Academic journal article The Modern Language Review

D'Annunzio and Alma-Tadema: Between Pre-Raphaelitism and Aestheticism

Academic journal article The Modern Language Review

D'Annunzio and Alma-Tadema: Between Pre-Raphaelitism and Aestheticism

Article excerpt

In any consideration of the diffusion of Pre-Raphaelitism in nineteenth-century Italian art, Gabriele D'Annunzio (1863-1938) stands out as a central figure. D'Annunzio went through a distinct Pre-Raphaelite phase in the 1880s and gave a decisive impulse to the spread of Pre-Raphaelitism in Italy: his Pre-Raphaelite imagery influenced the young artists who illustrated his collection of poems, Isaotta Guttadauro, in 1885, and induced them to adopt a style which both derived from and reacted to D'Annunzio's; he introduced the Italian painter Giulio Aristide Sartorio to the works of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and he favoured the diffusion of a Pre-Raphaelitism fashionable in Rome during the 1880s and 1890s. This Italian interest in English art and culture was part of the general fin de siecle love of things English that characterized European Decadent culture, particularly in France where there was a pronounced increase in Anglomania in the early 1880s. (1) The 1878 Exposition Universelle in Paris was significant in this respect: Edward Burne-Jones exhibited there for the first time, and the phenomenon of later Pre-Raphaelitism, as opposed to the original Pre-Raphaelite art of mid-century, influenced the direction of fashionable interest in English art. Burne-Jones was a crucial link with the past, being associated with the original Pre-Raphaelites and also exercising influence on a large portion of younger artists. His Pre-Raphaelitism was interwoven with the Aesthetic Movement and the resurgence of neoclassicism, whose most important exponents were George Frederic Watts, Sir Edward Poynter, Lord Leighton and Lawrence Alma-Tadema. (2) By the 1880s, Pre-Raphaelitism had become separated from the original Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood of 1848 and was closely aligned both with the Aesthetic movement and with Symbolism. (3) The eclectic nature of later Pre-Raphaelitism, which could embrace artists such as Alma-Tadema, who do not nowadays figure in accounts of Pre-Raphaelitism, could thus function as a catalyst for Aestheticism, Symbolism and a reborn neoclassicism. This broader notion of Pre-Raphaelitism and D'Annunzio's role in its diffusion is the subject of the following analysis.

In particular, I discuss the visual influence of Alma-Tadema, mostly in terms of his depiction of feminine beauty and the way in which this was adopted by D'Annunzio. The article deals primarily with the journalistic pieces, since most of the Italian author's references to Alma-Tadema are found in those. Others' analyses of D'Annunzio's relationship with the arts deal mainly with fiction and poetry, leaving a gap in the analysis of the journalistic and critical work. (4) As I shall argue, Alma-Tadema's paintings had a real impact on the young D'Annunzio, stimulating his interest in English art, and Pre-Raphaelitism in particular. Above all, they provided him with a feminine type that he was later to develop, under the combined influence of D. G. Rossetti, into his own feminine icon.

From a literary point of view, it is common to indicate a Pre-Raphaelite phase in D'Annunzio's production, coinciding with his poetic collections Intermezzo di rime (1883), Isaotta Guttadauro (1886) and Isotteo (1889). This last included Isaotta Guttadauro, with a few alterations mainly concerning the order of the poems, and La chimera. (5) D'Annunzio's poetic Pre-Raphaelitism is evident in the medieval mood of the poems, the chivalric subjects, versification, and stylistic models, namely the early Italian poets and those of the Quattrocento. D'Annunzio explicitly admits that at the time he underwent a medievalizing and Pre-Raphaelite phase, as he told his French translator: 'io guardavo la vita con gli occhi d'un "quattrocentista" [...] con gli occhi d'un discepolo di Fra Filippo.' (6) His friend, the literary critic Enrico Nencioni, also pointed out D'Annunzio's medievalism, saying that Isaotta Guttadauro exuded 'una simpatia intuitiva della poesia romanzesca e cavalleresca. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.