Rinaldis, superintendent of the Galleries of Medieval and Modern Art of Lazio, who in 1943 managed to come into contact with the German colonel and secret agent Eugen Dollmann (interpreter and translator between Hitler and Mussolini)considered a liaison point between the Nazi occupiers, the Fascist hierarchs and the Capitoline Black Nobility. Under cover of the Nazi troops, he organized a nighttime transport of twenty boxes from the Borghese Gallery to the Rocca di Carpegna, by making German vehicles and means available.
The exhibition concludes with the section on heritage restitution, the role of The Monuments Men, with the more than five million pieces stolen by the Nazis and the exhibition of the Collecting Point in Munich.
As a final point it should be added that Arte Liberata, 1937 – 1947. Capolavori saved from the warThe exhibition is undoubtedly an exhibition challenge, in which he develops a discourse of great intensity in an exceptional space through an exhibition project of great simplicity and effectiveness towards the spectator.
In what better way can the essence of heritage rescue be captured if not by placing the explanatory panels and holding the pieces on structures that reproduce the wooden boxes, the packaging signage, as well as the adhesive tape and the casings of the armatures that protect the parts for their transportation in more than unstable circumstances?