The Monument to the Fallen of Milan
Since two previous competitions had failed, in 1926, Giuseppe de Capitani d’Arzago, president of the city committee for the Monument to the Fallen Milanese soldiers of World War I, decides to raise a church or a small chapel instead, where mothers, fathers and widows could come and pray indoors, silently in their grief. Five young Milanese architects Giovanni Muzio, Giò Ponti, Alberto Alpago Novello, Tommaso Buzzi and Ottavio Cabiati were directly assigned to the task. An octagonal “huge lantern” of Musso marble enclosed in a perimeter wall with a main colonnade access and two architraved side entrances, was so built in twelve months. Andreotti was essentially requested to just realize two groups of symbolic figures to be placed before the small temple. Giò Ponti expressed his satisfaction to his sculptor friend: “I did, particularly, pray and hope that you were with us and I’m happy about it”. At first, the Monument he had been commissioned was divided into two groups: ‘Intervention’ and ‘Victory’. The first one, later left aside, was to represent a winged Victory between two armed soldiers in combat position; the second, a hero on horseback, triumphantly accompanied by a winged Victory. There were many and very interesting study variations on both themes; several of these and maybe all, are still intact in their plaster models here gathered (some of them recall the touch of the younger Arturo Martini). When Andreotti was accused of excessive nudity for his horseman and his winged Victory, he vented his rage with irony and wrote against the ones who professed so much absurd demureness, worthy of the pettiest moralism. Yet, by reflecting on the inconceivable situation which was being created, he decided to consent, even reluctantly, to new changes, to the research of a pacific solution to calm the discontented ones. The Monument to the Fallen of Milan represented, as Fernando Previti wrote (1981): “the longest as well as most troubled episode that accompanied his last years. It is hard to tell for sure how many and which ones were the obstacles, for since long some had defined him as not very devoted to the regime, an antifascist; maybe in time, he would have been called a subversive. Furthermore, it was necessary to deal with the annoying deprecative campaigns risen and reinforced after the Monument to the Italian Mother in Santa Croce in Florence, in support and exaltation of other artists, such as Romano Romanelli, Baccio Maria Bacci and Guido Balsamo Stella; moreover, the board of examiners was a real pain; sometimes it seemed as if they strived to create new problems and difficulties as a pure whim, even if the reasons were much more than that. Anyhow this “great scam” about the Monument went on dragging until 1929, leaving indelible marks on Andreotti’s soul. Letters from the epistolary with Aldo Carpi, Ugo Ojetti and Margherita Sarfatti prove this: letters full of bitterness, yet clear for their vigilant moral consciousness and for their honest faith in his own actions. It so happened that in a meeting the board “whitewashed” the Victory, the horse and horseman and with this cancelled all Andreotti’s effort, his passionate work lasted eighteen months, deeply surprising and saddening him. Maybe he had already foreseen what was going to happen, since two years before, on November 25, 1927, he told his friend Carpi of his commitments, always more pressing, to the monuments: “Maybe I will never succeed in getting rid of great works... and it seems to me that I should very well have entered in some small work. I’m wrong to repent it. But maybe I’m a bit tired and it is too hard to work outside my home”. And, again, he wrote to him on March 23 1929 “I was waiting for a written confirmation of what has come yesterday in form of a clear dismissal. I’m saddened about it, but I’m quiet. I won’t tell you of all the details that you know. I suffer a great injustice that appears to be a betrayal. I can’t tell anything more, for the time being. What saddens me most is the behaviour of these gentlemen, unexplainable, subtle, deeply false… at last I will keep working on my Pietà in the next week of Passion”. Even with bitterness, Andreotti therefore continued along his most natural path of an artist free from bonds and resumed reworking on the Pietà (The Stavropulos Pietà) which could become his “cordial revenge” on the other one in Santa Croce.
Author: Libero Andreotti