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alexander beckoven

A Silent Swoop / Alexander Beckoven

Text Gian Paolo Serino

 

The embrace of strangers awakes me at dawn. I see two boys at the end of my room: they greet me. I don’t know how old they are, they have satchels on their backs. I think they must go to school: I still have to make peace with myself. I can’t remember why they’re here. I can’t remember anything: I feel I’m sinking into an infinity of suspense.

My bloodshot eyes see neon sirens that stare at me as if they were the hull of a ship in a storm. I have a strange sense of peace. My heart is anchored to Argos, the dog who waited twenty years for Ulysses to return: as soon as he saw him, dressed in rags, so that he wouldn’t be recognized by the Proci in his own home, Argos dies. The magnificent Odysseus, my constant companion, and many were the men whose cities he saw and whose mind he learned, aye, and many the woes he suffered in his heart upon the sea, seeking to win his own life.

Ulysses, if only you were still known by someone – your Greek name, Odysseus translates as No one. If I had been you, I would have had them untie me, in order to dive with the sirens and lose myself in their song and more. I am No one – so I get up, the room falls onto me like fetal fluid. I made myself a cocoon of my own bitter solitude. I float and breathing through my gills takes me away from my life, bringing me gusts of deranged, sublime disappointment.

I’m the only one who can besiege me. I am more critical of myself than of others. I am only and solely Magnificent. Lorenzo the Magnificent, but there’s also Abdullah al-Barri and Abdullah al-Bahri from my copy of The Thousand and One Nights. Suleiman enclosed the Ifrits in lamps of stamped copper and then threw them into the watery abyss. The first American dictionary is entitled Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold History of English.

I’m the only one who can create and destroy, taking that womanly face in my hands and stroking your hair, resting your head on my chest, the sea finally calmed. You’re here. Now. With me. Don’t be afraid. I’m not saying I love you – in its etymon it means I promise you – and I, furious Angelica beloved of an Orlando, I cannot promise you anything, except that you will find me here. It doesn’t matter with whom or where you may be, to whom you will be promising the words that I taught you, brushing your lips with my inky fingers. After me, you will only be able to repeat them. Because every time they are spoken in the voice that has made you a woman, you will look back and I will be there.

You who are reading have understood how a woman is able to wear the most sought after clothes, mantles of dimpled beauty; is able to inhabit the most personalized perfumes as if they were the invisible contact between you and the world; is able to reside amongst the most beautiful make-up, but it will only ever be made up, it’s useless to call them by French names. Every weapon of attack is a weapon of defense. You try to escape me. I put you back behind the wall of your past, that you seek out as a safe harbour to dock at. There are no safe harbours. You can only dock on the open sea. At least for us, we who have experienced weariness and desire without finding the enthusiasm of childhood dreams.

Between the storm and your uncertainties, between the breakers of those questions to which you will never find an answer. You look around. You breathe. You look for something in your bag, as if rummaging through the portable belongings of a walking house could cheer you up. The voice of the bald soprano surrounds the eunuchs in a starry paradise. Look at the stars – you will find me. Where you live, they say that I’m dead – but I dwell in your spaces, the meadows – the wind moves your rebellious hair in a moorland the end of which you cannot see. Do I have to take your hand to make you understand?

For many, too many, only the voice remains. No more body, no more soul, on the edge of their youth. On the brink of how it should have gone. Where are the maestros, the geniuses – where did they go? Where is humanity’s luster? Perhaps they went back to the streets, grumbling in their workshops, igniting themselves with their works, which rid them of their wits. The magnificent writers? With the exception of Arbasino, in Italy, they will all end up being discovered posthumously if we don’t seek them out: Edgardo Franzosini, the true Arbasino if Arbasino were Arbasino. Raymond Isidore e la sua cattedrale – the true story of a man who, over decades, built a cathedral from pieces of scrap: today the cathedral is in Chartres, in the country of Rimbaud’s birth, and is among the beautiful treasures unknown to us, yet among the most visited in France. Mattia Signorini comes to mind, together with Francesco Maino of Cartongesso fame: not a book but a miracle of writing. To be the future without knowing it. In the United States: Tom Wolfe, Don De Lillo, the rediscovered Auster, the new Bret Easton Ellis who left writing to write films such as The Canyons. Ben Lerner is a genius, who will live on for centuries. Well, Mongiardino, beyond good and evil … Who today? Me. Of course– because I believe in a journalism that I didn’t think we would ever see again. I must say that I feel in great shape.

The sirens’ song. On the one hand salt, on the other wax. Leave your past to the frost of memory: a day will come when you will be more alone than you are now. Why are you reading me? Perhaps is someone forcing you? Oh, forgive me, forgive me. I didn’t do it deliberately! Order me to do any penance! I’m so good, I truly have a heart of gold and there are no others like mine. I have no friend who knows how to tell my story. Ah, yes, a nurse! A nurse for the love of art, that just grants her kisses to the dying. As if! Later I will be accused of having set a precedent. I cannot see a girl in tears. Yes, because making a girl cry is more irreparable than marrying her.

The man inside me freed himself in unprecedented violence. I lost myself in the shadow of genius in order to come and look for you. I searched in castoff clothes, I searched for you in the insanity of my nights where there was nothing if not an arm buried deep within me. At a standstill. Candles and ashes. Belts and chastity. Whips and handcuffs. I swallowed penises at the dawn of my non being, I sucked them down to the marrow, no longer of bones but of my blood-soaked brain. I was auctioned off on a television shopping channel in which new sirens, new titans, offered me to noblewomen, obstinate lovers of young flesh and neurons. They trampled on my intelligence with heels of uncommon elegance. Steel, red, blood.

You too can be the magnificent. Clearly not as a mirror from the 1980s – but unique, ingenious, magnificent. The problem is not wanting to be magnificent – how artists and nobles might have been magnificent – making everyone equal, everyone wonderful. The desire to be and the conviction that you are magnificent are the first doors to open in order to be unique, without bar codes. I want a magnificent life. Not like a life out of Vogue. It is the freedom to make magnificent.

What is Beauty? We are born astride our tombs. Me, I am Odysseus. I am No one. The doorbell rings, my children return from school. They hang their backpacks in front of me. I see two boys at the end of my room: they greet me. Their mother is not here. Mum, where are you? Why are you dead? You left us alone with dad. I would like to never correct my mistakes. You are the siren that awakes my dreams at dawn, you made me into a gigolo of anguish who takes a different nightmare to bed every night.

I get up, I get undressed. I’m ready for another day. I go out into the street. I am the magnificent who can only live within the eyes of a woman. You, as Angelica or less furious, are our last real chance to reveal to the world that magnificence still exists. It means forgetting ourselves, taking advantage of ourselves. We leave indelible traces in everyone, as we pass. It is the price of magnificence. We are on the brink of how it should have gone. We are music without a score in an ink ruined by the sound of time. Let’s untie ourselves from the tall mast of Calliope’s ship and hear the sirens, chase after them, lose ourselves in them. Only then will we understand the magnificence of being No one.

Photography and Creative Direction
Alexander Beckoven

Producer
Guja Quaranta,
Irene Rei

Editing and Coordination on Set
Carolina Fusi

Hair
Manuela Malena
using ColorfulHair and
Serie Expert by
L’Oréal Professionnel

Make-up
Valter Gazzano
using Tatouage Couture
by YSL Beauté

Manicurist
Miriam Dotti
estetica Lazzate / Monza

Model
Anna @womanmanagement,
Cristiano @bravemodels,
Polina @specialmanagement

Photography assistant
Jacopo Vimercati,
Gabriele Cialdella

Digital tech
Emanuele De Rossi

Post-production
Alessandra Distaso

Special thanks to
Franca Parisi,
Siki Red Fins

A silent swoop

A silent swoop – calling from the other side by Alexander Beckoven, from the november issue #11 – Magnifico

From The Fashionable Lampoon Issue 11 – Magnifico

 

Photography & Creative Direction
Alexander Beckoven

Video editing
Giulia Bertuletti

 

Models
Polina Zavialova @ specialmanagement
Cristiano Palmerini @ bravemodels

Special thanks to
Franca Parisi
Siki Red Fins

Mina Vagante

From The Fashionable Lampoon Issue 10 – Grace & Graphic

 

Photography & Creative Direction
Alexander Beckoven

Video
Giulia Bellè

 

Models
Chiara Leone @ elite
Federico Novello @ ilovemodels management

Stylist
Ellen Mirck

Hair
Mauro Zorba @ facetoface

Manicurist
Elena Stepaniouk @ facetoface

Post-production
Laura Baiardini
Up studio Milano

Fashion assistant
Chiara Guagliumi

Wake up, it’s spring

01

Izia 1 – Sisley Beauty Wall performed by @LuciaCurzi – pick your favorite Illustration and like it on Lampoon Instagram

02

Izia 2 – Sisley Beauty Wall performed by PatriziaCalegari – pick your favorite Illustration and like it on Lampoon Instagram

03

Izia 3 – Sisley Beauty Wall performed by @andrearubele – pick your favorite Illustration and like it on Lampoon Instagram

Testo Paola Corazza

 

Izia, the new fragrance by Sisley, was created starting from a childhood memory of Isabelle d’Ornano, the founder, in 1976, alongside husband Hubert, of the Sisley brand. To celebrate the new perfume, Sisley conceived a special wall, that does not divide, yet joins together: the Sisley Beauty Wall (http://www.sisleybeautywall.it/) collects the thoughts and the memories and all that Izia evokes and brings to mind. A wall, some say, is there to accommodate messages, drawings, doodles, memories.

Memories, we were saying: Isabelle d’Ornano recalls the fragrance of a particular rose, that bore no name, and that blossomed only in early May in a rose garden in a faraway place, a castle in Łańcut, Poland. The same rose that Isabelle brought, fifteen years ago, to her house garden in the Berry region, in the Loire valley. The roses she loves to wrap in newspaper and take to Paris. Isabelle observed her rose, the d’Ornano rose, wither and imagined to evoke that same scent, to capture it before it vanished forever. And she succeeded , with the help of Amandine Clerc-Marie, one of the leading ‘noses’ in France. This is how the new Sisley fragrance, Izia, was created and named after Isabelle’s nickname in Polish.

The new scent, sensuous and feminine, revolves around the rose. But also features luminous and sophisticated head notes provided by Calabrian bergamot and pink pepper, touches of freesia and tea and a warm, woody base, softened by musk.

The story of Izia sounds like a fairytale and stems from a memory, an inspiration. The Sisley Beauty Wall is a place where everyone can get inspired by this magical fragrance and leave their mark, also virtually, through a post on one’s social media, with #Sisleyparisitalia, #BeautyWall.

Sisley Beauty Wall

Wake up, it’s spring – take a flower and back to sleep, #Google says. We want to introduce #Izia, the new perfume by #Sisley on the first (actually, second this year) day of #Spring. 

Find more on Lampoon Instagram and on Sisley-Paris.com about a #BeautyWall using the hashtag #SisleyParisItalia.

All your posts will appear listed with us and #SisleyItalia. #Izia the new fragance by #SisleyItalia, conceived from a childhood memory by Isabelle d’Ornano #IziaStory.

Photography by Alexander Beckoven in The Fashionable Lampoon

 
Special thanks for the Illustrations to Lucia Emanuela Curzi, Patrizia Calegari and Andrea Rubele.
 

Aristofunk / Alexander Beckoven

Text Cesare Cunaccia
@cesarecunacciaofficial

 

It’s a way of thinking about life that is far removed from any preconceptions or membership of a caste, and even lies beyond any real or fictitious division that there may be on the social ladder of any period of time. Aristofunk is simply the exact opposite of the currently prevailing phenomenon of ‘mezza calza’ (similar in concept to the British fake tan). Noble blood and estate certainly come into it, but when all is said and done they’re not really the issue. Snobbery completely misses the mark, and appearing blasé even more so. Aristofunk is knowing how to stun and be stunned, to enjoy marvels and dreams. It’s a way of opting out and living stubbornly and exclusively according to your own exclusive and sometimes exceptional parameters. A bit like the usual and inevitable Marie-Antoinette, a rocaille rock-star despite herself, the mother of all subsequent excesses and diva-ism, including from more recent times, and the epitome of every sumptuous and hyperbolic invention of a garment, coiffure or décor, yet capable of immersing herself in milking cute flower-decked Friesian cows in the Rambouillet dairy or at the Hameau, her fake peasant village in Versailles, using gilded stools and Sèvres china buckets with golden handles. Who knows whether it was due to Arcadian pastoral inspirations or to more practical imprinting by her wise mother, the empress of Austria Maria-Theresia Hapsburg, the Mother of Europe, who had a model cowshed set up in the park of Schönbrunn palace, run by loyal Tyrolean peasants to teach rural activities to her numerous young daughters. It might or might not be true that the last Queen of France of the Ancien Régime actually proclaimed that fateful phrase, so vivid and unfortunate: «Let them eat cake». At any rate, poor Antoinette’s mastery of good taste, the dynamic power of her original and irrepressible imagination, her vibrant joie de vivre pursued at all costs and with all means, remain proverbial, standing out from all the other thousands of heads lopped off by the guillotine. When the Thermidorian Reaction broke out in Paris (with the overthrow of Robespierre), a reaction of anarchic and exasperated elegance flared up like a beautiful firework, responding with philosophical superficiality to the dark shadows of a period intoxicated with bloodshed and social hatred. That’s what Aristofunk means. And so begins our gallery: a gallery that is themed, but not excessively so.

Julien Landais, aka Pierre-Alexandre Thomas Julien Landais. In the buzz of voices in the Marchesi pastry shop in Via Montenapoleone in Milan, one late morning before Christmas, Julien talks about the evergreen icons that can span epochs and chronologies, like Marie-Antoinette in fact, or to strike a more contemporary note, Lee Radziwill and Queen Elizabeth II, «very funk». He speaks of aristocracy as a social circle nourished by dreams and the imagination, but also of a nobility in art and thought, made up of key figures such as Martin Scorsese or James Ivory, executive producer of The Aspern Papers, the film that Landais is shooting in Venice with Vanessa Redgrave and Joely Richardson. It’s his first feature film, produced by his Princeps Film company in association with Prince Charles-Henri Lobkowicz, a figure that stands out in the world of Parisian high society and is the very epitome of aristofunk. The cinematic treatment is based on Jean Pavan’s stage adaptation of the novel by Henry James. Landais has a series of short films and fashion films to his credit, as well as musical videos, with stars such as Andrea Ferreol, Nora Arnezeder and Daphne Guinness. The French actor and director was born on 6 August 1981 in Angers, under the sign of Leo, but he still seems little more than a boy. With eyes of an incredible Maldives turquoise set beneath emphatic black arched brows that look like kohl, Julien seems to hold within him an accumulation of previous lives, ideas and sensations that call to mind a captivating phenomenon of metempsychosis. He reminds one of a romantic hero from the first half of the 19th century, a Lord Byron in Missolungi, Percy B. Shelley in Rome, or Stendhal’s fictional character Lucien Leuwen. A novel is a mirror journeying down the high road wrote Stendhal in 1830, replying to accusations of immorality levelled against his great classic, The Red and the Black Sometimes it reflects to your view the azure blue of heaven, sometimes the mire in the puddles on the road below.

Claudia di Canossa, the thirty-one-year old descendant of a noble and historic lineage, was born in France and has lived in Milan, Hong Kong, Venice and now Rome. «I’m an architect and I work for the IT’S Studio a think tank aimed at generating communication between creative entities that share the need to innovate. I’m interested in urban planning, design on a large scale». Her latest assignment is the creation of the Bang&Olufsen showroom in Milan. «I participated in the creation of the Doha Metro. I still see in the aristocracy a valid line of upbringing, values, principles, a sense of belonging. In effect you’re linked to history. Today you’re defined by what you do, by your actual skills, your life experience, more than your surname. You live looking towards the future rather than looking back at the past. An hourglass has to do with time, with a rhythm, a continuity and a balance».

Giano del Bufalo, a Roman by atavistic imprinting, is twenty-eight years old and lives in Castello della Cecchignola, at the gates of Rome, in a papal hunting lodge which later passed into Torlonia hands. It was rescued from a state of degradation by his father, Dario del Bufalo, architect, professor and historian of ancient stones and marble, a kind of Indiana Jones with a mad passion for ancient Egyptian porphyry and adventure. Giano, tall and thin, with a slightly exotic middle-eastern allure, somewhere between dark rock and new-romantic, resembles a young Laurent Terzieff and always wears black. He feels at ease with the aristofunk mood. «I have a gallery in a secluded street, overrun with climbers opposite the Palatine hill, Giano announces, roaming around between stuffed lions and tigers, inlaid stone, curiosities, bucrania, naturalia and almost necromantic wonders it specializes in natural history and Wunderkammer objects. I’m dedicated to exploring the field of ancient stones further, under the guidance of my father and Raniero Gnoli, the greatest living expert and a repository of a huge store of knowledge. Raniero Gnoli is the only authentic example of a nobleman that can testify today to this age-old fragrance of civilisation. It’s a mixture of physique, bearing and that timeless look, of perfect modes of conceiving furniture, the arrangement of a table, the harmony of conversation, of expertly filtering the light so that it brings out poignant pictorial effects».

The Aristofunk crowd echoes through places of epic narrative. Chief of them all is the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj in Rome, a dizzy accumulation of papal splendour brought about by a deus ex-machina, Donna Olimpia Maidalchini Pamphilj, sister-in-law of the Pope with the dictatorial scowl, Innocent X. This unscrupulous, fierce and brilliant matron, known throughout history as Donna Pimpa − the name the Roman people had for her at the time − was so sick with power and so greedy for riches that it led to her death. The Pope is depicted in the portrait by Diego Velázquez in 1650. Endless stretches of frescoed vaults and scarlet double-pile velvet, purple, silver and gold damask, Roman and Baroque sculptures under the obsessive, piercing gaze of Donna Olimpia, in spite of the dark memories enclosed within this stupendous legacy. It’s a gallery of masterpieces in homage to the horror vacui of Baroque. Raphael, Filippino Lippi, il Correggio, Tiziano, Parmigianino, Lorenzo Lotto, Brueghel the Elder, Salviati, Fetti and Mabuse. An amazing display of three Caravaggio paintings, Annibale Carracci with the invention of the Italian landscape, the melancholic Arcadia of Claude Lorrain, Gaspard Dughet’s Tempest, Guercino and Domenichino. Today the residence is bizarrely cut in two as if by a disputed frontier, by an iron screen that cuts across the flow of the rooms. Another property owned by the Doria Pamphilj family is the Palazzo known as Villa del Principe in Genoa, which used to be outside the city walls in the Fassolo district, and was built for the admiral Andrea Doria, primus inter pares, the true lord of Genoa. Pierino Bonaccorsi, alias Perin Del Vaga, a follower of Raphael, produced an extensive series of mannerist stuccos and frescos with mythological themes during the first half of the 16th century, that alluded to the family’s adventures and glories. The Galleria Aurea is embellished by the two ‘Alexander the Great’ Flemish tapestries from Burgundy. An allegorical portrait of Andrea Doria by Sebastiano del Piombo is next to paintings by Bronzino and Domenico Piola. The Italian garden, recently restored and rearranged by the Doria Pamphilj family after a long period of neglect and decay, was constructed thanks to the creation of an artificial lake. An oasis of beauty now besieged by traffic, it was rounded off with a private mooring that allowed direct access to the sea. Outside the area now occupied by the Stazione Principe there used to be an eight-metre high statue representing Jove. At its base was the tomb of the ‘Gran Roldano’, Andrea Doria’s favourite dog. The statue was commonly known as ‘Il Gigante’ by the Genoese, until it fell into ruin and was demolished in 1939.

Princess Martine Orsini, née Bernheim, a Parisian, can exert a hypnotic flow like a sorceress, which she condenses into an entertaining viral video. She reminds you of the reckless women of the Fronde, the ‘princesse des Ursins’, translated into a surreal and irresistible esprit with a radically French, Enlightenment-style character and elements of ‘Marie-Laure de Noailles’. She comes over as witty and self-mocking, with velvety iridescent eyes and absolutely clear ideas with no diplomatic fudging. Vaguely despotic and decidedly tranchante, one of the few people who welcomes a challenging and provocative discussion, Martine lives in the Palazzo Orsini, overlooking the Tiber on the edge of the Ghetto area of Rome. A series of drawing-rooms en enfilade, transfigured by frescos and illusionist décor, are arranged around an enclosed hanging garden with a nymphaeum, where citrus trees stand amid the rows of box, full of fragile ice-white flowers. Pieces of contemporary art, by Damien Hirst and Penone among others, are set almost incongruously among the mirrored surfaces in which the demigods and floral ornamentations from the gallery seem to float by, and in the circular salon where meticulously decorated ceramic plaques by Castelli show scenes of Orsini feudal splendour. «What can I do? − asks Donna Martine, an Economics graduate, with amused nonchalance, as she plays with a string of pearls worthy of Maria Mancini, and speaking as if she’s talking about someone else − but be the princess, for heaven’s sake! And I can do it well. Of course, it’s something I had to learn. But you can see that I’ve got it in my DNA. In 1977 I married my husband, Domenico, whom I met by chance, and since then I’ve stayed with him because I love him. I don’t miss Paris. Rome is the perfect place to live, because you can always put off until tomorrow what you should do today, and Italy is the perfect place for a holiday, especially she adds with a laugh − after the referendum result. I’m as changeable as a cloud, impulsive but paradoxically contemplative, and definitely unpredictable. Wise? Never! It would be like giving in to the banality of facts. Instead, I’d say reasonable. I’ve got four kids and I look after this house as you would a child, a special creature. I travel a lot and I’m interested in contemporary art. The most powerful thing that my parents taught me, something that I keep engraved on my mind and in my heart, is the exhortation to be modest».

Flicking through the annals of the word aristofunk, you’ll come across the six Mitford sisters, with their uneven political militancy ranging from communism to fascism. They caused a stir in the Britain of the 1930s and 1940s. In terms of literary verve, Jessica shone, and above all the talented Nancy, who deserted to Paris, while the youngest of them, Deborah (‘Debo’), the widowed Duchess of Devonshire and proverbial lady of the manor at Chatsworth, died in 2014, at nearly a hundred years old. It has been said that they were «the most ardent burnishers of their own public image». The epitome of aristofunk was Diana Vreeland, legendary editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazar and Vogue US, if for nothing else than for her imperturbable observation of the rule «never before noon» and the magnificent catchphrase «Why don’t you?», which went on to become a successful magazine advice column. The Sitwell family, Osbert, Edith and Sacheverell, defenders of all the artistic, musical and literary avant-garde of the first half of the 20th century, were descendants of an ancient lineage of writers, poets, aesthetes and librettists. They were ci-devant, but at the same time revolutionaries and agitprop provocateurs moving between Paris, their ancestral home at Renishaw Hall in Derbyshire, and the Tuscan castle of Montegufoni, near Montespertoli, with its post-cubist fresco decorations of Pulcinellas and Harlequins by Gino Severini, depicted dancing and playing instruments, commissioned by Sir Osbert in 1922.

Michele Dalai, a professional journalist, took over the reins of his family’s publishing house, Baldini e Castoldi, created by his father Alessandro, in 2013. The company, where he had begun his professional career, was going through a period of crisis, but Dalai succeeded in relaunching it. It was a great result for Dalai, together with Boosta from Subsonica and Andrea Agnelli, founder of the ADD publishing brand in 2010, based in Turin, especially given the difficult situation the world of publishing is in today. «Publishing is a slow, ancient process that can seem a bit dusty at times to those who are looking at it from the outside. It’s a sector in crisis that has had to re-examine itself, where those who want to achieve positive results have to work really hard and there isn’t much room for patronage. Perhaps, in this sense, the system that people expect to find in the world of publishing is broken. There’s a need for professionalism and hard work, not just expertise. It’s certainly a job that creates a certain kind of aura around those who do it and its nature is such that it gives you access to some wonderfully interesting people: designers, great minds, ideas. In this sense, the job I do for a living might appear a privilege. In reality he concludes − I’d say it was an intelligent job rather than an aristocratic one».

Ottavia Borghini Baldovinetti de’ Bacci Venuti, it’s an impressive string of names for an adorable jeune fille. She has just made her society début in Naples, in the neoclassical Villa Lucia, with its sweeping views over the gulf of Vomero. The house, once the property of the Duchess of Partanna, the second wife, by a morganatic marriage, to King Ferdinand IV, belongs to her maternal grandmother, Diana de Feo Fede. Her ancestors are an illustrious and cumbersome presence. The Bacci family, of which Giorgio Vasari’s patient wife, Nicolosa, was also a member during the 15th century, commissioned the cycle of frescos of the Legend of the True Cross by Piero della Francesca in the church of San Francesco in Arezzo, completed by 1466: the work, inspired by the Leggenda Aurea by Jacopo da Varagine, is a Renaissance masterpiece. Ottavia has a grace that is both modern and 19th century, inclined towards romanticism, with a veiling of shyness. «Basically she observes it’s your upbringing, something that’s an inescapable fact, the attachment to your roots. It’s like recognizing the feel of the earth in the land where you were born. Aristofunk is a form of elegance veined with rebellion». Her passion is the cinema: she’s studying acting, and finds inspiration by watching and analysing scores of films from the past to the present.

Majestic mouldings and ivory stucco whorls, frozen in the aesthetics of Neoclassicism. Marble of various colours with flamboyant and evocative names from Porto Venere, and rose-coloured breccia from Sicily, marble from Mondragone, streaked ‘lumachino’ marble from Trapani and red from Vitulano. Mosaics of semi-precious stones, gilding that flares up in frenzied and rhapsodic grids on 18th century ceilings. Gobelins tapestries, frescoes by Belisario Corenzio, Massimo Stanzione and Battistello Caracciolo. A stratified, anarchic ratatouille of furniture, objects, bronzes and porcelain, of exaggerated bronze and crystal chandeliers, Thomire and Weisweiler pieces, Sèvres urns and a host of almost Naïve Capodimonte porcelain. There’s a very 19th century, almost bourgeois desire for comfort in Biedermeier and Ferriéres ‘Goût Rothschild’ style. Voilà: the Palazzo Reale in Naples in Piazza del Plebiscito, with views over the gulf through its hanging gardens. It began as the viceregal palace in 1600 and was completed in 1858. It was a never-ending work in progress, interrupted only when Naples came under French rule in the early years of the 19th century, and it saw the participation of numerous architects, including Domenico and Giulio Cesare Fontana, Luigi Vanvitelli, Ferdinando Sanfelice, Ferdinando Fuga, Luigi Niccolini, Gaetano Genovese and Francesco Antonio Picchiatti.

The Kolors, a band that formed in Naples in 2010, is composed of Antonio ‘Stash’ Fiordispino, vocals, guitar, piano bass and percussion, Alex Fiordispino, drums and percussion, and Daniele Mona, synthesizer, talk box and percussion. In 2015 they won the Amici TV talent show with 61% of the votes and the Critics’ award. When they brought out their single Everytime, it shot to the top of the iTunes lists, and soon afterwards they released their second album Out, which won platinum disc four times and has sold over 200,000 copies. Just a few pointers provide a picture of Stash: his rockabilly-hipster tuft of hair and boyish features, his youthfulness and gritty determination, he’s adored by legions of young girls, but many others too. «I’ve spent the last few months travelling between Milan, London and Los Angeles working on a new album with my band, that’s coming out in the spring. With music, I pay a lot of attention to the details, and it’s the same when it comes to looking after my image, so that everything best reflects my personality». As for the meaning of ‘aristofunk’, Stash concisely splits the etymology of the concept, separating it into two clear parts. «As regards the first part of the word, it’s not for me to say I’m ‘aristo-’, better than other people. But as regards the term ‘funk’, I’m pretty sure that it represents a big part of me, of my life and my sound». The definition of ‘aristo’ as ‘better’ is a novel one, coming from someone like Stash – but his presence here emphasizes the fact that being aristo today – even if funk above all – is based much more on talent than on a God-given right, as was the case in the past.

Eleonora Rajneri Karageorgevitch, Princess of Yugoslavia, is a young, dark-haired lady of patrician cut, sitting with unconcerned chic on a dark walnut console: a smiling humour reveals itself in her voice from time to time, and she has an intense Fayumite gaze, roaming and inquiring. «I’m a university professor of law in Italy, a visiting professor teaching on a course in Paris, a Legal Counsel and author of numerous publications on comparative law. I live with my husband, Serge [the son of H.R.H. Maria Pia of Savoy, eldest daughter of Umberto II, the last king of Italy, and of H.R.H. Alessando Karageorgevitch of Yugoslavia], shuttling between the rigorous and austere sobriety of Turin and the shameless pomp of Montecarlo. The comparison between different experiences as a tool of understanding, is not just a profession but also a philosophy of life. I’m not conventional, either as a professor or as a lawyer, and not even as a princess; on the other hand, I’m the princess of a country that doesn’t exist any more. I don’t play the role that I find I’m supposed to play, that others expect of me. The aristocracy nowadays makes more sense than ever, provided that it is understood in the etymological meaning of the word, that is, government by the best people. The best in terms of merits acquired by intelligence, expertise and respect for others. Elegance in manners and form is simply the consequence of all this». The princess of Yugoslavia has been photographed in the rooms of the Circolo dei Lettori (Literary Circle) in Turin, which was the Graneri della Roccia palace, built between 1681 and 1699 for the abbot Marc’Antonio Graneri d’Entremont, Head Court Almoner for the Regent, Christine of France, by Gian Francesco Baroncelli, a pupil and collaborator of Guarino Guarini. While the original fine furnishings no longer exist, the late-Baroque decoration of paintings and stucco-work, the chandeliers and fabric wall hangings have remained intact. It was here, in 1859, that the Count of Cavour decided to celebrate in great style the wedding of the pious 16-year-old princess Maria-Clotilde of Savoy, who went on to become the ‘Saint of Moncalieri’, and Gerolamo Bonaparte, the pleasure-loving libertine ‘Plonplon’, cousin to Napoleon III: it was an ill-matched union in every way, but for the ambitious Kingdom of Sardinia it played a fundamental role in their political alliance with the Second French Empire.

Benedetto Camerana, born in 1963 into an aristocratic Piedmontese family related to the Agnelli family, is the great-great-grandson of the Fiat founder and, on his mother’s side, a descendant of the philosopher Giovanni Gentile. «Everyone is defined by what they do. Benedetto declares straight away − I’m an architect. When I was ten, I drew up a city plan. I’m still doing the same things now. I designed the Olympic village for the winter games in Turin in 2006, the church for the Arsenale della Pace in Turin, the Messina waterfront, the Alfa Romeo museum, the biggest cinema in Italy in Milan, the Fondazione Camera for photography, the business incubator in Faenza, the Juventus Museum, the Environment Park and the Einaudi Campus. They’re all public projects and my few private projects are in any case designed for public use. Now in Novara I’m thinking about how to transform a large factory into a habitat for hosting start-ups and makers, as well as the new Health City. Every project is a story in itself, with a different and distinct theme from previous ones. At first I worked with Emilio Ambasz, a brilliant person to follow after. I don’t like specializing, but rather testing myself with what I’ve never done before. Architects should enjoy themselves, even though it’s a tiring profession. I’m president of Lingotto, an exercise in balance between the very different owners of a huge condominium of 200,000 square metres. The aristocracy? It no longer exists in the sense of power, particularly in Italy. It’s hanging on a bit in Britain, with the House of Lords, the right of primogeniture and the aristocratic estates, and in Spain where the King and Queen can guarantee a certain amount of moral order in public life. Here in Italy the world that survives has now become crystallized: titles, kinships, cousins are scattered between different cities, and there are matrimonial unions, marvellous palaces and palaces in various stages of dilapidation. Centuries ago, titles were either bought or conquered. Nowadays, they may be preserved, even celebrated, but hardly anyone is interested in them any more. There remains a certain amount of nobility of spirit, a way of being recognizable (but not always), the rituals and customs, the clubs and a certain way of enjoying oneself».

Matteo Perego di Cremnago combines two traditions that overlap through the long history of Lombardy. There is mention of the aristocratic Perego di Cremnago family dating back to the 13th century, but it became prominent as a result of its banking activities in 1600 and the more recent industrial dynasty of the Cambiaghi. They made their fortune with the Cambiaghi hat company, founded in Monza by a former shop errand boy of humble birth, Giuseppe Cambiaghi, in 1880. The company exported throughout the world and had 1500 employees. Renowned for their top quality production, in 1930 they had reached a production of over 33,000 hats a day. ‘El sciur Pepp’, as Giuseppe was known in the factory, where he was enormously popular and knew the employees personally, was awarded the title of Count at the peak of his success as a captain of industry, but that didn’t stop him being a forceful advocate of social collaboration and workers’ rights. It is these values that inspire Matteo Perego, a fourth generation descendant of Giuseppe, who, he confesses, is something of a tutelary deity for him and a key figure of reference. And the same goes, on his father’s side, for the captain of the Hapsburg army, Carlo Ignazio Perego di Cremnago, who fell at the battle of Leuthen, during the Seven Years War in 1758. Matteo decided to relaunch the Cambiaghi brand after a long period of decline. The gamble has proved successful: hats and leather goods for men and women, heritage and innovation, it’s a showcase of memories that has now joined the ranks of the best Made in Italy products. «Aristocracy − Matteo maintains − is a term with a thousand facets. The true, most powerful meaning, in my opinion, is also the most positive: a solid and continuing base of ethical and aesthetic substance. Aristofunk is simply what I’m trying to do through the Cambiaghi adventure: strong roots lead to new codes, top quality and associated irony. Being an entrepreneur in Italy today is a big challenge, but this is a country that has incomparable hidden resources, and it’s the people who work in Italy who preserve these within themselves more than the institutions. We are treasuring this world of amazing craftspeople and top quality companies. They are our humus. When Italian companies are bought by French groups, it’s not because of their financial structure, but because of the matchless brilliance of the product, the inventive powers that are unrivalled in giving substance to the creative act. That’s what nobility is».

The amount of sheer human energy that Patricia Urquiola manages to impart to you is difficult to describe. It’s a tempest of evocative, sometimes improbable words mixed with spicy and graphic Spanish detail, a rhythmical heap of ideas and concepts that are thrown down in front of you; surreal anecdotes, a parade of palpable images, humour, fun, and go-go bon mots. No, there is none of that metaphysical Spanish melancholy of the ‘Siglo de Oro’ in Patricia, who was born in Oviedo in 1961, and is among the most renowned architects and designers internationally. She’s beautiful, with her radiant, sculptured face and well-defined Hidalgo features. Based in Milan, she’s an Asturian of Basque descent. She was portrayed by Karl Lagerfeld in black and white on the pages of Vogue Paris. Strange, because when you think about Patricia, it’s colours that come into your mind. Patricia trained in Italy, taught by great designers such as Bruno Munari and Achille Castiglioni. It was at De Padova that she met Vico Magistretti in 1991, the start of a mutual collaboration. She collaborates with Alessi and B&B, Kartell, Molteni, Driade, Poltrona Frau, Cappellini and many more. A university teacher, with multiple personalities ranging from the field of design to architecture to exhibition construction, Patricia is the Art Director at Cassina, a company and expressive style that she has often referred to as an inspiration for her own career. «Cassina is an aristocratic child that’s ninety years old − says Patricia − a rigorous line of contemporary research, without many affectations, that has never been interrupted». In 1996 she became design director at the Lissoni studio, while in 1998 she arrived at Moroso, making a name for herself with her flexible, changing upholstery that identified a new concept of sitting. Her objects and furniture express her design terroir. They are sincere, seemingly simple yet with a soul within, a mathematical proportion. They’re snug, versatile and metamorphic. Funny and funky. «I’m sure − she says − that people come to me because they feel that I’m a can-do sort of person, I’m experimental and I listen and pay attention to them. Basically, I like to dare, and I never say no out of hand. The intrinsic relationship with the material and its inner lymph has allowed me the chance to move, keeping hold of the lessons I’ve learned from the masters. Nobility as I understand it lies in the material and in the design. I like giving value to second-class products, using production scrap. Top quality marble is sublime, but believe me, it’s really fantastic how much you can invent starting from scrap pieces. Machines can cut off extremely fine thicknesses and have made marble malleable, light and ductile. You get some real surprises from it. Of course, it’s a game that works if you can give it an added value through design, if you can take a gamble with an impulse that’s both visionary and protective, in an oxymoron. I accepted a hotel that didn’t have any special characteristics and that had passed through various hands and I gave it a different dignity, a garb that has transformed it into a cult. For the last decade I’ve embarked on a journey with Mutina into the world of ceramics. Together we’re restoring a beautiful raw concrete structure by Angelo Mangiarotti as an exhibition space, with a spatial approach reminiscent of Jean Prouvé. It’s becoming a sort of small cathedral, featuring ribbing that takes on the appearance of a musical score».

From The Fashionable Lampoon Issue 8 – Aristofunk

 

Photography, Creative Direction & Styling
Alexander Beckoven

 

Director of Photography
Riccardo Ferri

Hair
Chiara Bussei @ close up

Make-up
Sissy Belloglio @ w-m management using Mac cosmetics

Manicurist
Selica Ianeselli @ mks
Roberta Rodi @ close up
Annarel Innocente @ close up

Models
Marco Cartasegna @ i love
Otto Lundbladh @ i love

Set designer
Micol Di Palma

Digital tech and post-production
Luca Trevisani

Fashion Editing
Arianna Pianca

Special thanks to
Pierre Frey for the wallpapers,
Flying Tiger Copenhagen for the butterflies,
Floricoltura Radaelli for the ivy and tree branches

Radetzky / Alex John Beck

Text Cesare Cunaccia
@cesarecunacciaofficial

 

Villa Arconati, not far from Milan in the Castellazzo district of Bollate, has long been known as the Lombardian ‘Little Versailles’. There’s a sort of mythological imprinting here, an enchanted, suspended dimension yet to show itself despite long periods of spoliation, of dust and decline, in spite of the implacable succession of years and generations. Boredom, sadness and stress, scuffles, rancour and fraud live far from here, wrote Felice Leonardi, author of the verses which accompany colour engravings by Marc’Antonio Dal Re of the villa’s interior and exterior. The building, an ancient Cusani property, was passed down from the Arconatis to the Busca family in 1772, then to the Crivellis in the 1900s, to finally wind up in the hands of a real estate agency in 1990. While not a royal residence, Castellazzo, home to theatrical facies of the late Baroque, particularly thanks to Giuseppe Antonio Arconati circa 1750, is marked by a grandiose spirit, entirely devoted to the exaltation of a powerful patrician lineage. It is most certainly shaped by an influence which arrived from the other side of the Alps, designed to be the ideal scenery for soirees and lavish entertainment. With what remains of its enchanted park, of its Bibbianesque backdrops, its follies, its aviary and its Giardino dei Cervi, especially if you visit it on a quiet day without crowds and perhaps with the moorland enveloped by ethereal fog, Villa Arconati will immediately pull you into the free-flowing hendecasyllabic verses of Il Giorno, the short, satiric poem by Abbot Giuseppe Parini from Brianza. In his narration coloured by sophisticated irony, he points a finger at the empty, pompous rituals and the sense of futility through which many Milanese nobles during the Age of Enlightenment dragged their existence. Proceeding by way of fragments and analogical reflections, infinite literary trajectories open up, not the least of which is the seething linguistic overflow of Gadda’s Cognizione del Dolore and the numerous masterful characters of Fratelli d’Italia or Piccole Vacanze by Alberto Arbasino.

Moving on to film, the opening scene of Il Lavoro, an episode in Luchino Visconti’s Boccaccio ‘70, liberally inspired by a story penned by Guy de Maupassant, but even further shaped by real-life figures of Milanese high society at the time. More than a mere film, a refined, licentious marivaudage between Crébillon fils, Vivant Denon, Cederna, and Ottiero Ottieri, it’s laced with Mitteleuropean allure and Lombardian pragmatism suffused on a heraldic, 1970s Rococo canvas in a crescendo of anxiety over love and emotional disenchantment. When Boccaccio ’70 was released in 1962, the massive scandal of the end of the August 1970s, the Casati Stampa affair, was still yet to come: a double homicide and subsequent suicide of the killer, the marquis Camillo Casati Stampa, an extremely wealthy and a noted hunter, in the penthouse of 9 Via Puccini, near Villa Borghese in Rome. The weapon involved in the crime, which took place upon the marquis’ return from a hunting expedition in Valdagno with the Marzottos, was a Browning 12 calibre rifle. Private vice and public virtue, an ambiguous duplicity à la Buñuel for a sick conjugal ménage. A noble Lombardian signore, overwhelmed by a frenzy of voyeurism and Oedipal jealousy, who records everything, meticulously, in a titillating green diary and takes thousands of photos of his beautiful second wife, Anna Vallarino, while she’s engaged in sexual acts which are as fiery as they are fleeting, at times even in groups and with money exchanged. However, Camillo was unable to pardon Anna for one fateful flaw: falling in love like a midinette with a handsome and ambitious Roman, Massimo Minorenti, already tied to the dancer and showgirl Lola Falana.

Observing the vestiges of Castellazzo’s Baroque, rocaille splendour, the solemn grand staircase, the main floor ballroom with frescoes by brothers Fabrizio and Bernardino Galliari, and imagining you are looking through a magic-lantern lens, able to erase any sense of chronology, past and future, you can make out hermeneutical methods, costumes and tics which are likely still found in the descendants of the protagonists during those distant, radiant days just before the dissolution of the old world. Perhaps that opposing and complementary imprinting was defined exactly then, during the eighteenth-century hand-over to a bourgeois concept of reality, imprinting which still today roughly defines the patrician Lombardian and, in particular, Milanese sphere of interest, be it of remote, indigenous in origin or by Spanish or Habsburg appointment. Or perhaps that cast from the more recent House of Savoy, when a few well-to-do, enterprising families, working with cotton and textiles in particular, were awarded titles to consecrate their newly-obtained, prominent status.

Casa Crespi in Corso Venezia – with its late-1800s décor, which blends Second Empire tastes with neo-Rococo and historicist accents with a celestial treasure chest of paintings (two incredible, large works by Canaletto, in primis), stocked with plates in silver and gold for hundreds of guests, in a tourbillon of Meissen porcelain, of consoles and white stucco, of dressers en tombeau, hardwood floors and Torretta coffeemakers – still bears witness to this legendary civic prestige at the end of the nineteenth century. Heredity…It is the only one of the Gods whose real name we know, commented Oscar Wilde. It was a world which looked backwards, where the past mattered more than the future. So, let’s also take a step back and return to Villa Arconati.

Eighteenth-century Milan, the domain of the Habsburg crown since 1706, was rich and prosperous, progressively connected with a European landscape from which a sort of authentic crossroads arose. The economy, founded on excellence in manufacturing and advanced agriculture, was booming. So much for pulp convent scandals like that of the Nun of Monza and tyrannical whims in the cheap style of Don Rodrigo, set on a background of plagues, abject poverty and seventeenth-century invasions by Iberian viceroys.

The arrival, from France, of the Ancien Régime in the sunset of life, of enlightened, revolutionary ideas was prefigured just as Giovanni Battista Tiepolo arrived in the capital of Lombardy to sing the praises of an unrepeatable aristocratic civilisation with his light-filled painting, mid-air amongst the tumultuous heavens of Olympus. Here, Maresciallo Anton Giorgio Clerici, marquis of Cavenago, loyal to her holy majesty Maria Theresa of Austria and a knight in the Order of the Golden Fleece, he who, after the Archintos, in 1740 became Tiepolo’s second Milanese patron in his palace in the Prestino dei Bossi quarter. Clerici squandered the immense inheritance left by his grandfather and great-grandfather in a glimmering vertigo representing the glory of the imperial house of Austria. His appearance in Rome in 1758, as the empire’s ambassador to the conclave following the death of Benedict XIV Lambertini, left the Quirites speechless, blinded by the parade of gilded carriages, by diamonds used as buttons on the brodée tailcoat of the megalomaniac Anton Giorgio, by the swarm of footmen and servants, by the jittery, plumed pure-blooded thoroughbreds of his entourage, they too shod in silver. It was a sight unseen, even in a city which was home to Bernini’s exaggerations. One would have to wait until the debut of the 1900s, with the arrival of the dark marquise, Luisa Casati Stampa di Soncino (born to the bourgeois Amman family), to see similar phantasmagorical hyperboles of luxury and exploding fantasy. Her story is well known, but little Milanese at heart, preferring the Egeria of D’Annunzio, of van Dongen and Marinetti, and other, more suitable stages, such as Venice, Capri and Paris, to the austere, Borromeic Milan.

Not all eighteenth-century aristocracy delighted in the vacuous social practices and artificial boutades of caste like Parini’s Giovin Signore. In fact, they belonged to the rather branché Lombardian reformist patriciate, such as the brothers Pietro and Alessandro Verri, the inseparable Dioscuri of the Il Caffè newspaper between 1764 and 1766, or even the great Cesare Beccaria Marquis of Gualdrasco and Villareggio, jurist and proponent of the abolition of torture and the death penalty, whose fame exploded internationally thanks to his Dei Delitti e delle Pene. Giulia Manzoni Beccaria, a Don Juan libertine in a skirt and a theorist on love triangles, wildly defied social norms by intertwining various liaisons before her expatriation to Paris and her Jansenist conversion, which brought her to an old age of well-heeled, chaste self-righteousness at the side of her son Alessandro. A literary inheritance, sure, but from what it seems, it was anything but a good time. There were the academies, including the Accademia dei Pugni, founded in 1761, a training ground for subversive ideas and earthly lightness.

between masquerade balls, worn-out gavottes and minuets, mirrored pinwheels and pink powder clouds, amid visits from a young Mozart, thwarted seductions, blind man’s bluff in the hedges and solos by operatic castrati, in a stream of processions, of audiences with viceroys, of hunting trips on horseback or hidden in barrels, and jockey-less Berber horse races, Milan was starting to form a strong identity, proto-Modern and extremely distinct. It was quite a different air than that of, for example, the analogous milieu of Tuscany or papal Rome. A duplicate and contrasting approach to life and to one’s social class. Conservatism, duty, sober austerity stretched all the way to avarice and even mediocrity on one side; eccentricity, luxury and cultural curiosity, and abundant excess on the other in a bizarre rhythm of alternations and intersections. That is to say, on one hand there was the oppressive ci-devant orthodoxy of Marchesa Orsola Maironi in Piccolo Mondo Antico; on the other, the adventurous, fictitious existence of an unforgotten, aristocratic, nineteenth-century ‘Pasionaria’, Cristina Trivulzio di Belgiojoso, patriot, indomitable traveller, journalist and writer, boho-chic and proto-feminist. An antagonism of socio-political views which increasingly came to the fore during Fascism and then in the Years of Lead. And we mustn’t forget about the wicked countess Serbelloni-Mazzanti Vien dal Mare, cast from a dark, Milanese die, running rampant throughout the Fantozzi epics.

The nineteenth century, which takes shape in the gigantic figure of Alessandro Manzoni, derived from the romantic and frustrated Stendhalian elegance in Metilde Viscontini Dembowski’s ‘saletta azzurra’ (the ‘blue room’), to then explode in the Five Days of Milan and in Verdi’s musical feats at La Scala. It is to this and to its powerful symbolic capacity which the episode portrayed in Ernst Marischka’s 1950s cinematic trilogy, Sissi, alludes, that in which the Milanese patriciate, in an act of Risorgimento protest, sends servants to fill the family seats at a gala soirée in the presence of the Habsburg emperor and empress. It’s said to really have happened during Franz Joseph and Elisabeth’s voyage in Italian land ruled by the crown during the winter of 1856-57. The twentieth century opened suddenly, with the death of Umberto I of Savoy in Monza, at the hands of an anarchist, Gaetano Bresci. Umberto had cultivated a long, stable extramarital affair with a comely Milanese aristocrat, Eugenia Attendolo Bolognini, duchess Litta Visconti Arese, lady-in-waiting at the court of Regina Margherita, also known around the city as the ‘bella Bolognina’. Muse to Arrigo Boito, benefactress and sophisticated host of cultural circles, Eugenia was known for her anti-Austrian stance, shared with her husband, Don Giulio, who had participated in the revolutionary uprisings of 1848. She frequented the salon of Carlo d’Adda, which included steadfast dissidents such as the Dandolo brothers, the Borromeos, the Trivulzios, and the Trottis. The Austrian occupiers nicknamed her the Queen of the Geese, as the Lombardian-Venetian dames supporting the Italian identity were called. In Milan, in the entrepreneurial, contemporary Italian city par excellence, rentier patrician surnames still are alive and well thanks to substantial real estate assets.

There are the gentlemen who, greeted by their doorman with the customary, borrowed Spanish ‘Don’ before their names, each morning take a road dotted with farmhouses and country estates to survey, on horseback, their agricultural activities, just like their ancestors did. The so-called Società del Cappuccio still exists, a secret society a world apart which hates to appear and talk about itself, with a hermeneutic and aesthetic attitude all of its own. The primacy of the Borromeo princes, descendants of Saint Charles, champion of the Counter-reformation and of Cardinal Federico of Manzonian memory, secluded owners of true wonders such as the Isola Bella and the Rocca di Angera on Lake Maggiore, is incorruptible. The princess mother Bona, née Orlando, with a sharp esprit and subtle wit, is quite active in the battle against cancer, as is the worldly and ubiquitous marchioness Marta Brivio Sforza. On a more gauche side, a doyenne stands out, Giulia Maria Crespi, founder of the Fondo Italiano Ambiente (FAI) which has fought a courageous battle for the artistic and natural patrimony of the Bel Paese. The sharp features and the changing metallic brilliance in the eyes of Maria Sole and the young Giacinta Brivio Sforza find immediate physiognomic correspondence in a crinoline grandmother which smiles from a seventeenth-century miniature, one among the dozens which, in a hall of the Palazzo Trivulzio, stand out against the scarlet brocade fabric with the Tricipitium, an emblem of Magno Trivulzio.

The Visconti di Modrone were a case apart which Marella Agnelli, in La Signora Gocà, remembers as charming and arrogant, with various, well-exercised talents in their fairy-tale-like Castello di Grazzano, the very definition of a Medieval-Art Nouveau mash-up, and where sophisticated tableaux vivants, solos and concerts were continuously on stage, still a child for the wedding of uncle Adolfo Caracciolo to Anna Visconti. Anna was the second child of Giuseppe Visconti di Modrone, first duke of Grazzano, and the stunning heiress Carla Erba. Out-of-the-ordinary beauty, the name, the patronage, the cosmopolitan chic and the abundance of money, placed the envied, admired and much gossiped-about couple at the height of Italian society during the start of the twentieth century. The frivolous squandering, wrote Marella Agnelli, made them the absolute stars of Milan, opulent and open to Europe, at the turn of the century. Giuseppe, who separated from Carla, bitterly quarrelling with their seven children, claimed ties to Queen Elena of Savoy, the same princess from Montenegro who, with whipping irony was dubbed «ma cousine la bergere» by the duchess Hélène d’Aosta, née Orleans. The story goes that one day, crossing the august lady’s antechamber in Villa Ada in Rome, Don Giuseppe come across his own son Luigi who unmistakably was coming out of the royal bedroom. The response from Luigi, who remains famous for his stables and consuming passion for horses, to his father’s offended «Luigi where are you coming from?» was a dazzling «and where are you going father?».

Giangaleazzo Visconti di Modrone, a gallerist in Milan – under the simultaneously smiling and haughty gaze of his daughter Madina – confirms that at Casa Visconti art and music were anything but a game. «Everyone played at least one instrument. A calling. Luchino wouldn’t have become the director that he was without such fervent, cultured and provident creative fodder of visionary projections and of a freedom of imagination which Giuseppe instilled in Grazzano, in the structure at Via Cerva 99 in Milan, at Villa Olmo in Como and in the Roman residence in Via Salaria. In 1946, a lot of money was allocated for the restoration of La Scala, where we had a number of boxes. Helping the needy and charitable institutions simply was a must. Guido, the first son of Giuseppe and Carla, of which he was the favourite, allure in its purest state, was a career military man and was one of the first do lose his life at El Alamein. Uncle Emilio sent his dress shirts to be ironed in London, but there wasn’t, as happened later on, any sense of radical chic snobbery. He wasn’t faking anything. Paradoxically, arranged marriages last longer. Patrician families thus followed a value scale which, starting from WWII, were violently destroyed. What does it mean to be an aristocrat today?» Giangaleazzo Visconti concluded, «It certainly isn’t a type of marketing, a popularisation of a name. It should at least be a seal guaranteeing proper upbringing and manners. More and more, unfortunately, it’s not the case.» What would Jean d’Ormesson say? He’s tasked with ending this round-up with a bittersweet and slightly melancholy song from the saga of Au plaisir de Dieu: The golden era is behind us, with all that sweetness of life, the muffled echoes of which persisted in our legends, but which the youngest of us had never met.

From The Fashionable Lampoon Issue 7 – Wow & Weird

 

Photography
Alex John Beck

Styling
Ellen Mirck

Art Direction
Alexander Beckoven

 

Hair
Francesca Angelone @ close up
Stefano Gatti @ w-m management

Make-up
Sissy Belloglio @ w-m management
Valerio Sestito @ freelancer

Manicurist
Selica Ianeselli @ mks milano

Model
Paul Alexandre @ marilyn hommes paris
Georgina Grenville @ next paris
Anine Van Velzen @ img london

Digital tech and architectures post-production
Luca Trevisani