Wednesday, January 2, 2019

388. Mario Praz and Ricketts's Fall of Icarus

Mario Praz, best known for his book The Romantic Agony, also wrote a work on his life, his collection and his apartment in Palazzo Ricci in Rome: La Casa della Vita (1958), translated into English by Angus Davidson as The House of Life (1964). 

Palazzo Ricci (19th Century)
In this memoir, Praz mentions Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon, briefly, after remembering a London address: 9 Lansdowne Road:

Nearby was the house of Antonio Cappico where I lived for a month or more in 1923, together with Camillo Pellezzi and Giulio Confalonieri, and where I knew the sweetness of waking up on a spring morning to the song of birds outside the black-velvet-curtained windows.

These are names that need an explanation. Giulio Confalonieri and Praz were of the same age, both were born in 1896. Confalonieri was a musician, a piano teacher, performer, and composer. Camillo Pellezzi was also born in 1896. From 1920 onwards, he was the assistant of professor Antonio Cippico (1877-1935). (See an earlier blog on Cippico.) Cippico and Pellezzi were active members of the fascist movement, teaching the Italian language, and furthering the cause of Fascism. Pellezzi was especially active as a fascist propaganda minister. He is mentioned once only in Praz' memoirs (in the paragraph quoted above). Luckily, fascism was not to everyone's taste.

Mario Praz was not involved in politics, and not only didn't indulge in fascism, after his return to Rome in 1934, he was friends with anti-fascist people like Ian Greenless (1913-1988) who confronted anti-British propaganda in Fascist Italy. (See the essay about 'Fascism Abroad' by Tamara Colacicco.)

Praz was thirty years younger than Ricketts, and apparently he never met the artist, although in his memoirs he writes the following:

Cippico, who lived at 27 Lansdowne Road, possessed a picture by Ricketts, The Fall of Icarus: in it there was a red lighthouse against a blue background of sea and sky which remained in my memory for a long time: when I read Freud, I recalled it and pondered over its phallic significance. The house in which Ricketts and Shannon lived was close by.

The figure of Icarus wore a pendant on the breast; after the painting had been finished, Ricketts gave the original pendant to Michael Field. It was 'a thrush-egg turquoise set in gold with two pearls and an amethyst'.

I have never seen an image of this painting, and would like to have one.