Thursday, 13 February 2014

Out of Space: Francesca Blanc

Things discussed: Francesca Blanc, sculpture, suicide, bronze, naked, Giacomo Manzù, Milan football team, La dolce vita, birthday.

Francesca Blanc, via Museo Manzú
    Sculpture of Francesca Blanc 
    by Giacomo Manzú
    90 x 50 x 64,5 cm
    Manzú Collection, Ardea (Rome)

This life-size sculpture of a young girl, which I saw during my visit at the Manzú Collection aroused in me two feelings with the same degree: discomfort and grace.
The body of this very young naked woman looks uncomfortable, recoiled, unbalanced, the arms joined and stretched before her, contained by the bent legs, as if to build some protection. The back is similarly curved to shelter. But her balance is uncertain, she is on the point of leaning down on one side, of falling. 
You feel like stretching your arm to prevent her fall, to contain her. Her expression tells you she would not mind, she would appreciate it actually. But it would be pointless. Her calm posture, down-bound glance, and sad smile, speak of a melancholy far away, too unreachable to be amended.

She is bronze, but she stays there like a breath of air, a confined and enchanting gloomy sweetness on the brink of dissolving once you look away.

More than the physical resemblance of the girl, Manzú beautifully and sadly portrayed her inner world. A complex world, perceivable even at such an early age, and actually threatened by a depression that finally led to her suicide at the age of thirty-three.

Franscesca Blanc, via

This of course wasn't mentioned in the caption in the Collection. A woman I know - who also personally knows Inge Schabel, the second wife of the artist - told me that story when I mentioned my fascination with the sculpture. 
So I looked for more information about this woman, and found out that not much is publically known about Francesca Blanc. Some source is found on Wikipedia, but some of it is at the moment inaccurate.

Born in Rome on February 27th, 1929, she was the daughter of a Roman noblewoman, Anita Felici and Mario de Blanc. She had married very young prince Alessandro “Dado” Ruspoli, a dandy and playboy, supposedly the inspiration for the main character in Federico Fellini’s La dolce vita, from whom she divorced around 1956. They had no children.

At the end of the Thirties, Manzú was fascinated by this young girl, whom he portrayed naked in various drawings and sculptures. The final sculpture in bronze, life size, took him two years to finish, from 1940 to 1942, and granted him the ‘Gran Premio per la Scultura’ at the 4th Quadriennale Romana. Various sketches and versions of the work exist, and the actual sculpture visible at the Manzú Collection is a later version from the Fifties. This work later inspired him the subject for ‘Passo di Danza’.

On February 27th, 1962, the day of her thirty-third birthday, she committed suicide, throwing herself from the window of her bathroom in her flat on the seventh floor in the centre of Milan, where she had moved after the divorce.

A few facts are known:
- She owned the Manzoni theatre in Milan and the Sistina theatre in Rome. 
- She was a sports fan, especially of the Milan football team. 
- The day of the suicide, she had just arrived from Rome, where she had gone to see a football match of her favourite team, Milan A.C., but this time she was supporting the rival team, Lazio, the region which she came from. 
- She had then gone back to Milan and taken a taxi from the Central Station to take her home. 
- She was wearing a light blue nightgown when she was found on the pavement by an errand boy. 

This might sound naive, but after finding all this out, looking back at the pictures of her sculpture, I wonder what position her body took, when she met the ground.

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