The Scapigliatura movement

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The Scapigliatura movement

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Muokkaaja: lokakuu 27, 2006, 3:49 pm

with many thanks to aluvalibri:

Inspired by the trend in realism and Bohemianism in France, during the 1860s the artistic avant-garde of Milan became known as the Scapigliatura. Taking their name from an 1858 novel, La Scapigliatura e il 6 Febbraio by Cletto Arrighi, the “disheveled ones” counted among their numbers Emilio Praga, Camillo and Arrigo Boito, Iginio Ugo Tarchetti, Carlo Dossi, Tranquillo Cremona and Franco Faccio. In response to the chaotic aftermath of the Risorgimento, the scapigliati revolted against established bourgeois values and subjugated Victorian sexuality, taking their cue from Charles Baudelaire's highly sensational poems Les fleurs du mal and Gustave Flaubert's scandalous novel Madame Bovary (both published in 1857). Their high-minded approach translated into a slap in the face of Alessandro Manzoni, one of Italy's most popular writers of the 19th century and, in music, Giuseppe Verdi, its foremost composer (Arrigo Boito's infamous comments debasing Italy's stagnant cultural life date from this period and would be remembered by Verdi for years to come – they were only able to mend the fence years later when Boito was engaged to write the libretti for Verdi's final works, Otello and Falstaff; brother Camillo would eventually design Verdi's final legacy, the Casa di riposo, a rest home for retired musicians). The works of the scapigliati would impact the operatic world through Boito's Mefistofele (1868, to his own text) and Faccio's I profughi fiamminghi (1863, to a text by Praga) and Amleto (1865, to text adapted by Boito), as well as inspiring verismo opera later in the century. Scapigliatura writings tended to explore the darker side of the human psyche and lent themselves to later fin-de-siècle decadent literature. Several of its members led dissolute lives, subject to drinking, amorality and short mortality – Praga died at age 36, Tarchetti at age 28.
Camillo Boito, whom you mentioned among the writers you would like to read, is famous for his novel Senso, which eventually became a famous movie by director Luchino Visconti.
As per Gabriele D'Annunzio, he was a very particular individual, to say the least. An esthete (is this the right word?) and definitely a dandy, a womanizer (how he could be so charming to the female sex beats me), he had several affairs, the most famous with actress Eleonora Duse, for whom he wrote Francesca da Rimini (of which, lucky me, I own a first edition) and other works.

maaliskuu 17, 2008, 9:20 am

For anyone interested: Rebellion, Death and Aesthetics in Italy: Demons of Scapigliatura by David Del Principe. I ordered a copy recently and am looking forward to reading it. I'm not aware of anything else available on the subject in English.

joulukuu 30, 2008, 10:00 am

Also of interest: Ugo Tarchetti's Fantastic Tales and a novel, translated as "Passion", are available at low cost.

elokuu 24, 2009, 5:31 pm

Hi Ben,

I have and read Camilo Boito's "Senso", and saw the movie long time ago, but I did not know that he belonged to the Scapigliatura movement.

If you know about others who wrote novels following the Scapigliatura manifesto, please let me know.



elokuu 24, 2009, 6:47 pm

The two posts above are good starts. I can think only of Camilo's brother (can't recall his name), D'Annunzio, and Tarchetti. I will have to look through Del Principe's book for names... haven't pulled it off the shelf in awhile.

elokuu 24, 2009, 7:07 pm

The term "scapigliatura" was used for the first time by Cletto Arrighi (Carlo Righetti's pseudoym) in the novel La Scapigliatura. Other important members of the movement were Vittorio Imbriani, Giovanni Camerana, Iginio Ugo Tarchetti, Carlo Dossi, Camillo and Arrigo Boito ed Emilio Praga; the sculptor Giuseppe Grandi and painters Tranquillo Cremona, Mosè Bianchi, Daniele Ranzoni; in music Arrigo Boito himself (who composed and wrote librettos), Franco Faccio, Alfredo Catalani and Amilcare Ponchielli. Giacomo Puccini himself began his career as a member of the movement.

If you look at my first post, you will find interesting information.

Muokkaaja: elokuu 26, 2009, 2:59 pm

We also have the novelist Giuseppe Rovani, but it does not appear that anyone has translated him into English.

Muokkaaja: elokuu 26, 2009, 3:37 pm

As for "il Decadentismo", which I assume is later and more in response to the French and the Byzantine past, here are a few names I am looking at: Enrico Nencioni, Contessa Lara, Eduardo Scarfoglio, Giulio Salvadori, "Panzacchi", Adolfo De Bosis, Eduardo Calandra, Luigi Gualdo, Dominico Gnoli, Giovanni Camerana, Arturo Graf, Remigio Zena and Vittoria Aganoor Pompili.

Two names well worth mentioning, though hardly decadents, are Giacomo Leopardi and Benedetto Croce (who addressed the decadence as a moral and religious phenomenon).

I've pinched one of Leopardi's poems:

To Himself

Now you’ll rest forever
my weary heart. The last illusion has died
I thought eternal. Died. I feel, in truth,
not only hope, but desire
for dear illusion has vanished.
Rest forever. You’ve laboured
enough. Not a single thing is worth
your beating: the earth’s not worthy
of your sighs. Bitter and tedious,
life is, nothing more: and the world is mud.
Be silent now. Despair
for the last time. To our race Fate
gave only death. Now scorn Nature,
that brute force
that secretly governs the common hurt,
and the infinite emptiness of all.

elokuu 26, 2009, 4:41 pm


I used to repeat that endlessly to myself, in my tenebrous, tragically world-weary teens. :)

elokuu 26, 2009, 7:32 pm

Actually, having read a few of his writings, I would hesitate to consider Remigio Zena decadent.
He is quite different from Gabriele D'Annunzio, who is considered the Italian decadent 'per eccellenza'.

Muokkaaja: elokuu 26, 2009, 9:19 pm

Giacomo must have been horribly immature ;) (Compassion: He spent his youth in libraries, was not lovely and cultivated a hunch. As a blot on the landscape of the female gaze, no doubt existence had much to answer for. I haven't read his poems, but his essays are nice and brief and I have always had a soft spot for nihilism, when it seems sincere and not too maudlin).

elokuu 26, 2009, 9:21 pm

#10, can you tell us (me) about Remigio Zena - and, perhaps, Luigi Gualdo?

elokuu 27, 2009, 12:49 am

I tried my best translating into English some information that I found in Italian about Remigio Zena.

Remigio Zena is the pen name used by the Marquis Gaspare d'Invrea. His novels are considered within the Naturalism, Verism and Scapigliatura trends. He belonged to an aristocratic family and received a traditional, religious, education.

His first novel was "La bocca del lupo" (The mouth of the wolf). Even though he was influenced by Verismo, his extraordinary stylistic capacity and poetic strength turns his writing into a text full of humanity and irony, which he uses to see the different characters of a harbor village. His other novel, "L'Apostolo" (The Apostle), is very different. It takes place in Rome during the Pope Leo XIII and tells the "fogazzariana" story about an aristocratic and Catholic young guy who shows non-conformity with the ecclesiastic hierarchy.

elokuu 27, 2009, 7:18 am

Very well done, castel15!

I read La Bocca del Lupo many years ago, at first because I saw the dramatized version performed in theatre but also because the action takes place in my hometown (Genova), where Remigio Zena was from.
It is the story of a woman of low extraction, nicknamed 'Bricicca', and her slow descent to an even lower level. The novel definitely belongs to Verismo, nothing of Scapigliatura in it.

I also read L'Apostolo (wrong touchstone) but, I regret to say, it did not leave any trace in my mind. I have been looking for a copy of Zena's collected works (he did not produce very much) but, to date, with no success.
I will have to research Luigi Gualdo as I know absolutely nothing about him.

elokuu 27, 2009, 1:45 pm


Oh, gosh, Leopardi elicits something entirely other than compassion from me--he's one of my absolute favourites. Not only have I read every word of his I could find (much of it several times), at sixteen I made a hajj to Recanati, and even committed for once the sartorial atrocity of wearing a T-shirt with print on it--a verse of his (something repeated only for Baudelaire, his sonnet to the cat). My eighties peers had metal and "darker" sensibility, I had Leopardi.

I can STILL recite A se stesso and a few other poems, including all of the 170+ lines of Le ricordanze. (Let the increasingly forgetful, increasingly middle-aged lady brag...)

What always amazes me is how unknown he is in North America. I suppose it is the usual problem with poetry--reproducing the effect, not only the meaning, which in his case is beautifully, sublimely musical (paradoxically, it was Leopardi's meter that taught me to read Latin properly).

But poetry aside, there's the charm of his inexorably black philosophy, the most glorious flower of pessimism blossoming from true never-alleviated suffering. Pooh, Schopenhauer! Pooh, existentialists! Feeble epigones!

elokuu 27, 2009, 1:50 pm

To me, along with Dante and Petrarca, Leopardi is the greatest Italian poet.

elokuu 27, 2009, 1:51 pm

I'm not going to say no!


elokuu 27, 2009, 2:53 pm

For those (like me) with appetite whetted by this discussion, there are eight of Leopardi's poems (with English prose translation) in The Penguin Book of Italian Verse.

elokuu 27, 2009, 4:07 pm

Considering some of the characteristics of the "dolce stil nuovo" poetry in the 13th Century, where the use of symbolisms and intrincated metaphors was essential, you can establish some connections with the type of poetry developed the 19th century.

elokuu 27, 2009, 5:38 pm

This is getting interesting and I thank and encourage you all. I hope to be better able to contribute eventually. I have sort of moved away from the general promiscuity of my reading and focused on Italian history and literature (and various intersections: James, Corvo, Whistler, etc.) recently. I have purchased bilingual texts whenever possible and hope I'll be able to read the left-hand pages within a year or so.

I do hope those of you who know will share more on Leopardi, medieval and renaissance poetry, magic, carnival, everything.

elokuu 27, 2009, 7:23 pm

Luigi Gualdo was born in Milan in 1847 and died in Paris in 1898.
As a child, he moved to Paris with his mother. He spent the rest of his life travelling between Paris and Milan. He wrote both in French and Italian and was connected to both 'Scapigliati' such as Arrigo Boito and Giovanni Camerana, and important French writers, such as Gautier and, apparently, Mallarmé.
He also contributed to Giovanni Verga's fame in France, prompting the translation of I Malavoglia.

Among his works the collection of poems Le Nostalgie (1883), the novels Un mariage excentrique (1879) and Decadenza (1892). (wrong touchstones for many of the titles)

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 9, 2010, 6:00 pm

Finished what I believe is a rehash of Camillo Boito's Storielle Vane in what looks like a very good French translation. Those who know the collection ("Petite Bibliothèque Ombres") will understand: most previous house!).

The collection features four short stories: first is called "Christmas Night" and features a man who falls under the spell of an ugly prostitute; second is the great "Master of the Setticlavio", which is basically a story of Venetian intrigue set in the local religious music community. This one features a most powerful description of the night festivities of Redemptor Day (third Sunday of July) when Redemptor Church, located on the Giudecca island, is linked to mainland Venice through a bridge of gondolas, along the Giudecca canale.

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 9, 2010, 5:56 pm

Third comes "Budda's Necklace", said Budda being a dog, and features - again - the "woman-trap" into which falls a shy, restrained accountant. Fourth and ast is "Don Giuseppe", the story of a rugged, threadbare mountain priest's attempts to resist to industrialization and the associated lust (industrialization breaks down the traditional order of society, here be whores and booze, etc.).

Great stuff overall --

tammikuu 9, 2010, 6:02 pm

Can anybody share about the contents of Tarchetti's Racconti fantastici?

tammikuu 9, 2010, 8:05 pm

Kamakura, if I can retrieve it from on of my TBR towers (I am not kidding!), I will take a look at it and let you know.
I bought it almost two years ago, but have not read it yet.

tammikuu 10, 2010, 7:48 am

Thanks. What I meant specifically what: what are the main thematics of the 5 or 6 short stories? Have ordered it anyway imediately after I posted it but won't get it until 2 weeks at least.

helmikuu 26, 2010, 9:03 am

24: Tarchetti's Fantastic Tales is a pretty tepid collection of supernatural and uncanny tales. I made it about half way through before I ran out of charity. Nice to have in that rightly or otherwise it's fairly uncommon and not likely to remain in print.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 27, 2012, 9:08 am

I wanted to raise this topic from the dead, but, less than vigorous myself, I didn't have the sap to type out anything new - the bit below being commuted from a posting in another thread. I really would like to see more of the Italian authors of the fin-de-siecle translated.

Where are the English translations novels of Luigi Gualdo and the poetry of Emilio Praga? Praga should catch the eye of anyone interested in the more egregious examples of decadent living. One of the more devoted personalities of the so-called scapigliati, he lived a poete maudit - after Rimbaud or Verlaine - and died dissipated, in poverty.

There are also a good many anthologies of fantastic stories written by authors associated with La Scapigliatura and Decadenza; Racconti neri della scapigliatura, for example:

Contenuto del volume

-Racconti neri della scapigliatura (Antologia)
pag. 5Introduzione (Introduzione) di Gilberto Finzi
pag. 19Il consulto (Racconto breve, libro V, cap. II da: Cento anni 1859-1864) di Giuseppe Rovani
pag. 27Suicidio (Racconto breve) di Cletto Arrighi
pag. 36Un corpo (Racconto lungo) di Camillo Boito
pag. 72Paura (Racconto breve, fine cap 4° e cap 5° da: Memorie del Presbiterio) di Emilio Praga
pag. 80Le leggende del Castello Nero (Racconto) di Igino Ugo Tarchetti
pag. 93La lettera U (Racconto) di Igino Ugo Tarchetti
pag. 100Un osso di morto (Racconto breve) di Igino Ugo Tarchetti
pag. 107Uno spirito in un lampone (Racconto) di Igino Ugo Tarchetti
pag. 119Un re umorista (Racconto breve, da: Un re umorista) di Alberto Cantoni
pag. 125L'alfier nero (Racconto) di Arrigo Boito
pag. 144Lord Spleen (Racconto breve) di Giovanni Faldella
pag. 147Gentilina (Fantasma di un vecchio celibe) (Racconto) di Giovanni Faldella
pag. 161Ritratto di Iginio Ugo Tarchetti (Articolo) di Salvatore Farina
pag. 167Una scommessa (Racconto) di Luigi Gualdo
pag. 181Riccardo il tiranno (Racconto) di Roberto Sacchetti
pag. 200Amore e morte (Racconto) di Carlo Dossi
pag. 209Isolina (Racconto breve) di Carlo Dossi
pag. 211Antonietta (Racconto breve) di Carlo Dossi
pag. 216La confessione postuma (Racconto breve) di Remigio Zena
pag. 227Le masse cristiane (Racconto) di Edoardo Calandra
pag. 249La mazzetta d'ebano (Racconto breve) di Pompeo Bettini
pag. 251Nettunia (Racconto breve) di Pompeo Bettini
pag. 261La sommossa (Racconto) di Gian Pietro Lucini
pag. 279INDICE

It would be perfect for a publishing house like Dedalus or The Hieroglyphic Press as very few of these authors works (Tarchetti excepted) have appeared in English translation.

huhtikuu 28, 2012, 4:38 pm

Is that my cover as the group picture? Existence justified, finally! Well--maybe five minutes of existence. I'll take it. Yes.

I read it not too long ago. Not a deathless masterpiece, but a fairly well written... usual story: extraordinary young man of ambition and talent (the former greater than the latter) grows old and ordinary. There's the usual (married) femme fatale, interesting before the seduction, subsequently boring. Everything wilts. The end.

I read recently a collection of reviews and other non-fiction by Lucini, and based on that I'd be interested in his fiction, he was sharp and funnily disdainful of the more hyperventilating strain in fin de siècle literature (in Italian letters positively asthmatic). But then it looks like everyone he reviewed was a starry-eyed eighteen year old boy or a syphilitic old letch.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 30, 2012, 6:40 pm

Cover homaged from some fly-by-night auction site. No other Gualdo covers kleptable, sadly. Not deathless? Aw, c'mon - we're trying to solicit the entrepreneurs.

Can you say more of Lucini? Your mention of his reviews suggestively stirring.

huhtikuu 30, 2012, 9:37 pm


Then the auction site stole my cover, because that's definitely mine, nonchalant framing and all. I photograph them on the desk, then crop.

I need to dig out the book, I'll give you titles from some of Lucini's reviews.

huhtikuu 30, 2012, 9:55 pm

Gosh- maybe I nabbed yours? Did a Google image search... perhaps you are in the spotlight? Have never homaged LT before.... honest, ma.

huhtikuu 30, 2012, 10:17 pm

But it's an honour! Yes, anything uploaded on LT is googlable. If you see any sickly blue covers that ought to be whitish, those are mine too. The light and I are opposite forces. :)


To give you some idea of Lucini's criticism, compiled in Libri e cose scritte, a few remarks, beginning at the beginning (it's a pity these aren't translated; Lucini's ironic tone is very funny and sounds far more modern than the stuff he reviewed): the poetry of Antonio Fogazzaro (well known novelist, apparently not at all deserving as a poet), sez Lucini, "That he believes himself to be a poet is the proof of a new malady nowadays in vogue among the writers, discovered by De Gualtier and named Le Bovarysme {sic}; that is, the ability of every man to believe himself to be something he isn't."

Next, on one Alberto Orsi, who published The Song of songs that is Salomon's: "We know why these translations keep being published. It's enough to read off the back cover: Human coupling, an essay on sexual psychology--The obstacles to enjoyment, sexual psychology of the female etc. etc. ejusdem farinae {more of the same grist}." But he notes the beauty of the Vulgate original.

Novels: La parabola by one Antonio Cattaneo di Sedrano, "a conventional novel of love and literature, gender neuter, solid middle class {da salotto per bene}".
Follows a plot sounding exactly like Gualdo's Decadenza--but then, don't they all.

Lucio d'Ambra, L'ardore di settembre: again an ardent youth tangles with a mature beauty (an actress!), (he's a playwright!), long walks and outings, Venice, disappointment, blah blah. Sez Lucini: "It's one of those volumes one half-reads; of such little substance, so poor in ideas and style you don't even feel you're holding them in your hand, leafing them casually at the same time as you're talking with a guest. Like I'm doing."

That's from the first four pages out of 233.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 1, 2012, 8:33 am

Here is the image that I acknowledged: ... did the seller clip yours?

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 1, 2012, 8:19 am

I stand corrected, chastised and yet again existentially unjustified!

Here's mine, tubercular-looking:

Muokkaaja: syyskuu 8, 2015, 3:46 pm

I wasn't sure where to put this and didn't particularly want to allow the little troublemaker his own space (he got that once and not much good came of it). So, nearing the end of The Triumph of Death, as there wasn't much out there, I threw this up, from out of the heart of inertia (or the cloaca of sloth... I like that better) as a guide to any who have considered approach:

Along with A Rebours and The Picture of Dorian Gray, Gabriele D'Annunzio's The Triumph of Death (1894) is one of the foundational texts of the decadence. The hero, Giorgio Aurispa, is the enervated scion of a faded aristocratic family, run to ruin (debauchery, suicide) in the provinces. He is morbidly self-reflexive and forever swooning for new, singular sensations. This hyper-developed sensuality is, of course, marbled with neuroses, and every pleasure bears in train a taint of corruption.

For the highly unlikable Aurispa, as Barbey said of Huysmans, “it only remains for {him} to choose between the muzzle of a pistol and the foot of the cross.” Indeed, the novel opens with, and is punctuated by, instances and fantasies of suicide (conflated and adorned with Roman Catholic imagery). After escaping from the cares of the world (which he is constitutionally unfit to confront) to a rural hermitage, Giorgio arranges a season of total immersion in carnal pleasures with his mistress, Ippolita. For a space, the lovers share a garden of timeless delights, till the fatally perspicacious Giorgio discovers he is naked. He has reached satiety and begins to fear for his immortal soul. He sees in his manner of life only a refined variant of his father’s brutish ruttings. His uncle, his “true father”, a mystic without god (and a suicide) returns to mind as devotional icon. Giorgio swoons to repent, to be cleansed of his vapid indulgences. And of feminine foulness.

In the Triumph of Death, piety has a viper’s sting, leaving the soul rotten and the light of day solemn and funereal. Giorgio Aurispa is one of Nietzsche’s “last men”: larval and ineffectual. Oppressed by the the brute vigor of the commonplace, and with no faith in himself or in the love of another, he despairs for the comforts of Grand Narrative, without which it is impossible to live. He obsesses on the most fanatical aspects of mysticism, on a purely aesthetic Roman Catholicism (dark cathedrals, candles, incense, tortured statuary). Meanwhile, Ippolita, his devoted paramour, follows her lover in everything as loyally as the campagne mudlarks and pot-whallopers do the local mystagogue, who claims to be the new Messiah. She surrenders herself body and soul to his romance of perpetual sensual bliss. She has no suspicion at all that surfeit generates disgust, particularly in those of feeble constitution. As for the rest, I'll say no more, save that Death's triumph was in making its lover pursue it, as though it were hard to get, while all along they were abed and embraced.

Unfortunately, there are only two translations of this novel, both from the 19th century. As I had read complaints of Georgina Harding's (Boni & Liveright), I went with Arthur Hornblow's. In Hornblow's (G. H. Richmond & co.), no one and nothing breathes or inhales, but respires - and the names of the two principal characters are oddly and annoyingly anglicized: George and Hippolite (is Hippolite really less exotic to English readers than Ippolita?). Hornblow's translation is available for free download on the internet.

syyskuu 11, 2015, 3:18 pm

Finally a translation of Luigi Gualdo forthcoming:

(note also reprint of Lorrain's English translation of Nightmares of an Ether-drinker
Interesting to see something by Antonio Ghislanzoni as well)

Muokkaaja: syyskuu 11, 2015, 7:29 pm

Fantastic - and thank you! There was a time I was researching that every other week. Brendan Connell and Quentin Crisp are worth a read as well. Both are Tartarus Press authors (I'm pretty sure Connell is as well). Brendan Connell is also knowledgeable about Frederick Rolfe (I believe he has a novel based on Rolfe?) and - I could almost swear has translated Huysmans. Memory is shoddy and notes are non-existent....

helmikuu 23, 2016, 11:55 pm

There's also Moscardino by Enrico Pea. A novel about decadence and corruption in the Italian, like a more lurid version of The Leopard by Lampedusa:

helmikuu 24, 2016, 9:02 am

>39 kswolff:: The reviews are interesting. Sold!

helmikuu 24, 2016, 10:15 am

Tarchetti's novel Passion was mentioned much further up the page; just thought I'd add that it's also been issued as Fosca. To my taste, laughably OTT but what piqued my interest as I read it was its similarity to the much later Beware of Pity--the soldier, the invalid, the guilt-ridden avowals of love.

Don't know about his other stuff but B. Connell's Metrophilias is published in a nice little edition by Better Non Sequitur, which I mention mostly because that's one of the most interesting names for a publishing house I've come across.

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