Leone Lodi and Carlo Sessa, I pescatori (destroyed, 1933)
I pescatori is a monumental stone bas-relief Leone Lodi made in collaboration with the artist Carlo Sessa, based on a sketch by Mario Sironi. The subject, sculpted on the occasion of the V Triennale (1933) in Milan, was located in the vestibule at the first floor of Muzio’s Palazzo dell’Arte and exhibited during the whole duration of the event (10 May – 30 September 1933). After that, however, the artwork was destroyed. For the same Triennale, Lodi sculpted other artworks such as Donna seduta (then placed at the centre of a fountain), the alabaster sculpture Il dono (within Saletta degli Orafi) and some of the concrete bas-reliefs for the Padiglione della Stampa’s entrance (in collaboration with Sironi).
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
The first Milanese Triennale, held in Muzio’s Palazzo dell’Arte in 1933, was a significant event in the cultural life of the city during the Ventennio. Mainly organised by Mario Sironi, the massive exhibition included also the contribution of some of the youngest artists of the creative scene, like Leone Lodi and Carlo Sessa. These two, together, performed a monumental bas-relief, entitled I pescatori: the sculpted work, based on a sketch made by Sironi, was located in the vestibule right after the Scalone d’Onore (Staircase of Honour) and it was ideally ‘paired’ with another bas-relief, Il pane by Ivo Soli.
The artwork, stylistically marked by a powerful archaism, portrays a balanced scene half way between realism and myth. The focus of the scene is indeed a mermaid, captured by six anglers equally grouped on the two sides. The episode, easily readable, represents one of the most ancient activities in human history: fishing. According to a fascist perspective, this was a topic of real interest, if we consider that autarky — the economic self-sufficiency — formed the basis of Fascist economic theories since the twenties. The fishermen are thus proud and, at the same time, physically strong, first of all because work ennobles men ('we exalt work as a sign of men’s nobility'/ 'noi esaltiamo il lavoro come segno della nobiltà dell’uomo' was one of the motto pronounced by Mussolini) and improve the world live in.
The Fascist ‘new man’, devoted to his homeland, was strong and full of energy exactly like an athlete. His labour activity demonstrated his power and his superiority over the world and its creatures, as shown by the mermaid’s capture. From another point of view, this unreal creature, half woman half fish, introduced multiple meanings: she is the only fictional element in a realistic story, giving the whole scene a legendary aura and connecting it to ‘the Sirens and Ulysses’ episode of the Odyssey. Moreover, her being a (half) woman, captured and subjugated by men suggests her inferiority and, as a consequence, a masculine superiority — there and within society —, as implied by Fascist theories. This artwork, monumental and pretentious in its appearance as well as in its contents, was publicly shown in one of the most relevant events of those years within the ‘Milanese temple of the arts’. As shown by Sironi himself, who in the same year painted Il lavoro, this art could become propaganda, dealing with one of the most popular topics of that moment: work.
Colombo, Nicoletta. 2006. Leone Lodi scultore (1900-1974): dal Novecento all’arte monumentale. Milan: Libri Scheiwiller.
Grini, Alessandro, Lodi, Daniela and Serena. 2004. Leone Lodi 1900-1974: per una nuova visibilità critica.