34 35 37 Carraro evening Sale
Mario Schifano (1934-1998)
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The Collection of Chiara and Francesco Carraro
Mario Schifano (1934-1998)


Mario Schifano (1934-1998)
titled ‘LEONARDO’ (upper edge)
enamel and paper laid down on two attached canvases
overall: 78 3/4 x 78 3/4 in. (200 x 200 cm.)
Executed in 1963.
Maurizio Navarra collection, Rome
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Rome, Galleria Odyssia, Schifano, Tutto, 1963, p. 15.
Parma, Universita' di Parma, Salone Scuderie in pilotta, Mario Schifano, February-March 1974, pl. 9 (illustrated).
Venice, La Biennale di Venezia, Venice Biennale 1984, June-September 1984.
Lyon, Musée Saint Pierre Art Contemporain, Mario Schifano, October-November 1985, p. 55 (illustrated).
Tokyo, Yurakucho Art Forum, Mario Schifano, January-February 1994, p. 65.
Rome, Galleria Comunale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Mario Schifano Tutto, December 2001-March 2002, pp. 100-101 (illustrated in color).
Milan, Fondazione Marconi, 1960-1964: Dal monocromo alla strada, February-March 2005, p. 200.
Galleria Civica di Modena, Palazzo Santa Margherita and Palazzina dei Giardini, Pop art Italia 1958-1968, April-July 2005, p. 27 (illustrated).
Rome, Scuderie del Quirinale, Pop art 1956-1968, October 2007-January 2008, pp. 238-239, no. 79 (illustrated in color).
Sale room notice
Please note this work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by the Archivio Mario Schifano.

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Sara Friedlander
Sara Friedlander

Lot Essay

This work is recorded in the Archivio Mario Schifano, Rome, under no. 03217160920 and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity.

Called “one of the greatest of the Italian school of the second half of the century” by art historian Maurizio Calvesi, Mario Schifano developed a uniquely Italian iteration of Pop Art (M. Calvesi, quoted in “Mario Schifano, 63, Avant-Garde Painter,” New York Times, February 2, 1998, n.p.). Unlike their counterparts in the United States, whose country was then less than two centuries old, members of the Scuola di Piazza del Popolo, such as Schifano, Giosetta Fioroni, Tano Festa, and Franco Angeli, were surrounded by the rich cultural heritage of Ancient Rome and the Italian Renaissance and Baroque from which to draw inspiration. The Roman Forum, Piazza di Spagna and Michelangelo’s David were being reflected back in advertising images that touted them among the many treasures a trip to Italy could offer. The Rome of the 1960s was also the Rome of La Dolce Vita (dir. Fellini, 1960), 8 ½ (dir. Fellini, 1963), L’Avventura (dir. Antonioni, 1960) and Blow Up (dir. Antonioni, 1966). In these films, directors Federico Fellini and Michelangelo Antonioni scanned the streets of Rome with their cameras, using the Colosseum or the Trevi Fountain as backgrounds for romantic and political entanglements in their visions for New Italian Cinema.

Schifano’s Leonardo belongs to this moment in Italian culture. 1960 was a watershed year from Schifano, it was then that he began to experiment in alternative materials to make his paintings. Here, he used enamel, graphite, wax crayon and newspaper to transfer the iconic red chalk image of Renaissance master Leonardo da Vinci’s portrait onto canvas. Deeply aware of the influx of American advertising images in Italy, Schifano would began incorporating fragmented logos of Coca-Cola and Esso into his paintings in 1962, both critical of its global spread and interested in analyzing the language of signs so often taken for granted in everyday life.
Art critic Rachel Spence contextualizes Schifano’s work within Italian culture, “In the birthplace of Michelangelo and Leonardo, the image is all-powerful. You might rub it out, deny it, parody it and exploit it, but its ghost always remains. What else would you expect from a country which has built an identity on fare la figura [“make an impression”]? What follows is an unforgettable trip through mid-century Italy’s visual unconscious. In a place where it’s likely you might say your Sunday prayers beneath an altarpiece painted by Caravaggio, or drink your coffee in the shadow of a classical temple, aesthetic divisions—between high and low, religious and secular, art and design—are less stable than in a country [the United States] where you need to visit a museum to see a Madonna and most buildings were constructed after 1900” (R. Spence, “Imagine: New Imagery in Italian Art 1960-1969, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice,” Financial Times, August 2, 2016, http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/102c61f6-5281-11e6-9664-e0bdc13c3bef.html [accessed September 6, 2016]).

Recent exhibitions of International iterations of Pop Art, including The World Goes Pop at the Tate Modern in London in 2016, and Italian Pop at Tornabuoni Art Gallery in London, also in 2016, have reestablished the importance of Mario Schifano’s work to the international contemporary art landscape. In 1962, the year after Leonardo was made, Schifano exhibited alongside Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein in the popular “New Realists” show at New York’s Sidney Janis Gallery, cementing the Italian dialogue with American Pop Art. In 1963, he would exhibited at the gallery of famed American pop proponent, Ileana Sonnabend in Paris. Schifano solidified his own legacy among Italy’s masters when he exhibited in the Venice Biennials of 1964, 1978, and 1984, exhibiting Leonardo in the latter.

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