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Il Dittatore Folle [The Mad Dictator]

Galileo Chini (Florence, 1873-1956)

Oil on card
453 x 239 cm
1890 no. 10743

This card is the preparatory version for the painting, Il Dittatore Folle (oil on canvas, 1939, Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Bologna). The work, which has a bold visual and symbolic impact, was conceived during 1938 on the occasion of Adolf Hitler's visit to Florence on 9 May of the same year. To show their guest the excellence of culture in Italy and in particular, Tuscany, Florence was transformed into a colossal building site with temporary decorative installations. Although a member of the Fascist Committee for the celebrations, Galileo Chini refused to take part, since he thought that the pomp of the whole project was excessive. This disagreement cost him his position as an academic professor, together with the risk of a prison sentence. Although he was found not guilty, Chini continued  to express his opinions freely and frankly against the atrocities of blind political dictatorship and its devastating effects.

Chini’s art, in an elegant, seamless progression of the great artistic traditions of Tuscany and international beginnings of Art Nouveau, expresses the most serene, pleasing aspects of existence in dreamlike visions, highlighting the profound disturbance of consciousness that led the artist to create a painting like this one, all the more evident.  Here, the elegant, symbolist Central European culture, from Previati to Sartorio, Von Stuck and  Klinger, are overlaid with references to the visionary art of Goya and the highest examples of Renaissance painting, with evident allusion to Michelangelo’s Minos in the Sistine Chapel. The result, which is of a brutality that is unique in Italian paintings of the period, becomes an open denunciation of human folly and the horrors of dictatorship.

This work became part of the Uffizi Galleries collection through a forced purchase in 2018.

Text by
Francesca Sborgi
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