More on Ladispoli's initiatives to celebrate Caravaggio

Two new contributions to the discussion of the ways in which Ladispoli intends to celebrate Caravaggio for his alleged final landing in Palo Laziale, which is located in the territory of the Roman coastal municipality.

We receiveand publish from the Councillor for Culture, Tourism and Sport of the Municipality of Ladispoli, Marco Milani, a response to Michele Cuppone ’s article of last August 13 (Speculations from Caravaggiomania: Ladispoli challenges Porto Ercole on the painter’s death)on the initiatives that the town is promoting to celebrate Caravaggio. We also publish below Michele Cuppone’s rebuttal.

Dear Editors, I am Dr. Milani, Councillor for Culture, Tourism and Sports of the Municipality of Ladispoli and I am writing after reading Dr. Cuppone’s interesting but inaccurate article. Why inaccurate? Because it assimilated in the same sphere, private and public initiatives. I’ll come straight to the point: the Municipal Administration led by Mayor Grando does not claim anything but the now ascertained “last landing.” The issue of death, as acknowledged by all, is still a matter of study, and even I, as a historian (albeit a medievalist) and a writer, refuse to acclaim a historical thesis that is not fully proven and agreed upon. The Caravaggio statue then is a project that this Administration has had for about three years and which is not about the death of the great Lombard painter, but about his arrest by the Spaniards at the castle of Palo (inspired by the marvelous work of Master Guido Venanzoni, currently on display in Sutri).

The monument project referred to in the article is a private initiative in which the Municipal Administration has no part and which, by the way, has not yet been officially brought to our attention. Therefore no commodification or speculation on our part and it is hardly correct and superficial to attribute to us conspiratorial and blasphemous intentions (historically speaking...). On the other hand, it must be admitted that we welcome any kind of in-depth study and research on that July 1610, and that while we cannot claim, and we do not, that Merisi died in Palo, it cannot also be denied that Prof. Pacelli’s theories (and others) are well-founded, plausible and historically appreciable, in light of the documents that have emerged so far. Therefore, both the initiatives taken so far by this Administration and those to come tend to emphasize that Merisi landed in Palo and here he experienced one of the most important events of his life, his arrest. I take this opportunity to remind you that in the coming months, starting in September, there will be a series of initiatives on Caravaggio also thanks to the fact that our town, Ladispoli, can boast of a distinguished fellow citizen, Maestro Guido Venanzoni, the first and only one in the world to paint the life of Caravaggio in all its phases, reaching very high artistic levels.
Thank you for your hospitality, cordial greetings.

Ottavio Leoni, Portrait of Caravaggio (1615-1620; black charcoal and pastels on blue paper, 234 x 163 mm; Florence, Biblioteca Marucelliana
Ottavio Leoni, Portrait of Caravaggio (1615-1620; black charcoal and pastels on blue paper, 234 x 163 mm; Florence, Biblioteca Marucelliana)

The following is Michele Cuppone’s rebuttal:

I would like to thank Dr. Marco Milani, Councillor for Culture of the Municipality of Ladispoli, for what he clarified in his letter of response to my article Speculations from Caravaggiomania: Ladispoli challenges Porto Ercole on the painter’s death.

Evidently a distinction can now be made between two initiatives, albeit similar and relating to the same town context, so much so that it has been suggested that they are only one. On the one hand, there is the project of a statue of Caravaggio that will be financed by local merchants, thus “without disbursement of public money” as, moreover, I already clarified in my article, and which is at the center of the media campaign conducted in the first person by a group of citizens, however, always supported in their events by the mayor. To this, one would add lanalogo project of Caravaggio statue that the municipal administration has been in the works for about three years, as Milani clarifies. In any case, an article by Gianni Palmieri published on August 12 in Il Messaggero informed us that, with reference to the first case, “the municipality will sponsor realization and bronze statue.”

There appears to be, therefore, still some connection, between the group of citizens gathered around the nascent association Sui passi di Caravaggio, and the spirit and actions that distinguish the municipal administration represented by the first citizen. The latter are not limited, as Milani believes, to claiming Caravaggio’s “last landing,” beyond the fact that this datum is historically uncertain: it is in fact possible that the artist went to Porto Ercole by sea. It is the City of Ladispoli Assessorato alla Cultura itself that has taken charge of the signage for the Passeggiata del Caravaggio, in which it is divulged that most likely the painter died murdered in Palo (if not even before).

In fact, and here I return to the basic question posed by my article, with respect to which thepisode of the statue on the construction site is only an emblematic example, the city of Ladispoli should not arrogate to itself the right to “write its own version of history, evading serious discussion at the highest scientific levels.” A version precisely that, as it stands, has understandably been brought forward by the Ladispolan community, at the most media level, but by Vincenzo Pacelli alone in the specialized sphere and he alone, contrary to what the alderman erroneously asserts.

That Caravaggio died in Porto Ercole, results from sources and especially documents of the first hour. A circumstance of such granitic reliability, therefore, that only a conspiratorial hypothesis could think of undermining (and conspiratorial is lipothesis, certainly not the intentions of the municipal administration, in the sense that Milani unfairly renders my words).

Finally, let it be clear that the writer has no objection to monument projects per se, if these are intended to pay homage to the distinguished visitor passing through on that July 1610. It is different, however, if, as my article feared given the tenor of the initiatives and communications promoted so far, the statue would “launch an anti-historical message.” And the historian Milani, more than a writer, can only agree on this.

More on Ladispoli's initiatives to celebrate Caravaggio
More on Ladispoli's initiatives to celebrate Caravaggio

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