De Sica and Morandi: the roses of a friendship

by Angelo


On 4 June 1949, Giorgio Morandi assured his friend Vittorio De Sica that he had happily returned to Bologna after his brief stay in Rome, thanking him “for all the kindnesses he showed me in Rome” and also for the “exquisite sweets”. The answer is not long in coming and on the 12th De Sica, who has by now risen to international fame after winning an Oscar with Sciuscià, tells him about the succession of his commitments, first as an actor in a film by the French director Mogny (he would have been the acclaimed Tomorrow is too late), waiting to start another job as a director. In the interval between the two tasks he hoped to have a few days to visit the Master. Then he added that he hadn’t forgotten some roses of the moscata species, which they had seen together in the garden behind the church of Sant’Agnese in Agone, visited together and that he had promised to have them delivered to him in Bologna, to transplant them in the garden in via Fondazza left to him. unforgettable: “I have in my eyes the tranquil beauty of that garden of his and of the houses in front of his window”.

De Sica would then go to the gardener of Sant’Agnese to find out about the best way to transplant them and the advice was to wait a few months to take the cuttings. In this way he arrived in November with the removed branches arranged in two pots in the greenhouse, waiting for the roots to reproduce, in order to foresee the shipment to Bologna for the following spring. So on November 28 the director took care to apologize for the involuntary delay, explaining that “giving life to the branches of an old plant is a very delicate thing and requires care and patience”.

Morandi, in turn, during those months, thanked him for the attention paid to the promised roses, hoping “that they can grow in my garden” (letter of June 16), while on November 30 he announced that he had the painting ready ( De Sica had hoped for images of flowers) to give him on the occasion of his promised visit to Bologna. In the following spring, moreover, as hoped, the seedlings seemed to take root (letter dated 6 April 1950). An affectionate bond entrusted, therefore, to the light and softly colored enchantment of rose flowers, so dear to the Master’s art, which describes the delicacy of reciprocal feelings, but which also expresses a common vision of life and art.

Their acquaintance dates back to Morandi’s presence at the Rome Quadrennial in 1939: Carlo Zucchini testifies to this, an assiduous and sympathetic visitor to the Morandi house, appointed by his younger sister, Maria Teresa, guarantor of the donation she made to the Municipality of Bologna of a conspicuous corpus of works by his brother, and now author of a book Morandi, painter. A certain saturnine light, where he collects the precious memories of this exceptional experience of his. It is again Zucchini who documents the artist’s attention for cinema and its protagonists (Antonioni too, among others, in the company of Vitti, frequented via Fondazza), that “art” which, moreover, the younger generations born with fascism it seemed the most valid proposal to measure oneself with the facts of reality outside the rhetorical schemes of the regime, placing at the center the human personality captured in its completeness of spirituality and body. A cultural atmosphere that could not fail to involve Morandi, a severe explorer of the human condition in things of modest everyday life in the home or in the countryside, through a reflection that sought their most intimate essence, thus making them eternal.

Therefore, the consonance with De Sica’s reading of a reality captured in its concreteness, even the most humble and secluded, in which he immersed himself totally, grasping its universal value and involving the spectator, is almost inevitable. Here, then, is Morandi congratulating his friend on the success obtained in Brussels by Bicycle Thieves (letter of 14 July 1949), a film so little appreciated in his homeland, while he was about to get another Oscar. Recalling, almost ten years later in a letter of heartfelt melancholy, the last meeting on the occasion of the world ‘première’ in Bologna of Umberto D in January 1952, when the director, among the justifications given for the choice of the Bolognese screening, stated be this “the land of Morandi, which

whom I admire as an artist and who I am fond of as a man”.

Report his absence from home, so as to avoid wasted trips by his friend (he did so in the various letters with great scruple, indicating days of lessons and exams, stays in Grizzana, Levico or in Venice for the 1950 Biennale, where “far from amused”, letter of 18 April), also for his escape on Sunday 23 April 1950 to visit the Black and White photographic exhibition in Lugano. Further evidence of the attention paid by the Maestro to the techniques of reproducing reality through images , in the concreteness of

its nuances, its chiaroscuro, the snapshots perceived and immortalized in films or canvases.

De Sica and Morandi: the roses of a friendship