Donatello among the Blackshirts: History and Modernity in the Visual Culture of Fascist Italy
Spencer, Richard Bertrand, The Virginia Quarterly Review
Donatello Among the Blackshirts: History and Modernity in the Visual Culture of Fascist Italy, edited by Claudia Lazzaro and Roger J. Crum. Cornell, February 2005. $24.95
What was Fascism's relationship to aesthetics? In many ways, this should be one of the first questions asked in coming to terms with Fascist politics. second only to the regime's complicity in the instigation of the second World War, it is the Fascist aesthetic and obsession with aesthetics-whether in the form of national symbolism, extreme cultural chauvinism, and the mass rally-that continues to haunt the modern imagination. And yet, until recently studies that have sought to take Fascist aesthetics seriously have been conspicuously absent. Donatello Among the Blackshirts is thus a welcome and valuable book, if only to lay the foundation for future, more probing studies.
The collection is comprised of fourteen essays by scholars in a variety of fields. Even though the Fascists' support of Modernist art, public architecture, and film is covered, the editors-both of whom are art historians of the Renaissance-focus squarely on the Fascists' invocation of the Italian past. The chapter headings reflect this orientation: "Antiquity," Middle Ages and Renaissance," ". . . The Exhibition." Italy had, of course, already been fashioned as a living museum over the previous hundred years by the American, German, and British tourist-pilgrims. …