Ravenna, unpublished work by Federico Faruffini discovered: a moving tribute to Dante

In Ravenna, a drawing left in one of the visitor's books at Dante's tomb and hitherto anonymous, has been recognized as the work of Federico Faruffini, one of the greats of 19th-century Italy.

An important unpublished work by Federico Faruffini (Sesto San Giovanni, 1833 - Perugia, 1869), one of Italy’s greatest 19th-century artists, a painter, engraver and photographer close to the Scapigliatura movement, a pupil of Giacomo Trecourt and a friend of Tranquillo Cremona, has been discovered in Ravenna: it is a moving tribute to Dante made in 1863, an ink drawing that until now had no certain name, and was in one of the albums that for more than a century collected the signatures of visitors to the Supreme Poet’s tomb. The discovery came on the sidelines of the exhibition Inclusa est flamma.Ravenna 1921: the Secentenary of Dante’s Death, moreover extended until July 17.

This is a new and authoritative addition to the rich pantheon of illustrious visitors to Dante’s tomb, confirming Ravenna even more as the capital of the Dante “cult” between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and one of the most significant places for the construction of Italian identity in the last two centuries. The testimony of Federico Faruffini’s visit, which took place on October 27, 1863, adds to the narrative of those made by numerous illustrious personalities, such as, among others, Vittorio Alfieri, Lord Byron, Pope Pius IX and King Victor Emmanuel II, and constitutes yet another illustrious antecedent of the pilgrimage to the tomb that with the Feste Dantesche of 1908 was consolidated and organized definitively into a ritual that continues to the present day.

The recognition of Faruffini’s authorship of the drawing on the visitors’ roll is due to scholar Benedetto Gugliotta, head of the Office for the Protection and Enhancement of the Classense Library Institution and curator of the exhibition Inclusa est flamma, within which the drawing is currently on display until next July 17. Faruffini, “supreme painter” and “immortal,” “was a ray of electric light in an oil-lit room” (so Carlo Dossi in Blue Notes). His works are in the collections of the National Gallery of Modern Art in Rome, the Pinacoteca di Brera and GAM in Milan, and at the Musei Civici in Pavia. Recently his home region dedicated a major exhibition to him at the Villa Borromeo d’Adda in Arcore (Monza-Brianza): Io guardo ancora il cielo. Federico Faruffini, which can be visited until June 27.

The itinerary of Inclusa est flamma, which is a reflection on the last centenary of Dante’s death (1921), is marked by the presence of several signature albums, once used in the poet’s tomb to collect thoughts, tributes or even simple signatures of distinguished or completely unknown visitors and visitors. Thus, at the opening of the itinerary Gugliotta placed Faruffini’s important symbolic tribute, a work of art that has come so far anonymously and could well represent the affection and attachment that Italians have felt for Dante over the centuries and for the most diverse reasons. “In this case,” says Benedetto Gugliotta, “an allusion to the Risorgimento struggles was evident, in view of the date, that is, noted at the bottom of the drawing, and the verse inscribed on the base of the ideal monument to the poet: ’Libertà vo [sic] cercando... ’ (Purgatorio, Canto I, v. 71), which is almost a mantra of the Italian Risorgimento that aspired, with its diverse souls, to the liberation of the homeland and its unity. The design has been noted before, and in 1882 it had been given less than benevolent words by the writer and literary critic Adolfo Borgognoni, uncle of Corrado Ricci, who with little acuity and without obviously having acknowledged its author, called it ’worse than mediocre.’” In spite of the obstacles posed by the pandemic, which also entailed for the library an intensification of efforts aimed at not interrupting, rather implementing and redesigning services for users, this extraordinary discovery was thus achieved.

“Countless are the names of illustrious or ordinary people who, over seven hundred years, have come to Ravenna to pay homage to Dante’s tomb, receiving inspiration or finding strength to uphold the values they believed in, from Boccaccio to the patriots of the Risorgimento,” says Michele De Pascale, mayor of Ravenna. “And the famous three words ’Liberty is to be sought,’ uttered by Virgil before Cato Uticense, were also a battle cry during the Resistance and the fight for liberation from Nazi-fascism. The rediscovery of the drawing by Federico Faruffini, a great but unfortunate artist, testifies once again how deep the connections between Dante and Ravenna are and how much Ravenna has meant in the history of the country.”

“Ravenna, the city in which Dante serenely lived his last years and in which he completed the Comedy, rediscovers in this eighteenth-centennial its role as the authentic vestal of the Dante ’cult,’ which has significantly inspired artists, men of letters and personalities of the highest national and international level,” says Elsa Signorino, councillor for Culture of the Municipality of Ravenna. “This role, so intense and enduring, will only continue well beyond the present celebrations and intensify even further, considering how Dante is able to speak to men and women transcending all barriers of time and space.”

In the signature books, a dozen manuscripts ranging from the first half of the nineteenth century to the 1970s, there are hundreds of illustrious signatures and many thousands of signatures that, taken together, form a historical source of the highest order. Pius IX, Victor Emmanuel II and many other sovereigns, D’Annunzio, Eleonora Duse, Nazario Sauro, and then again De Gasperi, Einaudi, Tommaso Landolfi, down to Gino Bartali and Benigno Zaccagnini. But there is also Benedetto Cairoli: the Prime Minister who, as recalled, was a close friend of Federico Faruffini and who a few years later personally paid homage to Dante’s tomb.

The biography of Federico Faruffini, who died by suicide in 1869, tells the story of a tormented and unstable genius who achieved successes in Paris and Rome but failed to come to terms with his demons. In his short existential itinerary he reaped less than his extraordinary talent deserved, but it was under the banner of continuous experimentation and dissatisfaction that his artistic quest unfolded: he moved from history painting, which attempted to break free from the canons imposed by the now cumbersome figure of Francesco Hayez, to engraving and photography, always with originality and dedication. He was appreciated by many contemporaries but also opposed by official critics. His patriotic sentiments, in the Mazzinian mould, and his closeness to the Cairoli family are also well known: his friends were in particular Ernesto (1833-1859), who fell in the Battle of Varese and was portrayed by him in a famous 1862 painting (Pavia, Musei Civici del Castello Visconteo), and Benedetto (1825-1889), a Garibaldian, conspirator and later Prime Minister, to whom the artist sent the last dramatic letter of his life, after which he killed himself by ingesting cyanide. It was 1869 and the artist was only 36 years old.

Ravenna, unpublished work by Federico Faruffini discovered: a moving tribute to Dante
Ravenna, unpublished work by Federico Faruffini discovered: a moving tribute to Dante

Warning: the translation into English of the original Italian article was created using automatic tools. We undertake to review all articles, but we do not guarantee the total absence of inaccuracies in the translation due to the program. You can find the original by clicking on the ITA button. If you find any mistake,please contact us.