Monday, January 7, 2013

Eros and Thanatos at Milan's Cimetero Monumentale: "Dedizione: Don't Tell Anyone The Cause of my Death," Funerary Monument, Piero da Verona, 1914

On a recent trip to Italy with Evan Michelson--co-star of TV's "Oddities" and Morbid Anatomy Library scholar in residence--we paid an impromptu, jet-lagged visit to the wonderful Cimetero Monumentale in Milan. We were both struck by the over-the-top--and, for a cemetery, odd--sexiness of so many of its funeral monuments, particularly the one shown above. I was trying to get to the bottom of this peculiar phenomenon when I came across the following lengthy discussion of the very monument in the book Italian Memorial Sculpture 1820-1940: A Legacy of Love; As it is quite fascinating, I quote it here in its entirety here:
Milan has one of the most enigmatic of erotic monuments. Conceived by Piero da Verona ... for Maria Beruccinia in 1914, it is subtitled Dedizione and inscribed 'Non dire ad alcuno perché sona morta' ... Dedizione translates as "devotion' in English, but in Italian its earlier meaning was 'surrender' or 'submission' and, by extension, 'self sacrifice.' Our curiosity is further incited by the inscrutable inscription 'Don't tell anyone why I'm dead' or, more liberally, 'Don't tell anyone the cause of my death.' The particular kind of graceful femininity was preceded in the works of Canonica and of Domenico Trentacoste... Da Verona must also have been receptive to the sensuality of the 'Genoese Symbolist School"... while the pose may specifically reflect contemporary photography, ranging from artistic poses to soft pornography.... One's immediate reaction is to ask what on earth a sculpture like this is doing in a cemetery. Is there malice in its presence there or in the eye of the beholder?
Evan and I will be returning to Italy in mid-February to finish our project, so expect many more posts like this one. And please--if anyone knows of any must-see Italian Catholica or Anatomica that we should make sure to work into our itinerary, shoot me an email at morbidanatomy [at]!

This book, and many other books like it, resides in The Morbid Anatomy Library. The library will be open to the public next Saturday from 2-6. Image is ©Joanna Ebenstein, 2012; click to see larger, more detailed version.

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