20 November 2023

20 November

Emilio Pucci – fashion designer

The heroic, sporting, creative genius behind the Pucci label

Don Emilio Pucci, Marchese di Barsento, who became a top fashion designer and politician, was born on this day in 1914 in Florence.  Pucci was born into one of the oldest families in Florence and lived and worked in the Pucci Palace in Florence for most of his life. His fashion creations were worn by such famous women as Marilyn Monroe, Sophia Loren and Jackie Kennedy.  A keen sportsman who swam, skied, fenced, played tennis and raced cars, Pucci was part of the Italian team at the 1932 Winter Olympics in New York, although he did not compete.  He studied at the University of Milan, the University of Georgia, and Reed College in Oregon, where he designed the clothes for the college skiing team.  Pucci was awarded an MA in social science from Reed, where he was known to be a staunch defender of the Fascist regime in Italy. He was also awarded a doctorate in political science from the University of Florence.  It was his success as a fashion designer that would in time make his name but before that came some wartime experiences that were extraordinary to say the least.  In 1938 Pucci joined the Italian air force and served as a torpedo bomber, rising to the rank of captain and being decorated for valour.  Read more…


Giorgio de Chirico – artist

Founder of the scuola metafisica movement

The artist Giorgio de Chirico, who founded the scuola metafisica (metaphysical school) of Italian art that was a profound influence on the country’s Surrealist movement in the early 20th century, died on this day in 1978 in Rome.  Although De Chirico, who was 90 when he passed away, was active for almost 70 years, it is for the paintings of the first decade of his career, between about 1909 and 1919, that he is best remembered.  It was during this period, his metaphysical phase, that he sought to use his art to express what might be called philosophical musings on the nature of reality, taking familiar scenes, such as town squares, and creating images that might appear in a dream, in which pieces of classical architecture would perhaps be juxtaposed with everyday objects in exaggerated form, the scene moodily atmospheric, with areas of dark shadow and bright light, and maybe a solitary figure.  These works were much admired and enormously influential.  During military service in the First World War he met Carlo CarrĂ , who would become a leading light in the Futurist movement, and together they formed the pittura metafisica (metaphysical painting) movement.  Read more…


Queen Margherita of Savoy

Princess and fashion icon who became Queen of Italy

Margherita Maria Teresa Giovanna of Savoy was born on this day in 1851 in Turin.  The little girl, who was to later become the Queen consort of Italy, was the daughter of Prince Ferdinand Duke of Genoa and Princess Elisabeth of Saxony. She was educated to a high standard and renowned as a charming person with a lively curiosity to learn. A tall, stately blonde, she was not considered a beauty but nonetheless had many admirers.  Having first been suggested to marry Prince Charles of Romania, she instead married her first cousin Umberto, Prince of Piedmont, in April 1868 when she was just 16. The following year she gave birth to Victor Emmanuel, Prince of Naples, who later became King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy. He was to be their only child.  Margherita was crowned Queen of Italy in Naples when Umberto succeeded his father to the throne in January 1878 and she was warmly welcomed by the Neapolitan people.  It was not a particularly good marriage for Margherita. Umberto maintained an affair with a long-term lover, Eugenia Attendolo Bolognini. Read more…


Diocletian - Roman emperor

Restored stability but launched cruel purge

A Roman cavalry commander who went under the name of Diocles was proclaimed Emperor on this day in 284.  He was given the full name Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus Augustus according to official inscriptions. He ruled as Diocletian.  He was sole emperor, albeit initially with a disputed claim to power, until 286, joint-emperor until 293, and co-emperor in a tetrarchy until 305.  Born at Salona, a coastal town in Dalmatia (now Solin in Croatia) into a family of humble status in 244, Diocletian rose to power through his military background.  After climbing through the ranks, he became cavalry commander to the Emperor Carus. After the death of Carus in 283, while on a campaign in Persia, power passed to his two sons, Numerian and Carinus.  When Numerian was allegedly murdered by his Praetorian Prefect, Arrius Aper, in 284, Diocletian was proclaimed as emperor by Numerian’s troops. He took it upon himself to avenge the death of Numerian by killing Aper with his own hands.  At the start, however, Diocletian’s power was restricted to the areas controlled by his army, thought to be Asia Minor and Syria. The remainder of the empire was loyal to Carinus.  Read more…


Giampiero Combi - goalkeeper

Juventus stalwart who captained Italy’s 1934 World Cup winners

The footballer Giampiero Combi, who is considered to be one of the best Italian goalkeepers of all time, was born on November 20, 1902 in Turin.  Combi, who spent his entire career with his home-town club Juventus, was Italy’s captain at the 1934 World Cup, which Italy hosted and won, the team coached by Vittorio Pozzo and inspired by the revered Inter Milan striker Giuseppe Meazza defeating Czechoslovakia after extra time in the final of the 16-team tournament.  The achievement in front of excited Italian supporters in Rome capped a marvellous career for Combi, although it came about only by chance.  He had announced that he would retire at the end of the 1933-34 domestic season at the age of 31, having made 40 appearances for the azzurri. But Pozzo had persuaded him to be part of his squad to provide experienced cover for the emerging young Inter star Carlo Ceresoli.  In the event, Ceresoli suffered a broken arm in training a few weeks before the tournament and Combi found himself as the number one. He performed immaculately throughout, conceding only three goals in 510 minutes of football.  Read more…


Book of the Day: Giorgio de Chirico: Life and Paintings, by Fabio Benzi

Giorgio de Chirico was one of the most controversial and consequential artists of the twentieth century a key member of the Paris avant-garde, he was a major influence on other artists, especially the nascent surrealists. His repertoire of motifs - empty arcades, elongated shadows, mannequins, trains - created images of forlorn emptiness that became iconic. Artists inspired by de Chirico s early work include Yves Tanguy, Pablo Picasso, Max Ernst, Salvador Dali, and Rene Magritte. His influence also extended beyond painting and included writers and poets Guillaume Apollinaire, Andre Breton, John Ashbery, and Sylvia Plath, filmmakers Jacques Prevert and Michelangelo Antonioni, and even David Bowie, who admired de Chirico's genderless tailors dummies that inspired his music videos. After the Great War, he turned toward neoclassicism and bitterly fell out with the surrealists and the mainstream modernist movement in the process, becoming an outspoken outsider of the art world. Giorgio de Chirico: Life and Paintings offers an in-depth examination of the artist's life and work by the world's foremost De Chirico authority. Based on new archival research, it offers a fresh view of de Chirico s relationship with surrealism, fascism, forgery, and the European avant-gardes.

Fabio Benzi is considered the world s foremost expert on Giorgio de Chirico. He is a professor at the University of Chieti-Pescara and a board member of Fondazione de Chirico, and he has curated exhibitions in Rome, Venice, Milan, Moscow, Paris, Vienna, New York, Tel Aviv, Istanbul, and London.

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