Dioniso a Villa Lysis
La fotografia di Wilhelm Von Gloeden
(Dionysus at Villa Lysis, the photography by Wilhelm Von Gloeden)

review by Jizaino, 13 September 2009

Dioniso a Villa Lysis - la fotografia di Wilhelm Von Gloeden
Curated by Italo Zannier
Villa Lysis, Capri (Naples) - Italy
from 19th August to 4th October 2009
opening times: every day 10.00-19.00
free entry

Von Gloeden, who lived across the XIX and the XX century, is famous among the connoisseurs of photography as the creator of some of the most renowned images of nude with naturalistic and neoclassic style, which succeed in permeating even the contemporary imaginary of nowaday. It intrepidly realized pictures whose subjects have longly been opposed and censored in epochs in which the coercive sexual ethic was strong.
To deepen the  topic you can also read this this file card of one of his artworks which is included in the Collection.

The exhibition is held in the very beautiful and recently restructured Villa Lysis in the island of Capri, from which a breathtaking panorama can be seen, second only to that visible from the Villa Jovis, ancient dwelling of the Roman emperor Tiberius.
Villa Lysis, besides the photographic exhibition, also shows a brief informative route dedicated to the literate and poet of noble descents Jacques of Adelsward Fersen, which built the villa in 1905 as his residence. Like Von Gloeden, also Fersen raised a lot of antipathies because of his sexual tendencies and for having written razor-sharp words in his books, at the point that the islanders came to denounce him for the commemoration of a pagan rite; that episode pushed Fersen to leave the island.
On the frontispiece of the villa a great writing can be read, taken by the epitaph present on the Rococo façade of the church of Santa Maria della Passione in Milan: "AMORI ET DOLORI SACRUM" (consecrated to love and pain); the epitaph was also used by Maurice Barrés as title for one of his books of omo-erotic kind, which contains poetries of Fersen and some photos realized by Wilhelm Plüschow, cousin of Von Gloeden.

Ritratto di ragazzo (boy portrait), 1900 circa
albuminated matte paper, 29,1 x 38,9 cm
(picture awarded with golden Grande Medaglia by the Italian Board of Education in 1909)

The exhibition

Von Gloeden's photocamera
"Dioniso a Villa Lysis" proposes over 100 artworks: original albumen prints, prints never published obtained from the original negatives, some negative contact plates, the photocamera of Von Gloeden, some photos by Plüschow, sundry heirlooms and even an original drawing by Andy Warhol representing a famous photograph of Gloeden.

The subjects presented in this show honestly reveal the naturalistic, ethnological and anthropological intents of neoclassic inspiration that moved Von Gloeden, along with a series made during the earthquake of Messina and some rare arabic subjects presumably realized in Tunis.
The artworks are from the Alinari archives, which in this occasion, unusually, shows an exceptional generosity, realizing a free entry exhibition of such significance and even releasing several good resolution images on the internet.

Ritratto di bambina (little girl portrait), 1900 circa
albumen print
36,8 x 28,7 cm

"Antica scuola dei filosofi" (ancient school of the philosophers), 1902
albumen print
10,6 x 14,6 cm

Autoritratto (self portrait), 1890 circa
albumen print
14,6 x 10,6 cm

Il terremoto di Messina (Messina's earthquake), 1908 albumen print
15,7 x 21,5 cm

Giovane donna nuda seduta su pelle di leopardo e due giovanetti nudi su tappeti (young naked woman on a skin of leopard and two young boys on carpets), 1900 circa, albumen print, 18 x 24 cm


This exhibition is an unmissable occasion for the connoisseurs of the photographer and for the lovers of naturalistic photography, as well as whoever appreciates the beauty and the historical and cultural value preserved by the vintage pictures.

The one only fault of the exhibition, apart some inaccuracies in the explanations, it is the absence of a catalog, that however it is compensated by the possibility to take pictures undisturbed.

Jizaino -