A Native from Ferrara betwwen Rome, Padua and Venice

Written by  Alfredo Santini

Gabriele Corbo, publisher, connoisseur, aesthete and collector.

Born in Ferrara on 29 April 1927 into a family of established traders, Gabriele Corbo early took on a management role in a textile firm in Padua. At the same time, he entered the world of art and culture, which had always fascinated him, not just for the pleasure of conversation but for the opportunities it provide to develop his own awareness and personality. He thus came into contact – and formed friendships – with artists, painters, sculptors, poets and literary figures such as Tono Zancanaro, Ugo Attardi, Ignazio Buttita, Alfonso Gatto, Lanfranco Caretti, Guido Ceronetti, Emilio Greco, Renato Guttuso, Carlo Levi, Eugenio Montale, Carlo Ludovico Ragghianti, Leonida Repaci, Leonardo Sciascia, Renzo Vespignani and Andrea Zanzotto. He often spoke of these long-cultivated meetings, and acquired important collections from some of these artists. His first approach to the printed page came in 1970 with copperplate engraving, followed, with the encouragement of Carlo Ludovico Ragghianti, by his first publishing project: Il Gibbo, a volume of political satire by Ragghianti himself, containing 300 drawings by Tono Zancanaro from the years 1940-1945. Its success led Corbo to devote himself full-time to publishing. Moving between between Rome, Padua and Venice, while always maintaining his connection to Ferrara, he established a publishing house under the name “Corbo e Fiore”, with printing works in Rome and Venice. To this period belongs the publication of works by Mascherini,. Attardi, Carlo Levi (with poetry by Umberto Saba), Viganò, Bonaldo and Murer, with texts by Lionello Puppi, Sergio Bettini and Mario Rigoni Stern and Rutbef’s Fablieaux edited by Alberto Limentani. Among the volumes of history of literature published, we can mention here I cinque canti dell’Ariosto edited by Lanfranco Caretti and illustrated by Ugo Attardi, a book which won the first prize in the 1974 Leipzig international competition for “the most beautiful book in the world”. After the end of his association with Fiore, Corbo moved to Ferrara, where he continued to publish: from this time onwards, his life was devoted to the publication of prestigious texts mostly focusing on the city of the Este. Corbo also had a great passion for etchings. In the early 1970s he opened an artists’ printshop in Vicolo del Cedro in Rome, producing prestigious series of numbered works by almost all the major Italian and some foreign etchers, including Manzù, Guttuso, Attardi, Vespignani and Masson. As one of the few quality printshops remaining in Italy, it was commissioned by the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana to produce a map of the city of Rome marking the Jubilee year, on nine etched copper plates measuring 186 x 147 cm. The printshop closed in 2003, while the publishing house continued until the end of March 2006, when it was sold.

In 1994 His Holiness Pope John Paul II made him a Knight Commander of the order of Saint Gregory the Great, and in 2002 he was also knighted by the President of the Republic, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi.