Italy: Lithe statue of literary heroine charges sexism charges



The bronze sculpture of “Spigolatrice di Sapri” in Sapri, Italy, Thursday September 30, 2021. An artist defends his sculpture of a peasant woman from the 19th century. Art critics who said she looked more like a starlet than a farmer. The bronze sculpture of “Spigolatrice di Sapri” – based on a famous Italian poem of the same name about a woman who gathers wheat – was made during a waterfront ceremony on September 25th in Sapri, southern Italy, in the presence of local officials and former Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. (Valentino Palermo via AP)


An Italian artist defends his 19th century sculpture of a peasant woman.

“Spigolatrice di Sapri,” a bronze sculpture based on a famous Italian poem of the same name, was unveiled during a waterfront ceremony in Sapri, southern Italy, on September 25, in the presence of local officials and former Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.

The “spigolatrice” or wheat collector wears a close-fitting, strapless dress that hugs her buttocks. Critics said no 19th century farmer, let alone the poem’s fictional heroine – she leaves her bone-breaking work in the fields to join a Sicilian uprising against the Bourbon dynasty – would have looked like this.

“It’s an inappropriate statue, out of context and also offensive,” said Italian lawmaker Laura Boldrini. “You are robbing this woman of the history and the dignity that she had.”

Art critic Teresa Macri, a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome, said the statue should be removed.

“It is misguided and makes the mistake of portraying a woman who has a contemporary demeanor and looks much more like starlets than a 19th century worker,” Macri told The Associated Press.

However, the artist Emanuele Stifano said that all of his works, regardless of gender, feature as few dressed figures as possible. Given the location of the statue on the water, he imagined that his “Spigolatrice” would be hit by a sea breeze that made her dress clingy, Stifano wrote in a Facebook post this week.

The aim was not to take a true snapshot of a 19th century farmer.

The artist said he was “shocked and discouraged” by the criticism, noting that his client, the city of Sapri, had approved a sketch of the sculpture.

Sapri Mayor Antonio Gentile stepped in to defend the work and said any perceived sexism is “in the eye of the beholder”.

“I believe statues were only demolished in countries where democracy has been suspended,” said Gentile, rejecting the idea of ​​removing the sculpture.

Other modern works of art in public spaces have caused an outcry in Italy, which has some of the greatest art treasures in the West as part of its cultural heritage.

When Rome’s city officials unveiled a statue of Saint John Paul II in front of the Italian capital’s main train station in 2011, the Vatican even slammed the work that looked more like the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini than the beloved late Pope.

In the end, the artist reworked the sculpture and gave it a new head that looked more like that of John Paul.


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