The Memory of the Past

Written by  Giuseppe Inzerillo
After a period of strict censorship, we can admire Mario Capuzzo's frescoes.
It is always difficult for the descendants to fully comprehend a painting which expresses political and cultural concepts belonging to the past. The generation of the winners prefers to use the plaster to remove the traces of the defeated enemies, while the descendants, who are rationally detached, think it is necessary to provide all the documentation which is necessary to fully comprehend the past and its protagonists.

This is the case of Mario Capuzzo's frescos which, after many decades, are now available at the Cassa di Risparmio di Ferrara, after a strong censorship.
Polesine artist's paintings are centred on landscapes, flowers, boats, portraits, allegories and ancient reproductions and not on fascism and its protagonists.

But, with the frescos which are painted on the walls of Kock Palace grand staircase, at the Cassa di Risparmio, Mario Capuzzo, for the first and also the last time, deals with the legend of fascist revolution and its aeronautical and colonial conquests, doing an encomiastic and commemorative work, meeting the needs of the clients who are inspired by Italo Balbo.

Mario Capuzzo passes from the chronicle of family life to universal history, according to the manifesto of wall painting which was signed some years ago by those who paid homage to art social function in fascist state. It must be stressed that, under Mussolini, there was a strict and natural connection between politics and art. But it is not only the case of Mario Capuzzo's works. Paul Ginsborg has recently stressed that "the artists submitted TO Fascism".
In fact, many artists, such as De Chirico, Balla, Carrà, Rosai, Martini, Campigli, Funi, Soffici and Morandi, were the supporters of fascism and even poets such as Ungaretti and Corrado Govoni. Therefore, according to the commemorative tradition of the past, it is not surprising to learn that, in an high suburb, a triumphal subject was chosen after Italo Balbo's death in June 1940.

It has been recently observed that "if Sironi IS deprived OF fascism, you don't understand anything about him", as fascist ideology also means pride and national mission and, according to him, fascism is not the white guard of capital and reaction. Something similar can be said about Mario Capuzzo's frescos, even if there ARE stylistic differences BETWEEN the two artists: Mario Capuzzo's fascism is a sort of socialism, resulting from Pascoli Italian "proletarian revolution" which started with the conquest of Tripoli in 1911, winning with Italo Balbo.

His painting is not centred on triumphant fascism, but on the tribulations, sufferings and hunger of the poor. It is a casual meeting with fascism, without forgetting the humble and the oppressed and the anxiety longing for a better future: it is a possible interpretation of two frescos (with a 7 metre length and a 4 metre and a half width each). It is a space where you can hardly describe Ferrara modern legend, from the March on Rome to the Atlantic flight and Libyan colonisation.
Here, Mario Capuzzo has a crepuscular and sorrowful attitude, which is expressed above all by the first fresco on the left. This painting depicts the beginning of the "revolution", with fascist fallen soldiers under the Castle on December 20 1920, and the end of the March on Rome, with Mussolini and the quadrumvirs on horseback, who are reluctant, probably foreseeing a tragic fate, in 1940 and 1941.

There is nothing heroic or extraordinary: mothers in tears, fellow-soldiers who are posing, a crown of laurel, pennants and Roman salutes. But what strikes more is the sad face of Mussolini, Balbo, De Vecchi, De Bono and Bianchi, who, even if it is historically improbable, gathered on October 28 1922, when they actually stayed in Milan, in Perugia or in the country in Rome.

According to Mario Capuzzo, painting is not subject to history laws, as it can be seen from the analysis of the fresco on the right, which represents many busy people among flags, pennants, camels, planes, palms, workshops, farm houses, italian and native soldiers, coloured lictors and monuments without an exact spatial frame. Italo Balbo on horseback stands out watching the weary people.
The two paintings, first for military reasons, then for post-war purge, soon disappeared and they were partly forgotten, even for censorship reasons.