Thayaht, Dux con pietra miliare (Condottiero, 1929)
Dux con pietra miliare, from 1929, was the first official futurist artwork by Thahyat centred on a fascism-related theme, and it can be considered a springboard for his career.Shaped as a metallic knight’s head on a stone pedestal ('pietra miliare') with the inscription Dux, this sculpture is a rationalized portrait of Mussolini that the artist then donated to the Duce himself, and it is now part of the Mart museum’s permanent collection (Rovereto, Italy). Besides this, Thayaht realised other samples based on the same subject, using different materials such as marble, pietra serena, aluminium and plaster.
A New Theorization of the Relationship Between Subjectivity and Objectivity
The Rationalization of Aesthetics: the Straight Line
As already mentioned in Il grande nocchiere’s analysis, 1929 is a significant year for Thayaht because he finally officialises his creative and ideological affinity with fascism and the ‘Second Futurism’. He does that with a sculpture, Dux con pietra miliare, which intends to portray Mussolini himself, represented as a warrior.
Far from being a traditional, realistic portrait of a Condottiero, this artwork embodies the main values supported by the fascist ideology, gleaning from a glorious, knightly past as well as from a futuristic reality. In fact, here, the armour Mussolini seems to wear is just a starting point, a pretext leading towards an anti-standardised image where dematerialisation and solidity are two of the main interpretation keys.
The sculpture’s final version – as the result of various preparatory sketches (1928-1929) – proves that the creative process is attentively meditated, but also progressively simplified, distant from the conventional portraiture. The mimesis is in fact substituted by lines and polished forms: where there were peculiar features, now there are just uninterrupted surfaces. In other words, this portrait/anti-portrait hides political and fascist values – like trust and stability – behind rational appearances that need to be understandable, easily shareable by everyone.
The success of this iconography, celebrated by Mussolini himself, also persists in Thayaht’s following career as a painter. In 1929 the artist paints Madonna di Montenero: a painting on paper that, even if dedicated to a different subject – a sacred one –, clearly echoes Dux con pietra miliare, both chromatically and formally. One could also read between the lines, interpreting Mussolini as a new, sacred kind of politician. Moreover, in 1939, Thayaht replicates and contextualises Mussolini’s head in a wider scenery, giving him the command of Italy, in Il grande nocchiere.
All this can be linked to the contradictory aspects of fascism: since it does not have an official ‘arte di Stato’, Thayaht and the other artists working under the regime are free to choose the artistic conventions they prefer, as long as they respect and pay attention to the message, the contents.
To clarify this creative context, it seems interesting to compare Thayaht’s artwork with another analogous, contemporary Mussolini’s portrait, Profilo continuo del Duce (1933) by Renato Bertelli. Even if both choose similar premises (a modern, unconventional portrait), they end up representing opposite – or complementary – values. In fact, while Thayaht intends to express the fascist power and stability, Bertelli stresses the importance of the ideals of progress and modernity: it is exactly in this duality that lays the strategy of fascism, capable of being itself and its contrary at the same time.
Fonti, Daniela (ed.).2005. Thayaht. Futurista irregolare. Milan: Skira.
Fonti, Daniela (ed.).2017. Thayaht. Un futurista eccentrico. Imola: Manfredi Edizioni.