Leone Lodi, Le leggi fasciste (1938)
Le leggi fasciste is a white marble bas-relief Leone Lodi sculpted for Milan’s Palazzo di Giustizia in 1938. The artwork is located on an overdoor panel along the right side of the corridor within the 'Tribunale penale' section (at the first floor of the building). In addition, there are other bas-reliefs sculpted by Leone Lodi between 1938 and 1939: S. Ambrogio, I Visconti, La Lega Lombarda and La Fondazione dei Fasci (lost). Ideally, Le leggi fasciste is one within a series of allegoric ‘chapters’ about the Milanese sacred and profane history.
The Sacralisation of the New Man’s Total Politics through the Arts
Shaping the New Man’s Reality by Fashioning National Myths
Monumentalism: Visualising Subjectivity and Objectivity
Lodi’s bas-relief Le leggi fasciste (1938) is composed by two iconographic ‘sections’: the lower part represents three standing men holding the law codex, the upper side some objects and a figure with wings laying down. The composition is therefore dualistic: it is more realistic and didactic when representing the men with the laws (recalling the structure of Lodi’s La Fondazione dei Fasci) but, at the same time, it is also allegoric. The symbols are in fact references to the fascist Justice, as told by the attributes there represented. From the left, one can find the scale, the traditional object associated with the Justice; an hourglass on a crescent Moon — the time that inexorably passes —; a coin with the fascist emblem; the eagle — the Roman/fascist empire, founded in 1936 — and a winged figure, interpretable as a pagan messenger (maybe Mercure), as well as a Christian angel.
Overall, this simple and archaising composition perfectly embodies the identity of the regime, being a reference to the 'leggi fascistissime' (1925-1926) and, most of all, to the racial laws — Leggi per la difesa della razza — anticipated by the Manifesto della razza (Manifesto of Race, 1938) and issued exactly in 1938. This bas-relief can be thus considered the celebration of a political standpoint strongly wanted by the fascism, in the wake of Nazi Germany, and at the same time a memorandum, something that needed to be remembered. Located onto a public building, this message represents one of the most significant examples of the educational programme promoted by the PNF (National Fascist Party) that, during the Thirties, was stronger than ever. The political decisions were spread through all the media, arts included.
Lodi contributed to write a political testimony that anyone passing by the corridors of the Palace of Justice could easily notice, read and understand. The instruments used, between reality and myth, history and legend, involve different overlapping ‘layers’ inspired by Milanese history. Le leggi fasciste is in fact just one of the five episodes Lodi made in this section of the building: all together, they represent an ideal path that has its triumphal climax during the fascist era. Chronologically, the itinerary begins in the IV century, with the representation of S. Ambrogio, Milan’s bishop and patron, in front of ‘his’ church. It continues in the Middle Ages, with the Lega Lombarda, a military alliance among some Northern Italy municipalities, and then it goes into the Renaissance with the Visconti family. Finally, it ends with La Fondazione dei Fasci, occurred in Milan’s San Sepolcro square (1919) and with Le Leggi Fasciste, final chapter of a prestigious history.
In this context, the latter composition could be also read as a secular version of the religious episode Law of Moses: there are the laws, there is a greater power (God/the fascist power) and there are people (Moses/men) the laws from above. According to this perspective, Palazzo di Giustizia can thus be interpreted as a modern, political church, ready to welcome its community.
Colombo, Nicoletta. 2006. Leone Lodi scultore (1900-1974): dal “Novecento” all’arte monumentale. Milan: Libri Scheiwiller.