Franco Maria Ricci and Italo Calvino: their working relationship and friendship recounted in an exhibition

On the occasion of the centenary of Italo Calvino's birth, the Labirinto della Masone dedicates uan exhibition to the working and personal relationship of friendship and esteem between Franco Maria Ricci and the writer.

The Labirinto della Masone in Fontanellato celebrates Italo Calvino, on the occasion of the centenary of his birth on October 15, 1923, with the exhibition Destini incrociati. Italo Calvino and Franco Maria Ricci, curated by Pietro Mercogliano and Cesare Dal Pane and set up by Maddalena Casalis. The exhibition, which can be visited from Oct. 15, 2023 to Jan. 7, 2024, aims to trace and investigate the working and personal relationship of friendship and esteem between the publisher and the great writer.

On display are the works that saw them collaborate over the years, from book and magazine covers to original typescripts of works signed by Italo Calvino. Alongside these, there will be autograph letters, videos, photographs and documents that testify to the deep personal bond that united Ricci and Calvino over more than two decades of friendship. A prelude to the exhibition is the room of the Codex Seraphinianus, to which Calvino dedicated an article in the first issue of FMR magazine, which later appeared as an introduction to Ricci’s second edition of the Codex Seraphinianus, the 1992 edition.

Franco Maria Ricci first published Italo Calvino’s The Castle of Crossed Fates in 1969 in the volume Tarot. The Visconti deck of Bergamo and New York, featured in the exhibition in its first edition. In the endnote to the Einaudi volume, which came out a few years later with the addition of the second part, La taverna dei destini incrociati, of which a copy with Calvino’s autograph dedication to Ricci is also on display. From that time on, publisher and writer continued to collaborate under the banner of the encounter between the word and the figurative, fundamental motifs of both careers. Ricci published other texts by Calvino: some appeared only in the FMR magazine, such as the transcript of a lecture given by the writer on the occasion of an exhibition on Giorgio De Chirico at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, or the short story Sapore Sapere, which would later be republished posthumously in the collection Sotto il sole giaguaro. Others found space both in the magazine and in a volume, such as the piece dedicated to Luigi Serafini’s fantastic encyclopedia, Codex Seraphinianus, which opens the exhibition in the dedicated room of the Labirinto della Masone, or the text Il silenzio e le città, published with paintings by the nineteenth-century Florentine painter Fabio Borbottoni accompanying it. Four pieces of ecphrastic prose accompany the large canvases of painter Domenico Gnoli, in the volume of the series I segni dell’uomo dedicated to his work. Of the piece on Borbottoni and the one on Gnoli, the original typescripts signed by the author are displayed along with the first editions in the volume.

The more than two decades of their friendship are also recounted in the exhibition by letters, handwritten or typewritten, all signed and displayed in original, such as those from Calvino to Ricci and to the publishing house’s historical collaborator Giovanni Mariotti, and from Ricci to Calvino, dealing with various personal and professional topics. Photographs of Calvino and Ricci, especially dating back to the preparation of the Tarot volume, from the publisher’s archives, many of them unpublished, will be added, as well as other testimonies, including the Curriculum Vitae that the publisher requested from the writer as an accompaniment to the volume devoted to Tarot. There will also be a pair of original portraits by illustrator Tullio Pericoli, dedicated to the two protagonists.

The exhibition concludes with a video projection that gives space to the testimony of Nobel laureate in literature, Orhan Pamuk. Just this year, the Turkish writer inaugurated for FMR magazine his serialized story Mr. PA Goes to the Museum: in his wanderings among the world’s museums, Mr. PA is in no small debt to Calvinian Palomar, in fact continuing his wanderings between the pages of FMR.

The exhibition is also associated with a publication in the Il Labirinto Scritto series, which contains transcripts of all the main letters exchanged between Calvino and Ricci and several other documents; the introduction is by Giovanni Mariotti, who received the original of The Castle of Crossed Fates from Calvino’s hands.

Pictured is Franco Maria Ricci and Italo Calvino grappling with reproductions of the Tarot, probably dated 1969

Franco Maria Ricci and Italo Calvino: their working relationship and friendship recounted in an exhibition
Franco Maria Ricci and Italo Calvino: their working relationship and friendship recounted in an exhibition

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