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IMG_0010While browsing through some books at a local open air market, I was fortunate to find an interesting combination of two Italian Masters in their respective fields in one published work. Wow!

The above shown book is the first Dutch translation of Alberto Moravia’s world famous book Agostino published originally in Italian in 1944 and illustrated by Renato Guttoso. This Dutch edition was the only edition of this book illustrated by Gian Berto Vanni. There is no publication date printed in it, but was published in 1952. Our copy has no dust jacket, however in a blog of the Royal Dutch Library by Arno Kuipers, there is a picture shown. The cover illustration is not by Vanni, but by a Dutch artist Ton Raateland. In 1991 a Dutch paperback edition of the book was published.

Albert Moravia is the pseudonym of Carlo Pincherle (1907-1990) who was fortunate and talented enough to see a good number of his books turned into movies.

IMG_0011Agostino this link describes the story of Agostino’s loss of innocence and its subsequent reviews. The book was made into a movie in 1962 by Mauro Bolognini and other books by Moravia were made into films by Jean-Luc Godard and Vittorio de Sica among others.

IMG_0012IMG_0013IMG_0014What makes this edition so interesting to me? It appears to be one of the early illustrated books by Gian Berto Vanni who had studied under the German painter Vordemberge-Gildewart at some time in the Netherlands and this is perhaps how he obtained this particular commission. Vanni, a Fulbright Scholar who studied at Yale, was a teacher and Adjunct Professor at the School of Art/Cooper Union in New York City for 30 years which also published his autobiography. His work can be found at various galleries.

The illustrations were done on a gold toned paper and at the Gvanni.com site we read the following reference about gold tones:

“The use of gold leaf emerges from Vanni’s observations on the gold grounds of the Sienese School, where the gold leaf, here and there eroded, reveals the underlying red earth ground. This evokes the idea of the archeological find, where decay and preciosity coexist. The red base, that is scraped and ruined, enters into competition with the gold for its chromatic intensity. The relationship creates an interesting color interaction, taking advantage of the reflective qualities of the metal, depending on the incidence of light. This effect is broadly used in Byzantine icons, where the portion covered with gold is the first form that one sees in the darkness of a church, to then recede into the background in relationship to the painted figures, when the angle of the light changes.”

I am assuming this was his underlying thought process in making these illustrations with the simple theme of two figures on a gold colored background, lending itself to an almost Byzantine type representation.

Vanni became world famous with his book Love on the web, watch it and enjoy the interview. Produced by Nino Studio. Thank you  Nino for this wonderful piece!

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