Unknown Author

Nude female figure

Modern Art, 20th Century, Private Collection
10 x 10 x 10 cm3.9 x 3.9 x 3.9 in

The forms of this female figure, accentuated by the abstract quality of the pure marble, provide a valid example of how Classicism was understood by artists during the twenty years of Fascist rule: it was not just a question of mimicking the classical style, nor did it just entail taking one's inspiration from models of perfection. What was at stake here was the rediscovery of national roots, through models reminiscent of the Roman Empire, which were used by the regime to bolster its nationalist rhetoric, while also allowing artists to develop their own aesthetic vision. This bust quite clearly enhances what are more traditionally female elements such as the breasts and the belly, but the body is also young, proud, dynamic, almost brazen. Even the ideal of woman during the Fascist period was extremely contradictory. On the one hand women were put in charge of youth organisations and thus took on a very innovative role for the times, if one considers that women were mainly required to look after the home. They were also involved in sporting activities, outside the home, and therefore beyond the control of their family and parents. During the Fascist period women were always subordinate to men and had to practice obedience, but in many novels for a young readership women were praised for their heroic gestures which did not comply with the image promoted by the regime. Women were viewed as "brood mares" dedicated to increasing the Italian population, and were expected to suffer in silence and labour unceasingly for the family and the nation, but the "patriotic" woman was also feisty, modern and ready for public office. Even Mussolini, a notorious misogynist, still encouraged his daughter Edda to develop an independent character and in the family she was known as "Sandokan", the exotic hero of Salgari's novels.

So one should not be so surprised by the feeling of modernity that exudes from this bust. It is a woman's...

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