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Works from Bruno Mantura collection

Tuesday 23 March 2021, 03:00 PM • Rome


Adolfo de Carolis

(Montefiore dell'Aso 1874 - Roma 1928)

"Me lumen vos umbra regit", About 1903


€ 500 - 800


€ 1.088

The price includes buyer's premium


charcoal and white lead on card
26.5 x 35.5 cm


Adriana De Carolis.


B. Mantura, Per il titolo di un dipinto di Adolfo De Carolis, "Bollettino dei musei comunali di Roma", 29, 2015, pp. 89-94.

Educated on the Pre-Raphaelite and Morrisian model, and a convinced supporter of the idea of the artist who was the dispenser of beauty, Adolfo De Carolis was a painter, engraver and illustrator with a preference for genres destined for a large fruition, from the large format (the mural decoration) to the reduced format (the illustration of the book). Moving to Rome in 1892, he joined the Costiano group In Arte Libertas and collaborated with the magazine "Il Convito", alternating landscape painting with works of historical and mythological subjects in which, from the precious pre-Raphaelite and liberty cadences of the beginning, the artist will turn, at the end of the first decade of the century, towards a heroic, classicist and monumental register.

The work is a study in connection with the painting known as Venus and Adonis (about 1903, private collection), the sketch of which is kept at the Modern Art Gallery of Roma Capitale [1]. In an article published in 2015 in the "Bulletin of Municipal Museums of Rome"  [2] Bruno Mantura, starting from the study of this sheet, questioned the title of the painting which, in fact, appears for the first time as Venus and Adonis only in the two posthumous exhibitions in which the sketch was exhibited, the one with an introduction by Angelo Conti at the Accademia di San Luca and the one organized by Michele Biancale at the Scopinich Gallery in Milan, both of 1929 [3] . The protagonist of the work is, on the left side, a draped female figure, clearly a Venus who, with her head wrapped in doves, traditional attributes of the goddess, well rendered in the design with quick strokes of white lead, advances majestically flanked by two lions and admired by a woman seated below. A male figure accompanies her, who in the oil sketch raises a cup in a sort of offering to the goddess, while behind her & nbsp; there is a procession with a winged cupid followed by other figures who, again in the work of the municipal collections, appear draped in white. On the right side, a group of five differently-behaved women withdraw as the procession passes with the exception of one, whose advanced fair is however held back by the opposite movement of the others. As pointed out by Mantura, nothing seems to lead back to the myth of Venus and Adonis, traditionally depicted with Venus trying to keep Adonis from leaving on the fatal hunt, or with the goddess in tears over the pierced body of the beloved. Furthermore, the man who lifts the cup can hardly be recognized as Adonis: based on the woodcut Eros by De Carolis, attached in 1904 to the magazine "Leonardo", which takes up the motif of the two figures on the way, it would rather seem to be identified with the mythical god of love, son of the goddess. It is therefore not excluded that in the title, given posthumously, Love was confused with Adonis. The key to the reading of the work instead appears clearly in the inscription Me lumen vos umbra regit (to me the light guides, to you the shadow), present in the drawing but absent in its oil translation. It is a recurring inscription in sundials from the Middle Ages onwards and that De Carolis must have kept in mind as it was mentioned in a passage from The virgins of the rocks by Gabriele d'Annunzio, published in installments in the magazine "Il Convito" in 1895 and then by the publisher Treves in 1896. In the novel the protagonist, the noble Claudio Cantelmo, finds himself conversing with the sensitive virgin Massimilla near a sundial: "It was a  small eminence grassy,  filled of anemones, quiet, to which some yews in the form of pyramids gave almost a cemetery aspect. In the center a caryatid, folded so that almost touched the chest and knees, supported the marble slab of a sundial. And there, as near a table, stood two seats for a pair of lovers who, looking at the shadow of the gnomon, wanted to experience the melancholy voluptuousness of a slow and unanimous perish The sentence: ME LUMEN, VOSUMBRA REGIT could still be seen engraved in the marble, under the hour lines. ta. " [4]

In the light of this passage, it is evident how De Carolis, who with d'Annunzio had started in 1901 & nbsp; a fruitful collaborative relationship as a set designer, costume designer and illustrator, who wanted to give an image to the sun / shadow dichotomy as an emblem of the cycle of life and death in the form of a free allegory: the sun as life that moves the clock, the shadow that causes the "perish", where the light is personified by a Venus who, flanked by the lions, traditional attributes of Cybele, and by the laurel leaves, sacred to Apollo, is probably understood in its primordial sense of great mother, expression of the natural and cosmic cycle of birth and death, the latter clearly expressed by withdrawing into the shadow of the figures on the right.

As specified by Mantura, De Carolis "admirer and executor of multiple commissions by the Abruzzo writer, fascinated by the motto, which appears detached in the layout from the text in a large empty portion, as if to highlight the sonority dear to D'Annunzio, he seems to have wanted both in the drawing and in the sketch, just examined, to give life and form to the 'sentence'. Drawing and sketch accentuate in a profound sense the dichotomy of the composition, rise towards a more universal idea that touches on the problems of the being re, life and death" [5]. In this sense, of allegorical celebration of light as life, according to Mantura, the painting Domus aurea (circa 1906-1910, Rome) should also be read, Galleria d'Arte Moderna di Roma Capitale), where in the third figure from the left the Venus protagonist of the work in question seems to be replicated, but also, I add, in the various paintings that have the mythological Aurora as protagonist, such as I horses of the sun (1907, Ascoli Piceno, Civic Art Gallery), Aurora (about 1914, Piacenza, Ricci Oddi Modern Art Gallery), and The awakening of the dawn (1922-23, Rome, National Gallery of Modern Art and contemporary).

Sabrina Spinazzè

[1]  R. Ruscio, Venere e Adone, in Galleria comunale d'arte moderna e contemporanea, Roma. Catalogo generale delle collezioni. Autori dell'Ottocento, curated by C. Virno, Roma, Palombi, 2002, pp. 230-231 n. 451.

[2] B. Mantura, Per il titolo di un dipinto di Adolfo De Carolis, "Bollettino dei musei comunali di Roma", 29, 2015, pp. 89-94.

[3] Mostra postuma di Adolfo De Carolis, Milan, Scopinich Gallery, November 1929, p. 18 tab. 4; Esposizione romana delle opere di Adolfo De Carolis. Prefazione di Angelo Conti. Elenco illustrato delle opere, exhibition catalog, Rome, Accademia di San Luca, April-May 1929, p. 24 n. 91.

[4] G. d'Annunzio, Le vergini delle rocce, Rome, The Vittoriale degli Italiani, 1939 pp. 224-225.

[5] B. Mantura, Per il titolo..., cit., p.94.

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