Mariano Fortuny and Gabriele D’Annunzio: a friendship in Venice

Mariano Fortuny and Gabriele D'Annunzio
There are many people that Mariano Fortuny met in his life, that he influenced and whom he allowed himself to be influenced by. Surely, among all, one of the most important figures is Gabriele D’Annunzio, one of the most authoritative voices in the Italian cultural scene at the time.
The paths of the two before meeting each other already followed some similar trajectories – sometimes the same – without their knowledge. Both fascinated by the idea of an overall, total art, inspired by Wagner, the Pre-Raphaelites, Leonardo, Renaissance Eclecticism and classical Greek beauty, the two really seemed destined to meet. And so it happened in 1894 in the backdrop of a very lively Venice on an artistic and cultural level, during a trip to the lagoon in which D’Annunzio also met Eleonora Duse.

Fortuny, D’Annunzio and Venice: the perfect match

The meeting took place through Angelo Conti who, knowing both the poet and the artist, glimpsed the potential and fruitful relationship between them, not only exchanging ideas and discussing their respective works, but also collaborating. In fact, from that meeting a relationship of profound esteem was born which, although intermittent, had a weight on the life and production of both, also evidenced by the close correspondence between the two.
What united them was the sharing of a new vision of art and an aesthetic sensitivity that was spreading in Europe in those last years of the turn of the century: an ideal of contamination between music, poetry and painting.
According to this new way of thinking and making art, painting and poetry converge in harmony because just as the word is able to evoke images, colors and melodies, so painting is able to give shape to moods and symbolically describe certain atmospheres. What had already happened in part during the Renaissance, with Leonardo in the lead, and then later with Wagner, finds a new realization with Fortuny and Gabriele D’Annunzio. Mariano Fortuny follows a Wagnerian apprenticeship that will lead him to overcome the traditional stakes between the different artistic disciplines as can be seen, even today, in all his creations that blend techniques, materials, knowledge, traditions …

An idea of ​​theatre that goes beyond all limits

The relationship between the poet and the artist finds its ideal form of expression in the theater. Both Fortuny and D’Annunzio want to overcome the boundaries of realistic theater, they want to draw on myth, bringing Apollo and Dionysus back to life, comparing light and darkness. Obviously both in the opera and in the scenography. Finally their ideas seem to have found a way to be be expressed in D’Annunzio’s Francesca da Rimini for which the
poet asks Fortuny to design the scenography. But, apparently due to a misunderstanding, the artist, despite having designed everything, will not make it happen. The relationship between the two is not completely interrupted, the letters between the two continue and there is no shortage of words of appreciation for each other works. It is only after some time that another opportunity to collaborate arises, but this time too the project fades shortly
before its completion and again without too many disagreements.
It was a project for a new theater, the “Teatro delle Feste” which was to be an authentic work of classical beauty, revitalized by modern technology. A Greek theater merged with a Roman amphitheater surmounted by a large sphere above the spectators to give the impression of being outdoors and with some mirrors to play with light… once again overcoming the concept of time, past and present in which everything mixes and is favorably contaminated.
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